“Should we build a native app or a mobile web app?”, is typically the first question asked when starting the journey into mobile application development. This overview is dedicated to helping you answer that question. Let’s take a look at your choices.
Pure Native Applications
This method of development is built specifically for a single platform like iOS, Android, or Windows. When creating a native application, you will have multiple code bases for each of the operating systems you target.
In most cases, there is a cloud or on-site infrastructure that supports the mobile application. This infrastructure layer can be obfuscated with web services to service all clients with a single code base.
Pure Native Applications are best when:
- You need direct access to the latest features available on a targeted mobile device.
- Intuitive debugging tools are desired. Better debugging tools speed up the development process, especially when working with more complex applications.
- You want to provide the ultimate user experience.
Pure Native Application weaknesses:
- Simply stated, costs. Developing for one targeted platform is very costly, from both feature development and maintenance standpoints.
Cross-Platform Native Application Development
Cross-platform application development can take on two forms: hybrid (or wrapped) applications and cross-platform development languages.
Hybrid (a.k.a. Wrapped) Applications
This approach encapsulates the mobile app’s views using a technology like Cordova. Cordova and other platforms allow you to access the core native operating system to take advantage of features like push notifications while allowing you to incorporate web-based mobile views.
Hybrid/Wrapped Applications are best when:
- You have a per-existing mobile web application.
Hybrid/Wrapped Application weaknesses:
- Not a true platform experience.
- Feels like a web page trapped in an Apps body.
Cross-Platform Development Languages
Cross-device development platforms like React Native or Xamarin allow you to use a common development language across all devices and compile everything, including the views, into native code. Having a single development language across all devices reduces maintenance costs and are more performant than wrapped applications.
Cross-Platform Development Languages are best when:
- You would like your application to be downloadable through the app stores.
- You would like to have a complete native experience.
- You need API access to all platforms.
- You are targeting multiple devices or platforms.
Cross-Platform Development Language weaknesses:
- Custom code needed for native APIs not yet in the React Component Library.
- Can consume more CPU, GPU and Memory than a Native App.
Mobile Web Application
During the development of a mobile optimized version of your application, it’s critical to execute your project with the architecture of your existing app in mind. This is to ensure a holistic development effort. Your clientele will be greeted with something familiar when visiting your web-based mobile application, but without taking the desktop and tablet experience into consideration, your application’s users may be confused by any non-native appearance and navigation, ultimately undermining the experience and not generating the traction or revenue expected.
Achieving the goals of this holistic approach is accomplished by using a responsive web user experience. A responsive web user experience ensures your site content is optimal and user-friendly across all device display screens, from desktops to tablets to mobile devices. Typically a framework like Bootstrap or Foundation is used to achieve these results.
Web Applications are best when:
- Your application is internal to a single company.
- You don’t need native API access.
- You need to deliver the application to multiple platforms.
- You want to provide instant updates to the app.
- Your users are accustomed to accessing your application through a browser.
Web Application weaknesses:
- No native API integration.
- Not available through the app stores.
The answer to the question “should we build a native application or a mobile web application” is:
If you are targeting multiple platforms and do not need a presence in an app store, then mobile web applications tend to be best; however, if you need access to the device hardware and app store presence to drive user engagement, then native or cross-platform is the way to go.
If you have more questions, we have the answers. Check out our Custom Mobile Application Development services and see how we simplified the process in order to take the guess work out of your mobile application development project.
If you are ready to engage your clients with a truly unique mobile experience, contact us today.