The buzz over the past few years has been about the creation of mobile applications (apps), and interest continues grow. Many technology and web companies are wondering what is the best way to establish a presence in the mobile app space and what approach should be taken now and for the future of developing apps. What solution fits your company’s needs and goals? Let me help you out. Below, I’ll describe and compare three options for developing apps and offer a few solutions or platforms for building them.
1. Native Mobile Apps
Apps' built-in native operating languages are specific to a native operating system and platform. iPhone and iPad apps are built using Objective-C. Android apps are built with Java, and Windows are usually built with C++, C#, Basic.NET, or ASP.NET.
Benefits to creating apps the native route include: speed, better performance, consistency in transitions and usability, access to native User Interface (UI) components, and access to all native API components and most of the available device features.
When choosing this route, you first have to hire a developer or a team of developers that specializes in the specific languages for the platform you or your client has specified. This limits your larger audience and will not allow you to reuse code, as each app that is device-specific will have to be written multiple times in multiple languages. This takes time and, from a business perspective, time is equivalent to money.
2. Web Apps
The benefit of choosing this route is that the code is portable and runs across all platforms and devices. You typically write the code once, usually with skills that developers in most technology companies already have, and it will generate multi-platform support.
3. Hybrid Apps
Benefits of hybrid apps are the mobile cross-platform reach that can be targeted at a very reasonable cost. Most companies that have web developers can transition them to mobile by leveraging their current knowledge and skills. Better performance than web apps. Access to a few of the device capabilities and APIs such as camera and geolocation. Distribution through the app stores of targeted platforms.
A major drawback with this approach is that the app will still runs slower because it is running in a native web view container, instead of exposing direct access to the device APIs and capabilities.
Which should I use?
As an overview, here is what we are left with: Native excels in performance and device access, but suffers in cost and updates. Web is much simpler, less expensive, and easier to update, but is currently limited in functionality and cannot achieve the exceptional level of user experience that can be obtained using native API calls.
The hybrid approach provides a middle ground that, in many situations, is the best of both worlds, especially if the developer is targeting multiple operating systems.
As a company or developer looking to enter this market, keep in mind the trade-offs between the user’s experience, application functionality, cost, and delivery time. You have to decide which strategies best fit with your goals. You might find all three approaches are the solution based on the nature and requirements of the projects or applications you are delivering.