Off late, I have been talking to multiple clients and prospects with regards to their mobile requirements. Often the discussion veers to the topic of whether they should opt for a native app or mobile app. This is a debate that has been on going for years now and both sides seem to have reasonable arguments. From my experience, I'd like to highlight some of the advantages of opting for a native mobile app over a mobile web application.
1. A native app offers stronger engagement since it will have higher user adoption, usage volume and user engagement. It has been proven across thousands of apps that native apps deliver a higher click-through rate (CTR). As a creator, the idea behind creating the app is to anyway get lots of users to use it and native apps provide for that sort of visibility.
2. Native apps enjoy an architectural advantage in terms of security. You dont have to login to native app since it resides on your phone. For a mobile app you might need to constantly login all the time.
3. Offline access is one of the key advantages that native apps provide. This means that the app can be used in the absence of the Internet (on a plane, when there is no range, power cut time etc.).
4. Native apps offer an overall better user experience. On any device, the user would be expecting certain behaviors and a native app ensures that the experience remains consistent. For instance, an Android user would be more accustomed to using buttons whereas a Blackberry user may not be that used to buttons.
5. With a native app you can configure it to synchronize with background data sources. This will help you to reduce data costs. This is critical when you are travelling and are on roaming. Native apps also provide you with quick access to photos and contacts which are residing locally within the phone.
6. Native apps use “push technology" to ensure that there are push notifications that go out to the user. These are available on mobiles and ensure that the application is automatically updated. This will reduce the dependency on the users to log into and make updates.
7. The application speed is much more faster when it comes to native apps. The reason for this is that the app appears in the cache of the mobile device. Also do remember that the attention span of users is notoriously small. Users can get super frustrated if apps take more time to load up.
8. Another huge advantage of native apps is that they can be easily searched for in the App Store. You can infact look at the App Store or Google play as a marketing engine for you app. If your app gets featured in any of the Editor's Picks it would be a huge boost to your app. The downside is that Apple gets a 30% cut on the revenue earnt from your app!
The key advantages of mobile web apps is that they dont need to be downloaded or installed onto a device thus saving device space. Another positive is that you dont need your app to be approved by the App Store. Marketing for a mobile web app would be harder. You also need to work within the limitations of mobile web browsers.
At the end of the day, the project's business objectives and budget would determine whether the app would be a native or not. From a marketing point of view, you can do a lot more for a native app since it would be a great customer touchpoint. As an app creator you would also want your brand icon to be placed on the user’s home screen. This piece of real estate is priceless and can be only achieved using a native app. Keeping all these factors in mind, a native app beats a mobile web app hands down!