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So, I've been giving the mobile application a while for the last week or so, and I'm thrilled to be able to give feedback and report bugs on it. I'm also thrilled that I can use the Stack Exchange network on my mobile, or tablet!

After about a week, though, I started to realize a few deficiencies in the application - some of which I've already reported as bugs, some of which are already reported, and some of which I'm not sure I should report, since I don't know what role this application is meant to serve.

So, I consider myself a bit of a power user of [Meta]StackOverflow. I ask questions (at least on Meta), write answers, comment, but the bulk of my time spent on SO isn't geared towards that - it is, more times than not, flagging content, reviewing content, editing content, and otherwise consuming content.

The mobile application is certainly geared towards producing content and consuming content. It does a fine job of that (although there are some rough cuts). What I find myself doing, more often than not, though, isn't directly related to production or consumption of content - although I would agree that editing posts while on a 4 inch screen isn't ideal.

I'll compare my flow with the mobile version of the site.

  • On the mobile site, I can check my profile.
    • I can see my cumulative daily reputation score here.
    • I can see my favorite questions here.
    • I can see my most recent activity.
    • I get credit for visiting the site.


  • In the app, I can check the feed.
    • I see new questions on sites that I'm definitely a member of, or that I've recently visited in the app.
    • I'm not convinced I get credit for visiting the site on the mobile app. Nor am I convinced that I should - although I want to.


  • On the mobile site, I can see what badges I've earned overall.
    • In the app, I can see what badges I've earned that day.


  • On the mobile site, I can order the results of questions with a lot of answers by votes.
    • On the app, that's not possible.

What I'm getting at is, despite it being an early alpha, it doesn't feel like it's going to have feature parity with the mobile desktop site.

So, is it meant to supersede the mobile desktop site? Is it meant to be a CRUD application for SO? Or does it fit somewhere in between? I can provide better feedback and bug reports to the team if I have a clear understanding of what niche the app is trying to fill.

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    Remember that alphas are often (usually?) feature incomplete. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Aug 15 '13 at 5:27
  • I agree, understand, and respect that. However, the feature set that's been introduced has led me to this question. It feels more like a simple CRUD app to interact with the site via the API on a mobile device, and while that may be appropriate and/or fitting, I'd like to know what scope this would eventually take on. There's a laundry list of "nice to haves" I'm noting down, but most of them only really apply if the application is going in a certain direction. – Makoto Aug 15 '13 at 5:31
  • Not really related to SO app (I don't have access to an Android device), but for some news sites, I don't see the point of having an app when in fact the mobile site is better (mainly due to the capability of mobile browser vs the relatively gimped functionality of the app - for example, the ability to have multiple tabs) – Old Checkmark Aug 15 '13 at 6:02
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    That's the situation I'm trying to avoid with the SE app. But I don't know the direction the app is meant to take. Yet. – Makoto Aug 15 '13 at 6:04
  • So, the core of your post is a list of things the Android app does not yet have - probably since it's in alpha. On that note, patience, padawan. The monkeys are hard at play. To your first question, that is a valid point, and I'd like to see an answer as well, however it's totally drowned out by the list of nonexistent features. Please consider clarifying your question further – Aza Aug 15 '13 at 6:30
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    I haven't grabbed the app yet (I was on vacation when it rolled out and haven't gotten to it yet), but one thing I hope it will eventually do is to support moderation (community and diamond) in ways the mobile web site doesn't do well. That vacation is a good use case -- I was away with limited net access at all with phone being the easiest, but it's hard to review, handle flags, and do related tasks on a 4" touch screen. (I actually went to an internet cafe just so I could use the full site a couple times.) – Monica Cellio Aug 15 '13 at 14:47
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Pretty much all of the things you mention are supposed to eventually be in the app. Always remember that the current version is an early alpha, and we take that denomination very seriously. What we released on July 31 is the smallest possible set of features that make the app somewhat useful, and not embarrassing for us to publicize. Apparently in pointy-haired parlance, this is called a "minimum viable product", because there weren't enough things with the acronym MVP yet.

The app will stay in the alpha phase for a while, this isn't a "three weeks alpha, two weeks beta, release" thing.

To be a bit more specific, here are some major items from our beta roadmap that do not exist yet:

  • Usable for unregistered users, including but not limited to (yes, I can also lawyer-speak) the possibility to sign up to Stack Exchange from the app.
  • Improvements to the feed (better algorithm, more and more relevant content, customization, etc.)
  • All the major stuff you find on the website under /users/....
  • Reputation / privileges / badges etc. in a single place; what have you recently earned, what are you close to, and so on.
  • Community moderation features like flagging, closing, etc.
  • Image upload, better offline behavior, better Markdown editor, more customization, …

As you can see, we're a long way from having all of that (I wouldn't hold my breath for a beta in 2013). We just are (as is probably well-known by now) fans of early feedback, and thus went semi-public as early as we could.

So with that said, let me answer the most important part of your question:

some of which I'm not sure I should report, since I don't know what role this application is meant to serve

the answer to that is simple – if you think it should be in there, and nobody has said it yet, then by all means report it. If it's a planned feature, we'll tell you just that. If it's a great idea that we hadn't had yet but we love – awesome! And if it's a feature that we don't see belonging in the app, we'll tell you that as well.

Long story short, the very reason for this early alpha is user feedback. So when in doubt, feed back :)

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The key question for me has not been answered yet, or in fact maybe it has and I just don't like the answer!

some of which I'm not sure I should report, since I don't know what role this application is meant to serve

Why would the role of a mobile app be the same as a desktop or even mobile website? What would be the point in replicating the same experience on two different interfaces capable of being accessed from the same device (e.g. safari browser & iOS app)?

I believe trying to reach feature parity of a website in a mobile native app is wrong and sets the app up to fail. I also believe mobile native apps should focus on utilizing the capabilities of their platform and innovating around on-the-go experiences rather than replicating something that already works fine where it is.

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This is certainly a very interesting question, especially since I have started using Desktop mode to browse on StackExchange sites on my Samsung Galaxy S4.

The web app does not allow me to upload photos (screenshots), which is quite useful in the Android.SE site. So, I need to switch to Desktop mode. However, uploading photos in Desktop mode is a painful experience. The upload image icon is too small, and the modal dialog pops-up somewhere I have to find/scroll through. And more often than not, the image upload fails a lot of times. My only option is to take a screenshot on the phone, email it to my PC, and attach the photo from the PC.

So if this new can solve the image upload problem, then I think that's one area it will have solved.

There are also other functionalities that are not available on the web app, and are available in Desktop mode (but are too difficult to use due to its being Desktop mode; e.g. small text, or too much to display on a small phone). If the mobile app can provide a better experience for that, then I think this app will have served its purpose.

UPDATE #1: As I mentioned earlier in my comment (now deleted), I think the bottomline is to provide a better experience with mobiles. Perhaps the native UI experience is easier than with HTML5.

  • I'm pretty sure that the loading images is a known, deferred bug. Since that seems to be the bulk of your answer...what aspect of this question are you answering? I'm confused. – Makoto Aug 15 '13 at 6:02

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