Native Mobile Apps Offer Advantages Over "Wrapper Apps" for Financial Services

Native Mobile Apps Offer Advantages Over “Wrapper Apps” for Financial Services

Originally published on Fiserv’s “The Point” Blog, July 10th, 2012.

It isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that mobile apps have changed everything. The ways people work, shop and live have been enhanced by dedicated applications that support their specific needs. The advertising tagline from Apple – “there’s an app for that” – has become less about marketing and more of an accepted truth, reflecting the wide-ranging impact of mobile apps on our lives and work.

Not all apps are created equal, however. Many apps are poorly designed and are quickly deleted by users after one try. Some apps are elegantly designed but lack a solid infrastructure to support the user. And others, well, they aren’t really apps at all. They are websites, packaged as apps. These “wrapper” apps are shells that are downloaded and installed on the device. The shell then accesses mobile formatted web content from a traditional web server.

In some instances, such as a news or sports app primarily used to display online content, wrapper apps are perfectly fine. For others, such as a mobile banking app intended to enable more interaction, not so much. When you compare a native app designed for a specific mobile platform to a wrapper app, native apps offer some significant advantages. The primary one is the performance of the app itself. A native app resides on the device and doesn’t have to “re-download” itself every time it’s opened. A wrapper app on the other hand does have to download the Web forms and screens that aren’t preloaded in the app itself. This means a native app is faster and highly available, which is critically important for financial services.

The second factor is interactivity. As good as mobile Web technology has become, it is not always as responsive as a native app, or as powerful in terms of the capabilities it can support. For example, wrapper apps cannot enable the deposit of a check via a camera-equipped smart phone, a capability that is increasingly in demand. Wrapper apps can’t take advantage of some of the core code that is in the operating system of the phone itself – code that allows for smooth transitions, graphing and animations that are an inherent part of a good user experience.

To be fair, there are some advantages to wrapper apps. Initial costs can be lower, as Web forms take less time to code and deploy. In addition, the same forms can be presented across multiple phones, served up through different wrappers. If you choose to develop a wrapper app, the most important factor is to create a “homogenized” user experience, in which case web technologies such as HTML and CSS can be used where appropriate along with native capability where the user experience requires.

When evaluating your mobile financial services strategy, keep in mind the experience your user expects and choose the technology that will enable your financial institution to deliver that experience.