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Reply to Walt Mossberg – Native apps vs web apps

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I recently listened to an episode of the Ctrl-Walt-Delete podcast, in which Walt Mossberg and Nilay Patel talked about web browsers vs native mobile apps. There was something Walt said that I have to comment on, because I disagree with it, and a tweet just isn’t enough. 🙂

When explaining why most people use native mobile apps, he argued that the main reason is because an app (when done right) offers a more focused experience, He cited Google Maps as an example.

I don’t think it’s that complex. I think it has more to do with how fast you can get there. If I want to use Google Maps, it’s quicker and more convenient to tap on the Google Maps icon than it is to tap on the browser, then pull up a list of bookmarks, and tap on the Google Maps bookmark. That has nothing to do with the experience of using the app.

I’m not saying that’s the only reason people use native mobile apps. I think most other differences have a minor effect on the user’s decision, and how fast and convenient it is to get to the app is probably the biggest factor.

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  1. I think it’s a lot more complex and probably not that logical. Aka this convenience will create this effect. There are probably things which are really personal in the consumption and activities around mobile devices and/or Web. Introspecting is difficult sometimes we don’t even notice what we do.

    I own an iPod Touch, because I don’t want a phone. All of these below are very subjective, biaised, but it’s one user. 🙂

    * I’m using Google Maps Web for public transportation directions, because I don’t want to install Google-y products on my device AND Apple Plans has no public transportation data.
    * I’m using a notebook/diary native app which mixes photos, texts, feeds, etc. because the data stays on my device and I can edit offline. And I don’t want to host my data elsewhere.
    * I’m not using any mail (both Web and native) app on the ipod because I think the UX for email is horrendous on small devices (700,000 emails). I use emails only the other mobile device… a laptop. I’m not using webmail on laptop. Just an app. Same things, webmail apps are a non sense too.
    * I use the photo native app, because it is just there and photos stays here. I don’t sync on icloud, I manually do on my laptop.

    What I miss in the browser. Ways to manage Web pages like I would manage pile of papers or piles of emails. Local copies of the content with a search engine to go through, categories, and dynamic filter/views of the documents based on keyword and content. I want the browser to become a way to manage my pile of books which is extracted from this big library which is the Web. To save this home page of NYTimes from the 20 April 2016, and be able to keep it as-is and to have the possibility to say in fact give me the new one and replace this one OR give me the new one but keep a copy of this one.

  2. It’s not just that. It’s also speed. People _can_ perhaps write websites which respond as fast as native apps. But they don’t.

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