NATIVE MOBILE APPS
When you think of mobile apps, you’re probably thinking of a native app whether it’s for social networking, reading the news, or shopping. A native app is developed to be “native” to a specific platform: Apple, Android, and decreasingly Windows Phone and BlackBerry.
The principal advantage of native apps is that they optimize the user experience. By being designed and developed specifically for that platform, they look and perform better. The principal disadvantage is that if you wish to build and launch an app on more than one platform (a ride-sharing app, for example), you almost need to start again from both the design and development perspectives for each platform.
iOS is the native operating system for Apple. That’s why apps for Apple devices are called iOS apps. They’re built using Objective-C language or a newer language called Swift.
Objective-C is one of the hardest programming languages to master. It can take six months or more even for computer science graduates and experienced web developers to become proficient. So, you need to ensure the developer you hire has proven experience in Objective-C, not simply experience in other languages.
In 2014, Apple launched Swift, which is a simpler language. Not only is it easier to learn, but it was also designed to be fast. According to Apple’s site, Swift is up to 2.6 times faster than Objective-C.
Apple provides good tools to its developer community. The main tool Xcode is the integrated development environment in which your developer will create your native app.
If you’re creating an Android app, your developer will build it using Java programming language. Java is a more common language than Objective-C and has a lower learning curve, so it’s not as challenging to find proven developers. The most popular integrated development environment for Android has historically been Eclipse. Google launched its own officially supported integrated development environment called Android Studio.
Windows Phone is in third place in terms of market size, but it’s being strongly supported by Microsoft and might be worth considering if you’re building an enterprise app. Apps for Windows Phone are made using C# or VB.NET languages. Microsoft’s Visual Studio provides a powerful integrated development environment. It’s probably the most developer friendly of the three main native platforms.
HYBRID MOBILE APPS
Hybrid mobile apps can be installed on the device and run via a web browser, so they sit somewhere between native apps and web apps. They’re built using HTML5 language. Initially, HTML5 enjoyed adoption by a number of the leading internet domains, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Xero, and the Financial Times. In 2012, it appeared to be the future of mobile.
There’s continuing debate about the future of hybrid apps. Their potential is enormous as there’s a benefit in not having to build and maintain apps for separate native platforms. Separate apps require two or three times the work and two or three teams as opposed to just one. Facebook, for example, employs hundreds of designers and developers on its iOS team and hundreds on its Android team. For most types of mobile apps, the technology isn’t delivering on that potential yet. However, if your app primarily involves content, and it’s important for your business to be cross-platform, then you should still consider it.
TRADITIONAL WEB APPS VS. RESPONSIVE WEB APPS
Traditional web apps will most likely be familiar to you. In fact, you’re reading this article within one. What’s the difference between a traditional web app and a responsive web app? A responsive web app takes on a different design when it’s opened on a mobile device (i.e., a phone or tablet), as opposed to a computer. The app alters its appearance, depending on the type of device you’re viewing it on.
While a web app will be easier to build, the principal drawbacks are:
It can’t utilize any hardware on the device. For example, the camera on an iPhone
Discoverability: It won’t be available in any of the app stores—only on the Internet