Mobile apps vs. The mobile web

I made this post originally with Blogplanet, a Java app for mobile. It may end up being one of the few mobile apps that I actually keep around.

But what do I mean about mobile apps vs. the mobile web? Well, we talk a lot about web applications, but we usually think about a full desktop and browser supporting them. The mobile web can be thought of as being the web optimized for mobile devices, or we can think about how web-based applications should be evolving to work well with mobile devices.

Then there are mobile apps. Many of them are, indeed, written in Java for that mythical write once run anywhere, although in the mobile world it's more like write once, endlessly test, tweak, and optimize everywhere. The platform specific apps tend to be richer and more polished -- e.g. Series 60 apps for the vast variety of Symbian phones out there. ShoZu is a pretty good example, but even there, there is Seres 60 vXX where incompatibilities creep in.

So, I've been using both the mobile web and mobile apps on my new E61. And the mobile web is winning. Much of that is due to Google.

Gmail? Works great in HTML (*not* mobile) mode using the built in browser. Google Reader has a mobile friendly mode. Google Maps actually doesn't work very well / at all, and I actually used Mapquest. But, then there's a mobile app for this -- downloadable Google Maps for Mobile. Chalk one point up for mobile apps.

So why would I use Gmail instead of the built in email client? Which I could even configure with Blackberry push email? Well, one reason is that Gmail for domains is my main email, and I heavily label / sort my email. On the mobile, using POP3, it just grabs everything.  I don't see myself using the built in email client until Gmail (or another system I use) supports IMAP.

Going forward, the browser on my mobile device will, like the desktop, continue to be the most important application on there. Are you developing for mobile? Well, forget it...you're developing for the web, some of it just happens to have slightly smaller screens.