Web Apps vs. Native Apps: What's the Difference?

Are you curious about the difference between web apps and native apps? Here’s what developers should know about each type.
Austin Betzer
Posted on
August 6, 2021
Minute Read

If you’re considering developing a mobile or web application, there are a few things that you need to understand about different app types. Specifically, you need to understand the differences between web apps and native apps and what said differences would ultimately mean for your app development process as a whole. If you’d like to find out even more about the app development process, please feel free to check out the fantastic services and resources provided by Strides today.

Related: What does the app build process look like from beginning to end?

What is a Web App?

A screenshot of the App page of the Google Play store.

Web apps, in short, are not real applications. They are websites that tend to run and look like native apps, though they are not implemented in the same way. Web apps run through browsers and are typically written in HTML, allowing them to be accessed by users much like they would an ordinary web page by navigating to a specific URL. Once the URL is reached, users are then given the option to download or install them onto their home screen, usually by creating a page bookmark from their browser. Because so many websites are built from HTML5, the specific distinction between web apps and native apps is becoming increasingly blurred. Still, a key difference is that web apps require internet access to function, and their operating speeds are dependent on the quality of that connection.

Benefits of Web Apps

Web apps provide several distinct benefits for users, but the two most important ones that developers should be aware of include cross-platform compatibility and easier access to system updates. 

Cross-Platform Compatibility

The cross-platform compatibility benefit of web applications means, in short, that once the app is developed, it can work almost anywhere and be utilized across a range of different devices. This compatibility means that users will typically receive a generally consistent experience across all sorts of mobile devices on which the web app is used. Additionally, web apps tend to offer developers several cost and time-saving opportunities due to this factor, which ensures that its code should operate successfully on all sorts of mobile browsers. This cross-compatibility means that these apps will be completely reusable from platform to platform without requiring any significant changes to their coding.

Easier Updates

The second primary benefit of web applications is that app updates are much more easily and quickly accessible than natural apps. If a developer finds and fixes a bug in the app, all they have to do is update the web server on which the app is running, and all users will automatically receive the update the next time they access the app. This process is much easier and less time-consuming than the process it takes to update natural apps, which require new developers to build new versions of the app for each platform and then submit them to the app store.

Are you on the search for an app development team that can help turn your app ideas into usable applications in record time? Check out the top-quality services offered by the experts at Strides today to find out more about what they can do for you.

What is a Native App?

A mobile phone screen displaying several native app icons, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

A native app is, in essence, what people tend to think of when the word “app” is used. It refers to applications that can be downloaded directly onto a smartphone from Google Play or the Apple App Store and, in most cases, can work without the need for direct internet connectivity. One of the most essential things for developers to note about native apps is that they are specifically developed for use on a single platform, and they can take full advantage of said platform’s features. For example, these apps can work much faster by tapping into the device’s processor power and accessing elements of the device’s software and hardware, such as GPS. In some smartphones and native apps, the app itself can become a controller for other devices. Additionally, native apps also have access to the device’s built-in notification system, unlike web applications.

Related: Build an app for your customers, not yourself

Benefits of Native Apps

Like web applications, native apps also come with a range of significant benefits that developers should consider before determining which type of app they would like to construct. The most notable of these benefits include enhanced offline performance, better and more direct access to specific device features, and improved user interface performance, or “feel” of the application.

Enhanced Offline Performance

One of the most inherent benefits of native apps is that they can typically operate without an internet connection and do not require fast or robust internet connectivity to run quickly and effectively. This is because native apps are built with code that requires them to function on the user’s device as opposed to web apps, which need to load through a web browser every time users access them.

Access to Device Features

Another benefit is that native apps can directly interact with other software and hardware on your device, which browser-based apps cannot do. For example, native applications can request and be granted quick access to your phone’s camera, calendar events, contact list, and much more. So, depending on what a specific developer wants their app to do, they may be automatically required to construct a native app rather than a web-based app.

Related: UI vs. UX: Beginner's Guide to Better Design

Enhanced User Interface Performance and App “Feel”

The final benefit of native apps regards their general user interface and performance, which can otherwise be thought of as the “feel” of the app. Native apps generally feature elements like smoother transitions between screens, animated interface elements, slide-out menus, and more. These elements tend to run much more smoothly when built directly into the code of native apps because they don’t require the fast or solid internet connectivity that web applications need to function effectively.

Do you need the services of a fantastic app developing team to help you design, build, and launch your app idea in record time? Check out the stellar services offered by the experts at Strides today to find out more.

Austin Betzer
My only passion is helping others solve meaningful real-world problems. I will continue to do just that!

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