Web App vs. Native App: Pros and Cons

Take an easy look at the advantages and disadvantages

Hand pressing button on touchscreen to access lots of computer functions
Gregory Baldwin / Getty Images

Many companies choose to offer both native apps and web apps to their customers, but which is best?

Below is more information on the strengths and weaknesses of native apps and web apps, so that you can choose which to offer your customers or which to use yourself.

Native Apps: Pros and Cons

A native app is stored on the device itself, and while most people are more familiar with browsing and downloading native apps, the developer can't guarantee that every user is using the same version of the app at all times.

Pros:

  • Since native apps work with the device’s built-in features — like the camera, microphone, location services, etc. — they're easier to work with and perform faster on the device.
  • Native apps get full support from app stores and marketplaces. Users can easily find and download apps of their choice from these stores.
  • Because native apps have to get the approval of the app store they are intended for, the user can be assured that the app is secure and fully compatible with their device.
  • Native apps work out better for developers, who are provided the SDK and all other tools to create the app with much more ease.

Cons:

  • Native apps tend to be a more expensive proposition to the developer. This is especially the case for developers who would like their app to be compatible with multiple mobile devices and platforms.
  • The cost of app maintenance and app updating is higher for native apps, especially if the app supports more than one mobile platform.
  • The process of getting a native app approved on an app store can prove to be long and tedious for the developer and doesn't always result in success.
  • Users of different mobile devices might be using different versions of the app, which makes it difficult not only for the developer to maintain and offer support, but for the users to effectively communicate, play games, etc. with other users of the app.

Web Apps: Pros and Cons

Compared to native apps, web apps are far easier to use because anyone can access them online at any time, and they're always up to date. However, web apps aren't as easy to find because there isn't a centralized store of web apps for all mobile devices.

Pros:

  • Web apps are much easier to maintain because they have a common code base across multiple mobile platforms.
  • Web apps can be manipulated so as to be made compatible with any older mobile device.
  • Web apps do not require developers to submit their app to any app store for approval. Of course, the Apple App Store does feature a list of web apps.
  • Since web apps don't need to be approved by the app marketplace, they can be released at any time and in any form, as per the developer’s preferences.
  • Users don't need to both with visiting an app store to download or update web apps since the newest version is always what loads when a user accesses a web app.

Cons:

  • Mobile web apps have only limited scope as far as accessing a device’s features.
  • Web apps that support multiple mobile browsers can prove to be an expensive proposition for developers because it raises the costs of developing and maintaining them.
  • Different users work with different mobile browsers. This can make it difficult for you to maintain a record of their usage patterns and also provide support for all of them.
  • Users might find it difficult to discover a web app since it isn't systematically listed in any app store.
  • Since there isn't a regularized quality control system for web apps, users might not always be guaranteed safety and security of the app.

Should You Build a Native App or Web App?

In order to decide if you want to develop a native app of web app, you need to consider the following points:

  • How important speed and performance would be, to you
  • If you would like your app to include any device-specific features
  • If you want your app to be internet-enabled
  • If you want your app to support multiple mobile platforms and devices, and if yes, how many
  • Your budget vs. the estimated cost of developing your app
  • If you'd like to monetize your app in the future