And now a word from our technical side…
Mobile Apps: Native, Web and Hybrid
There are three different types of mobile applications and each has its own positives and negatives. There is a lot to consider when designing and developing a mobile application. While all types perform similar functions, they are quite different in development.
Mobile Web Apps
Web mobile applications are software programs that run directly from the web browser on mobile phones and tablets. These web-based mobile apps do not get installed on your handheld mobile device and are run on web-hosted servers. Users access them as they would access any web page: they navigate to a special URL and then have the option of “installing” them on their home screen by creating a bookmark to that page.
Web apps became really popular when HTML5 came around and people realized that they can obtain native-like functionality in the browser. As more and more sites use HTML5, the distinction between web apps and regular web pages has become blurry.
The downside is that web apps cannot take advantage of any of the device features, run slightly slower than native apps, cannot download from the app store and are dependent on the browser. But the positives of a web app are that they can share code with some enterprise-level web apps and are cheaper to build than a native or hybrid app.
Native apps are installed through an application store (such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store). They live on the device and are accessed through icons on the device home screen. They are developed specifically for one platform, and can take full advantage of all the device features including the camera, the GPS, the accelerometer, the compass, the list of contacts, and so on.
Native mobile applications make optimum use of the hardware of your handheld device and can typically handle complex functions, which a web mobile application might not be able to do. They can use the device’s notification system and can work offline. Native mobile applications are the ones that run directly from your handheld device.
Native apps are expensive to build, which can be a negative. But native apps have complete access to all phone device features and run a lot faster than both web and hybrid apps.
Hybrid apps are part native apps, part web apps. (Because of that, many people incorrectly call them “web apps”). Hybrid apps are popular because they allow crossplatform development which significantly reduces development costs. Often, companies build hybrid apps as wrappers for an existing web page; in that way, they hope to get a presence in the app store, without spending significant effort for developing a different app.
Like native apps, hybrid apps live in an app store and can take advantage of the many device features available, but not all. Like web apps, they rely on HTML being rendered in a browser, with the caveat that the browser is embedded within the app.
Hybrid apps run slower than native apps, sometimes look more like a web application and won’t have access to all device features, but they give access to some device features that you cannot get from a web app. The cost to create a hybrid app falls between the price point of a web app and a native app.