Native App vs Web App: The Ultimate Showdown

Michelle Lawrence Picture

by Michelle Lawrence | Last Updated: Aug 5, 2020

It’s the time you’ve been waiting for...the epic native app vs web app face-off. Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses, but only one can rise above to become the true mobile champion. This will be the showdown of the decade, with a few surprises along the way. So grab a snack and find your seats...the fight’s about to begin. 🥊 Native Mobile Apps It’s safe to say we’re all familiar with native mobile apps; smartphone owners have been using native mobile apps for more than 10 years. Native mobile apps are mobile experiences downloaded from the app store that take advantage of device hardware (think camera, push notifications, geolocation, etc.). Some native app examples include YouTube (Android/iOS) and Amazon (Android/iOS). While native mobile apps have high engagement rates, downloads are falling faster than the plans we made for 2020 - two-thirds of users have not downloaded a native mobile app in more than a month. It just goes to show you while native mobile apps are the most widely known, it doesn’t mean they’re the fan-favorite. I’m afraid things continue to go downhill for native mobile apps - the disadvantages of native app development are starting to add up quickly. First, native mobile apps can’t be built in a’re looking at close to a year for development. Unfortunately, the bad news does not end there. If you want your mobile app to work on both Android and iOS (why wouldn’t you?), you’ll need to build separately. It seems like native mobile apps have taken a few hits during this round. Web Apps Entering the ring next are web apps. Web apps act like mobile apps but are essentially just web pages. They can even be saved onto users’ home screens. Because they are accessed over a web page, there’s no need to develop them separately for Android and iOS. You might even use some of the best examples of web apps - common web app examples include email clients and Google Docs. But just when you thought web apps had this fight in the bag, two more contenders just entered the ring. Will this change the standings from the previous round? Let’s see how these players measure up. Hybrid Apps  Maybe choosing a winner between a native or web app proved to be more difficult than anticipated. If you wished there was an option that combined these two, hybrid apps might grant your wish - hybrid apps are a cross between native mobile apps and web apps. When we look at a native vs hybrid app comparison, hybrid apps are still technically considered native mobile apps, since they utilize hardware components of the phone. A few hybrid app examples include Yelp (Android/iOS) and Khan Academy (Android/iOS). The main difference between a hybrid and native app is that a hybrid app’s shell is a web browser, which doesn’t make for a great user experience. Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) The fourth and final contender in our mobile experience showdown are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). PWAs are a mobile experience that’s hosted behind a URL. If at this point you’re thinking PWAs sound exactly like a web app, hold on. Thanks to service workers and the web app manifest, PWAs integrate with native functionalities like offline caching, push notifications, and geolocation. Plus you can save them to your home screen. One of our favorite examples of PWAs is the Starbucks’ PWA (plus if you already have their native app on your phone, you can compare which one is faster). PWAs can be downloaded and accessed in a variety of ways. Users can text, scan a QR code, tap a Near-field communication (NFC) chip, or simply click on a link to access the mobile experience. And we haven’t even gotten to the best part. Not only are PWAs typically less expensive to build, but they also drive higher results than native mobile apps. Forbes had 100 percent more engagement on their mobile platform. I think it’s pretty clear who our ultimate mobile champion is - PWAs. And why shouldn’t they be? They’re built with the ultimate user experience in mind. Want to learn more about PWAs? Hear the ‘father of PWAs’, Alex Russell, discuss how PWAs are fundamentally changing the mobile web.

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