DBMS on iOS-Devices (3)

Using a database is the only appropriate way to store large amount of data.
As tablet and smartphone purchases are booming it stands to reason to have a look at some apps for iOS devices.

Allow me to point out some previous articles about databases here on iNotes4You

DBMS on iOS devices (1)

DBMS on iOS devices (2)

Importing Data

Databases and Mind Maps

From Access to Tap Forms


First of all it’s useful to have a look on what customers use databases for:

  • Personal information management
    This field of activity means the “classical” applications for PDA or organizers. Mostly, there is no cooperative work with other users on the same piece of data. The amount of data on the mobile device is usually small, and is at most edited on the mobile device itself. The main challenges for developers of mobile databases for personal information management are

    • Flexibility
      regarding changes of tables and fields
    • Independency
      of stationary devices
    • Easy to use
      even for non-professionals
    • Reliability
      of the developer constantly upgrading and adapting the app to changing operating systems and devices
  • Replication of large databases
    The replication of large databases or parts of them – large in the context of mobile, lightweight appliances, e.g. not more than 2 GB – is characterized by the cooperative use of the same data by numerous users. Data are mainly managed and manipulated by the DBMS on a stationary server, only a few or no changes are performed on the mobile device. Business applications, geographic information systems or multimedia are typical applications. The most important challenges for mobile databases in this field are syncing, performance, storage capacity, and the way to display data on a small screen.

The differences between stationary and mobile devices can be described by the following issues:

  • Amount of data
    Due to the restrictions of CPU performance and storage capacities applications for mobile devices are suitable for about, let me say, 10,000 records. Larger amounts of data cause performance problems when it comes to import, export, and sync data with other devices.
  • Hardware resources
    Stationary devices are customizable for the needs of their applications with a broad range of exchangeable hardware components. In contrast Apple’s mobile devices are not upgradable. So the later usage of the device has already to be considered when it’s purchased.
  • Form factor
    Screen sizes like that of the iPad are not suitable for databases containing tables with a large amount of fields. Even in landscape mode it’s hard to view tables with many fields and different field types. Usually views of tables are not customizable by defining suitable forms, subforms for related tables, data sheets, and reports like it is possible e.g. in Microsoft Access.

As we are talking about applications for the actual iOS devices the key feature list assumes an iPad and an iPhone as mobile devices optionally supported by a Mac as the big brother to do some tasks mobile devices are not designed for.

The key features …

Here are some key features for apps managing databases on mobile devices.
When expanding the branches of this map you will see many details reflecting my comprehensive experiences with database tools.


The mind map created with the app iThoughts for iOS contains many detailed informations when expanding the branches. It can be downloaded here:

Key Features of Mobile Databases

Map as a PDF

Map in ITMZ file format (iThoughts)

Map in MMAP file format (MindManager)

Map in XMIND file format (XMind)

Classification of apps …

The apps available at Apple’s App Store I would like to describe are distinguished from each other by

  • Creating and customizing a database on the mobile device
    examples are Tap Forms (Tap Zap Software Inc., Canada) and Bento (FileMaker Inc., USA)
  • Creating the database on a stationary device and editing data on the mobile device
    an example is Microsoft Access Database Client, My SQL Mobile Database Client, (Impathic LLc. USA) and the mobile database clients for Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, Sybase, PostGreSQL, and DB2 also developed by Impathic.
  • Access to databases located on webservers
    an example is MySQL Database (Software Solutions + Technologies AG, Switzerland)
    These solutions are not discussed here because of the dependency of an external data source managed on a webserver.

Some features in details …

I want to talk about an appropriate usage of databases on Apple’s iOS devices. So the focus is on private and small business applications, the usage of more than one device without the necessity of a stationary device, and the independency of external data sources.

So the key features are

  • Creating the database on the mobile device
    e.g. On an iPad or by importing a CSV file which automatically generates a table with the correct field types
  • Creating the fields by selecting from various filed types which are particularly useful for mobile devices
    e.g. location data
  • Syncing across multiple devices
    e.g. syncing via Apple’s iCloud
  • Importing data from previous systems
    e.g. via a CSV file from Microsoft Access
  • Exporting data to other apps for further usage
    e.g. to Apple’s spreadsheet app Numbers to create graphs or editing data for print outs or presentations

Please visit iNotes4You to read the upcoming article DBMS on iOS-Devices (4) with a description of the Mobile Microsoft Access Database Client by Impathic LLc, USA.
This article will be published on May 22.

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