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Web apps are cheaper to develop and
deploy than native apps, but can they match
the native user experience?
BY anDRe ChaRLanD anD BRIan LeRoux
Web vs. native
a fe W short years ago, most mobile devices were, for
want of a better word, “dumb.” Sure, there were some
early smartphones, but they were either entirely email
focused or lacked sophisticated touch screens that
could be used without a stylus. Even fewer shipped
with a decent mobile browser capable of displaying
anything more than simple text, links,
and maybe an image. This meant if
you had one of these devices, you were
either a businessperson addicted to
email or an alpha geek hoping that this
would be the year of the smartphone.
Then Apple changed everything with
the release of the iPhone, and our expectations for mobile experiences were
The original plan for third-party
iPhone apps was to use open Web technology. Apple even released tooling
for this in its Dashcode project. 4 Fast-forward three years and native apps are
all the rage, and—usually for performance reasons—the mobile Web is being unfavorably compared.
There are two problems with this
line of thinking. First, building a different app for each platform is very expensive if written in each native language.
An indie game developer or startup
may be able to support just one device,
likely the iPhone, but an IT department
will have to support the devices that its
users have that may not always be the
latest and greatest. Second, the performance argument that native apps are
faster may apply to 3D games or image-processing apps, but there is a negligible or unnoticeable performance penalty in a well-built business application
using Web technology.
For its part, Google is betting on
Web technology to solve the platform