Web apps are different from native apps in that they are built using languages and standards such as HTML5 and CSS3 web tech, rather than being programmed in a platform specific environment. Therefore, apps developed using web languages can run on pretty much any mobile platform via a standards-compliant web browser. On the other hand, native apps only work on the one platform they were programmed to work on.
So why build native mobile apps? There are several reasons, such the native app technology makes for a superior user experience and they are quicker and easier to access from the interface of most mobile devices. Often native apps are the option that companies should opt for if they are looking to build deeper relationships with existing client bases, but for companies looking to save money or looking to build a presence via mobile search, mobile web development is the right answer.
While we have talked of the advantages of native apps in several previous posts, lets examine the benefits of mobile web development for applications. One key advantage to web apps, is there’s no need to develop for a specific platform. Instead, apps will work on any device that offers a web browser. Additionally, native apps typically takes a bit longer to build than an equivalent web app would, this can be a benefit where timelines are critical.
One area where developing web apps has a pretty strong advantage is with updates. Typical mobile users update their apps very infrequently, therefore, the user base for a particular native app is spread across multiple versions usually. However, having an out-of-date web app is pretty close to impossible. It is a similar situation to loading a website on your desktop or laptop computer. Each time you load a site, you are loading the latest version (unless you have a version in your cache). If we updated the logo on our homepage, you wouldn’t have to go download an update to our web site, you would just see it the next time you visit.
One of the areas where native apps have a strong advantage is their ability to leverage the phone’s hardware seamlessly. Native apps can access your phone’s accelerometer, GPS and camera but, web apps can only access GPS in a limited capacity. Web apps can’t access your phone’s camera or even utilize photos you’ve already taken so a web developed app will certainly not be the right choice in situations where you require those features.