We build web applications for many companies who later decide they want a mobile app as well. This may be because they want to enable mobile-specific options like in-app purchases or location-based features. Or maybe they simply want to reach new markets with iOS and Android apps.
One way to get your app on a phone is to hire developers to produce separate apps for Android and iOS. This is probably necessary if the mobile app will rely heavily on native-only features. Native code delivers better performance in these cases.
But native app development comes with a high cost. Android and iPhone apps are written in two very different programming languages. Because of this, developing separate native apps is expensive and time-consuming.
Fortunately there’s another solution: Cordova conversion. This means your existing web application gets wrapped in a framework that allows the existing code to work on both iOS and Android phones. It’s a great alternative to having to write two separate apps, one for Android and one for iOS.
In many cases, an existing web application can be turned into a mobile app using Cordova in as little as a week. We’ve done it successfully several times.
How To Know If Your App Is A Good Candidate For A Mobile Conversion
Before starting there are some important questions that should be answered:
- Is the app fully independent from its back end?
- Is the build process (e.g. webpack) well documented and straight forward?
- Will the app comply with app store policies?
- What is the expected offline behavior? (This will likely be the biggest driver of additional time and cost.)
- Is the current design within reasonable user expectations for both Android and iOS?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then your app could be a great candidate for a Cordova conversion. So far, we have converted web apps in ways that allow them to take advantage of various mobile features like Bluetooth, in-app payments, and app-to-app sharing.
Next Steps: Q/A, Styles, and Quirks
After your app is converted using Cordova, then the hard work begins. 🙂
The first set is to go through a detailed Q/A period on your app. Even though the initial conversion is often straightforward, there are a lot of little quirks that can come up. That’s because mobile phone screen layouts and behaviors are very different from web browsers.
Common issues involve the need to update styles to handle items like status bars, which render differently in iOS and Android.
At Radial, we have a checklist from our experience working with Cordova that outlines common issues and helps us track them down.
Finally: Marketing and Distribution
You’ll also have to get ready to upload and market your app to the Android Play and Apple App Stores. This includes setting up accounts, creating icons, and setting pricing. It can take a while!
These additional steps all add development time to a mobile conversion project, but many of them would also be necessary when developing a native app.
Overall, when compared to native app development costs, Cordova conversion can be a great option for many web applications wanting to enter the mobile marketplace.