Not all types of native mobile apps are created equal

  • 31-Jul-2013

A "native app" in the context of mobile applications is a type of application developed for a specific handheld platform. The platform usually refers to an operating system (e.g., iOS, Android, etc.) but can also include different mobile device types in conjunction with the operating system.

Native apps offer some advantages over mobile web apps, and many enterprises want to offer them to their employees and customers. As a result, many of the tools that we evaluate in our forthcoming Enterprise Mobile Applications Report claim support for native apps. But as always, the devil lies in the details. 

There are many ways to create native apps. Technically, even the "hybrid" web apps that run inside a web-to-native wrapper such as PhoneGap are native apps.  Meanwhile some other tools cross-compile code written in a scripting language (such as JavaScrip)t to native binaries. Still some others provide a run time environment inside which your apps run. Finally, you have the pure native apps that get created using native development environments (e.g., Xcode for iOS native apps). 

Note that these erstwhile "native" apps differ widely in terms of performance, look and feel, and support for native hardware features. Purely native apps that you create using native SDKs (such as Xcode) have full support for all hardware features. Hybrid native apps on the other hand have only limited support for native features. Other type of native apps fall somewhere in-between, and so there's a complete range of device-specific apps. 

So when you're evaluating tools, and a vendor claims they support native app development, it's important to understand the extent of native support very clearly. We evaluate this aspect for all the vendors that we review, along with several other evaluation parameters.

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