Web App and Native App, which one is better for you?

If resources and time are sufficient, we will want to have both native app and web app. But in many cases, due to limited resources, PM is more likely to make a choice between them.

After analysis of the performance of the two on the data. It sums up in one sentence:

Web app can reach more users. But native app can give a better experience and the user is more sticky.

Let’s take a look at the data:

Mobile web’s monthly UV leading mobile app (8.9M vs. 3.3M):

Native app users spend 18 times more minutes per month than mobile web users (201.8 minutes vs. 10.9 minutes). However, be aware that nearly 80% of the native app’s usage time is spent on a certain 3 apps. So also consider whether your product has the potential to enter top 3 for your users.Otherwise it will end up in the long tail to compete with many other apps for the remaining 40 minutes (201.8 minutes * 20% ≈ 40 minutes).

Next, let’s look at the features and costs. Mobile web and native apps both have advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s start with the advantages of mobile web app:

  • Search engine entry. Apple’s app store search is well known to be not effective. I don’t know much about the Google play store or other third-party Android stores. But if a product is content-driven, a lot of traffic may come from search engines which is one of the reasons why mobile web app gets more traffic.
  • Instant updates. For native app, there is a time interval for each version update from auditing, shelf-up to user update. It is very likely that users are too lazy to update and have been running a out-dated version. In that case they are not able to access the features in the new version. If there is a problem with the shipped new version, a large number of users may be lost directly. On the other hand, in mobile web app, there is a possibility of a quicker remedy. So in general, the standard and time taken for the mobile native app update will be higher and longer.
  • Design and development costs. The Native app is designed and developed for different platforms, with different specifications and languages. The mobile web will have a much smaller workload in this area.

Advantages of the Native app:

  • You have access to hardware that the web app does not with a better hardware experience, such as:
    • Camera
    • Microphone, the first two can now be called HTML5, but the experience is not as good as native, and cross-browser compatibility is more troublesome.
    • Accelerometer
    • Screen (always on)

If the core functionality of the product involves these hardware, a native app may need to be developed for a better user experience and retention.

  • Can use some very important OS features, such as

1. Push notifications. But note that 31% of users almost never allow apps to push notifications to them.

But it depends on the specific app. For example, ride sharing app like Uber is easier to get the user’s permission (data from: New data shows up to 60% of users opt-out of push notifications (Guest Post) at andrewchen)

2. Get the user’s location: Compared to push notifications, users’ acceptance of geographic location is still relatively high.

3. Offline usage: If your product involves a lot of videos and pictures. In the current situation of limited mobile data, you may need to allow users to save media files to their mobile phones for offline use. At this time, the web app can’t help.

4. Personalized content: This is more controversial, because it is possible in mobile web app. But because native app can stay logged in and track user’s click and browsing behavior. It is easier to accurately customize the content.

In addition, native app has faster response speed and better performance than web app. Because the mobile native app interacts directly with the operating system while the web app and the operating system are separated by a layer of browser.

Conclusion: If you want to make something like a business card and let more people know about your own products. Maybe a website is enough. But if the core functionality of the product is only available from the native app or you want to make sure the user has better Experience, stronger stickiness. You may need to do a native app.