iPhone app development and Android app development can be broken down into two main categories; web applications and native applications. In this article we’ll look at the differences between them, and which solution is right for you.
Every day more and more users get smart phones. Its predicted that the next largest number of online customers will come from smart phones, so having a mobile version of your website is important.
The reason you need a mobile optimized website is because of the usability issues normal websites run into on the small mobile screens. Drop down menus, excess of content and large images all add to a bad experience, and sometimes unusable website.
A Native App is a piece of software (a program) that needs to be installed on a device, like the applications you would find on the Apple iTunes store or Android Market Place. Because these apps are installed, they usually have the added advantage of running offline and can take advantage of the built in hardware and software of the mobile device like the gyroscope, camera, accelerometer and more.
Native apps are device specific, meaning one that runs on the iPhone wont run on an Android or Blackberry. However developing mobile applications with PhoneGap allows you to publish native apps to multiple platforms, which means less investment for a larger market.
A mobile web application is more or less like any other website, but it has been optimised for viewing on mobile device web browsers. Building a mobile web app enables you to publish to the internet the same way you would with a website. This means there is no ‘approval process’ from the app store required, and it can be instantly used by other smart phones so you don’t need to do any phone specific development. Of course each phone has its own unique browser technology so some compatibility still needs to be taken into account, and the application will not appear identically on all devices of different platforms and screen sizes.
The major setbacks of web applications are older or less capable browsers on older devices that don’t take advantage of CSS3 or HTML5.
Because native apps have full access to the system hardware and software they can do some things a mobile web application cannot. For example taking photos. Additionally native apps allow the use of the built in browser inside a special view. This means any capabilities a web app can do can be replicated in a native app. This opens the exciting possibility of developing a mobile web application that runs online, and can also be compiled for iPhone and Android and be submitted to their online stores all with the same core code.
|Web Apps||Native Apps|
|Internet Access||Generally Required||Not required|
|Installation & Updates||Not required, just hit refresh||Needs to be downloaded or deployed by developer|
|Device Complaibility||Currently very good, but as mobile browsers get better this will increase||Fully dependent on device hardware and software|
|Content Manageability||Can be done||Can be done|
|Distribution||Can be accessed via a public URL||Must be downloaded via website or app store (if the app store approves it)|
|Enterprise||Perfect, no deployment||For iPhone, Requires Enterprise Apple Developer License and Manual Provisioning of each Device|
|User Experience||Very good, but it depends on the web browser, hardware and age of the device||Very good as they are developed for specific devices (which means older or less capable devices are generally not catered for)|
|Effects & Animations||Good, but will increase with better browsers and hardware||Very fast and responsive|
|Sharing with Social Media||Very easy, just share a link||Will need to be built in|
|Hardware Sensor Access||Very limited access except for geo location||Everything: gyroscope, compass, accelerometer, camera, microphone, web browser, GPS|
|User Collaboration||Can be built in, all data saved on server||Can be built in, would most likely use a web browser to do anything like this|
|Can it be sold?||Generally not recommended but it can be walled of with a sign in||Can be sold on app store or be sold with a website|
|Can the content be found online?||Yes all content can be found online||Generally not, this would need to be built in (unless it just uses a public URL like a normal website)|
|Advertising||Easily done with adwords or paid advertising space||Easily done but would need to be built in. iPhone users can use iAd|
|Graphics||Users will get an experience appropriate to the capabilities of the device they are using||Users (particularly iPhone users) will get a seamless experience on all devices the software is compatible with|
|Fonts||Is getting better with @font-face but isn’t perfect on all browsers yet||Can be built in with a complete control over typefaces|