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The important differences between native and web apps

June 16, 2022

So you’ve decided you want an app? Great!

Now, the question is what kind. Generally speaking, apps (or applications, if you’re feeling fancy) are divided into native apps and web apps;

Native apps are apps that get downloaded to your phone through an app store, whereas web apps are accessed by typing in a URL or having a bookmark in the phone’s browser.

Still unsure? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons:

Native apps

  • First and foremost, the “feel” of a native app is typically better, as it is possible to do a whole lot more to make the user interface pleasant when designing and developing the app. Consumers today are used to, and expecting, pixel perfect and smooth designs, which is only really possible to achieve with a native app.
  • Native apps have come to be the app archetype; when people think of an app, they think of the icons on the phone’s home screen i.e. the native app
  • Native apps are typically faster than web apps and work with and without an internet connection (to some extent).
  • Native apps have the option to access other parts of your phone, such as GPS, camera, calendar, you name it, and it can perform certain tasks with that data (e.g. wayfinding). While progressive web apps to some extent support this, generally such possibilities are native app territory.
  • Native apps have to be approved by the app store, which generally means they have more safety and security.
  • Getting into a native app is typically faster and easier, as it is available on the home screen and provides a quicker and simpler login experience.
  • Native apps have to be approved by the app store. The observant reader might’ve realized we considered that an advantage, too. Because, while it’s great to have the app stores' seal of approval, getting it can be a hassle.
  • Native apps are installed onto the device, which means they are developed especially for that operating system. This means a native iOS app won’t work on an Android device and vice versa. While it might appear to be the same app (think Twitter) really, it’s two different ones made to look exactly alike.
  • Native apps can be more expensive to develop than web apps, especially if doing a custom build.
  • Having both an app for iOS and Android means it’s twice the maintenance and updating, which again, can be expensive.

Web apps

  • Web apps don't need to be installed or downloaded as they function in-browser.
  • Web apps are generally easier to maintain and will update themselves automatically, which means they’re always up to date with the latest version.
  • They are, at times, quicker and easier to build (depending on complexity, naturally), which can result in them being cheaper.
  • Web apps don’t need the seal of approval from the app store, which makes launch quicker.
  • When consumers think of apps, they typically don't think of web apps. Consider, when's the last time you made a bookmark of a web app on your home screen? If you can't recall, then you're probably like most consumers, who simply don't do this, and instead use native apps downloaded from the app store.
  • Technically speaking, a web app is just a user-friendly website, which looks better on your phone than a typical website.
  • As web apps aren’t downloaded and don’t have a lot of code which allows them to function on the phone, it loads through the browser, which means that (unless talking about a thoroughly implemented progressive web app), if there’s no internet, they don't work. At all.
  • Web apps are generally less advanced when it comes to features and work slower, which can often lead to a worse user experience.
  • It can be hard for users to find them as they’re not in the app store, which is many people’s usual go-to place.
  • As web apps don’t need to be approved by an app store, the quality and security of web apps can’t be guaranteed.

So, what type of app should you choose?

Well, it depends.

For a low cost, quick development time and the convenience of automatic updates, web app could be the way to go. That being said, if you are looking for a great user experience, better options on the look and feel, what it should contain and overall flexibility, native app is the one for you.

Naturally, a custom native app built to fit both iOS and Android, can be more expensive to develop and continually update. An option might therefore be to go with software as a service (SaaS) that delivers an already functioning, customizable app for you. That way, you pay a set price every e.g. year, instead of having to pay continuously as updating and developing is needed.

Read more about the reason why we argue SaaS is the right choice when getting a loyalty app for your shopping center here.

And, if you're looking for a loyalty app specifically, the perk of a native app that's readily available in the app store and as an icon on the phone's home screen, is especially important. That's because the more you can tap into your customers' typical behavior, the easier it will be to get consumers to use your app.

We hope that this gave you a better idea of, what might be the right solution for you.

If you're interested in learning more about the possibilities with Emplate's loyalty app, book a demo below.

And, if you're interested in reading more about loyalty apps and customization, read this article: How Malls Customize Consumer Apps.

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