Does your mobile app work offline?

I just returned from a vacation where I was reminded that my mobile apps are only as good as my cell provider’s data coverage.

Before heading out on vacation, I downloaded a very popular trails app because it had great location information: a compass plus your latitude and longitude, weather, wind, sunrise and set, and best of all, elevation.

The only problem with the app was that I tried to find my elevation on a mountain trail that had no coverage, and the app requires location services to work. And naturally, location services depend on having coverage. I was essentially offline at the very moment I wanted to use the app.

I’m sure that there are millions of trails all over the world with strong voice and data coverage, but I suspect there are just as many without. If I were the app designer, what could I have done differently to make using the offline app more meaningful? Would I have downloaded more data and trail information to the device to make it useful no matter what kind of coverage the user has?

The moral of the story: any time you build an app, think about the offline use case. Part of the value of an app is that it downloads to your phone, and has the capability to be used offline. Take advantage of it! Your mobile users will thank you.