Whether you’re a seasoned warehouse manager, a supply chain executive, or an IT professional, inventory management is probably a significant component of your work. Today’s top-performing supply chains leverage mobile inventory management solutions to conduct their work efficiently. But when it comes to selecting a new mobile solution, the plethora of options available can be dizzying.
One of the most crucial deciding factors for a new mobile solution is whether its applications are native or web-based. What are the pros and cons of each? Is there a middle ground? Can I get the benefits of native and web-based inventory apps without the drawbacks? (Hint: You can—with RFgen.)
To answer those questions, let’s start with the basics:
An Introduction to Mobile Inventory Management Applications
It’s no secret that efficient inventory management is a cornerstone of successful businesses. To move goods efficiently in today’s fast-paced world requires digital inventory technology. For medium to large organizations, an enterprise resource management (ERP) platform is used. Extending the capabilities of that ERP to front-line workers requires an enterprise mobility solution running a suite of mobile applications for inventory management and related functions.
Within these applications, there are native mobile apps, web-based mobile apps, and hybrid mobile apps that blend elements of both.
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Native vs Web-Based Mobile Inventory Applications
Native Mobile Inventory Applications
Native inventory management applications are those designed and developed for specific platforms, such as Android or iOS. They’re installed directly onto the device and can access its hardware and operating system features. As they’re customized for specific platforms, they offer seamless user experience and high performance.
- Performance: instant interactivity and data transfer
- Superior user interface and experience (UI/UX)
- Full access to native device features (camera, GPS, etc.)
- Capable of operating offline/disconnected from ERP
- Cross-platform compatibility
- Specialized platform and skill set
- Development and maintenance costs
Web-Based Mobile Inventory Applications
On the other hand, web-based inventory management applications are accessible through web browsers. They are hosted on the network and don’t require any installation on your device. Being platform-independent, they can run on any device with an internet connection and a functional web browser.
- Cross-platform compatibility
- Server-side updates
- Suboptimal performance for interactivity and data transfer
- Limited access to device-specific features (camera, GPS, etc.)
RFgen Mobile Edge™: All of the Benefits, None of the Drawbacks
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of native mobile apps vs web-based mobile apps, let’s look at RFgen Mobile Edge™. RFgen is an enterprise mobility platform that uses pre-built starting points for its native mobile apps to enable rapid configuration and deployment. Architected specifically for flexibility, RFgen operates seamlessly across multiple operating systems and device types simultaneously.
RFgen also comes equipped with a low-code development tool that intelligently scales application elements to different screen sizes and form factors.
For these reasons, the RFgen platform delivers all the benefits of native apps without its drawbacks. Adopters don’t have to choose between performance or scalability—they can have both. Because implementation takes relatively little time, adopters also enjoy fast time-to-market and high ROI.
Comparing Technical Infrastructure
Technical Infrastructure of Native Applications
Native applications are coded in platform-specific languages like Objective-C or Swift for iOS, and Java or Kotlin for Android, among others. They utilize device resources and offer better interaction with the device hardware, resulting in enhanced performance. Because of this, more complex development and maintenance processes may be required, as well as specialized knowledge of mobile application development.
Technical Infrastructure of Web-based Applications
User Interface & Experience (UI/UX)
User Interface and User Experience in Native Apps
Native applications offer a superior user interface and experience, as they’re tailored to the platform’s specific standards and guidelines. They’re responsive, fast, and have a consistent look and feel that aligns with the device’s ecosystem. The complexity lies in the fact that native apps often must be redesigned to accommodate different operating systems and device screen sizes.
User Interface and User Experience in Web-Based Apps
Web-based applications provide a universal user interface regardless of the device or platform. While this can ensure consistency, it might not offer the same level of optimization and intuitiveness as native apps. A UI expert may be required to ensure that web-based apps are usable by end-users, posing a significant risk in the form of added cost or reduced adoption rates.
Efficiency for End-Users
Efficiency of Native Applications
Native apps excel at efficiency in every regard. With direct access to device hardware, applications can leverage faster execution, instant response times, and rapid bi-directional communication with enterprise business systems like an ERP system. For mobile inventory applications, native apps outmatch web-based applications every time.
Efficiency of Web-Based Applications
Web-based inventory applications rarely approach the performance of native apps due to reliance on internet connectivity and browser capabilities. Although HTML-designed apps look familiar, their usability is lower and less intuitive than native apps. In addition, frontline workers may end up waiting anywhere from several seconds up to a minute between stages in a task or interactions with the database.
Scalability: Comparing Native and Web-based Apps
Native apps might require more effort and resources to scale due to their platform-specific nature. Web-based apps, being platform-independent, can be more easily scaled and can serve a wide range of devices. While hybrid apps can bridge the gap somewhat, only a truly innovative mobile platform can do so completely.
RFgen Mobile Edge™ leverages intelligent, proprietary designer tools that enable fast, automatic scaling of mobile applications and design components. Thus, supply chains can use multiple device form factors, screen sizes, and operating systems simultaneously without having to redesign an application for each one.
In addition, RFgen mobile inventory applications use pre-built starting points based on supply chain practices. New sites or apps can be scaled and configured to unique needs in a matter of weeks.
Integration Capabilities of Native Inventory Apps
Native apps can integrate seamlessly with the device’s features like camera, GPS, barcode scanners, RFID readers, and so on. Enterprise mobile computers come equipped with capabilities purpose-built for inventory and supply chain activities. Not being able to leverage these devices to the fullest can end up being a waste, diminishing productivity and efficiency.
Integration Capabilities of Web-Based Inventory Apps
Web-based apps have limited integration capabilities due to browser restrictions. However, advances in web technologies like HTML5 are pushing the boundaries and allowing better integration with device features. Despite these advances, the reality is that web-based mobile apps can’t utilize the full capabilities of today’s mobile devices.
Offline Functionality: Native vs Web-Based Apps
Another significant advantage of native apps is their ability to function offline. Native mobile apps can store data locally, enabling users to work even without connectivity to the internet or network.Some modern web technologies allow offline work, but not to the same degree.
The fact is that web-based mobile inventory solutions rely on network connectivity most of the time—a stumbling block in many industrial settings. Native apps, on the other hand, are less dependent on network connections.
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When it comes to security, both native and web-based apps have their strengths and weaknesses. Native apps have direct access to device resources and may offer better data security. Web-based apps rely on web servers and might face risks related to server or network security.
While both types may also sit behind the secure layers provided by the ERP system, a native solution like RFgen greatly enhances security with specially hardened systems that protect valuable data.
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Customization Opportunities in Native Mobile Apps
Native mobile apps offer extensive customization options as they are designed specifically for the platform they serve. Developers have complete control over the app’s features and appearance. Mobile solutions like RFgen Mobile Edge™ provide built-in low-code developer tools to facilitate fast, simple modifications without specialized skills.
Customization Opportunities in Web-Based Mobile Apps
While web-based mobile apps provide a consistent user experience across all platforms, they offer less customization than native apps. Developing or modifying existing applications may require a complex set of coding skills, some of which aren’t commonly paired.
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Speed & Cost of Development
In the long run, a mobile solution using native apps may seem more costly to implement than a web-based solution. After all, native apps are specialized to the platform while applications built on HTML are universal. Only, that’s not always the case.
Take RFgen, for instance. By using pre-built starting points, the majority of the troubleshooting and development is completed before implementation. Introducing RFgen Mobile Edge™ into your operation ends up taking a fraction of the time of other solutions. The end result is faster time-to-market, immediate performance improvements, and more cost savings.
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Real-world Examples of Native Inventory Management Applications
There are countless examples of organizations using native mobile inventory applications with great success. Manufacturers that implement RFgen Mobile Edge™ for their ERP realize immediate benefits in efficiency, visibility, and cost savings.
Explore these insightful case studies to learn more:
- SAP: Grupo Cementos thrives with low-code development.
- Oracle Cloud SCM: Boyd Corp enhances ERP capabilities with mobile apps.
- JD Edwards: NFPC leverages native apps to achieve inventory visibility.
- E-Business Suite: NLMK USA elevates customer service in the steel market.
- Deltek Costpoint: Insitu transforms manufacturing with native mobile apps.
- Microsoft D365 SCM: Brabant Alucast boosts stock reliability above 96%.
Frequently Asked Questions
A native inventory management application is a software designed for specific platforms like iOS or Android. A native mobile app that’s installed directly on the device can access its hardware and operating system features for better performance and user experience.
How do web-based inventory management applications work?
Web-based inventory management applications are accessible through web browsers and hosted on the internet. A web-based mobile app doesn’t require any installation on your device and can run on any device with a functional internet connection and a web browser.
Can native mobile apps and web-based applications work offline?
Of the two, native mobile apps have superior offline functionality. They can store data locally, enabling users to work even without an internet connection. Since web-based mobile apps are network-dependent, they may not function well when disconnected.
Are web-based applications cheaper than native applications?
In general, web-based applications are cheaper to develop and maintain than native applications but at the expense of features and performance. RFgen Mobile Edge™ uses advanced native apps that provide the benefits of both, significantly faster time-to-market, and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than other native- and web-based mobile inventory applications.