Should you build a mobile GIS app for Apple devices only?

Blog Post created by webmapsolutions on Aug 6, 2014

We often have clients come to us and request we build a mobile app for iPad and/or iPhone. Our first question, before touching on functionality is: should you build a mobile GIS app for Apple devices only?

There are many reasons why building a mobile GIS app for just one platform (Apple iOS in this case) makes sense. Maybe your staff all have, and love, iPads and iPhones. They are comfortable with Apple products, and your IT department is set up to support iOS devices alone. I know many iOS fans who would cringe at the suggestion of switching to Android, for example. Apps which run on Apple devices are usually (and we will come back to this) written in a programming language called Objective-C. A language unique, or native, to Apple.

So great, we have our wonderful new mobile GIS app. Staff are pulling out their iPhones and iPads, opening the app and loving how mobile GIS is improving how they work. Let’s imagine one of the companies IT decision makers is given a new tablet, say the just released Windows Surface Pro. He sees how easy it is to move from office to out of office, and take all his software, and documents with him. No more struggles to work with word documents or excel on his iPad when on a business trip etc. He decides he’d like Windows Surface Pro to also be available to staff, with iPads. Wonderful. All works beautifully until …. a member of staff using the Windows Surface Pro asks for a copy of our mobile GIS app!

Windows native apps are written in .NET (Android in Java). Our app is written in Objective-C for iOS. That means a second version of the app will need to be written.


The down side to building a mobile GIS app for Apple devices only is that you are stuck with Apple only. That maybe fine, but as technology changes so rapidly, being locked into one platform is maybe a huge disadvantage.

So what are your options?

There are many. Plan carefully, and work closely with your mobile GIS contractor or developers. GIS mobile apps can be written which allow for easy and low cost ways to generate multiple version for different platforms.

Are facing similar challenges? Let us know.