And what that means for your business.

“Does my business need a mobile app?”

At Dualboot Partners, we get that question all the time — and for good reason. Consumers now spend more than five hours a day on their smartphones. Roughly 57% of online traffic in the U.S. comes from smartphones and tablets. More than 40% of online transactions are now done on mobile. And worldwide, there are more people right now who own a cell phone than there are those who own a toothbrush.

Crazy, but true.

So yes, you need a mobile presence. But the real question is, what shape should that take?

The truth is, not every business needs an app. It depends first and foremost on what you want to offer via mobile — and whether you have a customer base that will actually use what you build. A few years ago, we had a customer who really wanted a mobile app. So we designed and built one, only to have the customer realize after launch that its target customers don’t use mobile apps.

The takeaway from that story is, don’t let your excitement about the possibilities of mobile pull you down the most expensive path — unless, of course, that’s where you need to be.

Here, we’ve broken down the four basic options you have when it comes to going mobile — and what you should consider before taking the leap.

Pure Native

This is what most people have in mind when they think of going mobile. Native applications are built from scratch in a tech stack native to their platform, Objective-C or Swift for iOS and Java for Android. They promise the best user experience and functionality, making it the best option for the most complex functions. But that brings with it the highest cost as you will need to build and maintain two separate apps if you want to deploy to both iOS and Android devices.

React Native

This technology was developed by Facebook to allow you to build native apps using JavaScript. The React Native rendering engine invokes native APIs for the specific device type based on where it’s deployed (iOS and Android only). This creates a native application experience, but only requires a single codebase. That said, it’s not always that simple. There are elements that might need to be customized to suit each device category, which can slow development time and increase your costs. You may even end up with three technical stacks (Objective-C or Swift, Java and React native) instead of one. However, if you don’t need your app to perform ultra-complex functions, this is a viable option.

PhoneGap and Ionic

These app-building technologies allow you to build an app using JavaScript, HTML and CSS, then render the application using the devices default browser. The upside is you only have to build one app and can generally find development resources familiar with the basic web development languages. The downside is performance. Browser-based rendering is not as efficient as using the devices’ native APIs. For that reason, we advise companies to steer clear of this option. If you’re going to invest the money to build an app, you want to make sure the user experience is optimized, period.

Mobile-Optimized Website

More often than not, this might be your best option for going mobile. It’s not an app and does not require distribution through the app stores. It involves designing a website for your business that performs as well on a phone or tablet device as it does on a desktop. It’s the most cost- and time-efficient and well-suited for everything from e-commerce to content distribution.

There’s a mobile solution out there for you. Finding it starts with determining the needs of your business and the behavior of your customers — and it comes to life when you select a technology partner with your best interests foremost in mind.