Ever since the iTunes app store launched people have been trying to figure out whether or not a native app makes more sense than a mobile optimized website. There are trade offs for sure but the bottom line is one of cost and cross platform capabilities.
“So as with most heated debates, the proper course lies in the dull but practical middle. If your brand is in a position to grab application real estate, you should. It’s a very powerful connection, especially if you’ve come up with a compelling reason to use the thing more than once. Even if you haven’t, it’s a sign board in the most trafficked visual space in someone’s life, short of their spouse’s forehead. But, that application should connect invisibly to your mobile web presence to give the customer total access to your content and products. Meanwhile, that mobile site should be friendly to the vast majority of potential customers – those who haven’t downloaded your app (unless you happen to be with Rovio). “
eConsultancy has an article with a great infographic covering the latest thinking in the debate.
From the post:
“However, while many early apps were releases on the back of figures showing large numbers of visits from iPhone users, the growth of Android means this is not such a compelling argument anymore.
The greater reach, findability, the potential of HTML5, and the ability to sidestep the App Store approval process means that, at least for a first move into mobile, the website wins the argument.”
Here is another take on the issues from @timmcdunn.