|By Max Katz
|November 26, 2012 09:00 AM EST
Web Apps vs. Native Apps is a topic that still excites readers to this day, as if it were anticipated that one side will win and the other will lose.
There are a number of important factors to consider when deciding whether to go with a mobile web app or a mobile native app.
With native development, the number of apps you need to build directly relates to the number of platforms you need to support. Today, most companies must support at least iOS, Android, and probably Windows 8/Phone, followed distantly by BlackBerry. A mobile web app can be opened on any device with a browser, phone, tablet, or anything in between. Even though the notion of "build once, run anywhere" sounds very nice, differences in mobile browsers and their support for the latest HTML5 features will require extensive testing and possibly coming up with workarounds(unless, of course, it's OK for your app not to support all the browsers.)
Features and Performance
The extra jolt of performance that dominates natively developed apps is not always necessary. Many business applications do not necessarily require such high levels of performance. In these cases, web and hybrid apps are more cost-effective, efficient, and dynamic due to API adaptability. On the other hand, games that require more advanced performance features should utilize native development.
Publishing to App Stores and Updating Apps
Regardless of the platform, native and hybrid apps are published to an app store. Apple has the strictest rules for accepting apps into its store. It requires the app to run fast and follow some basic UI principles. It could take anywhere from one to two weeks for Apple to either accept or reject an app.
Apple's stringency in App Store acceptance is contended by Google's somewhat more lenient rules, which don't necessarily adhere to the same rigid standards, and therefore accept apps more readily into its Google Play marketplace. Windows, on the other hand, takes a more "middle-of-the-road" approach when it comes to app acceptance. For whichever platform, any updates to native apps would fall under the same rules and regulations.
A mobile web app doesn't need to be published to any store, because it is simply accessed by its URL in the browser or an app icon/bookmark on the phone home screen. App updates are very simple as well. Just push any changes, and the next time the app is opened, the user will get all the new features.
A native mobile app can produce the best user experience - fast and fluid, can give you the best access to device features, and can be discovered in the app stores. On the other hand, building a native app on every major platform requires more socialized skills, a longer time-to-market, and a bigger budget to build and maintain. For this reason many apps get built as web apps or hybrid apps.
A hybrid app offers many of the advantages of both approaches: discoverability in the app stores, access to the most common device APIs, and broad device coverage while not requiring the specialized skills, bigger budgets and longer time-to-market that are more typical of fully native apps.
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