Do I Need a Mobile App?

Spacing Dash
Insight from @morganphilo - August 2019
Do I Need a Mobile App? Primary Image

You have a business idea and are looking to realise it. In getting it scoped it is identified that you need a web based admin portal for managing the system, coupled with an app to deliver the content and functionality.

That gets you to peoples devices via the app stores, but what about the mobile web (the web browser on users phones)? It commands around 50% of worldwide browser traffic, thus not supporting it is a major shortening of your reach. Not only that, you are no limiting yourself to only Android and IOS - what happens when a new platform comes along?

It is coming closer to the time where you will only need to build a mobile app, if you actually only need app like functionality. The mobile web is starting to become powerful enough to deliver all of your functionality without the need for a native app. Not only that, but you can bundle your website into some app stores and make it appear like an app (see the PWA insight) to be installed. It is now cross platform and future proof.

So - Do I need a Mobile App?

The short answer is probably not, the mobile web is powerful enough to deliver your content but it entirely depends on what is mission critical for your app functionality. Lets try and define the blurry lines.

The current technology deal breakers for us in the mobile web:

  • Resource intensive
    If your app does a lot of computation (such as a game) you likely need to be native
  • File System Access
    Web apps cannot access the files on a device without user input. If you need to be able to access local files such as images you need a native app.
  • Push Notifications on Apple IOS
    Apple's push notification service does not allow you to send push notifications for installed web apps. There is also no time-frame for them to begin supporting them. This is an effort to protect their app store, but the clock is ticking for them to add support - otherwise an anti-trust lawsuit could be on their horizon. (update September  - anti-trust lawsuit has begun)
  • Apple App Store
    Listing your app in the Apple app store is not currently possible, they will quite likely guard this for some time. If you unpack this you will find that is not so much of an issue - most of your app installs will not come from organic searches, you will be directing them there to download.
    You can prompt users within your website to install the app, and it then installs, behaves, and functions like an app.

Other than clear technology limitations, the above items come down to cost benefit. Does listing in the app store bring the organic installs, and does the differing installation of PWA's deter enough users to make developing a native app worthwhile?
These are questions that are unique to your business concept and require the time to explore the idea before the decision can be made. What we are hoping to do, is to challenge the mobile first mindset that a lot of start-ups have.

Contact Philo for a discussion, we are more than happy to discuss where we think you should be.

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