Smartphone apps are a major component of the mobile phone experience. No matter their function — news, gaming or navigation — apps must connect to the cellular network to communicate with other devices and to download and upload content. When apps aren’t designed to work efficiently with the cellular network, performance suffers for the end user, batteries drain faster and network resources are not well utilized. The issue is caused by complex interactions between an app and the cellular network, specifically in how apps connect to the network, how long they maintain those connections and how they download and transmit data. If network connections or data transmissions are not handled in a way that takes into account the particular characteristics of the cellular network — namely constrained resources — app performance will suffer.
Previously, app developers weren’t aware of this problem and didn’t have an effective method for measuring the efficiency of their app designs during the content retrieval process and were therefore unaware of their app’s impact on battery life and data usage. This led AT&T Labs researchers to develop the Application Resource Optimizer (ARO). This first-of-its-kind tool for developers captures traces of network interactions for apps and analyzes them for inefficiencies, helping developers to create more efficient apps that allow customers to save battery life, data usage and experience increased app responsiveness.
Led by curiosity, AT&T Labs researchers, along with researchers from the University of Michigan, began exploring wireless network interactions with apps. The team found an opportunity to enhance the user experience by making apps more energy efficient and network-friendly with ARO. “Our goal is to make users very happy with a good user experience, and a big part of user experience is about how well apps interact with the network. ARO is trying to address exactly that point,” said Oliver Spatscheck, lead member of the technical staff at AT&T Labs and co-leader of the ARO research. His research interests include content distribution, network measurement and cross layer network optimizations.
Shubho Sen, principal member of the technical staff at AT&T Labs, is the other co-leader of ARO research. His research interests include network management, network measurements, cross-layer network optimizations and application and network performance.
This innovation is already at work optimizing popular apps such as Pandora®, which increased energy savings and user experience 40 percent with ARO. There are several additional ARO developments under way, including:
- A standardized ratings system. ARO could lead to the development of a ratings system for evaluating apps based on their energy efficiency, creating criteria for new apps that will benefit customers and the cellular network.
- Video streaming efficiencies. Because video streaming is another area that tends to drain customer’s batteries, researchers are currently working to make the streaming process more efficient.
- Cloud computing. Looking ahead, as cloud computing becomes essential for staying connected, researchers will use the ARO tool to optimize interactions with this platform.
ARO is currently available for developers free of charge and can be used to optimize the performance of apps running on any carrier’s network, which makes the mobile app experience better for everyone.