Mobile BI: Native App vs Browser

The debate over which is better - native mobile apps or HTML or browser-based mobile apps - seems never-ending.

However, recent research from Aberdeen Group on Mobile Analytics shows that for some kind of apps, especially those that depend on deep data integration and off-line file access, the answer is more clear. So, in the case of mobile business intelligence or mobile analytics, this research on mobile analytics found that native are the best choice.

Platform specific or native mobile BI apps have the potential to fully exploit the hardware and user interface capabilities of a specific mobile device. As for the HTML-based approach, it will work on any platform that runs a standard-compatible browser, but will typically have more limited functionality. It turns out that the functional difference in these two approaches correlates with the relative success of an organization's entire mobile analytics strategy.

The native mobile BI app approach is on the rise. For example, 58% of the leading organizations used native apps.

It also turns out that the leading organizations had a sizeable improvement in sales revenue and customer retention, and a 70% greater improvement in operating profit.

HTML5-based Web apps' capabilities are becoming more advanced with features such as touch graphical interfaces, limited device control or local data storage. However, well designed native apps have the potential to be more responsive, more interactive, and more capable as they can better exploit the device hardware and operating system.

For example, native apps can have more robust local data storage and synchronization capabilities. Also, they can directly access to a different parts of a device like cameras or other sensors, and if designed properly can have full functionality even when offline. On the other side, that's not the case with HTML5 apps.

Source: Aberdeen Group, August 2013

Another thing that we should keep in mind is that the use of native mobile BI apps requires more thought and planning than the browser-based approach. For example, organizations that already use browser-based BI on laptops can immediately use the same apps on any mobile device with a browser, even without optimizing them for mobile access.

Of course, with native apps, you need to make more decisions like which platforms will be supported, will both tables and phones be supported or not, etc. Also, you'll need to decide about supported OS versions and other smaller and bigger things.

On the other side, the browser-based decision is more straightforward. 

For organizations with a well developed mobile ecosystem, we believe that the native approach is preferable, as current HTML5-based apps offer feature parity with native apps only up to a point. But for companies that are just starting out, or need rapid and universal deployment, the browser-based approach might make the most sense.