Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Mobile IoT, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Wearables

Mobile IoT: Article

Mobile Web Apps vs. Native Apps

Contrary to popular belief, the discussion doesn't need to produce a winner and a loser

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.

Contrary to popular belief, the discussion doesn't need to produce a winner and a loser. Instead of classifying apps as web apps or as native apps, why not just call them mobile apps? I believe "mobile app" is a great name. Under this name there are simply two variations of mobile app that can be created: web app and native app. A web app is an HTML5, JavaScript, CSS app running in a mobile browser. Now, you might wonder, why not just call this a mobile site? This is a fair point, and I believe the term "mobile site" can also be used. However, it is common to distinguish a mobile web app by one important extra feature, that it is invoking some remote services, usually a REST API (instead of just loading a static mobile web site). The second variation is the native app, one that is downloaded and installed on the mobile device.

It's important to note that a third variation of mobile app can also be created: a hybrid app. A hybrid mobile app takes an HTML mobile app and inserts it inside a native wrapper. While the inside of this app is made with HTML, JavaScript and CSS, the outside is a native shell. This kind of app is also downloaded and installed on a device. Although there are differences in how hybrid apps are implemented compared to native apps, most consumers can't tell native apps apart from hybrid apps. Hybrid apps are distributed in the app stores, just like native apps.

There are a number of important factors to consider when deciding whether to go with a mobile web app or a mobile native app.

Skills
Building native apps requires strong knowledge of Objective C (iOS), Java (Android), and C# (Windows Phone). Finding developers with the necessary experience is still not easy. On the other hand, we have been building web applications for the past 20 years. Even though building a mobile web app requires more specialized skills, the foundation is still HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. Finding strong developers should be easier in this case.

Platforms
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
Without a doubt, native apps have full access to the underlying mobile platform. Native apps are usually very fast and polished, making them great for high performance apps or games. Mobile web apps, on the other hand, have limited (but growing) access to device features and APIs. With JavaScript engines in the browsers getting faster, mobile web apps perform well but still fall behind native app 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.

Summary
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 mobile web app can produce a good user experience that is consistent across a broader range of platforms. As browser and JavaScript engines get faster with every release, the user experience gets better and better and the apps run faster and faster. Once created, this kind of app can be run on any platform, device, phone, or tablet with a browser. On the other hand, browsers on different platforms do not uniformly support all the latest HTML features and API, which can make developing and testing challenging.

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.

More Stories By Max Katz

Max Katz heads Developer Relations for Appery.io, a cloud-based mobile app platform. He loves trying out new and cool REST APIs in mobile apps. Max is the author of two books “Practical RichFaces” (Apress 2008, 2011), DZone MVB (Most Valuable Blogger), and is a frequent speaker at developer conferences. You can find out what Max is up to on his blog: http://maxkatz.org and Twitter: @maxkatz.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Dion Hinchcliffe is an internationally recognized digital expert, bestselling book author, frequent keynote speaker, analyst, futurist, and transformation expert based in Washington, DC. He is currently Chief Strategy Officer at the industry-leading digital strategy and online community solutions firm, 7Summits.
Digital Transformation is much more than a buzzword. The radical shift to digital mechanisms for almost every process is evident across all industries and verticals. This is often especially true in financial services, where the legacy environment is many times unable to keep up with the rapidly shifting demands of the consumer. The constant pressure to provide complete, omnichannel delivery of customer-facing solutions to meet both regulatory and customer demands is putting enormous pressure on...
IoT is rapidly becoming mainstream as more and more investments are made into the platforms and technology. As this movement continues to expand and gain momentum it creates a massive wall of noise that can be difficult to sift through. Unfortunately, this inevitably makes IoT less approachable for people to get started with and can hamper efforts to integrate this key technology into your own portfolio. There are so many connected products already in place today with many hundreds more on the h...
The standardization of container runtimes and images has sparked the creation of an almost overwhelming number of new open source projects that build on and otherwise work with these specifications. Of course, there's Kubernetes, which orchestrates and manages collections of containers. It was one of the first and best-known examples of projects that make containers truly useful for production use. However, more recently, the container ecosystem has truly exploded. A service mesh like Istio addr...
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Charles Araujo is an industry analyst, internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and author of The Quantum Age of IT: Why Everything You Know About IT is About to Change. As Principal Analyst with Intellyx, he writes, speaks and advises organizations on how to navigate through this time of disruption. He is also the founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation and a sought after keynote speaker. He has been a regular contributor to both InformationWeek and CIO Insight...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
To Really Work for Enterprises, MultiCloud Adoption Requires Far Better and Inclusive Cloud Monitoring and Cost Management … But How? Overwhelmingly, even as enterprises have adopted cloud computing and are expanding to multi-cloud computing, IT leaders remain concerned about how to monitor, manage and control costs across hybrid and multi-cloud deployments. It’s clear that traditional IT monitoring and management approaches, designed after all for on-premises data centers, are falling short in ...
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dynatrace is an application performance management software company with products for the information technology departments and digital business owners of medium and large businesses. Building the Future of Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence. Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more busine...