Monday, November 01, 2010

Mobile apps: Their time is NOW!

Over the last few years, smartphone adoption has steadily risen.  Right now one in five cell phone users has a smartphone.  Industry estimates say that by 2014, four in five cell phones in use will be smartphones. 

Mobile is the future, and offers businesses many soon-to-be-essential capabilities, such as: real-time data on the road, productivity from anywhere, and another way for customers to find your business or your products/services.

As a business, how do you take advantage of the mobile trend?

The best and most obvious answer: Mobile apps. For example, suppose your sales staff wants a mobile stock-checking app. Or maybe you want an app that lets your customers make purchases or view their accounts via their smartphones. Or suppose you want an app that lets employees view schedules or other important information.

If your company wants mobile apps, where do you start? You have two options: Create a dedicated mobile application for each platform, or create a web application designed for mobile use. I’m a huge proponent of the latter, and here’s why:

Simplicity: If you make a dedicated mobile application, you must make separate versions for every platform. As of now, the big platforms include iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows mobile, and WebOS. That’s 5 different versions for every app! However, if you make a web application designed for mobile use, you only need one application. Additionally, that application can look and function like a dedicated app and automatically format itself depending on the user’s smartphone screen dimensions.

Maintainability: Suppose you made an application for a few different platforms. Besides the time spent making each version, every time those operating systems release a new version, you must update your application. That’s a lot of time devoted to app maintenance. On the flip side, if you make one web app designed for mobile use, there’s no need to alter it when platforms update.

Flexibility: Each dedicated mobile app only works on one platform. On the other hand, a web app designed for mobile use doesn’t restrict users in any way. For example, if one salesperson has an iPhone and the other has an Android phone, they still access and use the same web app while on the road.

Security: Data security is one of the big concerns over using smartphones for business. What happens if you lose your phone? Is your business data in jeopardy? With web apps designed for mobile use, the smartphone doesn’t store any data. Instead, your database stores the data, behind as much security as you desire. So, if you lose your phone, your business data isn’t at risk.

For those reasons, I believe designing web apps for mobile use is the best option for businesses hoping to move into the mobile realm. Here’s a great example for you: This article explains how one developer took advantage of mobile apps and provided his company’s sales staff with instant data on their iPhones.

If you’re thinking about taking advantage of mobility for your business, you might want to check out this article entitled, "What Mobile App Developers Should Avoid." It provides some good tips and pointers for anyone considering mobility.


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