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February 4, 2011 6:42 AM Subscribe
Smartphone apps - what's the fuss all about? Why use them?
posted by Tehhund to technology (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It seems to me that there is a lot of excitement about native applications instead of mobile websites for smartphones. For some applications, this makes sense - a navigation app will be more interactive than a web page, and a music player needs access to your locally-stored music. But for applications that mostly allow users to view and enter textual data, I much prefer a mobile website - on a website there’s no lag as your app accesses storage or strains your underpowered phone processor, and the information is never out of date. But the world doesn’t seem to agree with me. Everyone wants apps! Why?
Example: I work on enterprise software that mostly displays textual data. It also allows some input of textual data. We have a mobile browser version that works great on Android and iOS and is very quick to load. But no one gets excited for the mobile browser - everyone wants native apps, and I don’t understand it. Our software is usually used at a job site, so our users are virtually guaranteed a WiFi connection. If it’s used offsite, it would be during a phone call - so you would probably have cellular data coverage if you are able to receive the call. And your phone has to download and keep up-to-date the considerable amount of data that the user *might* look up if you want to use the app when you don't have . That’s a lot of data and a long sync process, and it means you may be looking at 30-minute-old data, which is sometimes an unacceptable lag time for our users. To me, a snappy mobile site is much nicer, and I find that I'm rarely without a data connection when I want it.
But it still seems that our users really, really want apps. Am I missing some driver that makes people want apps? Am I underestimating the importance of having data stored locally (even if it means a poor user experience)? Or is it just a buzzword - “Mobile website” isn’t sexy right now, “Apps” are sexy!