Chapter 9. Mobile Web Apps Versus Native Applications

When should you make a mobile web application versus a native mobile application, or a downloadable application designed for a specific platform, like a Java application or an iPhone? It wasn’t that long ago that people didn’t even bother asking the question; every mobile application was native.

The mobile web historically has been so horrendous to deal with that the only way to create a compelling experience was to go native. Assuming that native applications will immediately create compelling experience is misleading, though, as dealing with native applications across multiple platforms isn’t exactly a walk in the park, either. Device fragmentation exists across devices, because if you are dealing with native APIs or mobile web browsers, it is an obstacle that cannot be avoided.

But like most things in the mobile ecosystem, the question of which path to choose comes down to money. Native applications can produce a lot of short-term revenue for developers and operators alike, especially with the proliferation of app stores. Though traffic to mobile websites and web applications produce a sizable chunk of operator revenue in data charges, developers assume they get nothing. This isn’t to say that making money from the mobile web can’t be done; it’s just that few know how to choose the right path to monetization.

In this chapter, I discuss the reasons why you should create a native application, but first, let’s start by setting the ...

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