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App vs. mobile compatible web site

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Sunday October 10, 2010 )

I’ve been often asked about iPhone apps lately, which is curious given I’m not a programmer. There’s certainly a lot of interest in getting on the app bandwagon. However, many people confuse iPhone apps with an iPhone compatible mobile site; and they are also overlooking another very important player – Google Android.

Just to distinguish the difference:

iPhone compatible mobile site: a web site built in such a way for comfortable viewing on a handheld device, e.g. iPhone. The site is store on your own server, or elsewhere – you have full control.

iPhone app: a software program that is downloaded to an an iPhone and stored on the iPhone, although it may also communicate with an online data source. iPhone apps are downloaded from the Apple iTunes app store (unless the iPhone has been “jailbroken, another topic). Apple has a great deal of control over iPhone apps; however, you also gain exposure to the millions of people using Apple’s app marketplace.

For an online merchant who is just dabbling, I feel that the best way to go is a mobile site if possible in the beginning. It’s easier and faster to create and won’t really require an external programmer to create, assuming you have some HTML skills. Also, you open the possibilities to other devices accessing the content – such as smartphones using Google Android as the operating system.

Android is *really* taking off. Some recent stats show US market share for Google smartphone grew 51% between May and August 2010 and while it’s still in third place, the other top four smartphone platforms all lost market share.

To promote a mobile site, just set up a “normal” page on your site announcing its availability; send an announcement to your lists, etc. etc. – and then site back and watch what happens to see if its worthwhile pursuing as a full blown iPhone or Android app.

Note: Google Analytics offers mobile site tracking.


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