IBM i and web apps can't do that....

Posted by Nick Hampson on Sep 12, 2013 2:28:00 AM


Angry Nick

I am concerned when listening to the luminaries in the IBM i community talking about what can be done with web apps vs. hybrid vs. native. I really wish these guys would 'pony up' buy some books and learn the facts.

With status comes responsibility and luminaries are trusted by many, their word is gospel or pretty close. So when talking about topics where they have little knowledge they pass on half truths, miss what's possible or even worse bend the truth to the tune of what they wish to sell you, this upsets me greatly.

My own journey into mobile started with 2006 when I got a Windows Mobile 5 PDA, and since that time I have learned by reading many books, researching and just some good old trial and error. I don't know it all, I never will; but knowing I don't know it keeps me sharp (and keeps Amazon books in a good business). I will either learn or research rather than just take someone's word for it.

Learning is a journey. There will be no final destination, just enjoy the ride and understand you will never be 'there', but it's not hard to be good enough to add great value. I'm just a guy who loves what he does and loves to extend my capabilities. My passion has helped me excel with mobile over the years.

So as I have said before I can't tell you what's the best Web App vs. Native vs. Hybrid, because I don't know your situation. But I can tell you get fed some crap out there in IBM i land by many people.

Let me take you through a few common misconceptions:

"Web apps can't access the camera or integrate with maps and many other features on the phone/tablet."

Well dude they actually can and to pull up the camera / video/ file system is one line of HTML5 code. Like this:

<input type="file" id="take-picture" accept="image/*"]]>

OK so you need a script to upload the file but if you have any tool, toolkit or framework worth its pay it's a simple operation. Aha you say, but is it supported by my device? Well the answer is it's supported by most common and pretty up-to-date devices and will be by every new device, so it's not really much of a problem unless you have a large Windows Mobile 7.5 community :-)

Take a look at the W3C spec details or over at the Mozilla developer centre for some more good info or for support the great

OR you can watch the video I created for you all below and see it working for real. No smoke no mirrors and nothing up my sleeves (as I was wearing a T-Shirt).

Maps is just a URL string you build up either in the page or to link directly to the app, yeah you can open other apps from a mobile web page...

"Web Apps don't look and feel like Native Apps."

Now this one really gets my goat as the next line is usually "We use PhoneGap." or some wrapper app to put a web app (HTML page) onto the device.

Don't get me wrong I love PhoneGap and the open source part Apache Cordova, but to say it will have any real different affect on users look and feel is pretty odd.

"Your Hybrid app will run full screen and have a home screen icon" - Well that's funny because on the systems that count a web app can have that too, hey if you want a splash screen that's no problem either. If it's using HTML to build the web pages in a wrapper or outside who is the 'look and feel' possibly going to be different?

There is no doubt that a hybrid app can do a few things a web app can't:

• Access the contacts from the phone
• Easily scan barcode - it's possible on a mobile device but it's only really good for business users not consumers
• Provide some device features consistently across platforms, like the camera on Windows Mobile 7.5

That's it, I'm out of features unless you wish to monetize your app which suits the app store model much better.

So if you call your app Native or Hybrid but they are built by rendering HTML the UI can not be any different from a web app - except it can be a little slower in some cases as UI views in iOS don't use the latest and greatest JavaScript engine.

In summary, when it comes to mobile it's up to you to do some research otherwise you may make a decision based on incomplete facts given out. You will still have a choice to make, but make it with all the facts to hand.

If there is a feature you are not sure on please feel free to leave a comment and ask. 

In previous posts I have provided some info which may be of help - although it's really not possible to give all the info without writing a book (there's an idea) or knowing your situation. take a look for a little more detail and feel free to get in touch if you want to talk through your scenario.

Topics: HTML5, IBM i, Mobile, GUI