Since the launch of the first smartphones in 2007 the term ‘app’ has taken off in a huge way and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the term was invented at this time. Apps or applications have been around since the dawn of computing and are essentially programs or software that run and execute functionality. We have been creating applications here in ClearSoft before smartphones saw the light of day.
So when we receive enquiries about app development, the client will normally mean a mobile phone app. Very often we find that they are not aware of web apps and we will talk them through the differences. In this article we will describe native and web apps under the headings below :-
- Maintenance / Upgrades
- Look and feel
Native apps invariably cost more than mobile apps to develop and deploy. This is mainly because for a native app, it must be developed, tested and deployed for IOS and Android platforms. A web app will run in a browser and is platform independent which makes it easier to develop, test and deploy.
Native apps are always going to be slicker and faster than web apps. This is because all of the content is pre-loaded on the app itself so there should be no lags or loading times. Web apps are not slow – but will be slower than native.
Native apps have access to device hardware functionality such as geo-location services, accelerometer, camera etc. that web apps can’t access. Native apps can also run offline (when you don’t have a network signal) whereas web apps will need a network signal to operate.
Maintenance / Upgrades
Native apps are more awkward to maintain. With a web app, we can identify the area to change, apply that change, test it and deploy whenever we like. With native (on the assumption that the app is available on IOS and android) we must develop and test twice and then resubmit to the different stores which takes more time as both Apple and Google perform quality control checks before submission to their respective stores.
Native apps can only be accessed once the user has downloaded the app from the app store whereas web apps are available from any device with a browser.
Look & Feel
In times past, native would have had a huge advantage here but with responsive display techniques improvement over the last number of years, web apps have closed the gap. Native still has the advantage of running locally on the device which will make it quicker and will utilise the standard look and feel of the chosen platform (IOS or android). Modern day web applications can more than hold their own under look and feel however.
There is no hard or fast rule to apply in this space and there are advantages and disadvantages of both types of apps. Typically we’d advise people to go with a native app if the target audience is a customer. If the target audience is staff members or non-customers, and you don’t need the native functionality we’d always try to highlight the advantages of a web app especially cost and speed to market.