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Native, Hybrid, Mobile Enabled, Facebook. So Many Types Of Apps, But What Are They?

When you hear the word “App” mentioned, do you know what is being referred to? It could depend on the context in which the word was used, but if it is predicated by words like “iPhone”, “Android”, Smartphone”, or “Mobile” you would expect it to mean something very specific; in that context, the “App” would be a mobile device app that you would download from the iTunes AppStore or the Android Market and install on your smartphone.

Different types of Apps

The word App has been around for decades, it refers to application: applications are everywhere and in the past have mainly been used to describe any program running on your computer. Microsoft word, Office, Photoshop etc… these are all applications, but in recent years the word“app” has become more and more associated with mobile devices.

It is worth pointing out that each of the different app types listed below are valid options for specific solutions; you just need to make sure that what you pay for is what you requested and adequately meets your needs.

Related: Using An App for Marketing: Appland Thinking Harnessed By RedOakSnap

# 1. Native Device App

A Native device app is the “app” that most of us think about when people talk about apps;

  • These are the apps you get on your mobile devices and download from the Apple app store or Android marketplace. I am using the terms Apple and Android as these are the platforms most people are familiar with.
  • A Native Device App is an app that is designed and developed in the way that was originally intended, using the expected tools and programming languages for the specific platform. This approach allows the app to make full use of the Device Operating System and device capabilities (camera, gps, accelerometer, push button notification etc).
  • Native apps are stand-alone apps that are always available on your mobile device.

The end result will be an app that exactly meets your needs. In order to have an App in the app store or in the marketplace you will need an account with Apple and Android, but this is something your developer will advise you on or I can blog about later…

Related: Nine Tips To Prevent Your App Becoming A Needle In The 600,000+ Apps Haystack

# 2. Hybrid App

A hybrid app can be seen as a halfway house approach;

  • It is positioned between the Mobile Enabled Website and the Native Device App.
  • A hybrid app is created in much the same way as a mobile enabled website; it uses a web development approach to create the app except that it uses specific JavaScript libraries that can communicate with the device libraries.
  • The next process is what positions the HTML5 app between the mobile enabled website and the native app. The app is wrapped in a container that can be submitted to the App Store/Android Market as if it were a native device app.
  • A hybrid app will appear on the App Store/Android Market, it will have an icon on the user’s device and depending on the functionality, it will be available when the user is offline.

However, there are some disadvantages to this approach that you should be aware of:

  • The app will not be able to make use of certain device capabilities, nor will it make use of the hardware acceleration (so it will be slower at performing certain functions), and because of the libraries it uses,
  • It will never be as up to date as the underlying device operating system.

The functionality available with Hybrid apps is constantly developing so keep watching, I think we will be seeing a lot more from Hybrid technologies.

A Hybrid app makes it easier to create an Apple version and an Android version and the overall costs will be cheaper than a native app but make sure it can manage all the capabilities you require from an app.

The Facebook app is an example of a hybrid app; it is downloaded from the app store and has the features of a native app, but requires you to be online in order to get updates that enable the app to function.

Related: TweakYourBiz TV Talks To The Brains Behind The iFarm App

# 3. Business Card App

I mention business card apps because I’ve recently seen a company offer a €30 app, which can be very misleading. It really annoyed me as it was not an app, but to those unaware of what they were getting it was a cheap app. Most people have the sense to think “if it sounds too good to be true then it is”.

A business card app is essentially a very limited version of the Mobile Enabled Website which is packaged to disguise itself as an app. Hosted web apps are very rarely offered with any sort of design element, your app would be based on a template that would also be used for many other hosted web apps.

  • The limitations of the business card app mean that it is only ever of any use as a sort of mobile electronic business card, on a par with a single page website which shows an overview of what your business does, maybe a few images, and a set of contact details.
  • A business card app won’t appear on the App Store/Android Market. Because of the way it is packaged to pretend to be a “proper” app you will have an icon on the user’s device, but and it won’t be available when the user is not connected to the net.

Related: Building An App Into A Business: An Interview With Lisa Domican Of The Grace App

# 4. Mobile Enabled Website

OK, so a mobile enabled website is not strictly an app, but it is often referred to as one.

  • Mobile enabled websites are simply websites that have been adjusted to run well when viewed from a mobile device.
  • If you are looking to display the contents of your website on mobile devices, then this is likely to be the best option for you.
  • As with all web development, you will be able to work with your chosen designer/developer to ensure that you get the layout/branding/content that you want.
  • A mobile enabled website won’t appear on the App Store/Android Market, you can create an icon on the users device but and the app won’t be able to function when the user is not connected to the net.

A mobile enabled website is a very valuable tool and will help you reach a more mobile market place. People tend to spend a lot of time on line when out and about, commuting and travelling. Having your site mobile enabled makes sense and is not at all expensive. For those fearing the mobile digital era this is a cheap easy and great start to entering the mobile world.

Related: Checklist: Is Your Website Mobile Ready?

# 5. Facebook App

A Facebook app is an app created specifically for your Facebook business page;

  • These types of apps can help with your branding and web traffic on your Facebook.
  • These are not usually developed by App developers and will not be available on the App stores , they really are only tools for Facebook.

Related: How Facebook Is A Perfect Match For One Irish Hotel

The decision to invest in a mobile app solution for your business depends on your target audience and the functionality you require. This will give you a little insight so you are armed with some prior knowledge before jumping into the mobile arena. If you have any questions or queries good or bad, please feel free to comment.

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Image: “Many smart phone application icons arranged in a spherical shape/Shutterstock

Debi Harper returned to Ireland in 2009. Jobs secured everything looked rosy, and then it all fell through just before the move. Together with Jez Harper we set up Tús Nua Designs. After years working with Microsoft technologies we decided to explore the world of mobile Apps and set about putting our new dreams into action:) We are mainly working on our own suite of time management apps but produce work for clients as well.

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  • Hi Mairead, I’m really enjoying this series, you could/should do something special (contentwise) with these posts?

  • Thanks Niall, I’ve a few ideas for them.

  • Anonymous

    Nice post Maired. It was good to meet you in person and have a quick chat on Monday at the KLCK event. Your point on Interest caught my attention. I think we have more of an opportunity to learn about a client via Social Networks, in advance of meeting them, even if it only gives an opportunity to break the ice.

  • Thanks Frank, it was great meeting you too. I think just about every person I met at KLCK I’ve met on Social Media first and then in person at a later date. We can learn a lot more these days about a person via Social Media than we could before, however, that been said I have nearly as many contacts that won’t touch Social Media and have absolutely no interest in it and they are getting on just fine without it, so for those people Social Media won’t help me learn about them, I have to maintain a physical interest, which is what they want.nnThere is a danger of spouting that Social Media is the only way forward, when for quite a sizeable part of the population it isn’t and it isn’t by choice – their’s. Like I said in the last part of the post, trust has to built up with a client their way, not mine.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely. I’ve found this in so many walks of life in the last few years. We sometimes assume that everyone is comfortable enough with the technology, but the fact is that there are so many people out there who don’t even have a computer at home never mind having a Facebook or Twitter account. For example I recently setup a Facebook Group for our residents’ association and out of 220 houses only 20 people joined the group.

  • Great series of articles, Mairead!

  • Thanks Ivan.

  • Hi Debbi, Thanks for explaining the differences, strengths and weaknesses of the different types of apps – this is a great reference post.  

  • warrenrutherford

    Wow – this was an extremely helpful post.  Certainly not scannable:).   Debbie I use these and never understood the logic behind them, so simply explained and understood (well almost) by a non-techie.  Thanks so much.

  • Debi Harper

    Phew:) glad it was helpful Warren and thank you for you kind comments, I am still a very nervous blogger.

  • Debi Harper

    Thank you Niall 🙂

  • Finally Debi!!! Thank you for taking the opportunity to educate those who are constantly or often thinking in terms of Apps.
    On a lighter note, it always amuses me when I am in a training room and use the word APP (and we are working with MS Excel for example). 99% of attendees immediately think of their phone, and not the “application” that we have been working on and learning about) Always makes me smile.App is definitely associated with mobile devices, and we have to use Application or Program to differentiate the desktop version 🙂

  • Debi Harper

    Thank you Elaine , so glad it was useful . It is amazing how quickly the word APP has become so widely related to mobile,especially the younger generation. I have to say and it is funny and a little scary that when I get asked in our local town what we do,I totally confuse people:) I now tend to now say we work with computers and phones.

  • Great post Debi, thanks for sharing it as this is something that confuses so many people. Going forward I’ll be able to share your post so people can decide what they’re really looking for. 

  • Great suggestions. You should also check out – great tool to present personalized offers that change in real time according to users behavior.

  • Great list! I’d love to see’s personalized product recommendations added – it’s a great way to increase conversion and sales too. Leverage the aggregate and individual shopping behavior in real-time to suggest different items to each of your shoppers. Bonus – the same great recommendations can be easily dropped into any email system, including MailChimp!

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