Web Development Blog

When an iPhone web app is better than a native app

We have recently launched our latest iPhone app project, Store Locator for iPhone (http://sitelocator.mobi). It's a hosted web app solution designed for franchise owners and business in multiple locations in Australia like Woolworths, Kmart, Coles, JB Hi-Fi, Pizza Hut, KFC, WestPac, ANZ, Vodafone, Optus, Medibank, Westfield etc. Have a look at our proof-of-concept Store Locators on iPhone: Apple Store Locator (Australia wide) or Myer Store Locator (NSW only).

Myer Store Locator
Myer Store Locator

Store Locator for iPhone
Get your business found by many smartphone users all over Australia.
Let your customers locate your stores quickly and easily.
Obtain an easy-to-remember web address sitelocator.mobi/yourstore
No need to install anything! Just touch and go!


What does it do?

The iPhone Store Locator is a store locator web app that works by postcode or your location via GPS. There are two main components to the Store Locator app; front end and back end.

The front end allows users to locate a store or a business by postcode or by their current location (using iPhone's built-in GPS). The app will find up to 5 store locations nearby that are within approximately 25 kilometers (15 miles) radius of the specified location.

The back end allows franchise owners and service providers to add the locations of their offices and stores from a web based system and this will automatically geocode addresses. The web based back end enables businesses to add, edit and delete store locations from anywhere via a simple user interface. Businesses can also customise the brand of their front end app by uploading a logo.

Why a web app instead of a native app?

One of the most common questions asked is why we chose a web app over a native app for this project. There were quite a few reasons why we went this way, but let us highlight 3 main benefits for businesses and developers.

1. Benefits For Businesses/Clients

Accessibility (No Download/Install)

There are some popular Store Locator native iPhone apps on App Store like Starbucks Store Locator and McDonalds Store Locator. However, the problem with a native app is that you need to download and install the app first before you can use it. And most people who just need to use the app every once in a while are not likely to download the app. This is why web apps are better. If, for example, you are looking for the nearest Myer store while you are on the road, the first thing you would do is go to Myer website. And on Myer website, you will see a banner ad with a special message for iPhone users that goes something like "Looking for a Myer Store near you? Click here!" and once you click/touch on that link, you will be taken to the Myer Store Locator for iPhone. Since it is a web app, you don't need to install anything at all. All you need is Internet connection and WebKit-based browser which you already have with your phone.


With native iPhone apps, the app is only available for one single device - the iPhone. However, with the web app, we have developed it in such a way as it is compatible with most browsers so you can use it not just on an iPhone but also on other smart phones like Android, HTC and Blackberry. It is a great win for businesses because they are able to reach broader smart phone users on multiple devices and platforms with one single app.

Cost Saving

Getting a web app developed is much cheaper compared to getting a native app developed. With Store Locator for iPhone, business owners get the best of both worlds. Unlike having a website where the business owner has to manage hosting, domain name registration, etc, Anansi Store Locator is a hosted solution and therefore all the technical details are looked after by Anansi. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars on development or server infrastructure. Since the app is already developed and hosted by Anansi, all you need is to pay for is a subscription fee. Users of the app won't need to pay anything as it will be available for free on the web.

2. Benefits For Developers

Ease of Maintenance

Since iPhone web apps don't need to be approved by Apple to be listed on App Store, the developers (Anansi Web Development), can release updates whenever necessary. Updates take effect immediately the moment they are deployed onto the web server, as oppose to native apps where updates have to be installed by the user on their iPhone. As a web app developer, you can be sure that every user of the app is using one single version, whereas with native iPhone apps, it is possible for users to be using different (outdated) versions.

No Sharing of Revenue Stream

Apple takes about 30% of the price from iPhone apps sold on App Store. However, with web apps, the developer doesn't need to share the revenue. The cost of running/hosting the web app works out to be much cheaper than sharing the revenue with Apple.

Full Control

Native iPhone apps are like desktop apps that are installed onto your mobile device while web apps are accessed from a web location via a URL. Having a web app means the developer has full control over the app, when it comes to configuring, deploying and upgrading the app. It suits our business model because we need to allow business owners to be able to sign up and make their Store Locator app available as quickly as possible, and this is not possible with native iPhone apps where you have to go through approval from Apple to be listed in the App Store which could take at 1-2 weeks.

iPhone web apps, however, are not without its flaws. Web apps are generally not as sexy as a native app. However, in our case, we are developing a utility app, not a game app, and therefore sexiness is not a requirement! The user interface for the iPhone Store Locator is designed to look and feel like a native app so we feel we are geting the best of both worlds. If you are interested in taking a look or signing up for your business, check out the app site or contact us at any time.

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