Web apps vs native apps: which should you use?

Digital nomad working on a laptop and phone, productivity hacks

What is a native app?

An application or software developed for a specific platform or device is called a native app. For example, an app developed for iOS is a native app for that platform. This also applies to macOS, Windows and Android platforms too. An example of a native app is Noteful; a handwriting note-taking app for the iPad. It also has a version on iOS, but nowhere else.

What is a web app?

A web app runs on a web server and is accessed through a web browser over the internet. You don’t need to download or install it on a device. Instead, you can access it on any device with a compatible web browser. It is usually cross-platform. Web apps have typically been used for social media and communication (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). But as the internet evolves, we are starting to see them used for productivity apps; Notion, Trello, Slack, etc.

Native vs web apps

Native apps are considered better than web apps because they take full advantage of the device’s capabilities (like GPS, camera) making them faster and more responsive than web-based apps. They tend to have a more polished user interface and better offline capabilities. This makes them more convenient, which improves your overall user experience.

Since you don’t have to install web apps, they are more accessible. However, they are generally slower and less responsive than native apps. Their cross-platform accessibility makes them a go-to option if you don’t like being confined to a single ecosystem.

Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps can provide a good performance and access to a device’s features but also can be accessed from any device with a browser. Most web apps have eventually morphed into hybrids, as they start building apps for specific devices. Different technologies allow hybrids to access a device’s features while keeping its web-based functionality.

What should you use?

We’re inclined to use native apps over web and hybrid apps for several reasons. They’re accessible offline and most of them don’t need you to sign in to use them. The number of passwords we’ve had to create over the last couple of years is shocking. We can’t help but feel it’s just building up to a massive catastrophe, and we are not sure how it will manifest. If you don’t need to constantly share your work with anyone or you prefer working alone, a native app makes a lot of sense.

However, as our teams become more remote, hybrid apps are starting to make sense. We find ourselves in need of collaboration features in our native app. That’s a problem web and hybrid apps easily solve. Their cross-platform availability also means that everyone on your team is free to use a device they prefer. We’re not thrilled about the accounts we have to create for all these digital tools, though.

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