Native Apps vs. The Mobile Web vs.

Web Apps
Which Route Is Best For Your Enterprise?
Which Suits Your Needs? Since the iPhone’s launch in 2007, smartphones and tablet computers have become mass market phenomena. Millions of devices sell each quarter, and roughly 30 percent of the American population now carry smartphones. Though mobile devices had a humble start in voice-only communications, now they serve as handheld computers—especially with the growing popularity of applications. These apps extend and enhance the functionality of our new generation of mobile devices. So what devices are out there in the population’s hands? Initially, Apple’s iPhone led the pack in the smartphone market, but its competitors have also innovated their lineup of products. Android, for example, emerged as a serious rival to the iPhone and Blackberry. As for tablets, again, Apple’s iPad is not the only option: the Samsung Galaxy recently broke the $1 million sales mark and the Blackberry Playbook and the LG Optimus Pad plan to release early in 2011. This increasing fragmentation of mobile devices and the operating systems on which they run force companies to look to the future of mobile computing to determine whether a mobile website, native app, or some combination of the two will best suit their needs. accessible through a browser or via their native mobile application counterparts. So let’s define our terms: • A native application is essentially a bundle of software developed and designed to run specifically on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. • The mobile web refers to the browser-based Internet experience on mobile devices. Mobile websites have the ability to run across essentially any platform with a built-in web browser. • Web apps are essentially apps that run inside a device’s browser. Native applications are specific to a particular platform. For example, Objective-C is the primary programming language used to develop native applications for Apple’s iOS devices (iPhone, iPod, and iPad). Native apps invite users to take advantage of particular device features such as GPS, accelerometer, and camera roll. Up to this point, they have

Applications, Defined Most people think of smartphone apps when they hear the word “app,” understanding the product as something installed on their iPhone, iPad, Android, or other mobile device. Applications, however, come in a variety of fashions and formats. For example, Microsoft Word and iTunes are desktop applications. Facebook and are web applications

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multimedia like audio and video. 3. Offline web applications: Many game developers already allows users to continue harness the power of HTML5. interacting with documents Even Google has invested heavand web applications even ily in the next iteration of HTML, when network connectivity is releasing in 2010 a YouTube web unavailable. app that employs HTML5. One of the major differences in 4. Geolocation: taps into WiFi native and web apps is cost. Naand GPS towers for more clear HTML5 and Beyond tive apps demand a larger budget; and concise location detecoften, distribution fees are higher HTML5, set to be finalized in tion. and developers themselves war- 2014, is the next step in the evorant higher compensations for lution of HTML. Its advocates hail 5. (HTML5 sways away from ustheir specialized skills. ing IP addresses.) HTML5 as the web’s gamechanger offered a superior experience to mobile web browsing because of their faster performance, welldesigned user interfaces, and the ability to navigate an app’s content without Internet connectivity. For web apps, all or part of the software necessary to run the app is downloaded from the web each time the app runs. Although web apps perform specified tasks or actions (sometimes the same as native apps), technical differences separate the two. Web applications use a web or browser-rendering language (such as HTML and CSS) along with JavaScript for interactivity. In general, overall costs for developing web apps are substantially lower than that of native apps. This is true for two reasons: (1) web apps can be written one time and run across several platforms and (2) they require less maintenance. because it can resolve some of the constraints that hamper inno- HTML5 is a crucial component of mobile web development. Bevation on the mobile web today. cause smartphones and certain HTML5 can power basic websites feature phones are increasingly (including mobile sites) and allow sophisticated, HTML5 is sure to multimedia perforthem to do everything from track improve mance, interactivity, and localizaa user’s location to store more of their data in the cloud. It may also tion. Overall, that’s a richer user open up advanced capabilities experience. to larger audiences, displace plug-ins for simpler jobs, and make the web more adaptable, efficient, and secure. It will feature a number of new attributes and elements that will benefit both developers and consumers. Four of the most important elements/features are: 1. The canvas element: can render visual images without using plug-ins. The Future of Mobile So who comes out on top: mobile websites, native apps, or web apps? There’s no clear-cut answer. Native apps provide a superior user experience to mobile websites and web apps. HTML5, however, will alleviate the dire costs associated with mobile application development and open up monetary resources for other areas (e.g. marketing, quality assurance testing, and upgrades). Because of HTML5, mobile sites and web apps may close the gap between what they can do and what a native app can do.

Web apps powered by HTML5, the fifth version of HyperText Markup Language, could be the next 2. The video/audio element: step in the evolution of mobile permits developers to directly applications. HTML5 can make embed media such as video it easier to develop websites that and audio, again without relyemploy rich graphics and display ing on plug-ins.

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