Choosing the right type of mobile app for your business
You have a brilliant online product or service, and now you want to get it to market and into the hand of your customers ASAP. However, choosing the best type of app for your business and customer is an important decision to make. Here’s how to make an informed one.
First, you need to understand that there are three types of apps:
(1) Native apps
(2) Hybrid apps
(3) Mobile Web apps
In summary, native and hybrid apps are installed in an app store, whereas web apps are mobile-optimised webpages that look like an app. Both hybrid and web apps render HTML web pages, but hybrid apps use app-embedded browsers to do that. Let’s unpack further and look at the pros and cons of each.
Native apps are installed on to a specific device such as a smartphone and is done so via an app store. A native app is developed in the programming language that is specific for the a platform, for example, Ocjective C for Apple iOS, Java for Android or C# for Windows.
Native apps offer access to the native features and functionality of the device e.g. push notifications and device camera.
Native apps use the least available hardware resources to improve performance.
Applications will work in offline mode (with no internet connection).
The apps are distributed through App store such as Apple iTunes, Google Play and Windows Store.
Your application will have access to the latest API’s and releases on that platform.
Developing only one native app excludes users on other platforms.
More time and money is required to develop a native app for multiple platforms.
You need big budgets to support all the platforms that have considerable markets.
You may need to maintain multiple teams, one team per platform you want to support.
Native apps require users to download and install updates from an app store.
Mobile Web Applications
Mobile web apps are similar to a normal web app, except that they are designed to work on smaller screens.
Quicker and cheaper to develop because a single mobile web app can operate on multiple platforms such as Apples iOS, Android, etc.
Distribution of these apps is easy. You just deploy the web app on your web server and the user accesses it from their browsers.
The development and testing of these apps is easier as they are similar to normal web apps where you have tooling support.
These apps don’t have access to the native functionality of the mobile device.
Overall performance doesn’t match native apps.
These apps don’t work without an internet connection and performance will be negatively affected on low data connections.
A hybrid app is a combination of a native and mobile web app. Essentially, a hybrid app is mobile web app wrapped as a native app; it uses a browser view and hooks to allow your mobile web app to access features such as the camera or push notification on your mobile device . And, just like a hybrid app, it is made available to users in app stores. Two examples of popular hybrid app development tools e.g. PhoneGap.
Hybrid apps are faster to develop because most of the development is done using standard web technologies which are cross platform and only a small amount of native coding, only when access to native layers is required.
These applications can be deployed in platform specific app stores.
Hybrid apps provide “best of both worlds” of both native and mobile web apps.
They can access the native features of the mobile device.
These apps can work without an Internet connection.
Hybrid apps, even though are packaged natively, are not native apps. Although they are catching up to native apps, the performance of hybrid apps is still not as good.
There are less experienced and skilled hybrid app developers available.
App stores may recognise that your app is not truly native, rejecting your application to be made available in the App store.
So which one is right for your needs?
Unfortunately there is no straightforward answer; each option has its own strengths and weaknesses.
As always, your decision should be based on a well thought out mobile app strategy, which should include the following:
(1) Business goals and brand objectives
(2) Target audience and user experience
(3) Features of the app (including future requirements)
(4) Budget and time
While creating your mobile app strategy, there are a few guidelines that may help the process in deciding which type of mobile application is best for your needs:
If you are building productivity apps, utility apps or enterprise apps, Hybrid apps are for you.
If you are building games or photos, videos related app then Native apps are best choice.
If you are building apps that need to work in real time, which doesn’t need access to the native layer and is not performance stressed, then HTML5 mobile web apps are the way to go.
Technology, specifically in the mobile and application development space, is always changing. In most cases, it is ideal to get 3rd party specialists involved in the process to provide specific insight and skills.