Native App vs Web App What Should You Build For Your Startup?

One of the first decisions that you’ll have to make is choosing your product’s platform. Nowadays you have two options, a native application or a web application. There are pros and cons for each platform. Your target audience, product features, and your ideal user are all factors when determining what you need to build.

Native Applications

Native applications are apps that are installed to the phone. You usually have to install these through the phone’s App Store. iPhones and iPads use the Apple App Store. Google uses the Google Play Store. To make a native app, a developer must code in the phone’s coding language. Generally code developed for an iPhone cannot be used for an Android. Native apps also have limitations on the features you may want to access. For instance iPhone programmers cannot change a phone’s lock screen.

Web Applications

Web apps are apps that live on the web. Users don’t need to install web applications. They can just visit the application’s website and use it immediately. Web apps use web technologies such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and backend services. Backend services manage the applications data such as user profiles. Web apps can run on phones and desktops with minimal effort. Usually web apps are built mobile first. The app scales as the screen gets bigger.

Native App Pros

Use A Phone’s Core Features
If your product has a feature that needs access to the core hardware or core software, go native. This means if you need to use microphone, accelerometer, or camera, you’ll need to go native. There are also software limitations. These allow you to access a user’s contacts, photos, and phone attributes.

Better User Experience
Native applications have direct access to the the phone’s graphics engine. Your app can use dynamic animations and unique layouts without sacrificing performance. Generally native apps look and feel better than web apps.

Phone Real Estate
When a user downloads your product. That product lives on their phone until they delete it. You can send direct messages to your users via push notifications to raise engagement. Your users are more likely to use your app when it’s on their home screen.

Users prefer using a phone over a computer
Users spend countless hours on their phone. Chances are if your application gives them a solid mobile experience they’ll be more apt to use it.

Native Ads
If you build a native product you’ll have access to the native ad networks. These ad networks and add languages allow developed to build ads into your app. The ad networks are then tailored to your audience. This increases the likelihood of users tapping an app. When this happens, you get paid.

Native App Cons

Increased Complexity
Native apps can be difficult to build. Each platform uses a different programming language. You will need a team for each platform. Each have different requirements to launch and maintain your app in its specific store. Apple and Google change their platform at least once a year. To stay competitive you’ll need to update your application.

Updates can take days
There is a review process every time you deploy an application to Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store. The reviewers are a team of quality assurance specialists. They ensure that the application meets the quality standards for their store. This process can take up to 1 weeks. This happens every time you need to make a change to the app.

Web App Pros

Build Once Launch Everyone
As long as your web app is responsive, you can run it on any device. All your user needs is a web browser and your web app is on thousands of devices.

Easier to build, test, and maintain
With a solid development team, you can release new features every day. Unlike native mobile apps, there is no waiting time to deploy. There are also no content guidelines. You can add features fast.

Hire less developers
Your team needs to know one technology stack. You won’t need a team for each platform, instead you can focus on one team to build your product. You can do more with a small team especially when focused on delivering one product.

Web App Cons

Limited access to core phone features
Web apps can’t access a phone’s core hardware or software. If you wanted to access a user’s contacts or the phone’s camera you couldn’t. You also can’t access the phone’s graphic engine. This means that if you add heavy animations your apps performance will suffer.

Supporting multiple browsers
Launching your app everyone is great. Then you realize that you need to support many major browsers. That means your team has to write specific code for each browser. This could increase development time and cause your users to experience bugs.

No application discovery platform
Native apps live on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Web apps have no app discovery service. That means it’s up to you to get your web app out to your audience. You can use services like BetaList or Product Hunt to help with your marketing efforts

What should you use?

Use the right tool for the job. Building startups can be complex. Weighing the pros and cons will allow you to chose a platform that will grow your business. If you still need help we can go over your app idea we can help you with that.

Author avatar
Ken Vermeille
The founder and CEO of Vermillion Sky. Ken Vermeille has 15 years of experience in product design and development. Creating his first website at 12 years old, he continues to build his talents by leveraging his ability to learn and implement any technology. In the past he's worked on mobile and web apps, video games, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, business model generation, and anything to keep Vermillion Sky at the cutting edge of product design and development.