Unlike your computer, your mobile phone is nearly always with you.
Services delivered by smartphones is rapidly becoming more and more important, and may in many cases be more important as services delived by conventional computers.
When deciding how to best deliver your service to your customers you need to consider what platform is best suited, the phone, the computer, or both of them.
Any service that could be enchanched by, for example, knowledge of the users precise location, or maybe simply could benefit from always being available in the users pocket, is a good fit for a smartphone application.
At Interactive Solutions, we have been building smartphone applications since 2010. We have experience in iPhone, Android, tablets and mobile web applications.
When doing smartphone development, there are three strategies to choose between, native applications, mobile web applications, or a hybrid of the two. All have their pros and cons.
In a native application, you can make the user interface and experience closely conform to the platform guidelines, so the user feels at home using the app. In other words, make an iPhone app have an iPhone look and feel, while an Android app feels like Android.
You can also have tighter integration with smartphone features like camera, maps, calendar, contacts and similar. There is more architectural freedom for things like communication with servers, prepackaged vs. loaded graphics and sound.
All in all, a native application can do things a mobile web application cannot, it can look more like an integrated part of the phone, and it can have a more fluid and responsive feel.
On the negative side, native apps need to be developed separately for every platform, and it needs to be delivered and updated through AppStore/Google Play. So, it will be more expensive and any app change, no matter how small, will take some time until it reaches the users. There is also no way to automatically upgrade users to new versions.
Mobile web applications
Mobile web applications works similar to webpages, so changes can be seen by users as soon as they are deployed, no application updating needed.
All smartphones uses the same mobile web application. If you want your application to be available across many devices, this can mean major cost savings.
The drawbacks are that mobile web applications does not have the same access to smartphone features as a native app has, so some functionality may not be possible. They won’t have the same ‘feel’ as a native app, they will likely feel a bit slower, and will not feel as well integrated with the phone as a native app can.
Hybrid web applications
A hybrid app is an application that's created with the same technologies used for developing websites and mobile HTML applications, running from inside a native container. A true marriage between web techniques and native applications. Done right, this can maximize the pros of both techniques while minimizing the cons. Our resident smartphone expert talks more about hybrid apps here.
Depending on what you need, you may not need any mobile-focused development at all. Webpages can be built to display nicely on a wide variety of devices, from browsers to phones, using responsive design. If you need something that is mostly displaying information, this may be the best way to go.