May 29 AT 2:47 AM Taylor Wimberly 25 Comments

Wave Goodbye To Native Android Apps From Google?

Today Google announced Wave – a new tool to organize all your online communications.  During the demonstration, they showed off a mobile version running in the browser on Android and iPhone.  I was absolutely blown away by the potential of Wave, but I was curious if we would see a native app on our phones.

Shortly after the keynote, there was a press conference and we were allowed to ask questions to the Wave team, Vic Gundotra, and Sergey Brin.  Since I’m an Android fanatic, I had to ask about the possibility of seeing an official native app for Android or iPhone.  To summarize their response, “No”.

Google touted that Wave was developed entirely with the Google Web Toolkit and fully utilized HTML5.  They envision the web as the platform of the future and the browser is becoming more like the operating system.  By creating web only apps, they can bypass all the time it takes to write native code for Android and iPhone.  This also means that all their new web apps will be readily available on Palm’s WebOS.

Another advantage of focusing on mobile browser apps is choice for the end user.  Several carriers have expressed interest in releasing Android phones that are free of Google.  If all the apps are available on the web, the user can still access their favorite Google services directly from the browser.  Carriers could always block the Google domains, but I doubt users will stand for walled gardens anymore.

So what does this mean for Android users? Will we see Google release any new native apps for Android?  I have been eagerly waiting to see native apps for Adsense, Analytics, Reader, and more.  After this week, it looks like I may be waiting a long time.  Instead of spending time on native apps for Android, Google will create mobile browser apps that work across multiple platforms.

We have already witnessed this strategy with the recent updates to mobile Gmail.  New features were first released on the mobile site, then weeks later the native app got an update.  However, the mobile browser version still offers functionality not available in the Android client.  Today’s unveiling of Wave just continues the same pattern.

So is all hope lost for native Google apps on Android?  The answer to that question lies with the community.  Either we whine to Google or we create the native apps on our own.  A quick search of the Market and you will find people doing just that.  Developers have already created Android versions of Adsense and Analytics.

Check out the official video of the Wave keynote and let us know what you think.

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • Eric

    Is it really that important if an app is in a browser or native? All the mobile apps I use seem to work for me just fine, i.e. Google Reader, etc. As long as the app does what I need, I don’t mind if it’s a web app vs. native.

    • http://Website progician

      I would say it is necessary in a case of a semi-chat program. If I see a terribly slow application on my desktop computer, why would a vast weaker pocket computer perform well enough. I think here’s the day for creating a native/java client for wave.

  • Gabriel A. Zorrilla

    Well, It may affect developers having to get proficient in other stuff rather than pure Java/Android.

    But honestly, if there is a way for the browser to access bar notifications, that would completely replace an online App, which is what Google is about. They have, calendar, mail, etc, already with off-line access, its kinda pointless for Google to duplicate the funcionality in Android. I see non connection intensive apps such as games, utilities, etc to be native, and online intensive, with the browser as middleware.

  • Renarudo

    It’s mostly convenience. It’s easier for me to click on my email app than it is to go into Browser and log in.

  • Jim Jones

    I think you’re drinking the Kool-Aid a little too soon.

    I think we all need to see how HTML5′-class implementations perform on a device like the Palm Pre.

    If the performance isn’t equal to iPhone applications then HTML5 will remain a good, but not superior, short-cut alternative to developing a cutting edge mobile OS.

    I suspect that most device manufacturers will cut their losses and head toward an HTML5 solution but if they can’t match the iPhone the consumer will recognize which platform works better.

  • Mark Murphy

    I’ll echo some of the sentiment in the comments here.

    Google isn’t going for monopoly status with Android. It wants its apps and services and ads to be on all mobile platforms, Android included. So, sticking with a Web UI as their main avenue for wave makes sense.

    What is not clear is what sort of offline model wave will support. That’s important for mobile, since not everybody is universally connected, or has unlimited data plans. That may be where Android winds up shining, if offline mode requires hooks beyond HTML5 and therefore winds up being implemented primarily for Android, since they may lack the ability to implement said hooks for other platforms. In that case, Google wave online is equal on all platforms, but Google wave overall would be better on Android.

  • nex.Software

    Did we ever say hello to native Android apps? I mean, really? Aside from the core apps of Android 1.0, we haven’t seen anything new. In the sessions at I/O, I don’t think we can count on the Browser to be a be-all-end-all solution for everything. Sure the capabilities are growing and web-based apps are getting more powerful but I don’t think they will replace the need for “native” apps. We may not, however, see much more from Google itself outside of the core of Android though.

  • Roy

    I still hope for a native app for wave and google docs. Call me crazy, but I want it. I can wait though. If wave gets picked up by a lot of people, then it will thrive. If it’s only made useful for android users, then it’s not going to make it.

    I have never liked email so I am dying to see this work. However, I still think an application like this will work beter as a native app. The browser has the tendency to freeze the homescreen when returning, doesn’t have notfications (yet), has no menu functionality (besides the browser)…

    Could you post a link as to where they said it wasn’t going to be done?

    • nEx.Software

      I think it was asked/answered in a press conference or one of the sessions at I/O. I’m not sure that there is anything official (in writing) that it won’t happen, but it certainly seems likely.

    • Clark Wimberly

      I don’t know if that information is online anywhere, but Taylor asked “Do you have any plans to release a native Android or iPhone app for Wave?” and the answer was just a flat out “No”

      And that was during the official press briefing with Lars, Jens, and Sergey.

      I think the overall goal is to make the mobile web so good that we don’t need native apps. Wouldn’t it be great if all apps just worked on all devices?

  • Ralph

    I agree with Mark: As long as browser apps can’t/use notifications and can’t/don’t integrate with other apps (mail to, send with, call, etc…) i don’t see browser apps as an alternative to native apps.

    Next thing is the browser itself: To be used for apps, it has to get a lot – and i mean a lot – faster to come even close to running native apps.

    Maybe i’m seeing things too negative or too narrow. Maybe it’s not about opening a browser, opening Gmail, etc… Maybe future apps just use the browser engine for rendering and will use certain system hooks.

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  • ipauldev

    There’s nothing stopping us from creating our own native app. Start here:

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  • saane

    How about google buzz?

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