Native App vs. Mobile Web App: Know the Difference

When it comes to app development, there are important pros and cons to consider when deciding between a native versus a mobile web app. Cost, quality, appearance, and performance all factor in, and while each app-type has pros and cons, there is a clear choice for those interested in creating a top-notch app.

What's the Difference Between Native and Mobile Web Apps?

From mobile web to native to hybrid, companies have several options when it comes to app development; however, each option has pros and cons in terms of product, security, cost, appearance, and other variables. By understanding the difference between the options and by knowing what you want in an app, you can make an informed decision about which product best suits your needs.

Pros and Cons of Mobile Web Apps

Web apps are developed in HTML5, JavaScript, or CSS. Their primary advantages lie in affordability and flexibility as mobile web (often referred to as HTML5) apps are able to run on multiple platforms. Apps built this way can be accessed from iPhone and Android devices, as well as Windows and BlackBerry products. Convenience, expedience, and cost aside, there are some drawbacks to this type of app design tool. Mobile web apps are lacking in the following areas:
  • Offline storage security
  • Device access (such as the camera)
  • Management features
  • Additionally, unlike with other app development options (native and hybrid), mobile web apps are not promoted via the app store.

    Pros and Cons of Native Apps

    Native apps are considered to be the highest quality apps in terms of performance and appearance. Native apps are developed for a specific platform (Objective-C for iOS and Java for Android), which some see as a drawback only because the iOS technology cannot be translated for the Android (and vice versa; it has to be re-written. This means that (typically), Native apps cost more to produce because the code needs to be written twice, in different programming languages.

    Despite the drawback of cost, there are several pros that outweigh the cost including:
  • Increased app performance, especially if the app requires server side APIs.
  • Access to native OS APIs for example - if you anticipate integrating with Apple Pay or Push Notifications, these can only be done at the device level and require native development.
  • Promoted through the app store leading to more robust monetization
  • Marketing tools (rankings and feature placement) are systematically retained and tracked courtesy of the app store

  • Native apps are best for those who are serious about having a high-quality, high-performing app that functions on one or more available platforms.

    Pros and Cons of Hybrid Apps

    Hybrid apps ideally would be the best of both worlds as hybrids combine the best-of mobile web apps as well as the best-of native apps. They are developed using HTML5, CCS, or JavaScript before being put in a native application; this enables users to work in any framework they choose.
    While hybrid apps certainly have some merits, such as their diversity, there is still a balance of pros and cons to this option. For example:
  • Hybrid apps have lower level device access than native; plugins, if available, are required to access the hardware.
  • Hybrid apps are more cost-effective than native apps
  • They are more cost-effective overall than mobile web apps
  • Maintenance tends to be easier to manage
  • Like mobile web apps, they are dependent on the native browser meaning they lack the speed of their native counterparts.
  • Each option poses unique advantages and disadvantages; a company's specific needs typically dictates which vehicle is the best app development option.

    Why Native Trumps All

    Generally speaking, native apps are the most intelligent investment for those wishing to develop apps. These apps, as noted, are created with the platform in mind, which means that their performance on the specific platform will be above reproach. None of the usual issues associated with forcing a transition or applying a kit-fix will be existent.

    Long Term Costs Tend to Equal Out

    It's acknowledged that native apps cost more on the front end; for this reason, mobile web and hybrid apps can seem more appealing; however, as one mobile software technology development consultant explains it, the cost of more enticing options bring more benefit in the long run. Here's why:
  • The main audience to whom mobile web apps appeal is those who need something fast or for a short period; if something more sustainable or comprehensive is needed, eventually, a native app will be sought; for this reason, many regret the time, effort, and resources spent on the mobile web app.
  • The hybrid app is great and initial development is easy up to a point. There invariably comes a time when the process hits a wall and the remaining percentage of the projects takes an inordinate amount of time and resources to complete. This lag time eats up (and exceeds) any benefits of going hybrid versus native.

  • Thus, at the end of the day, with a native app, you have a quality product that is promoted via the app store, that has full access to the device, that is secure, and that is attractive to users. While mobile web and hybrid apps pose additional options, they lack the performance and reassurance provided by native apps.

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    Native App vs. Mobile Web App: Know the Difference