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 Mobile GIS & LBS
Matt Sheehan
Matt Sheehan
Matt holds an MSc in Geography and GIS. He has been working with clients solving problems with GIS for over 17 years. Matt founded WebMapSolutions whose mission is to put innovative, intuitive GIS driven applications into the hands of new and existing users.

Offline Mobile Map Basics: What are your Choices?

September 8th, 2016 by Matt Sheehan

In our third article in this series: Offline Mobile Map Basics: Editing Map Layers Offline, we discussed editing map layers when offline. Layer feature add, update, delete and attachments were at the core of the conversation. In this, our fourth article in the offline mobile map series, we will pull all together and discuss your options for working with mobile maps.

Offline Mobile Map Basics: What are your Choices?

Today there are three mobile offline ArcGIS choices: web, hybrid and native. Each has its own own advantages and disadvantages

1. Offline Mobile Map Web Apps

Web ArcGIS mobile apps are built with HTML5, Javascript and CSS. They are cross-platform and cross-device, and the most flexible of the mobile options discussed here. They also require the least amount of resource investment of the three. A typical use case for an ArcGIS mobile web app would be: “We want maximum flexibility. Our staff will be using many different mobile devices in areas lacking wireless connectivity. Cost is very important. Extending the mobile app over time with additional custom functionality will be required”.

Below is a screenshot of the offline web app we have been developing called AppSmart for ArcGIS.

2. Offline Mobile Map Hybrid Apps

Hybrid ArcGIS mobile apps are ‘web apps wrapped in a native shell’. Translated that means they are web apps which can ‘disguise’ themselves as native. It does not mean that they are native, but they do share some of the advantages of both native and web. They are cross-platform, and have one code base. Cordova is a popular hybrid technology. It takes an offline enabled mobile web app built with HTML5, Javascript and CSS, and converts it to an iOS, Android or Windows app. A typical use case for a hybrid ArcGIS mobile app would be: “We want to avoid the cost of building multiple versions of the same mobile offline ArcGIS app for different platforms, but want to distribute the app in the app stores”.

3. Installed Native Offline Mobile Map Apps

Native ArcGIS mobile apps are developed specifically for one platform. They are written in the native language of that platform. So Objective-C for Apple (iOS) devices, Java for Android, .NET for Windows. Functionality, user experience and performance are key advantages of native ArcGIS apps. But offline mobile native apps are more complex and expensive to build and are not cross-platform compatible. A typical use case for a native ArcGIS mobile app would be: “We will only ever use iPads in our organization. Offline routing is a key requirement for our mobile app”.

The diagram below summarizes the pros and cons of each mobile offline approach:

If you are looking to have a mobile ArcGIS app developed the right approach need be made on a case per case basis. In our final article in our offline mobile map basics series we will describe 3 different use cases where one of the above choices: web, hybrid and native, are used to solve a specific problem. See you then.

If you have mobile offline map questions, feel free to contact us on 801-733-0723.

Related posts:

Categories: ArcGIS Online, cloud GIS, Mobile ArcGIS, Web and mobile GIS

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