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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
  • You 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 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 and differences between native applications and hybrid web applications.

Native Applications

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

Pros

  • Hardware. Native mobile apps can directly 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 user experience, and the look-and-feel is a natural fit in either ecosystem
  • Performance. Because 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. Potentially two separate development efforts needed if customers want support for both Android and iOS devices. Depending on the complexity of the app, this can be costly
  • 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 and restrictions on content
  • App Versioning. Your app needs to stay up-to-date along with iOS and Android updates. Your app will need to be actively maintained in order to stay functional

Hybrid-Web Applications

Hybrid web applications are built using standard web technologies—think HTML, CSS, and JavaScript—and then bundled into an app installation package. They can be viewed and used on both mobile and desktop from a single source, making them a more versatile choice.

Pros

  • Cost Effective. One shared code base covers both mobile and desktop, reducing development effort
  • Design. With a well-crafted design that accounts for responsiveness, a site can look great on both devices and 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

  • Experience. User experience can be less than ideal on mobile, unless there is an emphasis on a “mobile first” design philosophy
  • Design. A lot of effort is put into complete responsiveness and cross-browser support
  • Inaccessibility. A web app cannot access a device’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 utilizing hardware like the camera 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 both 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 or is not intended to be 100% mobile use. It’s the “one app fits all” choice.


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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