Most businesses today understand they need to be in the mobile space as a means to augment their reach and customer interaction. What many don’t know, however, is the difference between a “native mobile app” and a mobile, or “responsive”, website. There’s a clear distinction between the two and both serve different purposes, have different limitations, and most importantly have unique development costs. Depending upon the needs of your business, you might decide one is better than the other, or that both are needed. Let’s discuss the basics of each to better understand which one might be best for you.
Native mobile apps are developed using programming languages “native” to the market and device they’re to be used on, such as Android, Apple or Blackberry. Native apps typically provide a better user experience and higher performance due to the tight integration with the intended device. However, since you cannot use the same source code across all devices and platforms, Native apps are costlier, as each device needs its own programming. Furthermore, developing for the Apple market is much more difficult because Apple tightly controls their user’s experience and they don’t want to be blamed for a slow app load, a bug on the app, or a faulty app that locks up the phone and aggravates the user.
Native mobile apps are most suitable for use on a regular basis, used for content, have complex workflows, need to access the native capabilities of the devise such as the SMS, GPS, Click to Call, Camera, etc. Most importantly, Native apps can be used offline where the user does not have or need internet access. Native apps offer better end-user experience, more complex and complete functionality, and a greater distribution potential via app stores.
A Mobile web app, or more commonly called a “mobile website” or “responsive website”, is suitable for content consumption, is not complex, and doesn’t need to access the device’s native functions. Essentially, it’s your website adjusting appropriately for the screen space and size of the device it’s being viewed on. It’ll look one way on a computer screen, another on an Android smartphone, and yet another on an iPad. Mobile web apps need internet access to function and are not readily available in the app stores, but are available by accessing the website via a device other than a computer.
A cross platform app, or “hybrid”, can significantly reduce the overall investment because the coding and programming behind it makes the app compatible on multiple platforms whether it be Android or Apple. The cost is greatly reduced with hybrid apps and they use both native features and web content. Essentially they give you the best of both worlds, tie in with all your social media, and prices can start as little as $500 for development.
No matter what type of mobile presence is best for your business, simply having one is increasingly important. Consult and seek the advice of an expert when trying to identify the best strategy for you in the mobile world.