Smartphone native-app vs web-app

spanflockInternet and Web Development

Jun 24, 2012 (5 years and 11 months ago)


Smartphone native-app vs web-app
Friday, 12 August 2011 10:24
If you have been following mobile phone news, you should be aware that more and better smart
phones are available everyday, and more people have integrated these devices into their lives.

Even Gartner is monitoring this market closely. Here are some news from
Gartner's Newsroom

"Gartner Says 428 Million Mobile Communication Devices Sold Worldwide in First Quarter
2011, a 19 Percent Increase Year-on-Year" on 19 May 2011
"Gartner Says Apple iOS to Dominate the Media Tablet Market Through 2015, Owning More
Than Half of It for the Next Three Years" 11 April 2011
"Gartner Says Android to Command Nearly Half of Worldwide Smartphone Operating System
Market by Year-End 2012" 7 April 2011

Why are these smart phones so appealing that people use them day in and day out? One of the
reasons is that it connects people in a new ways by using various applications, e.g. youtube,
facebook, twitter, and lots of applications with different purposes.


At the time of writing, the number of applications on App Store for iPhone has already reached
350,000. All these applications are so called native-apps, which require installation on the
device and run locally on the device no matter if it is an iPhone, iPod Touch, or an iPad.

To develop such applications, it requires the knowledge of Objective-C and Cocoa Touch
frameworks. This is only for developing applications for iPhone and its siblings. If you want to
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Smartphone native-app vs web-app
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build applications for devices running Android OS, you need a different set of skills and
knowledge. Not to mention another skill set for Windows Phone.


However, mobile technology is evolving very fast. Corporate organisations seem to favour the
new HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript technologies and use them to build web-based applications
that can address different mobile devices, such as iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone,
and other HTML5 friendly devices.

Frameworks for building these kinds of web-apps have emerged, like iUI, XUI, Sencha, JQuery
Mobile, and more. Out of these frameworks, Sencha Touch and jQuery Mobile seem to be the

Apple has even provided a dedicated place for Web Apps (
something like iTunes store.

How to choose?

Which technology you should use to build your next application? Should you build a web-based
application addressing wider audiences or build a native-app targeting just one single device?

You need to understand the nature of these two technologies and your target audiences. Here
are just a very brief summary of their characteristics. It is by no means complete or exhausted.


fast response

better user experience, e.g. animation

offline mode

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access to local hardware, such as camera, accelerometer

less dependency, as it usually targets a single device only


address different types of devices

require online connection

easy to rollout new versions

Things to consider

There are other things that need to be considered, such as

total cost of ownership

time to the market

developer availability, e.g. skill set



Organisations may have misunderstood that web-apps require less effort to develop and
maintain. A good web-app needs to adjust the content according to the requesting device. For
example, it should provide different contents or use different layouts for iPhone and iPad, as
they have different screen sizes. That means the web-app will be more complex than it was for
targeting a single device.

They often neglect the running costs as well, as both business and presentation logics are now
handled on the server side. In contrast, they are handled by the native-app that runs on the
device. That means it requires a powerful machine and more memory as the number of clients

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No matter what you are going to choose to build your next applications, they need to meet the
business requirements and the cost justification. It does not make sense if an application does
not serve any purpose or is too experience to build and to run.

I don't see web-apps competing against native-apps, rather they complement each other very
well (at least for now). Web-apps require low development and maintenance costs targeting
wider audiences, whereas native-apps target power users with better performance and more

No doubt that mobile technology is gaining momentum into our everyday lives. New battles
have just been started between device providers, between application providers and between
content providers themselves. It will be very exciting to see how these technologies evolve into
the next stage.
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