Friend: Is a company better off building a mobile app for a smartphone or should they optimize their mobile web experience or do both?
Me: The mobile web optimized version is a must. Thats a standard now.
Now the decision to make an app or not.
We get requests for doing both mobile web and app even if there is no much difference between both the experiences. They just want to be a part of the app store euphoria. They just want their presence there among other companies. And there is a lot more advertising money in the app space coz of the hype.
Personally I think if you don't have anything special to offer than the mobile web its good to remain on the web. On the long run its the web which is going to win.
But if you can give more than what the mobile web offers, then yes. Apps can make use of the native capabilities of a phone to give interesting features and experiences using the touch, accelerometer, camera, video/audio recording, geo location, compass, augmented reality, the pinch and zoom on iPhone and other supported gestures, offline access, better animation capabilities etc.
One more thing we have to keep in mind is that the app should be good enough to be used repeatedly.
Friend: Ok Thanks.
Dont just do things just for the sake of it. Do it only if it makes sense.