Native meeting and event app providers may have to start updating their marketing materials.
Native apps (the kind you download from the Apple App Store or Google Play) have always touted among their list of benefits their ability to send push notifications, access the camera, and the ease of adding the app to the home screen of a device. Web-enabled apps, sometimes called web-only apps, exist only in a device’s Internet browser, and therefore have been unable to access the camera or send push notifications. They also can be somewhat confusing as to how to add a shortcut icon to the home screen.
Google is starting to change all that.
With a recent update to Chrome for Android, Google is now allowing web partners to push notifications to users, even when Chrome isn’t actively open. The early adopters include Beyond the Rack, eBay, FanSided, Pinterest, Product Hunt, VICE News, and believe it or not, Facebook. That last one interests me the most, as I’ve detested Facebook’s native app for Android for some time. The ability to get basic notifications, though, might actually get me to check in more than every couple of weeks.
The request for notification access is pretty straightforward, and once you’ve granted a site access, you can revoke it at any time through the app’s settings. Also, “Block” means “go away forever, and don’t ask me again,” so you won’t have to worry about a site asking every time you visit.
To make the websites you access regularly easy to get to, they've also baked in the ability to have an “Add to Homescreen” button on mobile sites to easily add an icon to the user’s home screen with just one click. This will allow mobile event app developers to get their apps easily and seamlessly onto the coveted front page of users phones and devices.
And finally, the “holy grail” of mobile app development: access to the camera. With just a few simple lines of code, developers can ask for, and be granted, access to a device camera, allowing web-enabled apps to grab snapshots for use in social media, photo feeds, or other event purposes.
Clearly Google is trying to reduce number of differences between mobile web sites and native apps, and in a post released on the Google Chromium Blog, they attempted tell us why:
“Unfortunately, once users discover [a mobile web] experience they love, it is hard for them to build a meaningful relationship since websites lack the engaging capabilities developers have come to expect from mobile such as push notifications and home screen icons. As a result, developers have needed to decide between the engagement potential of a native app and the reach potential of a mobile website.”
And that’s the same decision that event organizers have had to make as well- deciding between the engagement opportunities that come from using native apps with full access to push notifications and the phone’s hardware (camera, microphone, etc.) or the easy to change/update on the fly benefits of mobile web development, not the least of which is not having to get approved, or rejected, by the Almighty Apple in a reasonable amount of time.
The update, which has already begun to roll out, is currently only available for Android. Knowing how locked down Apple is, I fear that it may stay that way for the short term. Nonetheless, this is a big step in achieving parity between native and web-enabled meeting and event applications, one that Google is willing to support and promote with all it’s Googley might.
Thanks to Eric Bidelman for calling camera access the Holy Grail in his blog post: