Alexandru Bleau

More happy than crazy, busy with product management, people and coffee

Category: Startups

Mobile Web vs. Native Apps. You might need both but question is when

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.

The platform lock-in myth

There has been a lot of talk regarding Twitter’s decision to go beyond the 140 character limit… by adding another 9860.

It doesn’t mean that you have to scroll through 10k character tweets as everything past the first 140 characters will be hidden. The other important thing to mention is that according to some, this is an attempt to lock-in users. More will stay on Twitter to read content instead of going to the linked website.

I would reword and say that it is an increasing myth. We have had and still have several companies that achieve a certain level of lock-in. But it is not a hard lock, more like a convenience lock.

Consider for example Apple’s app ecosystem. Buying a new phone is not a problem but losing hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of apps si not something a user will easily be determined to do.

Even in Apple’s case, they could only afford to impose or institute a platform lock in because of their initial “blue ocean” when the first iPhone came out.

The users’ expectations are changing to the point where they expect and demand and consider it as a given that they can port their data and settings when switching services and when it becomes a basic expectation of every service, that is when we will go from myth to impossible.



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