These days it seems just about everyone has an iPhone, or an Android phone.. and of course Blackberry still has a huge user base. The mobile application space is really hotting up – but what direction do you go?
I have an iPhone and based on most things I use, native iOS apps are much better than web apps – but I don’t think that is all down to technical reasons. You can create very ‘app’ like web apps for iPhones and iPads – mobile Safari is a very good browser and with the various HTML 5 features and a bit of effort web apps can work very nicely. The problem is that last part – it takes a bit of effort and most people aren’t making that effort.
Of course creating a native iOS app takes some effort too, and an investment into a relatively closed environment. Despite this there are a huge number of iOS applications out there, the large numbers quoted are a bit misleading since most apps are a complete waste of time.
The other issue with native vs web is that if you want to target multiple devices you need to create multiple native versions – this is the biggest advantage that a web app has – with a lot less effort you can create something that will work across devices.
An interesting site has popped up, openappmkt.com which is a collection of web apps, targeted for iPhones it seems, and making installing web apps an experience close to the real app store. Apple does have its own web app section on their website at http://www.apple.com/webapps/ too.
I am still fairly open minded about all this and we are working on solutions for both native and web.
I also noticed that the new Blackberry 6 OS on the Blackberry Torch has a webkit based browser, which should make things better for web apps – however, if targeting Blackberry you can’t rely on people being on this version.
Some interesting links on the subject: