Web App vs. Native App: The Agony of Choice
The Agony of Choice
The app concept is profound, its intended content is of a steady-state. Now it is all about the mobile marketing. Even before approaching the first phase of app development, one important technical question comes up: Which approach is the better choice for my product? Web app or native app? First off: An „one-size-fits-all“-solution does not exist. And thus, the second insight follows at once: Deciding for one kind or another depends on several factors such as target group, purpose, or budget. And: To make the right choice is not as hard as it seems - As long as the approaches including their strengths and weaknesses have been recognized and understood.
Web App – The Website with App-Feeling
Native App – The "real" App with full Access
In comparison to web apps, native apps are especially programmed for one particular operating system which only function on the certain software-platform. Via a distribution network such as the Apple iTunes store, they can be installed on the terminal device and be retrieved via an icon on the homescreen. Native apps have the advantage that they have access to all APIs and thus can efficiently and completely use all hardware functions such as bluetooth or push notifications. Furthermore, for the user familiar surficial elements can be used so that the app dovetails better within the overall image of the particular operating system. Because native apps, as fast installed programmes, do not depend on a permament internet connection, they convince with a better performance and offline functionality. This optimated adjustment to each operating system however, can also be interpreted as a disadvantage. It is difficult to adapt a native app to other systems and thus has mostly to be edited completely in the coding language of the particular operating system. But not only the development also the maintenance is complex. Native apps depend on app stores as a distribution platform. Instead of simply uploading updates and supplements on the server, these changes must undergo a certification process and need to be approved of the app store, before they can be installed by the users. Exceptions are apps for android.
To sum it up, web and native apps can hardly be distinguished by their users. Well executed, the look & feel of both approaches are equally authentic. Nevertheless, web and native apps have their strengths and weaknesses. The decision for one approach or another has to be weighted individually. Native apps should be prefered when complex user interfaces or high performance are necessary and when the use of special hardware functions shall be enabled. The integration of, for example 3D animations or videogames, mostly require a native app. If these points are less relevant, the development of a cross-platform web app is recommended. They convince with faster development time, less development costs, and the possibility of more frequent and faster updates.