Native App vs. Mobile Web App: Definition
First, let's define what we mean in this article when we say "native app (NA)" and "mobile web app (MWA)".
What is a Native App?
A NA is an app for a certain mobile device (smartphone, tablet, etc.) They're installed directly onto the device. Users typically acquire these apps through an online store or marketplace such as the App Store or Android Apps on Google Play.
Examples of NA are Camera + for iOS devices and KeePassDroid for Android devices.
What is a Mobile Web App?
When we talk about MWA in this article, we're referring to Internet-enabled apps that have specific functionality for mobile devices. They're accessed through the mobile device's web browser (ie on the iPhone, this is Safari by default) and they're not need to be downloaded and installed on the device.
Comparison of Native App vs. Mobile Web App
Let's do a quick rundown and evaluate NA versus MWA under these factors:
- User interface
- Method of delivery
- Versioning of the app
- User Interface
Some companies choose to develop both a NA and a MWA. Here's a side-by-side look at Facebook's NA and MWA:
Native App vs. Mobile Web App: How Do You Choose?
To help you decide how you should build your mobile app, ask yourself these questions:
- Does the mobile app require the use of any special device features (ie, camera, the camera's flash, accelerometer, etc.)?
- What's my budget?
- Does the mobile app need to be Internet-enabled?
- Do I need to target all mobile devices or just certain devices?
- What programming languages do I already know?
- How important is speed and performance?
- How will this app be monetized effectively?
Answering these questions can help you make an informed decision.
Whether you decide to build a native app or a mobile web app depends on many factors: business objectives, target audience, technical requirements and so on.
You do not need to have to choose between building a NA or a MWA. As mentioned earlier, companies like Facebook maintain both NA and a MWA. However, for many of us, budget and resource constraints will require us to decide if we need to build a NA or a MWA (or at least, will require us to prioritize which one to develop first).