Masabists: Ticketing via Local Webapps

// July 31st, 2009 // Mobile

This was originally posted on the Masabists blog.

We’re finally able to show off some of the work we’ve been doing recently on local mobile webapps – interactive web pages which can be saved and run even when you’re offline.

Our mobile ticket sales app is now available as a local Java app for mass market handsets, and a local webapp for Android and iPhone – offering all the same functionality, security and slick branding:

Masabi Train Ticketing local webapp on an iPhone Masabi Train Ticketing Java app running on a Nokia N96

What Is A Local Webapp?

With the latest HTML 5 and Google Gears APIs support on Android, iPhone and Palm Pre, you can provide a fast multi-screen interactive app with local storage (to store tickets you have purchased), which behaves like a native local app and is accessible even when the phone is offline. Here’s how to store the app for later use on an iPhone – reached by clicking on the ‘+’ icon in the footer:

Why Webapps?

Traditionally at Masabi we have always written local apps in Java, because they offer the best mass market user experience for the sort of ticketing and financial services we provide; it’s only with the advent of handsets with fast, HTML 5-capable browsers that we have been able to explore the webapp route. We plan to use local webapps for many of our iPhone and Android products for two core reasons:

  1. With the proliferation of new platforms causing even more fragmentation in the mobile apps space, the Safari browser used on both platforms is actually the safest way to reduce fragmentation and streamline maintenance and development;
  2. There are some big advantages to the unrestricted installation of a webapp via the web, especially if your business model is not compatible with the rules or revenue shares of the relevant App Store; it can be hard to justify to a customer the extra expense of a dedicated app when you cannot guarantee the app will ever be allowed on the store or device.

Fortunately, it is easy to take a local webapp and wrap it up as a native iPhone or Android app, so we can make all of the services available through the relevant App Stores as well if that is what the users want.

It is worth noting that at Masabi we are producing free mass market services which pay for themselves through transaction fees, so the App Store’s billing system isn’t an issue for us – your mileage may vary…

Does It Feel Like A Normal App?

Webapps can very successfully replicate the look and feel of native apps, with quick scrolling between screens, button styles and the like.
Below are screenshots of the user selecting an option from a list, and a date from the calendar:

Selecting an option from a list on the Masabi Train Ticketing local webapp on an iPhone Picking a date on the Masabi Train Ticketing local webapp on an iPhone

These clearly follow the style and usability conventions of the built-in iPhone apps. With CSS targetted to the device through our DeployME server, we reskin the same application easily to adopt Android conventions and styling as well.

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