Mobile App vs. Native App: Pros and Cons
by Andrew Millar
We’ve all been hearing about the coming transition of users from Personal Computers to Mobile Devices. Based on a four hundred present increase in mobile phone use in the last two years, projections are for phones to out-strip PC’s in 2013. So we have gone beyond the question of whether your website needs to be available via a mobile phone to the discussion of mobile app vs. native app and their respective pros and cons.
Let’s start by making sure we know the difference between the two. A mobile app is web-based. A native app resides in the phone of the user. Whenever you go to the Google or Apple App Store and download an app to your smart phone, you are accessing a native app. When you use your phone to access a website (not using a downloaded app), you can tell if the site has a mobile app by its appearance. Without a mobile app it will appear as a miniature version of the normal website. All the information and formatting will be present; it will just look very tiny. When there is a mobile app, the site will appear formatted to the size of your phone screen because it has been customized to fit.
Advantages of web-based mobile apps:
- All mobile browsers are compatible
- For marketing: superior for lead generation and conversion of prospects
- Ease of changing content through content management system
- “responsive design” can be used across platforms
- Cost is more reasonable
Advantages of native apps:
- No internet connection necessary
- Faster than mobile websites
- Builds customer loyalty
- Users tend to spend more time on apps
- Because the icon is right there on the phone, creates more brand awareness i.e. loyalty
Disadvantages of mobile apps:
- Requires internet access
- Initial and maintenance cost of supporting multiple browsers
- Safety and security less than native apps
- Limitations in utilizing smart phone’s full features
Disadvantages of native apps:
- After the expense of development, and after the often long process of review, it no sure thing that the app store will approve it
- The development itself is many times more expensive than web-based mobiles.
- Editing and content changes are expensive due to reliance on developers versus a content management system.
The pros and cons of mobile apps vs. native apps seem to come down to these: native apps have an appeal to the established institution that wishes to support its client base. Because of the large investment requirements, this will always favor larger businesses.
Web-based mobile apps are more immediately accessible because of the reduced investment and maintenance cost and because a custom Content Management System provides a more nimble response to customer expectations.