Web apps vs. native apps: How do they differ?

Web Apps vs Native Apps
What is a native application?

A native application is normally built specifically for a mobile device’s exclusive platform (Apples’ iOS, Google’s Android) and until recently was limited to that device’s native language (Java for Android and Objective C for Apple). Native apps can only be accessed by downloading the application directly to the device via the devices App store and are normally accessed by an icon on the phones home screen.

What is a web application?

A web based application is typically coded in a browser concentrated language such as HTML, shared with other technologies such as CSS and JavaScript. They are essentially websites that look and feel like native apps, but are not executed as such. They are accessed through the mobile device’s web browser, and don’t need to be downloaded or installed on the device.

What are the differences between web apps & native apps?

There are some core differences between native and web-based apps, being the technology, functionality and to some extent the overall look and feel of the applications.

Native apps:
  • Traditionally native apps required were required to be developed for each mobile platform (Android, iOS, Windows Mobile etc) using different programming languages. However, since the release of library’s such a apache’s Cordova (formally Phonegap) apps can now be written using the same languages as web apps (HTML5, javascript as CSS) meaning they only need to be written once and only one codebase needs to be maintained.
  • Are able to function without realtime internet connectivity.
  • Are more easily monetised by the developer by charging an app purchase or download fee.
  • The app store owner handles all financial transactions.
  • Apps can access the mobile devices hardware technology, i.e. gyroscope and camera etc.
  • Developers can push software and content updates to its users.
Web apps:
  • Runs within a mobile device’s web browser.
  • Since HTML5’s introduction of AppCache web apps are able to function without realtime internet connectivity.
  • Can only utilise the technology accessible within the mobile device’s browser.
  • Can be only be monetised by setting up a paywall or a subscription based structure, or alternatively by using online advertising such as Admob by Google or Inimob.

So there you have it, a quick summary of the core differences between web apps and native apps.

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