Developing Mobile Applications – Information and Options

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Businesses are finding it impossible to ignore mobile apps. Mobile devices have become ubiquitous and more people are spending time on their mobile devices. They provide a better avenue for your organization to interact with clients, suppliers and the rest of the world. This is because people rarely go anywhere without their mobile devices.

Additionally, the number of people accessing information over the internet on mobile devices is increasing, with some estimates putting it at 60% of the total internet traffic. Information consumption on mobile devices is either through mobile browsers or mobile apps typically created by you as a content provider. A good number of the world’s population especially in Africa and Asia doesn’t have access to computers and/or a reliable internet connection, meaning mobile devices are the only way your firm can reach them.

To reach the widest possible audience, organizations are finding that they must invest in mobile apps. The decision is not that easy to make given the different mobile devices and platforms in the market and their differing features and capabilities like screen size. This is further compounded by the fact that different options exist for creating your app i.e. native, HTML 5 mobile app or hybrid apps. Each offers different advantages and benefits for your organization/business.

Choosing between a native, HTML 5 mobile app or hybrid app

A native app is a mobile app made specifically for the mobile platform you are targeting. Native apps have the advantages of being:

  • Fast: the code is optimized for running on the targeted platform and graphics rendering is faster. Familiar to the user: users are already familiar with using the targeted platform and developers are advised to stick to gestures users already know.
  • Has access to the device’s features e.g. contacts.
  • Better user experience: this is due to users’ familiarity with the platform, better UI, smoother transitions and better performance. They also have less communication overheads compared to HTML5 mobile apps.
  • However, native apps requires that your development team be conversant with the targeted platform’s development language as well as the mobile platform itself. This not only requires a more experienced development team but choosing which platforms to target.

For example, if your organization is a pharmaceutical company interested in creating an evaluation app to be used by physicians for assessing speakers, you must decide whether to target Android, iOS, windows mobile or other platforms or a number of them. This results in more development time and resources being required.

HTML5 mobile apps leverage HTML5 (HTML, javascript and CSS) in creating an app. They are easier to build and can work on multiple platforms since they are basically websites targeted at mobile devices. This makes it easy for your development team to change an existing website to an app and to leverage their web development skills. However, they are:

  • Slower than native apps.
  • Don’t have access to all the device’s features such as contacts.
  • Typically require an internet connection.
  • Not well suited for apps where security and performance are of outmost importance.
  • Can result in longer development times due to the testing and reworking required to ensure they work properly on multiple devices.
  • That said, they are well suited for creating apps for content consumption and where an app’s elements don’t change frequently and graphics are not used extensively.

A hybrid app is a bit of a mix of native, HTML 5 mobile app. The app is created with HTML5 then converted to a native app, which allows it to behave much like a native app though not quite meeting a native app’s characteristics and performance metrics.

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