Hybrid apps: Which road should you travel? (with related video)
State and local governments as well as federal agencies can no longer afford to ignore the growth of bring your own device (BYOD). They also can’t ignore the cry from staff and the public for mobile apps that operate across all popular hardware platforms.
One of the important decisions that many government agencies are struggling with, right out of the gate, is that there are two basic types of apps to consider deploying: native apps (e.g., downloaded from an app store and installed on the device) or mobile web versions.
Native apps typically have a richer user experience and greater flexibility for leveraging the powerful features of modern devices. These characteristics make a native app an attractive option.
On the other hand, the browser is ubiquitous, and there’s a new language, HTML5, that has evolved for such things. Most critical features, such as security, mobile device management (MDM), user access to enterprise data, as well as audio and video, can be handled either way.
Today’s volatile government budget environment is making it cost- prohibitive to develop unique versions for each operating system. Carrying two or three different smartphones isn’t practical or pleasurable for anyone, either.
Thankfully, there is a middle ground known as “hybrid apps.” Hybrid apps fuse the best of both approaches. They bring together the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of HTML5, along with the distribution and performance advantages of native apps. And, if 2013 Gartner forecasts are reached, by 2016, more than 50 percent of mobile apps deployed will be hybrid.
Developing a generic hybrid app that is capable of accessing multiple different web apps may be worth considering. The big question is: will government agencies be able to overcome the legal and privacy hurdles associated with submitting apps into the platform-specific app stores? The benefits of deploying through the app store for distribution are substantial, especially when the app is free to citizens.
One advantage: government agencies don’t have to worry about building out infrastructure to support distribution services. They also don’t have the headaches or struggles that come along with managing it. With its availability in app stores, the app is easily discoverable through a means that most users are quite familiar with using, making distribution much more efficient.
For developers, regardless of which type of app you make, take some time to really review your application requirements and match them to the best method. Indeed, this should be an integral part of your overall mobile deployment strategy and not a one-off decision. These are the kinds of issues Salient Federal Solutions has helped government agencies solve. Hundreds of state, local and federal agencies use our Voyager platform-based solutions now and in the future, especially as demand for mobile apps continues to grow.
Martin Gillespie is director, Mobility Center of Excellence, at Fairfax, Va.-based Salient Federal Solutions. The company provides IT, training, engineering, and intelligence analytic services. It has clients in the intelligence, defense, homeland security, federal civilian, and commercial markets.
A presenter from Salient Federal Solutions outlines innovative technologies at the Destination Innovation event in this video.