Native mobile apps vs. Mobile web apps

Yesterday at TechCrunch Disrupt, Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, interviewed Mark Zuckerburg, founder of Facebook. One of the topics they covered was the Facebook mobile app. Recently, Facebook revamped their iOS mobile app from a hybrid app to a totally native mobile app. Using the new mobile app, you can absolutely feel the speed difference. When asked about this transition, Mark Zuckerburg said, “We burnt two years”.

While building a hybrid app or mobile web version could save some time, their performance be slower than building a native app. On the mobile platform, your users want speed.

What’s the difference?

Native mobile apps are apps built specifically for each platform. These apps can be downloaded from the respective marketplace (ie. Google Play, Apple App Store).

Hybrid mobile apps are apps that can be downloaded from the platform’s store, but are a shell containing a web based app. Examples of these would be apps created with frameworks like Appcelerator and PhoneGap.

Mobile web apps are apps accessed via the mobile browser. They are not downloaded via the platform’s store.

Comparison

Native Hybrid Mobile Web
Development Built using the platforms native language Built using a native framework as a shell, individual screens with HTML Built using HTML/JavaScript
Multiplatform Each platform you deploy on requires its own development cycle. The shell of your app will need to be developed separately for each platform, but the screens in your app do not. While there may be differences in the way elements are rendered across platforms, the time it takes to correct these are minimal.
Capabilities Can access the devices native features, like camera and gps. Your app can download information, and save it to the device. Can access the devices native features, like camera and gps, but only through functions created by the shell. Because your app is not accessing them directly, there will be a small amount of overhead. Your app can still access gps in mobile web apps, but features like camera and accelerometer are off limits. Information can not be saved to the device.
Speed Images are packaged with your app. Users only need to download data, which sometimes is only a few bytes. Native apps can also take advantage of device caching. While hybrid apps can also take advantage of device caching, your app still has overhead of downloading images and content. When compared to native and hybrid apps, mobile web is the slowest. Because native and hybrid apps can package images along with their apps, the users do not have to download them on demand.
Advertising / Ads are usually delivered through a mobile ad platform. The mobile platform you are deploying on may also impose restrictions and may take a portion of your ad revenue. Ads can be delivered through a mobile ad platform or right on the screens of your app. If they are on the screens, you will have complete control. You have complete control over the ads you deliver and your ad revenue.
Monetization You can require payment upon download of your app. You can require payment upon download of your app. You cannot charge for downloading, but you can set up a subscription service or one time fee.
Discoverability Can take advantage of both platform store visibility and standard marketing. Can take advantage of both platform store visibility and standard marketing Must rely on standard marketing
Approvals & updates When launching your app or deploying an update, it must go through an approval process. That approval process varies with each platform. Updating screens of your app do not require an update to be sent for approval. Adding new functionality to the shell of your app will require an app update. Because your app lives entirely on your server, you control when you update.
Users must download the update before they see your changes. When updating the shell, users must download the update. Updates to the screens of your app will be seen immediately. Your updates will be deployed to your users immediately, and all users will be on the same version.

Blueye’s #IdeasChat Cohosting Gig

When we heard that this week’s #IdeasChat topic was “The Web” we were all over it. Thanks to the awesome people at Chicago Ideas Week, we’ll be officially cohosting tomorrow’s chat!

So here’s the scoop. We came up with 6 questions that we want to ask the Twitter and #IdeasChat communities and get some great conversation– and maybe even debates going. If this is your first Twitter chat, we recommend following the conversation on Tweet Chat.

Here’s an early look at the questions we’ll be asking tomorrow starting at 11am CST:

  • Is access to the web a right or a privilege?
  • How has the web changed our perceptions of privacy?
  • What about a website causes you to leave immediately? What causes you to stay?
  • What aspects of the web would you like to see become more social that aren’t already?
  • What will the web look like in 5 years? 10 years?