If your business is planning to build native mobile apps, ask yourself this question: Are you building native mobile apps because you need to, or because you think you have to? While native apps are popular with consumers, they’re quite impractical for most businesses.
To understand why, let’s first look at why native apps are popular with consumers. Native apps do a couple of things very well: They deliver highly graphical interfaces and they’re easy to find and download. While these are important factors for consumers, are they really important to your business?
For most businesses, the answer is a resounding “No”. Unless your business needs highly graphical applications, mobile web apps simply make more business sense. How so? Here are 7 reasons why mobile web apps make more sense from a business standpoint:
1. Mobile web apps are easier to build
Suppose you needed to create mobile apps that reached all major smartphone and tablet platforms. The native approach requires separate apps for each platform (Android, iOS, Blackberry, and Windows) and device (phone/tablet), meaning you must build 4 separate smartphone apps and 4 separate tablet apps. That’s 8 total apps.
On the flip side, reaching all major smartphone and tablet platforms with mobile web apps is far simpler: Since mobile web apps are platform independent, you’ll only need to create one app for smartphones and one app for tablets. That means you’re creating 2 mobile web apps instead of 8 native apps.
Going one step further, it’s possible to simplify this process even more. Using the right approach, you can create just one web app that looks different, yet native on all smartphones, tablets, and PCs. This article explains the concept in more detail.
2. Mobile web apps are cheaper to build
Most mobile platforms use a different programming language. Apple uses Objective-C. Android and Blackberry use Java. Windows Phone uses C#. In other words, creating native mobile apps that reach all major smartphone and tablet platforms requires that you hire multiple developers. Building mobile web apps only requires one web developer.
3. Mobile web apps are cheaper and easier to maintain
Tying into the previous two points, the native approach leaves you with 8 different applications to maintain. That means even the most minor changes must happen in 8 different places. On the flip side, the mobile web app approach leaves you with just two apps to maintain: One for smartphones and one for tablets.
4. Mobile web apps offer simpler updates
Users must download and install the latest application version on their device to update their native apps. Alternatively, mobile web app updates are delivered seamlessly over the web, without any effort from the user.
5. Mobile web apps offer “native” capabilities
This is where many business get confused. They assume that mobile web apps can’t access a smartphone’s file system or hardware sensors, like the GPS, gyroscope, or accelerometer. As this blog post points out, mobile web apps are far more capable than many people think.
6. Mobile web apps are future proof
RIM and Palm were the big mobile players just 5 short years ago. Now it’s Apple and Google. What will the mobile landscape look like in another 5 years? Maybe a new OS will take over. Maybe iOS and Android will lose popularity. Who knows? The one thing I do know: The web isn’t going anywhere. Mobile web apps offer the only way to protect your company from changes in the mobile landscape.
7. Mobile web apps aren’t controlled by another company
What happens if Apple or Google decides that your native app shouldn’t be in their store? You’re out of luck. Do you really want to give another company so much control over your mobile apps? On the flip side, you have complete control over mobile web apps since they are distributed through the browser.
While native apps may be the popular choice for consumer-facing apps, it could be a big waste of time and money in the business world. For most businesses, the benefits provided by mobile web apps far outweigh those offered by native apps. If your company is considering mobile apps, make sure you understand all the facts before choosing your approach.
For more information on this topic, here’s a whitepaper that may help: Mobile web apps: The best option for business?