Web apps vs Native – is it still up for debate?

As businesses explore their mobile strategy options, a question they’ll pose very quickly is – responsive mobile site, or native app? Before we delve into the pros and cons of each, lets say this – your website must be responsive by default. As mobile usage rises above 30%, a responsive site should no longer be a luxury; it’s a must.

So the question now is, does your business need a native app? To answer that, you need to think about these points –

Are you trying to do something that your website doesn’t (or can’t) do?
Does your project require the use of device peripherals, such as the camera or microphone?
How important is speed and overall user experience to you?
Do you plan to make money from your project?
How important is multi platform support?

Web Apps

Typically for small, uncomplicated projects, a web app is a good choice. Their affordability and multi platform support are major advantages, which, for some, far outweigh their disadvantages. Web apps can generally be designed and developed by web developers, which are often more affordable than app developers. Also, web apps are not platform or device specific; meaning they’ll run on iOS, Android and Windows devices.

The main gripe with web apps is their usability. As they don’t have access to all the device’s native features and hardware, they often look dull and can be clunky to operate. As each new page must load from a server, web apps are always quite slow. See below for a quick guide to pros and cons for web apps –

Pros Cons
Affordable No support for accelerometer, camera, microphone
Multi-platform support Slow
Automatic updates Does not work offline
No need for store submission and approval No “App Store” or “Google Play” presence

Native Apps

Native apps are basically anything that is downloaded from the marketplace (most commonly the App Store or Google Play) and installed onto your device. As the app runs locally on the device and has access to all its advanced features, it is often a more pleasurable experience for the user. Developers have almost full control over what can be done within an app, which means the possibilities are endless. For projects that require the use of features such as the onboard microphone, camera, access to contacts, etc. the choice is simple – you must create a native app.

For simpler projects that can be accomplished with a web app, a decision must be made based on the pros and cons of each. Below are the pros and cons of a native app –

Pros Cons
Access to all onboard device features Can be more costly to develop
Smooth user experience Needs separate development for each platform
Can run offline
Gain “App Store” or “Google Play” presence
Easily monetised
Ability to use push notifications

The Decision

The decision really comes down to the nature of the project, and your budget. Assuming your website is already responsive, your app project must accomplish something that is not already being done by your site. If budget is not a huge issue, developing a native app would definitely be a preference. Otherwise, web apps are a good second choice.

Remember that the number of mobile users is growing steadily each year and does not look like slowing, so your mobile presence should be an integral part of your online presence.

For more information on the development of native iPhone, iPad & Android apps please contact us