You are thinking about building an app, and you don’t know whether an actual mobile app or a web app would best suit your needs. What you do know:

  • You want engagement to be easy and the UX to be flawless.
  • Y ou want maintenance and development costs to be affordable.

Though in an ideal world these features could be easily achieved, the reality is much more of a balancing act. Ease of use gives way to cost while the User Interface (UI) is undercut by technical constraints. With that said, most problems can be overcome with proper planning (especially if you’re working on your MVP). To help with the planning stage and decide which path is the right one for your app, here is a broad overview of some of the traits/differences between Native and Responsive Web apps.

 

Native Mobile Apps

Native mobile apps are applications designed specifically for the mobile experience on Android or iOS and have a number of strengths:

 

Pros:

  • Hardware. Native mobile apps can take advantage of the device’s hardware like the camera, flashlight, and GPS more effectively than a web app.
  • Experience. Native apps generally provide a rich UX both online and offline, which is not possible with web apps at the moment.
  • Performance. Since the app is installed on the phone, generally performance is better as it does not necessarily rely on web connectivity for all its functions. If you want an offline app, then native is a no-brainer.
  • Accessible. Easy to find and install from an app store.

Cons:

  • Development. Possibly two separate development efforts needed since customers want support for both Android and iOS devices. Depending on the complexity of the app this can be expensive.
  • Submission Process. The app will need to be approved by Apple or Google (or both). This process may take some time, and there are some rules on content.
  • App Versioning. You will want to develop your app using the most common currently used version, and keep in mind that you will need to update the app as the current software become obsolete. Your app will need to be actively maintained in order to stay functional.
 

 

Responsive Web Apps:

Responsive web apps can be viewed and used on both mobile and desktop formats, and don’t require you to build a separate app just for mobile, making them a more versatile choice.

 

Pros:

  • Cost Effective. One development effort covers both mobile and desktop.
  • Design. With a solid design that accounts for responsiveness, a site can look great on multiple devices, and across multiple browsers.
  • Technology. There are a lot of options for the technology behind the app. Frameworks and programming languages have strengths and weaknesses, so being able to choose the those that suit your app is a big advantage.
  • Cons for responsive Web:
  • Experience. UX can be less than ideal on mobile, unless there is an emphasis on a “mobile first” design philosophy.
  • Design. If it’s not properly planned for, the UI can look ugly at certain sizes and on different browsers, unless a lot of effort is put into complete responsiveness/cross-browser support.
  • Inaccessibility. A web app cannot access phone's hardware in the same way a native app can.

Cons:

  • Experience. UX can be less than ideal on mobile, unless there is an emphasis on a “mobile first” design philosophy.
  • Design. If it’s not properly planned for, the UI can look ugly at certain sizes and on different browsers, unless a lot of effort is put into complete responsiveness/cross-browser support.
  • Inaccessibility. A web app cannot access phone's hardware in the same way a native app can.
 
 

Overall Takeaways

Native mobile apps will look great on their respective devices, and are the way to go for games or apps requiring lots of input from cameras or GPS. Just consider the fact you will most likely want to develop for both Android and iOS.

Meanwhile, web apps can look and feel like a mobile app and a desktop app. They are versatile and the way to go if your app has a large amount of data entry and is not intended to be 100% mobile use. It’s the “one app fits all” choice.

So there are some broad, high level advantages and disadvantages between native mobile and responsive web apps. These are more of technical constraints rather than what is best for a certain business model, but that is another topic unto itself.

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If you are interested in building an app, but need some advice or help to make it happen, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to hear about it.

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