In the last couple of years mobile applications have become a vital aspect of aviation MRO. Fuelled by the desire of many organisations to achieve paperless maintenance, and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, apps will play a vital part in MRO activities in the years to come.

However, not all apps are the same, and there are two key types of mobile application to be aware of. These are known as ‘Native’ and ‘Web’ apps. Which one you choose to adopt can drastically impact their effectiveness and suitability for your operations.

Native Apps

Native mobile apps are developed for a specific platform, such as Android – used by Google, Samsung and many other devices, iOS – used by Apple devices, or Windows – used by Microsoft devices.

Native apps are downloaded from your device’s app store and installed directly onto the device. From there they can easily access your device’s hardware such as the camera, fingerprint scanner, and GPS. They will periodically require updates through the app store in order to gain newly added functionality.

Web Apps

Rather than being installed on your device Web apps, as the name suggests, are accessed via a web browser, and then adjust to the device you are accessing it from.

They can easily be confused for Native apps due to their look and design but are built on completely different technologies and in different coding languages.

Pros & Cons

So, what do these differences mean in terms of performance and usability?

Installation

Due to Native apps being installed, they perform faster than Web apps and provide greater levels of functionality due their access to device hardware. For instance, a Native app can use the device’s camera to scan the barcode of a part, or the fingerprint scanner to verify a technician’s sign-off, whereas a Web app cannot.

ENVISION Stock Barcode Scanning

Our ENVISION Stock app

Native app’s installation also allows them to work offline, whereas Web apps need a constant internet connection to function. Offline work in aviation is very important, as users often find themselves working away from a secure internet connection in large hangars or on the tarmac.

The only downside to installation is that it can take longer to get going on the app during the first use, where Web apps can be used straight away. Users also must update Native apps from time to time.

Access

Native apps can only be downloaded and updated through your device’s app store. App stores are more than just a place to download apps though. To be made available on either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, apps must go through a rigorous testing process that looks at the functionality, user interface, and security of the app. Any Native app therefore has been fully approved by the system operator, so you know that they are safe and secure.

Web apps do not have to go through this process and can essentially be created and uploaded by anyone, regardless of their quality and security. For aircraft operators and maintainers this is an important point to consider, as the data your users will be working with can be very sensitive in nature and as an app, they may be accessing this via different networks around the world.

What we do at Rusada

At Rusada we made the decision to develop all of ENVISION’s applications as Native apps. Although Web apps are cheaper and easier to build due to the one-size-fits-all approach, and easier to deploy as you don’t need to go through the app stores, their slower performance, reduced levels of functionality, and lack of offline working were not up to scratch for the needs of our customers and the industry.

This has meant the development of our mobile apps has taken longer but brings more benefits to the user and truly takes advantage of what apps can do. The process of getting our apps approved by Apple, Google, and Microsoft was onerous but we now wear our app store listings as badges of honour.

In conclusion

While both apps have their advantages, for our industry there is only one clear choice. So bear this in mind when you’re talking to your software provider or are looking for your next system, and make sure they appreciate the benefits of Native mobile apps.

Robin Norton

by Rob Norton

Mobile Applications Development Manager

View our latest apps…

ENVISION Tasks
ENVISION Stock