The popularity of mobile applications has continued to rise, as their usage has become increasingly prevalent across mobile phone users. By the middle of 2012, slightly more mobile subscribers were using mobile applications than were browsing the web directly on their devices.
In practice, the latest mobile applications are effectively websites running locally on the mobile device and wrapped in a mobile application shell. This approach provides the mobile user with an “application like” experience that is more capable and provides a faster response than the mobile application equivalent, but with the advantage of being usable without an internet connection.
As the sophistication of the website increases, a point is reached when the application becomes too complex to be sensibly implemented directly on the mobile device, so reliance then has to be placed on an internet connection.
An internet connection can be obtained in most circumstances these days, be via a wireless hotspot or a normal mobile phone connection. The current 3G mobile phone connection, which is available to the vast majority of people, is more than adequate for most business applications. In this context, the 4G network will bring added benefits, but is not essential.
For many business applications, the mobile application has the advantage that selected parts of the main web-based application can be run without an internet connection. In these circumstances, the mobile device is connected to the internet so that its data can be synchronised with that held on the main server. The user can then operate the application locally to both view data and record data in the same way as with an online system. The user then re-establishes an internet connection subsequently and the data is again synchronised.
This approach is especially useful for people operating in environments where an internet connection is either not available or not permitted. In these circumstances, the data is synchronised when the user returns to the office, to their home, or anywhere else with an internet connection.
Conventional websites need to be compatible with the mainstream browsers. Similarly, mobile applications need to be compatible with the mobile device operating systems. Although the market is still currently dominated by Apple’s iOS, other operating systems, especially Android and Windows Mobile will become much more dominant over the next year or so.