The touch-screen revolution – mobile web apps vs native apps

What is an “App”

App is short for application – An app is a specialised program that can be downloaded onto or used from the internet on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or a tablet (or even a modern laptop). (Gray. D, 2014)

So what is the difference between a ‘mobile web app’ and a ‘native app’?

Mobile Web App – This is an internet enabled application that has specific functionality for a device such as a tablet or smartphone. It can only be accessed through a phones web-browser (which for an iPhone would be ‘Safari’) and therefore does not need to be downloaded and stored on the device. (Viswanathan. P, 2015)

Native App – This is an application that has to be downloaded onto the device, usually downloaded from an ‘app store’ (Viswanathan. P, 2015). They can be charged for or they can be made free for download but either way they are stored on the devices memory.

Facebook is an example of a company that has both a web app and a native app, the picture below shows them both side by side:

(Mudge, 2012)

As you can see there is very little difference keeping the look as consistent as possible.


‘Mobile Web Apps’


  • “Mobile applications that only require a native interface and content consumption are suitable substitutes for native applications”. (Jobe. W, 2013)
  • They have a common code base across all platforms such as Java or HTML5 (JT Mudge, 2012) – this helps developers as it keeps things relatively easy for development and maintenance (if you know the code).
  • No app store that must give the app approval to be available for download.


  • “Mobile web applications that require hardware interaction such as using the GPS, GPU, or camera are not yet viable alternatives for native applications” as they do not perform well. (Jobe. W, 2013). So basically they have a very limited ability to interact with many of the features on the phone.
  • Having to support multiple different browsers for different devices can result in higher costs.
  • There can certainly be performance related issues with web apps as well because they rely on a good internet connection which people don’t necessarily have all the time. (Lionbridge, 2015)


‘Native Apps’


  • Native apps perform better than web based apps because they function in harmony with the devices built in features (Viswanathan. P, 2015)
  • Any applications downloaded from the ‘Google Play’ Android or iPhone app store will be safe for the phone as they are rigorously tested.
  • Native apps can be updated regularly so they constantly keep improving.


  • Much more expensive to develop than web apps because they have to be designed for multiple different platforms i.e. iOS and Android where as web based apps as mentioned can be compatible across multiple platforms.
  • This also means that app maintenance and upgrading is more costly for companies.
  • “Content publishers have to share information about their subscribers with the app store, an arrangement that frustrates publishers (particularly media companies)”. (Lionbridge, 2015)



Clearly native apps are the best choice if the application is hardware intensive (Jobe. W, 2013). However if a company is looking to save costs and the app doesn’t need to depend on phone hardware then perhaps creating a web-based app would be more beneficial because of it’s cross-functionality across multiple platforms.



Gray, D. 2014, “Smartphone Apps”, Professional safety, vol. 59, no. 6, pp. 46.

Jobe, W., Stockholms universitet, Institutionen för data- och systemvetenskap & Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten 2013, “Native Apps Vs. Mobile Web Apps”, International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies (iJIM), vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 27.

JT Mudge. (2012). Native App vs. Mobile Web App: A Quick Comparison.Available: Last accessed 26th May 2015.

Lionbridge. (2015). Mobile Web Apps vs. Mobile Native Apps: How to Make the Right Choice. Available: Last accessed 26th May 2015.

Priya Viswanathan. (2015). Native Apps vs. Web Apps – What is the Better Choice?. Available: Last accessed 26th May 2015.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *