More info on mPage: the free Mobile Moodle App

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MPage is a new player in the mobile Moodle movement that hit over the weekend.  MPage seems to be a hybrid approach to mobile Moodle solutions (somewhere between a web and a native app).  First, let’s take a quick look at those two types of mobile apps:

WIRIS

Native:

Native apps are downloaded onto your phone from an app store (a great example is MoodleTouch).

Web:

Web apps are additions to your Moodle code base (sometimes to the theme) which allow a better Moodle experience when you’re accessing the site using a mobile handset.  The Moodle4iPhone, which is under development, is a modification made to the Moodle server, putting it in the web app category; as is the MLE: http://mle.sourceforge.net/.

Which type of app is better could be argued, both provide benefits to end-users respectively.

MPage has both a native and web component.  A Mobile folder must be added to a Moodle install for it to function fully, meanwhile users must download mPage from the Apple App Store to then access their Moodle site using mPage.  So why this approach?  It’s clear from the mPage repository page that this hybrid approach is optimized for speed.

mPage can
-communicate with its own web service to request only the data it needs. As a result, the data transferred between the iPhone or iPod Touch device and the Moodle server will be significantly reduced as compared to other app available or web browsers.
-retrieve the descriptions of the various modules and activities, as well as the contents of many of them. This way, when the user explores the course, he’s not impeded by “Loading” screens at every turn (common with other methods).
-transfer more data in less bandwidth, which leads to not only faster loading times, but fewer of them.

By cherry picking only the information it needs to serve to mobile users pages are delivered faster to phones, a very definite positive.

The files necessary for modification to your Moodle install are now available at Moodle.org in the plug-ins and modules repository http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=3806; while the app is download-able on any iPhone or iPod Touch: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mpage/id369809342?mt=8.

What do you think, is native better than web or vice versa?  Who has the best app available to date?