“There’s an app for that.”
Who hasn’t heard that line by now? When Apple opened their app store back in 2008, they centered the ad campaign around that little phrase. From a marketing perspective, they were brilliant ads. They positioned the iPhone as much more than a phone. It was a device that could address most any need you were facing. Have a problem? There’s an app for that. Don’t have any problems? There’s probably an app for that too.
To put it lightly, the campaign (and the app store) was a great success. The app store now contains hundreds of thousands of apps. It recently passed its 10 billionth download. Other companies have opened their own app stores, hoping to cash in on the app trend. In short, consumers are crazy for apps.
Business leaders have noticed the app craze, and many are rushing to jump on board. But, that’s not the problem. Mobile apps are a great idea for many businesses. They let business reach new customers and have a more productive workforce. Who doesn’t want that?
The problem is, some of these business leaders are blinded by the success of native apps among consumers. As a result, they choose the native app approach for their internal business apps, without realizing that they’re often impractical (and even harmful) for business.
Why? Let’s think about it. Suppose your business wanted to build a mobile app that let executives access reports from their phones. You can build it as a mobile web app, a native app, or a hybrid app. (If you’re unclear about the differences between these three options, here’s a handy comparison chart.) While each approach would work, you may not realize that the native approach causes a few problems, such as:
- Limited options: If you build one native app for one platform, every user must use the same platform. If you ever want to switch to another platform, you’ll need new apps.
- Costly expansion: If you want to expand your initial app to reach all platforms, you must build a separate app for each platform. As each platform requires a different programming language, this usually means that you’ll need multiple developers.
- Lack of control: Are you comfortable with your apps being controlled by Apple, Google, or Microsoft? If you place an app in their app store, they control it. If they decide your app shouldn’t be in their store, you’re out of luck.
- Uncertain future: The mobile landscape is changing rapidly. Just 5 short years ago, RIM and Palm were the big players. What will the mobile landscape look like in 5 more years? More importantly, what happens if the platform you choose doesn’t exist in 5 years? If so, any app you built for that platform is worthless.
As you see, blindly choosing native apps because they’re the “trend of the day” could create some problems for your company. On the flip side, if you decided to build that app as a mobile web app, you could avoid all of those problems. Mobile web apps let businesses instantly reach all platforms, and don’t depend on any other company. That’s not all. As this article explains, mobile web apps are usually the best option for business.
Now, am I saying that native apps are always a bad idea for business? No. But, if your company is planning on building native mobile apps, ask yourself this question: Is this approach the best choice for our business? Do we need to incur the extra time and expense necessary to build native apps? To help you understand whether or not your company needs native apps, ask yourself these four questions:
- Does this app need to reach a large consumer audience?
- Do you need to sell your app?
- Do you require game-like graphics?
- Does your app need access to all of the phone’s hardware sensors? One note on this topic: Many people are unaware that mobile web apps can access most hardware sensors, like the GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, and more. This article covers the topic in greater detail.
Did you answer “Yes” to any of those questions? If so, the native approach might very well be the best approach for your business. If not, you’re better off with a mobile web or hybrid approach.
Don’t let your business get suckered into the native app craze. While currently popular with consumers, native apps aren’t often the right choice for business. Before you decide which direction to take, make sure you understand the pros and cons of each method.