22 Apr Is Working Offline the New Killer Feature for Mobile Apps?
Is Working Offline the New Killer Feature for Mobile Apps?
I was a little surprised when USA Today recently reported that mobile apps have been embraced more quickly than any other form of consumer technology — faster than cars, electricity, PCs or even the Internet.
Vendors have rapidly delivered apps with varying levels of mobile access across a variety of platforms. Consumers are delighted with the number of options they have. However, what we need to run our businesses and make our professionals more productive requires a richer technology platform than what is needed for playing games or getting directions. Knowing this, vendors in our industry are looking at ways to deliver mobile apps beyond the legacy remote desktop concept. In our romance with the Internet, we have forgotten a must-have for our mobile apps: the ability to work offline. We might not always be online, but we are always working.
Citrix-Like Remote Desktops
Citrix-like remote desktops have worked well in many environments for two decades. With a solid Internet connection, these tools offer the familiar desktop experience of the office and provide access to all your data and files. Because these remote desktops demand connectivity, they are not your best friend on trains with spotty connections or airplanes with no connection at all. In addition, these tools weren’t designed for mobile devices, so output looks poor on a 10-inch tablet and ridiculous on a four-inch phone.
The New Remote Access
Most vendors now are designing mobile apps in one of three categories:
- A mobile/responsive website
- A website in HTML5
- A “rich” native environment
There are pros and cons to each.
A Mobile/Responsive Website: This is the simplest development environment for vendors. It employs a universal “language” (HTML), which in theory makes apps less expensive to produce and maintain. Mobile/responsive websites work as apps, offering a real-time experience and screens that appear the same on any device because the app is automatically resized to fit.
On the downside, functionality depends on the browser of choice, and changes to the browser affect app behavior. These apps require continuous connection and even then can be sluggish on public transportation and in some rural areas.
A Website in HTML5: Apps in this category are built to the same standards as mobile/responsive apps but with one big kicker: They give you the ability to work offline. In today’s world, mobile apps with offline capabilities are a big step forward. You are no longer tethered to an Internet connection, which means you can read and respond offline, and data or files will be synced when you are back online.
A “Rich” Native Environment: Rich apps take mobility to the highest level. This platform allows a vendor to customize apps for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, etc. Since they are custom-designed for each platform, the apps provide a better end-user experience and more features and functions. Like HTML5 apps, they have that killer ability to work offline. The way rich apps store data gives users access to their files, documents and email messages even without an Internet connection. Think of this in the context of your business needs: finding someone in an offline directory, looking up data, culling documents, displaying charts or reports, all without an Internet connection. That is huge.
Offline with Killer Rich Apps
We need to work, and we cannot always connect to the Internet, so we need both online and offline capabilities wherever we are. Rich apps allow us to do this with greater functionality and the best user experience available
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