To say that mobile apps are booming would be an obvious understatement, IDC predicts that global downloads will reach 76.9 billion in 2014 and will be worth $35 billion. Because of this many companies are considering a leap onto the mobile app bandwagon. But does your company really need a native mobile app; is this the best way forward for your brand? There are other options available which will enable you to take advantage of the mobile revolution which may be better suited to your company’s goals, strategy, target audience and ultimately budget. We have put together an overview of the pro’s and con’s of native mobile apps, web apps and mobile optimised websites to help you decide the best way forward for you.
Native Mobile Apps
Native mobile apps are specifically designed to run on the smartphones operating system and machine firmware. It typically needs to be adapted and adjusted for use on different devices (GIA)
- Native apps do not need internet connectivity to function this gives users anytime, anywhere access.
- Native apps can offer increased functionality by tapping into the smartphone handset features. If you would like your app to access the user’s camera or phonebook or make use of GPS location technology, the accelerometer or server side push notifications then you will probably want to go down the native application route.
- Native Apps are distributed via the app stores (Apple iTunes, Android Marketplace). This is a powerful platform to get your apps found provided you have optimised your application for maximum visibility.
- Native mobile apps promote better user engagement with longer user sessions; this is probably due to the richer user interface provided although this may be set to change with new developments in HTML5.
- Surveys show that most affluent respondents are more likely to say they had downloaded a native app (Survey by Ask.com and Harris Interactive)
- Cost – a native app is specific to the mobile handset it is run on, since it uses the features of that specific handset. This means if you are developing across iOS, Android and Blackberry operating systems the development costs can be quite high as each device uses different coding.
- Maintenance and complex updating which need additional installation.
An application in which all or some parts of the software are downloaded from the Web each time it is run. It can usually be accessed from all web-capable mobile devices (GIA)
- Accessibility – an HTML5 mobile app (web app), are accessible on most mobile devices so you can reach a much wider audience than if you were to develop a native mobile app for say iPhone only. Cost – web apps use the same base code for all platforms (iOS, Android), although there is still work to be done to ensure the application is compatible across all platforms this brings development costs down considerably.
- Web apps offer a faster go-to-market, since they are not subjected to distributor approval. Apple AppStore approval can take from weeks to months of evaluation and quality assurance.
- Discoverability – With the increase in native apps within the app stores it will become difficult to distinguish whether web apps are any less visible provided there is a strong marketing strategy on launch to aid discovery.
- Web Apps offer more direct and unfiltered access to user behaviour analytics enabling targeted consumer cross-selling opportunities.
- Web appscan be pinned to the user’s smartphone menu to allow easy repeat access.
- Performance and functionality is limited compared to that of a native app as internet connectivity is required and the application cannot access smartphone functions such as geo-location technology or push notifications.
- Less controlled user experience
- Lack of standards across mobile browsers can make it quite difficult to ensure your app is cross platform compatible.
(There is also the option of building a hybrid native/web app which allows developers to create mobile apps that share their backend with their web application. A hybrid app could provide the perfect trade-off between cost and functionality for your company.)
Mobile Optimised Website
A mobile optimised website is essentially your company’s website optimised for viewing on a mobile device.
- A mobile optimised website is a simple transfer of the information and content (or part of it) of your website to enable mobile user accessibility. Because the information and logic is already there, (you are not creating anything new or any extended functionality) mobile websites can be very inexpensive to build.
- Mobile optimised websites offer smaller companies the opportunity to take advantage of the increase in mobile search.
- User experience is greatly improved as web page logic is optimised for viewing on a mobile device.
- If your website is built in flash then it will not be viewable at all by Apple device users – a mobile optimised website will increase your company’s visibility for Apple users.
- If your website is built in Flash then it will require more work for that website to be viewable on Apple devices.
- A mobile optimised website as with HTML5 web apps relies on internet connectivity to function
- User experience is limited to web based actions.