Should you build a web app or a native app (or both)

Building native apps for iPhone is difficult. It requires a programmer who understands Objective C, a rarely known language. Building native apps for Android isn’t much easier, it requires a developer who understands the specific type of Java which Google has put onto its operating system. We won’t even get into Blackberry and the hundreds of variations present on their devices.

As mobile browsers become better, more and more companies are focusing on building web apps. These are apps that reside purely in the cloud like any website. They have the advantage of using the basic building blocks of the Internet in HTML (or HTML5 which is the latest version). They can also be updated at any time which makes maintenance much easier than native apps, which require a resubmit into the app store or app market each time.

However, there is an emerging third way for law firms who want to build for mobile. Hybrid web and native apps are possible, using native application components (using tools such as PhoneGap or Appcelerator Titanium) which embed a browser view into the app. In the earlier primitive phone browsers and slow data connections, hybrid apps were substandard products. But they’re now getting the point of very good performance and user experience.

Unless you are building an extremely complex mobile app, our suggestion would be to take a close look at the hybrid app.