What is the Difference Between a Native App and a Web App?

In developing your app you will have to make a number of decisions throughout the process, but one of the first decisions that you will have to make is whether to build a native app or a web app. If you are not a developer yourself, you may find this a confusing decision. After all, from a user point of view there seems to be very little difference between the two types. There are some important differences however that will impact the functionality of the app and the way that you run your business.

Native Apps vs. Web Apps

The first apps created for mobile devices were native apps. Developers had to create apps using the software development kits (SDKs) that were provided to them by Apple and Android. Each platform had its own native language – iOS has Objective-C, Android has Java, etc.

The SDKs give developers access to a wide range of functions on the phones or tablets. While most people think of only some of the more popular features such as GPS or camera, through native apps there are actually hundreds of features that may be used.

You can sign up for a Google Play Developer Account Here.

You can sign up for an Apple Developer Account Here.


A difficulty with native apps however is that it is necessary to create many different apps across platforms and devices. For example, not only would a developer need to create separate apps for Apple and Android, but they would also need to create a phone app and a tablet app for each one. And if you want the app to function on Apple watch – that’s another app! So if you are creating a native app, in actuality, you may require 5 or more separate apps depending on the platforms and devices you wish the app to function on. And if a native app needs an update? It needs to be updated on each individual app that has been created.

Web apps on the other hand are somewhat simpler in their development. They are essentially mini websites which can be contained on a mobile device. Developers can use their preferred programming language such as JavaScript, HTML5, etc. They still have to make the apps work in different browsers, and they may still need to incorporate some native functionality using the SDKs but they are working with one app and not multiple apps.

Pros and Cons of Native Apps


  • Because native apps work directly with the hardware of the device, they perform faster and are easier to use.
  • Native apps are fully supported by the app stores, they are easy for users to find.
  • Because native apps must be approved by the app store, users know that they are secure.
  • A native app does not have to be connected to the Internet to work.


  • Native apps are typically more expensive both to develop and to update.
  • The user must regularly download updates to the app.
  • Monetization can be more difficult with native apps since device manufacturers may have certain restrictions.

Pros and Cons of Web Apps


  • Web apps are easier to develop and maintain because they are created using a common code.
  • Web apps do not require approval of the app stores.
  • Users do not have to download updates as these are done automatically.
  • Less restrictions on monetization however you will need to set up your own payment gateway.


  • Web apps have access to a much more limited number of the devices features.
  • The app will not work without an Internet connection.
  • Since users work on different platforms and different devices, it can be difficult to track usage trends on web apps.
  • Web apps aren’t listed in the app stores.
  • Users might not always trust the security of a web app.

Should You Develop a Web App or a Native App?

Understanding the difference between a web app and a native app is important in making this decision. Before you begin to build the app, you will need to decide what device features you’d like the app to be able to access, the importance of the app speed, whether you’d like to the app to work without internet and how you’d like to monetize your app.

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