When smart phones, tablets and other portable devices became the preferred hardware for personal computing, information gathering and entertainment, thousands of applications have been created and introduced to the public. And with many applications, there are many controversies that surrounds which mobile apps are better – mobile cloud applications or native apps. To know more about the two types of applications, we have to look at the differences between developing native apps and mobile cloud apps.

Comparison of Web-based mobile applications and native applications. Image courtesy of bartwullems.blogspot.com

Comparison of Web-based mobile applications and native applications.
Image courtesy of bartwullems.blogspot.com

Native Mobile Apps And Mobile Cloud Apps Defined

Native mobile apps are installed directly on a mobile device. Developers and programmers  also create a separate app version for each mobile device out in the market. This type of mobile app can saved and stored on the mobile device or it can be downloaded from a private or a public app store and then installed on the mobile device. Native apps are developed for a specific mobile device and the device’s OS. The data that is linked with the native app app is also stored on the device, but it can also be stored remotely and accessed by the native mobile app. Internet connectivity may be needed depending on the nature of the native mobile app. Native mobile applications can use device-specific software and hardware. This means that the app can take advantage of the latest mobile technology that includes processor speed, memory and GPS. Mobile cloud applications on the other hand, are similar to any web-based applications that we commonly use on our laptops and personal computers. Mobile cloud apps and web-based apps run on external servers and require the use of any stable browser to display and use the cloud app user interface. Mobile cloud apps are also created to target multiple mobile devices as compared to a native app that is made for a single mobile device. Using mobile cloud app does not require any downloading or installing on any mobile device. Users can access the mobile cloud user interface using a browser on the remote server. Internet connection is essential in using mobile apps that run on the cloud. Whenever data is transferred between a mobile cloud app and mobile devices, it is commonly done using JSON-over- HTTP. Mobile apps can also be native apps that are re-designed to run in the mobile cloud, custom applications developed for mobile devices or third party apps downloaded to the cloud from any external source or server. Some service or product  providers offer both mobile cloud  and native versions of their applications.

User interface comparison between the native Facebook app and through Safari for iOS. image courtesy of ox86.tumblr.com

User interface comparison between the native Facebook app and through Safari for iOS. Image courtesy of ox86.tumblr.com

Mobile Cloud Apps Vs Native Apps

The differences between native apps and mobile cloud apps are like apples and oranges. Some of the apparent differences between the two that affects development and execution includes:

1. The look and feel of the apps

Mobile cloud apps are emulated while native apps are not. Native apps support notifications like the iOS notifications while mobile cloud apps most of it, do not support notifications.

2. The user interface speed

Native apps are faster since it is using the phones built in processor and memory while mobile cloud apps depends on the internet connection speed. Native app user interface runs on the mobile device, thus eliminating any browser overhead. Mobile cloud apps may require downloading resources from off the internet to support different actions required or done by the end-user as compared to native apps that usually store all resources on the mobile device’s local storage.

3. The mobile app environment

Mobile cloud server or the built in hardware of the mobile device? Deploying mobile cloud apps on different devices with different screen sizes using different operating systems is straightforward by simply providing a mobile website UTL. Native mobile apps, on  the other hand, require porting and adaptation across all devices, screen sizes and different OS versions.

4. Accessing on-device features

Native mobile apps have a direct link to on-device features like camera, sound, GPS  or locator. Mobile cloud applications can have access to these features by way of  APIs or application programming interfaces.

5. Network dependency

Mobile cloud applications require the user to be connected to the internet which makes it a single point of failure. In such cases, the developer should make sure the user will still get the right experience when network connectivity is limited or lost.

6. Security

Security is still one of the most important concerns specifically in the business and enterprise sector. Mobile cloud applications and other productivity apps that will allow the user to  to gain access on sensitive financial or business data using the mobile device.

Mobile Applications Development

In developing native apps, each of the mobile application development platforms  like Android and is using its own development process and uses its own native programming language. Java for Android, Visual C++ for Windows Mobile and Objective-C for iOS. Native apps also have development tools like the iOS software development kit, Microsoft’s .NET compact framework and Google’s Android development tools. Mobile cloud app development tools are not tied to any mobile device OS. Mobile cloud applications commonly use HTML5, JavaScript and CSS3. Developers can also have a choice between  C++ or web application frameworks like Python and Rails.

And it all comes to this. Image courtesy of Dilbert.com

And it all comes to this. Image courtesy of Dilbert.com

The Overall Feel

Native apps can produce the  best user experiences. It’s fast and fluid and can give the best access to many device features which can be discovered in the specific app stores. On the other hand, developing a native app on all platforms requires longer marketing time & a bigger budget for development and maintenance.  A mobile can also produce a good user experience that  is consistent across a wide range of platforms. JavaScript engines and browsers  are getting faster with every release or updates thus resulting in improved user experience. Mobile cloud apps can run on any platform and any mobile device although the browsers required to run mobile cloud apps may not support all the attest HTML features and APIs. This can make development and testing a challenge to all developers. There are many benefits  of native and mobile cloud applications. It is essential to think of the existing tools, security, performance  and network when evaluating which apps will suit your needs. If applied to enterprise-level applications, apps should be user friendly and performs at the expected levels.

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.