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GitHub for mobile brings dev platform to small screens

GitHub for mobile delivers a fully native iOS and Android development experience of the popular GitHub source code version control service for developers.

GitHub is enabling developers to carry the company's popular version control system around in their pockets.

San Francisco-based GitHub has made its GitHub for mobile platform generally available for developers who want to access the company's collaboration tools on iOS and Android devices.

Github first introduced the mobile edition in beta at its GitHub Universe conference in November. Mobile users will get a fully native GitHub experience on iOS and Android to perform tasks such as triaging issues and merging code from their mobile devices.

"A thing that is interesting to me is they built native clients for iOS and Android, but they did not use Xamarin," said Thomas Murphy, a Gartner analyst, in reference the Xamarin cross-platform tools to write Android, iOS and Windows apps with native user interfaces. Microsoft owns both GitHub and Xamarin, which offers close to native iOS and Android performance, but has some limitations.

"What I'm probably most excited about is reviewing pull requests and code changes, and then actually merging code changes from your phone," said Ryan Nystrom, director of engineering at GitHub. "We're talking about merging code, keeping projects alive and moving stuff from anywhere."

GitHub, which Microsoft acquired in 2018, has been around for more than 11 years and has more than 40 million developers using it. That means there are all kinds of different workflows and to deliver a mobile version, the company had to be respectful of the different ways that developers use the product, Nystrom said.

However, the mobile team told beta developers using the tool that it would also experiment with some features. One such test included removing a filter from notifications and the beta users demanded it be put back in, which the team did after a slight redesign, Nystrom said.

In addition, "I think it is useful from a search and read perspective and for the workflow for things like pull requests," Murphy said.

Meanwhile, the mobile version will be increasingly useful as people use GitHub Actions and make use of GitHub in a wider context around monitoring security and builds because developers will want notification and quick assessment from their devices.

"If you are the 'on-call' developer, having access to everything about a build without firing up your system and browser is a great option," Murphy noted.

If you are the 'on-call' developer, having access to everything about a build without firing up your system and browser is a great option.
Thomas MurphyAnalyst, Gartner

With GitHub for mobile, developers can organize tasks with a swipe to finish a task or save the notification to return to it later.

"We're committed to this sort of continuity of being able to start to review code on your phone and finish on your laptop or vice versa," Nystrom said.

The mobile version is a nod to the notion that software development work is not a 9-to-5, at-your-desk kind of thing, said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at Forrester research.

"There are lots of tasks that get done when developers are on the move, such as approving a pull request to unblock the team, reviewing code that's been submitted, marking an issue as fixed after the test results from the latest rolling build," he said. "Anything that improves communication stands to improve development team productivity, and mobile support seems to fit the bill."

The initial iOS and Android releases of GitHub for mobile are available from the Google Play Store or Apple's App Store.

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