What Type of Mobile App Should You Develop?

So you want to develop a mobile application for your business. You probably have the following questions: What types of apps are there? How is the app built? What are the benefits and downsides? Lastly, you will probably want to know what sort of questions will help you figure out which type of app will most benefit the objectives of your organization.

Well, there are two main types of apps, Native Mobile Apps & Mobile Web Apps, and I have listed some of the pros and cons of each below:

Native Mobile App: Needs to be downloaded and installed by user, there is no need to open a web browser.

How it is built? A native mobile app must be developed specifically for the operating system that it will run on. If you want the app to work across systems, you must build accordingly.

The Good:

  • Available to download from app stores.
  • Faster than mobile web apps, & faster to access.
  • App store approval requirements lend credibility to custom apps.
  • Usable offline, with anytime access.
  • Capable of interacting with end-user gestures.
  • Enables direct access to device hardware.

The Bad:

  • Costly development, especially as integration/compatibility needs arise.
  • Costly app maintenance (numerous mobile platforms increase cost).
  • App store approval processes are time consuming.
  • Users must download and install app prior to use.

Mobile Web App: Does not need to be downloaded and installed by user, can be viewed through a device’s web browser.

How it is built? The app is developed as a web page, and can be used across platforms as long as the user has access to the web.

The Good:

  • Simple maintenance, as updates are made directly (by the developer) to web server; the user does not have to manually update the app.
  • Easy to access on a variety of browsers and devices; users do not have to purchase/install to use the app.
  • Easy to find apps in search engine displays through user inquiries.
  • Cost-effective development due to use of standard programming languages.

The Bad:

  • Inaccessibility of the app without internet access.
  • Small ability to use features and inability to recognize device hand gestures
  • There is no ‘one-size-fits-all-browser-versions-&-phones’ web based app. Consequently, there are often issues with running a web-based app on every device or browser.
  • Inability to purchase app through an app store, making the app harder for users to discover.
  • Assurance of security is more difficult to prove, as mobile web apps do not have to pass app store standards.

How to Choose the Best Approach for Your Business: In order to decide between a Native App and Mobile Web App, you should carefully consider and prioritize the following:

  1. Will an internet connection be required?
  2. Do you need the app to function off-line?
  3. Do you want to or need to include any device-specific functionality?
  4. How important is the app’s performance/speed to what you’re trying to accomplish?
  5. Can you be satisfied with an app that only works on one type of device (at least initially) or can your budget and timeline afford supporting multiple mobile platforms and devices vs. a single web app?
  6. How important is flexibility for faster bug fixes and enhancements turn-around?

There are other factors that can influence your decision, but by answering these 6 questions, you will point yourself to the correct approach.