One of the people that I constantly follow and read is Luke Wroblewski. If you don’t know him yet, do look him up. He recently wrote an article about Mobile Web vs. Native Apps where he does argue in the end that we might need both.

While native apps dominate the “time spent on your phone”, in reality, the dominate part is done by just a handful of apps… most likely not yours.

In the meantime, mobile web audience is growing both bigger and faster than native apps.

Unless your app is the service, there are three questions (at least) you should ask yourself before spending valuable time and resources building that app:

  1. What’s in it for the user? If there is no solid reason for him to keep your app on the phone versus accessing from the browser, your app will be deleted within a month. Good examples here would be Pocket and Google Maps giving the ability to save content offline.
  2. Can you afford the resources? We are not only talking about initial development time here. There’s maintenance, updates, bug fixes, compatibility for oh so many devices, customer support and the list goes on.
  3. Can you afford the time? It takes several months at least to deliver a high quality app. Months. That means a lot of time that you could use to deliver a lot of value to your users. It also means you are actively giving competitors time to copy or clone your service. It takes as little as 3 weeks for a successful app to be cloned.

So yes, native apps do serve their purpose and come with certain advantages both for the users and for the business, but it’s important to find the right timing and reasons for investing in building it.