Tag Archives: Mobile Computing

Mobile Computing: Native Apps versus Web Apps

What it Means to Your Organization

by Harry Tarnoff

Our clients often ask about the advantages of mobile applications and the differences between mobile “native apps” and “web apps.” They ask, “How would a mobile app relate to our business, our people, and the products and services we offer? Should our mobile app be a native app or a web app? Should we consider corresponding changes in our business’ IT systems?”

A well-designed mobile app can certainly complement a business’ website and aid in the marketing and sales of the business’s offerings. The selection of a native or web platform will affect an app’s characteristics, what services it can readily provide, and the app’s future evolution. A wrong choice could cripple a start-up or a company launching a new offering. A poorly designed app may never become popular enough to gather a following.

Even more striking is how mobile apps are growing in importance. The percentage of mobile-only users, at 25% today, is estimated to be more than 65% in 2015. This means that, instead of your website, it could soon be your mobile app that tells your customers about you, your company and its offerings. Your mobile apps need the same care, professionalism, and polish as your website and marketing brochures. The quality of your brand must be high for all elements of your public persona.

Fundamental Differences

A “native app” works on only certain devices for which it is targeted. It is written in one of the development languages supported by the target device. A native app runs on the target device and typically stores its data on the device. Native apps can run very fast and can easily interface with any of the device’s hardware and operating system features.

The flexibility of a native app comes at a price, however: Native apps written for one platform, say Apple’s iOS which drives iPhones and iPads, are not compatible with other platforms like Android or BlackBerry OS. Developers spend significant resources to translate, or “port,” their applications to run on each additional device family. Supporting and maintaining similar software for multiple platforms is expensive.

On the other hand, a “web app” is developed using standard web technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The resulting program, typically accessed through a URL web address, requires only a device with a standards-based browser. An iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Android phone, or Android tablet can all be suitable clients for the same application.

A web app pulls content from a remote server, so it needs an active WiFi or cellular link. A web app running within a mobile browser generally runs slower than a similar native app, has some restrictions on its user interface, and often cannot take full advantage of special device features.

But the extent of these differences is narrowing. Native and web apps are breaking through their stereotypes. New development platforms let native apps share a common codebase, easing development. Improvements in mobile browsers and new mobile OS features, let web apps mimic their native counterparts and access special device hardware features. Cross-compiling development platforms improve the performance of web technologies.

Android-based Smartphones – Google’s Nexus One and Motorola’s Droid

Will Motorola’s Droid or Google’s Nexus One trump Apple’s iPhone?

The latest entries into the mobile computing market are the Motorola’s Droid and Google’s Nexus One, both based on Google’s powerful new Android 2.0 Operating System. Some reviewers have called these smartphones “iPhone killers.” Are they really? What does Android represent to mobile computing?

The Droid and Nexus One are both very capable devices, and they outperform the iPhone in several ways. Some if not most of their specifications indeed surpass those of the iPhone 3GS, Apple’s most recent offering, which, by the way, isn’t terribly surprising for two-year newer smartphone designs.

The Android devices tout a larger screen size, the ability to replace batteries, better voice control, application multitasking, turn-by-turn navigation like a standalone GPS device, and a less restrictive app marketplace. The iPhone has much more and better managed memory, seamless integration with its iTunes and app stores, a more protective app marketplace, a more fluid gesture-based interface, and a greater variety of more polished apps.

At DataPlex, we think of Android 2.o devices as different animals, less as direct competition for the iPhone and more as a gap-filler, particular for Verizon, the cellphone carrier that desperately needed a smartphone facelift. Many people will select Verizon smartphones because of their high-quality 3G network which is arguable better than that of AT&T, the iPhone’s exclusive carrier. Others will cite the lack of availability of add-on apps for the Android devices as compared to the enormous quantity and variety of apps available for the iPhone.

We see the Droid and Nexus One dropping into the space between the uber-business-focused Blackberry and the sleek, arty iPhone, and some new apps will just make more sense for the Android platform than they will on those for other smartphones. Android will help make more accessible business and enterprise applications.

Don’t feel bad for Apple. Apple has never sought purely to dominate a market. Rather, it looks to make its offerings attractive and easy-to-use, particularly with the overall intent of integrating them seamlessly with the rest of its product line. Alternately, the Droid and Nexus One come across as capable, feature rich devices, but ones with some rough edges and some complexity in the veins of the longstanding PC vs. Mac debate. Apple has its followers and the attraction of its more polished market. Rumor has it that Apple will releasing its next iPhone version mid-2010, that is, after it releases its also-rumored tablet. Don’t be surprised if it incorporates some of Android’s new features.

To learn more about the differences between the Droid, Nexus One and the iPhone, read the following posts. As you mull over what they say, you’ll identify with what is important to you.

The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg on his first impressions of Google’s Nexus One as compared to the iPhone:

http://ptech.allthingsd.com/20100105/googles-nexus-one-is-bold-new-face-in-super-smartphones/

GoGrid’s Technology Evangelist Michael Sheenan reports on a week he spent with the Droid:

http://www.hightechdad.com/2009/11/20/a-week-with-the-verizonmotorola-droid-by-an-iphone-addict/

Here, Technologist and TV Journalist Shelly Palmer provides a clear report card comparison of the iPhone, Droid and RIM Blackberry:

http://www.shellypalmermedia.com/2009/11/29/my-new-verizon-droid-plus-the-iphone-blackberry-droid-report-card-and-review/

Ars Technica has posted a very complete and technical analysis of the Droid sprinkled with comparisons to the iPhone:

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/reviews/2009/12/review-of-the-motorola-droid.ars/

A bunch of pictures of the Nexus One:

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2010/01/photo-gallery-googles-nexus-one.ars

Also, don’t forget that the Droid and Nexus One are only the first swath of Android 2.0 devices rolling out over the next several months, so be sure to watch for the latest in smartphone offerings. A good site to do that is:

 http://www.phonedog.com

Should you like any advice on your smartphone selection, feel free to drop me a note. Also, if you’d like to stay on top of things electronic from my perspective, you are invited to follow me on Twitter @DataPlexCEO.

The Expansiveness of Mobile Computing

Volume 3, Number 5

What Mobile Computing means to Consumers and the Enterprise

The arrival of the next generation of smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone  and the G1 based on Google’s Android technology heralds a new era in mobile computing. But what does this mean to consumers, and how do enterprises leverage these new devices without sacrificing security?

These are good questions, but let me start out by saying what this article is not. This article is not a review or endorsement of either the iPhone or the G1 phone or any other smartphone as there are simply too many features that matter disproportionately to different types of users.  Besides, there are already plenty of reviews on the specific devices.

Instead, this article abstracts the notion of mobile computing and suggests ways it can and will enhance our lives, whether we are consumers checking our email and stock market investments or as members of a business, collaborating with our peers while away from the office. 

iPhone Development

DataPlex plans to offer some if its classic products for the Apple iPhone and iTouch. Over the past twenty years, DataPlex has provided a number of useful applications for mobile computing including Time Tracker, Mileage Logger, To Do List, Query Tool, and Easy Data Manager. While DataPlex’s exact offerings are still under wraps, long-time users of DataPlex DataKeepers (a custom handheld device built by DataPlex in the 1980′s and 1990′s) can expect the same high level of useful features and reliability.

The DataPlex DataKeeper

DataPlex DataKeeper

The Original DataPlex DataKeeper

In 1988, DataPlex startled the mobile computing market by introducing its  DataKeeper, a then state-of-the-art personal computing device that featured a number of built-in modules:  a world clock, tine billing and mileage logging for professionals, and an easy-to-use database manager.  DataPlex stopped offering the DataKeeper commercially in 1998 but continues to support certain niche markets utilizing the DataKeeper because of its robustness and flexible architecture.

The Time Billing Tracker module was a huge success.  It had single button timer activations and supported single button pausing and handling of interruptions.  It had lists of user-definable Client and Project codes and optionally allowed users to make more specific notes for each entry.  When the time billing information was downloaded to a PC, a DataPlex application produced billing reports for each client sorted by project and date.  These reports could be printed and sent directly to a professional’s client or uploaded to a word processor for additional editing.

Although the database manager was designed to be a general purpose utility application, it quickly found its niche by being used by several customers to conduct surveys.  DataPlex released a new module for the DataKeeper called Survey Manager with additional features for conducting surveys including where, at the end of the survey period, the survey information from each device would be downloaded to a central PC, consolidated, and summary reports produced.

In 1992, the Department of Public Works of the City of Burbank (Los Angeles County) because the first city agency to use a ruggedized version of the DataKeeper equipped with a new “Road Maintenance” module.  City street information was uploaded to a series of DataKeepers and given to city workers to conduct real-time walking surveys of road and sidewalk conditions.  The collected survey information was then used to schedule road and sideswalk repair.  One city official said that the use of the DataKeeper improved the turnaround time for repairs by as much as 80%.

In the mid-1990’s, the DataKeeper received wireless communication capability where downloads of collected data could be accomplished without the need for cables and where survey information and votes could be monitored and analyzed in real-time.  Around that time, several companies developed wireless ARS system packages specifically to handle surveys and votes in a localized region such as a meeting room or a conference hall.

The DataPlex  DataKeeper had a novel design for a stepped power saving sequence that has been licensed to several Japanese firms.  The stepped power sequence is now standard in all mobile computing devices:  first power down or limit wireless communications when you can get away with it, then the CPU when there is no user activity, then the display for low-sleep mode, then the rest of the electronics for deep-sleep mode, then complete power-off (which occurred only rarely).

in 1994, a highly custom version of the DataPlex DataKeeper with motor control was created for artist George Stone’s “Man & Woman” art installation where two DataKeepers were used to memorize the four-dimensional movement of a shelf (3D space and time) and then play it back.  In the artist’s studio, a male model stood on one platform and a female model stood on another platform while video cameras mounted on the shelves moved around the models in prescribed paths.  Later, in the art installation, the video cameras were replaced by video monitors so, when the movement of the shelves was played back, viewers would be able to see on the monitors the previously taped portions of the male and female models, as though the monitors were windows onto the two models who were now invisible.