Mobile is great. Most people now have a smart phone of some kind and no doubt use a host of mobile apps installed on it. So obviously businesses need to get in on that, right? Well, even although our business is 90% making mobile apps, we would have to disagree.
When deciding to create mobile app you need to have a compelling reason to go native mobile (i.e. an app distributed through the App Store/Play Store etc) over using a mobile website. As of today we have a lot of great web frameworks (like React and Ember) that mean we can create great experiences on the web. As an example go to facebook.com on your mobile phone and compare it to the native app, the experience pretty much matches up. So at which point do we want to go mobile?
There’s no simple answer and on a case by case basis its worth making an informed choice based on a few business and technical advantages to having a mobile app.
One thing you simply can’t do on the mobile web (at least on iOS for now) is take advantage of push notifications. Push is great as a means to pull users back into your product and for you as a business to engage with them.
I know for me, my inbox is rammed with emails and SMS messages. One’s that come from businesses typically annoy me but Push is something I as a user get a lot of value from when used respectfully.
Mobile web apps can do a lot but there are actually technical limitations to what we can achieve. For example there’s a limit to the amount of local storage web apps can use (at the moment 50mb on iOS). Therefore for occasions where we want to distribute media (video, audio or high resolution photography) a mobile web app just won’t be able to achieve what a native app can.
With the App Store and Play Store users have already given their payment details to Apple/Google and trust that buying experience. That makes it much easier for apps to directly generate revenue than through the web.
Additionally we have mechanisms like iAP (in-app purchases) and subscriptions that allow apps to easily take advantage of a freemium business model and allow for recurring revenue.
Maps obviously exist on the web so why are they an advantage on mobile? We’ll its tied to offline usage again. We can have maps offline on mobile devices, yes functionality is limited, but in certain cases (tourism for example) offline mapping is a huge benefit to end users and simply not possible with the web.
Native Apps can take advantage of indoor positioning using iBeacons. These small bluetooth devices (about the size of a £2 coin) emit a unique signal. A native app on iOS or Android can pick up on that and use it to locate the user — even indoors.
There have been some great examples of using beacons and indoor positioning to improve the shopping experience (Apple do this in their stores) and again this is something that can be used in tourism and way finding.
Want to be on the Apple Watch? The only way to make an Apple Watch app is native — the watch doesn’t even have a browser. You need to have a compelling reason to have a watch app but cases that have worked well include weather apps, directions and calendar apps.
As day one owner of an Apple Watch on the biggest uses has been for fitness, so any kind of business that hopes to get users active can benefit for a Watch App.
Also something we can take advantage through mobile apps is Apple HomeKit. This is really popular for home automation and smart home devices like lightbulds, locks and thermostats. To take advantage of HomeKit on iOS you need to be a native app.
Sometimes an app makes sense as a new medium to engage users and as a marketing exercise for your business — and thats fine. It’s just important to realise just by having an app doesn’t mean your customers will use the app so be sure its what the business needs.
At Add Jam we think mobile has huge potential for many businesses but for too long has been inaccessible, costly and difficult to get started in that’s why we’ve created Pocket Leap. If you want to give customers an more engaging mobile experience than a web site you can create useful mobile apps with Pocket Leap that take full advantage of mobile devices.
At only £180 per month for an iOS app we’re confident is a game changer for businesses looking to create a fantastic mobile experience for their customers.