In this post we will provide a quick overview of the 4 options currently available for developing a mobile GIS applications. The most appropriate approach should be determined by your project requirements.

What are my Mobile GIS Options?

Mobile Web GIS Apps

Web technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. HTML5/Javascript is today the most popular client application technology. Helped by advances in browser technology, HTML5/Javascript now dominates the Web development space, sweeping away technologies like Flash/Flex and Silverlight. With a worldwide development community, 3D and offline are now part of the HTML5/Javascript landscape.

There are today many Javascript frameworks available for building mobile applications. Responsive design allows one mobile web app to automatically style itself based on the device being used.

One of the key advantages of mobile web apps are that they are both cross-platform and cross-device.

WebMapSolutions have been developing a Javascript library which provides offline capabilities in the browser. The solution uses a combination of indexDB, a local database, and app cache. The current iteration of the library supports basemap and feature layer access in partial (intermittent) and full (restarting web app when disconnected) offline.

Pros: Cross-platform, cross-device, apps easier to build and extend, offline functionality.

Cons: Handling large datasets, performance good but not like native, accessing device sensors.

Hybrid GIS Apps

There are a number of frameworks which will convert a mobile web app to a hybrid app. This is a mobile application which is installable, and can be distributed in the various app stores. Different to web apps, a hybrid app has access to device sensors and can leverage native code. Cordova/Phonegap is a popular choice, using a headless browser and wrapper to generate a hybrid app. From a single code base a hybrid app can be generated for any of the popular mobile platforms.

Pros: Cross-platform, cross-device, native-like apps built from one code base, access to device sensors.

Cons: Handling large datasets, performance good but not like native.

Native GIS Apps

Native mobile apps are installable apps written in the native language of a mobile platform: Java for Android, Objective-C for iOS and .NET for Windows. Native apps have full access to all device sensors, provide high performance and are capable of handling large datasets. For GIS, Esri have a rich set of mobile SDK’s for each of the popular mobile platforms. These SDK’s support offline, and related tables.

Pros: Large datasets, performance, accessing device sensors.

Cons: Platform specific, higher level developer skills required, a different version of the same app is required for each platform.

Generated Native GIS Apps

There are a number of frameworks now available which allow developers to write one mobile app and generate actual native code for each of the popular platforms. Options include App Studio for ArcGIS (Qt), Xamarin (C#), Appcelerator (Javascript).

Pros: Cross-platform, cross-device, native apps built from one code base,

Cons: Often proprietary, may require experience with less well known scripting languages.

Contact us for more information on 801-733-0723.





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