Native apps are standalone software installed directly onto a smartphone, like the “app store” mobile apps we’re accustomed to. These are developed for a single platform in their native programming language – Objective C (Apple iOS), Java (Android) or C# (Windows Phone).
Hybrid apps combine features of native apps and web apps in a way that might offer the best of both worlds in some cases. But first let’s take a closer look at the differences between those two primary categories. While the technology can be transparent to users, native apps and web apps each offer unique features and benefits.
The technology selected is a fundamental choice that will determine how your app is developed and how users interact with it. Selecting the wrong technology can be a costly mistake, resulting in inaccessibility or poor performance.
With advances in smartphone browsers and HTML5, the functional gap between mobile websites and native apps continues to close, and in some instances, it’s possible to develop a similar, feature-rich user experience using either approach. The landscape is changing daily, so it will be vital to keep up with the latest developments to make the best decisions in mobile app strategy going forward.
The good news is that once you’ve defined your business objectives, target audience, and technical requirements, the correct approach between native and web apps is usually an obvious choice. For instance, if you need an app for your sales force to use exclusively on their assigned iPads, then you might want to go for a native app. If your app is going to have a general consumer audience, the wide accessibility of a web app could make more sense.
Corporations with unlimited resources can offer both web app and native app options to ensure their applications offer optimal user experience and accessibility. Of course, not all organizations can afford this luxury. But there is a more economical way to have your cake and eat it too.
This increasingly popular option, as previously mentioned, is the hybrid mobile app. This means that the majority of an app is developed in reusable HTML5 web app technology, but it’s contained within a native app wrapper. This allows the app to utilize native app functionality and distribution and also reduces the development effort when creating versions for additional platforms.
It’s predicted the majority of mobile apps will be web apps in the future – but it’s important to remember there is no clear winner that works best in all cases. Native apps and web apps are just two different solutions. As technology evolves, this topic will continue to be the focus of much discussion and debate in mobile app strategy.