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Why native apps have an edge over mobile Web

June 8, 2011

Jonathan Toland

By Jonathan Toland

Nearly all the applications in the Apple AppStore, Android Marketplace and BlackBerry App World are native applications, with 44 billion app downloads projected by 2016.

Native has particular strengths, as does mobile Web.

Native apps work online and offline to deliver an experience using the best of both worlds: Web site – easy to distribute, easy to manage content; native – runs fast on the device, works offline, and takes advantage of all the device’s on-board capabilities. You can optimize a Web site, but you cannot “nativize” it.

Native mobile apps are self-contained.

Going native
Once installed on a smartphone or a tablet, they deliver exigent content far faster than a repurposed Web site.

Mobile Web is still Web, which requires a fixed Internet connection, and on its own cannot access the device’s UI, camera-scanner, GPS, accelerometer or local storage of data such as contacts, maps and material.

Native mobile apps are written for the best performance on each particular platform: iOS (Objective-C), Android (Java) and BlackBerry (Java).

Constant testing of apps in various browsers on various devices and ever-evolving operating systems is exacting, multi-disciplinary work.

Smartphones are always on, and capturing spontaneity is a concept worth considering.

Synchronization enables two-way communication to and from the app, and updated content from the server or the client is immediately available, empowering end-user input whenever their lightbulbs click on, providing information on the go and meaningful services based on personal interest and physical location.

Compare the immediacy of fund-raising from smartphones versus fund-raising from Web sites, or the speed of push notifications which prompt immediate action upon receipt – for example, registering an FDA drug warning, a change of conference venue, or soliciting an entire association’s membership to time ad hoc emails to Congress.

Generating certain actions via Web sites is passive in comparison and slow.

Web defeat
The Internet’s back at the hotel. Per Wired magazine’s September frontpage article, “The Web is Dead,” the screen comes to you, you don’t have to go to the screen.”

With access to the device’s firmware, native is down-to-the-bone, straight-to-the-phone fast: fast to start, fast to access data, and fast to close.

Mobile apps are must-have rather than me-too: conferences, conventions and trade shows that want to increase the convenience of show-going for attendees need to provide the best kind of mobile support, and native is critically important because the uncertain availability of WiFi, overloading of access points and cell towers, and diminished cell reception inside the most modern venues are all very real concerns.

If the network goes down, native mobile app users will not be inconvenienced because most of the relevant content they need has been pre-loaded onto the device – a good example of Forrester’s “curated computing” – and is available instantly.

If the network goes down, non-native, mobile Web apps will fail like AM radio in a tunnel.

In aggregate, attendees overstress the bandwidth, typically between sessions.

This peak traffic spike can exceed the capacity of wireless access nodes, resulting in sub-par mobile Web performance during elevated usage – at a time when people need information quickly.

If the Web site cannot sustain and fulfill the increasing requests per second, it is spinning dinner plates.

Jonathan Toland is sales and marketing account executive at CrowdCompass, Portland, OR. Reach him at

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