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Ask HN: Choosing a mobile platform
2 points by oomkiller 3029 days ago | hide | past | web | 7 comments | favorite
Our company (of two people) is about to the phase where we are going to be developing a mobile application. Our customers are mainly local government personnel, so we expect a mix of iPhones and Blackberrys. The problem is, neither of us (the only developers) know Java very well, or for that matter ObjC. Our web app is written in Rails, so of course everything is XML-accessible. The main part of the application that mandates it be an actual native application is that we need to send a LatLng location every 5-10 minutes to our home base. I am aware that the Blackberry browser provides location via JS, but we need something that runs in the background. The second main thing we need a native app for is mapping. We need the ability to add points and possibly polygons to whatever mapping system the device uses (BB Maps on BB, Google Maps on iPhone). What I'd like to know from HN is: What do you recommend based on what I've told you here? If you need more info, please ask as I'll definitely be checking back.

Addendum: We have considered Android, but the number of devices that it is deployed on is abysmally small. We are also looking at the Mojo environment on the Palm Pre, but it hasn't been released yet.

You mention that you're considering iPhones and Blackberrys. However, the iPhone doesn't support background processing. So you won't be able to implement an iPhone app that sends lat/long updates to the home base every 5-10 min (unless the user keeps the app open)

Thats a good bit of information to know.

But since you are not deploying today, you might want to check out the current 3.0 beta provides a workaround.

no, my understanding is that 3.0 will let your server send a notification to your iPhone.If the user wishes to act on the notification, they can launch the app

That probably isn't going to be of much help in oomkiller's scenario since the scenario requires the opposite functionality (with the iPhone sending a notification once every 5-10 minutes ....since it isn't realistic to expect the user to look for notifications and relaunch the app every 5-10 min)

Right, if I could run some code on one of those received messages, i would be golden, because i could communicate back with home base, but Apple limits this to just receiving messages I'm assuming.

Right. I ran to read the docs, I had thought there was a possibility that they could allow users to choose if they want to wake apps up as a setting, but no, seems not.

Consider Nokia's WRT (Web RunTime) .. they have a JS based SDK (prototype, JQuery). Join Forum Nokia to learn more about their offering, and their app store is releasing in May. LBS awareness, bground processing, JS/CSS based SDK makes it easier to develop on it. Though Nokia isn't that big in US, but has a bigger reach worldwide than iPhone/Android. Our app is a rails app too, and I am considering writing my app for Nokia WRT. Apart from WRT, you can also write Symbian OS (C++) native apps, or Java, or Flash (our choice) apps.

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