Mobile application development is currently at a high with a multitude of development frameworks, server hosting services, and UI design tools available in the market – many of which are mature, streamlined, affordable, and feature-rich. Besides, the BYOD trend has triggered the demand for business applications. Now, IT teams and enterprise heads just need to figure out the kind of mobile application(s) their business needs.
The decision to go with native mobile applications, web-based apps or hybrid mobile solutions can be taken by considering the following factors:
- Complexity of the application – informational, game or services such as banking, etc.
- Goal of the application – promotional (short-term), service related (long-term), etc.
- Customization level
- Branding integration
- Integration with enterprise systems
- Performance expectations
Native mobile applications are still the best
Native mobile applications offer the best functionality in terms of performance, usage of device features, complexity, and customization. However, they require the skills of expert programmers in specific mobile vendor SDKs and IDEs; many hours of development time per targeted OS (Typically, businesses target Android, iOS, Windows Phone, at least.); and high cost of development.
Android application developers must use the native Android Development Tools (ADT) Java programming plug-in with their IDE of choice, usually Eclipse to create apps. iOS application developers work with Objective-C on the Xcode IDE. Windows Phone application developers code in C#/.Net and rely on Visual Studio Express for Windows Mobile and Microsoft’s Windows Phone SDK.
Web-based applications are the easier option but with limitations
However, this approach is best for simple apps as performance lag starts showing as complexity increases – graphics, processor load, etc. Moreover, the dependence on network availability also poses a challenge.
Hybrid mobile applications are a mid-way solution but limitations still exist
Hybrid mobile applications use a mix of both approaches with a web application running inside a hybrid container that is native to various mobile OS. The container allows greater complexity and sophistication that a simple web app (even with WebKit) but again, the container is proprietary to the container vendor who also maintains it. Development costs fall midway between native and web app development but the development is faster and the app has greater device fidelity.
Since the container is native to a mobile OS, an app can provide a different user experience on Android, iOS and Windows Phone, taking advantage of the inherent qualities of each OS.
To conclude, the best mobile approach is based on your requirements and expectations from the mobile application. Don’t go overboard with a native app if your requirements are simple. At the same time, don’t compromise with a web or hybrid app if you want a complex and feature-rich app that’s going to be around for a long time.
- Native Apps Versus Mobile Web: A Primer For Publishers (readwriteweb.com)
- Fragmentation in mobile design: fact or fiction (slideshare.net)