Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Native apps vs. web apps: the difference explained

Tech advances pretty quickly these days. It's hard to keep up, we know. New mobile devices come flying at us before we've even had chance to figure out the most stylish and functional case to keep our last one in. One thing that bemuses a number of people is the difference between native apps and web apps. Allow us to break it down for you.
Native and web apps

What's a Native App?
Remember Snake? That's a native app. It was pretty cool, right? But if you didn't have a Nokia, it was a no-go. Native apps are coded for specific devices. They're designed to run on a singular operating system and device.

“But I've got Angry Birds on my iPhone, and my buddy's got it on her Kindle Fire!” we hear you cry. It's okay. We believe you. But the developers of Angry Birds have had to code it differently for each device. Think of it as translating Lolita from English to Russian, but less controversial.

Native apps are downloaded and installed directly onto a device (or it comes installed on your jazzy new smartphone). This is what allows push notifications and makes the app quicker to launch and run. And, because it's installed on your device, you don't need an internet connection to use it. (Unless you want to play online or update it.)

What's a Web App?
A web app is an app that's accessed via your device's browser. They're coded in browser-based languages, such as HTML and Javascript, which means they can run on any device with an up-to-date browser installed. No need to create different versions for each type of device.

Of course, because they're web-based, this means you can only use them while you're connected to the interwebz – but that's not really a problem for people with their 3G-happy smartphones.

Which is Better?
Native apps take longer to develop and it costs more to do so, but they generally offer the user a superior, smoother experience. Native apps have faster loading times and the ability to use the hardware on your device, such as the camera, GPS and accelerometer (which is a real thing, promise). Naturally, they're easy to find too – just head to your favourite app store.

On the other hand, web apps are great for developers because they don't need to be altered for different devices. They're also responsive and can work across different screen sizes, unlike native apps that need to be tweaked for each different model.

Web and Native Tablet apps
We're guessing native app developers weren't too happy at the announcement of the iPad Mini. We can just hear them now: “Oh man! Another budget increase!” Wait, scrap that. The developers were probably very happy. The people hiring them were probably not.

Web apps win on the updates front, given that, er – they don't need updating. You just go to the website and, of course, the latest version is sat there waiting for you. Same as any website you visit on your laptop. But then, web apps can't access any hardware (except GPS, and even then in a limited capacity). So it's a bit of a toss-up.

Tech advances could mean web apps take the lead in the future, though. Hark back to when you used to use desktop applications on your computer. Now you mostly do stuff within the browser, right? Want to play a game of Hearts? Do it online with a bunch of real people instead of battling it out against the computer (who ALWAYS WINS because he understands the rules). Ahem. Anyway – same exact thing.

Thanks to our friends at Nimble Mobile for this guest blog. If you need app developers in London, they're your go-to guys.

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