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.
# 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…
# 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.
- 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.
# 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.
# 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.
# 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.
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.