Do you really need a mobile app?

Business / 05 March

Our Lead Developer Dom Muldoon discusses the pros and cons of native mobile apps vs a responsive web site.

It can be confusing when deciding how to deal with mobile for your business. Everyday we hear about a new top selling mobile app and the temptation to jump on the bandwagon increases. However a native iOS/Android app may not be the best fit for your requirements. Getting mobile app development services, to help you make the best app can help your business.

First lets define what we are talking about. A native app is generally downloaded from the mobile app store for Android or iOS and is designed and coded specifically for that device/operating system. Most of the native mobile app development companies design these apps in a very precise manner, so that the interface is user-friendly and the outlook design of it makes it seem professional and high end to attract potential customers. A repsonsive website on the otherhand is a website that is designed to respond and reorganise itself depending on the screen size of the visitor, for example whether they are viewing the site on a phone, tablet or desktop.

You may now be asking yourself why would anyone ever want a native app instead of a responsive website? Well there are several compelling reasons to take into consideration:

Native app pros:

  • Access to the device sensors like accelerometer, GPS and camera.
  • Push Notications. Messages and alerts can be actively pushed to the device without the user needing to download them or do a send and receive type action.
  • Native apps can be prefilled with data and/or store data once it has been downloaded for offline access.
  • App store provides a handy way to monetize your app.

Native apps provide direct access to the devices sensors. This can be invaluable to some apps – for instance Hailo using GPS to locate a nearby taxi or one of the many augmented reality apps that use the camera to superimpose info of your surroundings on top of what the lens is pointing at.

Push nofications are a great way to alert the user – this can be used for chat applications or to send a reminder or an alert based on your location.

Often we find ourslelves in areas of poor 3G coverage or in a place (e.g a foreign country) where we are facing extortionate data roaming charges – in these cases an app prefilled with data that doesnt depend on a network connection is a great fit. For example apps with info for tourist sites benefit from this – one can download the app using the hotels wifi and then use it at will at the site in question without fretting about the roaming charges.

You can easiy charge for an app through the app store without the need for your own online shopping cart system and merchant credit card account, similar to this student checking. One needs only to look at the hit game Angry Birds for a great example of this.

Responsive design pros:

  • Cross platform.
  • No app store submission process needs to be followed (this can be a real pain).
  • User is not actively required to download anything.
  • Structure and design can be updated instantly.

Responsive sites are cross platform. This can cut your development cost greatly as its basically getting a website done that takes about 25% more developent time than a regular website, according to specialists at the web development Singapore agency. Alternatively with native apps a separate app needs to be coded for each device/system. One cannot simply “save as” Android or iOS. Android apps are programmed in Java and iOS apps are programmed in Objective-c and as such require different skillsets.

The app store approval process can be a pain. Your app can get refused for a number of reasons  – one of which is if you dont actually use features on the device with the app – like on board database/storage or sensors.

WIth a responsive site the user needs only follow a link or be directed to an URL. They do not need to login to an app store and search and download the app onto their already bloated phone.

The design and structure of a responsive site once changed or updated can be instantly made available to the user. For instance running a competition based on an event. This may not be possible with a native app as it takes usually 5-10 days to get any changes approved through app store.

We at Point Blank love native apps and enjoy building them but before you go down that road you need to ask yourself if your mobile app is going to provide a user experience that cannot be supported using responsive web design? If your app does not need access to device hardware and simply shows listings of text and images then a responsive site is the way to go. If however your app requires access to hardware and has requirements that can’t be acheived through a browser then a native app is what you want.


You can find Dom Muldoon on Google+