Native vs web: which type of app is better for your business? 

author by Make IT Simple , 14 Mar 2021 Custom Software Development, Software Development Company

The number of people using mobile devices to access the internet has skyrocketed.

Now, people consume twice the amount of content on a mobile than they do on a desktop.

At Make IT Simple, we provide a range of mobile app development services to our clients, and there’s one question that crops up time and time again – what sort of mobile app is best for my business?

The answer, of course, depends on your exact requirements, the industry you operate in and – most importantly – what you want to achieve with your app.

Often, it’s a choice between two types of mobile app: native or web?

In this post, we outline the differences between these two types of app, and the pros and cons to each one.

What’s a native app?

Native mobile apps live and run on the device itself. So, they are built for a specific platform, such as the Android platform for a Samsung device or Apple’s iOS for the iPhone.

Native apps are downloaded and installed through an app store, and usually have access to your device’s resources, like your camera or GPS system, to provide an enriched end user experience. Examples of native apps include Facebook, Google Maps, Instagram and Snapchat.

What’s a web app?

A web app is accessed via an internet browser and will adapt to whatever device you’re viewing it on. Web apps are not native to a specific system. They don’t need to be downloaded or installed.

Some web apps can also access your device resources, providing some – but not necessarily all – of the functionality that a native app does.

Most web apps are now something called progressive web apps (PWAs) and can, for example, provide push notifications – an important capability for most businesses. We’ll look at PWAs in more detail later.

Native vs web app – what’s the difference?

The main difference is how you access the app. With a web app, you go to a website. With a native app, you click on a thumbnail on your device’s screen.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell the two apart.

If, for example, you go to the BBC news website at www.bbc.co.uk/news and compare it to the native app, the two look remarkably similar. But they are not the same.

Another difference is that a native app works even when you are not connected to the internet. But a web app relies a live internet connection to be updated. However, some web apps do provide a certain level of functionality, even if you are offline, as long as you have already opened the app.

Native apps are also frequently faster and more responsive than a web app, often coming with more personalised features, depending on the privacy settings on your device’s browser.

However, you may still need to update a native app, whereas a web app will automatically update itself, every time you revisit its website.

Development differences

In the previous section, we looked at some of the differences the user may experience between a native and a web app. At the development end, there are also several key differences, which can affect the cost and timescales to get your app up and running.

Native apps are platform-specific and generally more expensive to develop compared to web apps. They are also often slower to build and deploy.

For example, Apple devices use the iOS operating system and Apple-native apps are built using languages like Swift or Objective-C. Android devices are written in Java.

Depending on your preferred platform or platforms, developers may also have to work across different tools, SDKs and other elements, slowing down your development process.

Hybrid apps are one option to overcome this, which can be deployed to both iOS and Android. We build hybrid apps regularly, helping our clients accelerate there time to launch and reduce costs, while reaching the widest audiences possible.

Web apps are built with languages like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. Web apps are usually quicker to build, but there is no standard SDK. Instead, developers can use generic APIs provided by the browser for things like GPS location, which usually speeds up the development process.

Pros and Cons

In summary, native apps:

  • are faster than web apps
  • have access to your device’s resources, providing greater functionality
  • can function fully offline
  • are more secure, as they must be first approved by the app store

But native apps also:

  • are more expensive to build, maintain and update across multiple platforms
  • can suffer from compatibility issues across platforms
  • require approval from the app store. Updates also require approval, which can further slow down your deployment

Web apps:

  • are quicker and cheaper to build than mobile apps
  • easy to maintain, updating themselves
  • don’t need to be downloaded and installed
  • don’t need app store approval, so can be launched quickly

But web apps are also:

  • slower to use with less advanced functionality
  • do not work offline
  • more difficult to find, as they are not searchable in an app store
  • may be less secure or poor quality as they are not monitored by the app store

Which app is right for you?

It depends on your business and app requirements. If you want to prioritise features, a native app is a better choice. If you just want an app to provide a simple, interactive resource, a web app may be better.

There is also another option: a progressive web app (PWA). PWAs are hybrids between web and native apps, providing additional functionality options, compared to standalone web apps.

All of the web apps we build at Make IT Simple are PWAs. PWAs can:

  • send push notifications on most browsers and devices
  • access some of your device systems, like vibration
  • come with improved touch gestures

Push notifications are viewed as a priority by many of our clients, allowing them to reach out to customers. However, while both native and web apps are now able to provide push notifications, native apps tend to push more personalised content, offers and so on.

PWAs are now compatible with all mobile and desktop browsers, but they can struggle to provide a seamless end user experience if accessed using anything other than a Chrome browser. This could put you at a disadvantage if your users are primarily Apple users.

Our mobile app development services

At Make IT Simple, we work with companies to identify the best app option for your business. Often, we start by asking four simple questions:

  • How fast do you need your app?
  • How important is the end user experience?
  • What features are important for your app?
  • Do you need push notifications?

We then evaluate your business to ensure that, whatever approach we use, you end up with a quick, responsive and reliable app.

If you’d like to find out more about Make IT Simple and our mobile app development services, click here to contact one of the team today.


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