Native app or Web app? Part 1

March 2nd, 2010
by David Gould

Ok, so you decided to go mobile. Phew.  Now it’s all downhill, right?  Sadly, the answer is no.  Your decision making is about to get a whole heck of a lot more complicated.  And your first decision is an epic one:  Do I go “native” or “web app”?  First, to be safe and clear (and at the risk of annoying some really smart readers), I want to make sure everyone understands the difference. 

 A native app is an application that (1) gets downloaded from a remote server or app store (like Apple’s App Store), (2)  remains resident in the user’s handset, (3) was specifically written for a specific device, (4) probably won’t work on other devices (ok, there is Java…),  (5) can access cool device APIs like the camera, address book, GPS chips, accelerometers, (6) can optimize the device’s processor and memory management, and whole lot of other features that can make for a compelling mobile experience. 

A web app is a mobile-optimized web site. It resides on a server and is accessed and viewed through the devices’ web browsers.  Because the web app is not downloaded to the device, the app cannot (yet) avail most of the device APIs and cool gadgets.  But web apps are a (a bit) easier to build, version and deploy.

Ahh, the beauty of going mobile… Yes folks, it’s the Wild West out there.  There are no standards.  There are hundreds of devices and Smartphones.  They all have different operating systems, screen sizes and nuanced little quirks.  And then there are whole arrays of native application environments… IPhone, Blackberry, Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian.

So how does one make this epic decision?  How does one create a great mobile presence without going crazy, breaking the bank, or both?  These are all great questions.  And right now, the raging or at least simmering debate amongst mobile mavens is which way to go?  Native or web…

The answer is hard to understand.  For some, you will have no choice.  If your business model depends on accessing a camera to take a photo of a bar code, then you are going native.  If you want to avail location based services, then native is for you.  But if your needs are simpler, then a web app may be the best way to go. 

And remember this:  designing, building your mobile presence marks the beginning of your mobile business, not the end.  Once you launch your mobile presence, you now have to plan for marketing, distribution, merchandising and all the other requirements that currently go into managing your e-Commerce web presence.

Still, I have not answered the question, have I?  I’ll save that for my next blog entry.  Stay tuned…

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments (9)

  • remi Grumeau says:

    You can create location-based webapps, specially for iPhone since Mobile Safari has built-in GPS functions (but no accelerometer neither compass).
    This is an HTML5 standard so this will soon be available to Android, Blackberry and Nokia (Nokia N9000 uses Fennec, with built in coords also)

  • David Gould says:

    Thank you Remi for this great update!

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