Mobile App Development Avenues
When building the front-end of Kemper Direct's mobile app, VP and CIO John Elcock and his team considered a number of different development avenues. He evaluated four of them in a session at the recent IASA conference in San Diego:
Native Code Development: This provides the best user experience, but requires a lot of follow-up from the insurer to stay current with new versions and capabilities, Elcock said. "People go and buy an iPhone or an Android phone for the user experience, because that's what people rave about. You don't want to compromise that, and each one of those devices provides toolkits for development. But they're not portable to other platforms," he observed.
Cross-Platform Tools: Elcock praised these platforms for their flexibility, but cautioned that using one could paint carriers into a corner: "If you have a small IT budget, this might be a solution that's worth considering at this time. They've gotten better since we looked at them a couple years ago. The downside is they're very sticky. You build your app using their code base, and then you're stuck."
Mobile Web: Simply creating a device-agnostic, robust mobile web site might be enough, but fully precludes the ability to work offline, Elcock related: "The downside is if you're not connected to a network, you've got no app. There's also not a lot of real estate to work with and they're not able to utilize many of the native device elements like GPS and the camera. The distinction between the mobile applications and the native applications are becoming blurry as the browsers gain access to those things."
HTML5: Elcock said that while this has been an option for a while, it's only recently beginning to hit its stride: "It's much further along than when we looked at it a couple years ago. It's appealing for its cross-platform support for things like drawing, audio or video without using Silverlight or Flash, and drag-and-drop, in a browser."
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio