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Web Apps vs Native Apps cont…..

More than one supermarket chain has recently launched iPhone specific applications to order groceries via your mobile device.  But I don’t have an iPhone – so I can’t order my groceries on the go?  Well, in short, no you can’t!  But why not…..

In the ever changing face of the web organisations need to be smart about the technology they choose to deploy, or before long it will become outdated pushing the overall cost of development up as they are forced to try again.  However, web applications can help cure this problem.

When I order my groceries using my native app, I can’t do it unless I have a connection to the internet.  Accepting the fact that I could not download a reliable and up to date copy of the supermarkets product database to my mobile device, being forced to install an app when I could have just visited the supermarkets website on my phone is questionable.  Indeed, the same app experience is acheivable as a web-app, that runs on ALL devices not just the iPhone.

Some will argue that having a presence in the famous App Store rather than just a web address is worth it’s weight in gold, but do those same people realise that you can deploy a web application to the App Store using technology like PhoneGap.  This means that you can get all the advantages of developing a cross-device solution and still deploy it as an application in the App Store and competing stores such as Google’s Android MarketPlace.

So what does all this mean?

Web Applications are becoming more and more powerful by the day – in fact it is probably the fastest moving technology in the world.  Before deciding to develop an application for a specific platform, consider if the application can be written for all devices with the same code base – saving time and money.

The mobile Web market is much larger than native applications markets. By coding for the mobile Web, app developers can reach a broader audience on multiple devices and platforms in a single stroke. Platforms like iPhone, Android and Windows Mobile (which all use unique languages and techniques to develop applications) only represent a fraction of the overall mobile device market, while the mobile Web is accessible from a much larger number of handsets.

The most important reason developers themselves should be attracted to mobile Web apps is that the Web is open. Developers don’t have to spend weeks on an application only to see it rejected by Apple.   What’s more is there is no waiting for applications to be approved.

Organisations can have confidence in the fact that an application written for the web can be technically read and understood by a far greater number of developers, reducing overall cost of ownership in application upgrades and maintenance.

Back to the example…

In terms of the example of ordering groceries using your phone, if the app were developed as a web app rather than a native app it would reach a target audience millions greater, quicker.  It would work across multiple devices and update itself seamlessly.  It can still be launched from an icon on the home screen of a device, and to all intensive purposes would be identical to a user – I would be surprised if they even noticed a difference!