Demystifying Mobile

The world is going mobile and your GIS can to.

It is estimated that there are now more mobiles than humans, consequently GIS users increasingly want to access maps and information from a mobile device. This post is a whistle stop tour of what ArcGIS for Mobile applications are available.  If you want more information please check out the links. 

As the picture below shows the mobile platforms can broadly be grouped into ‘Smartphones and Tablets’ and ‘Rugged Devices’.

Smartphones and Tablets

There has been a proliferation of smartphone and tablet devices (e.g. iPhone, Android and Windows Phone) over the past few years.  There are ArcGIS applications for the following Smartphone and Tablet platforms:

  • ArcGIS for iOS
  • ArcGIS for Android
  • ArcGIS for Windows Phone

For more information, on these free downloadable applications, click here.

Rugged Devices

‘Rugged devices’ refer to mobile hardware designed for high accuracy data capture (e.g. Panasonic Toughbook, Trimble etc.).  This group has traditionally been separate from the consumer mobile space of smartphones and tablets.  The Esri applications that run on rugged devices are:

There are heaps of mobile devices on the market and Esri support lots of them with applications.  Consequently device is becoming less of a barrier for adopting GIS.  Also with increased functionality being delivered across these devices through out of the box apps, the barrier of entry is lower than ever before.  

Custom mobile applications

What if the applications don’t have specific functionality you need, or you want to customise the look and feel of them?  There are several options for developing custom mobile applications and these are supported by resources and online communities.


Esri provide SDK’s as well as Applications for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Windows Mobile and ArcPad.  The SDK’s allow you to create custom GIS applications native to each platform.  This allows you to develop applications in native code for the device you’re targeting where the functionality and UI can be customised.  In the case of iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps these can be deployed in the respective market place.

Mobile Web

An increasingly popular option in the mobile arena is to host mobile applications in your browser, otherwise known as Mobile Web.  This allows you to develop applications in one code base and deploy it to multiple platforms.  Esri supports mobile web development through its Compact JavaScript API.

Cross Platform

The other developer option available is to write in one code base and deploy as a native application using third party software (e.g.  PhoneGap, Adobe Air and MonoTouch).  An example of this would be an application written using the JavaScript API and deployed to Android, iOS and Windows Phone using PhoneGap.


In summary, there are ArcGIS applications available for a wide range of mobile devices and uses. The capability of these continues to increase, but there are also different options available for ArcGIS mobile development.