A mobile application, most commonly referred to as an app, is a type of application software designed to run on a mobile device, such as a smart phone or tablet computer. Mobile applications frequently serve to provide users with similar services to those accessed on PCs. Apps are generally small, individual software units with limited function. This use of software has been popularized by Apple Inc. and its App Store, which sells thousands of applications for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch

An Android app is a software application running on the Android platform. Because the Android platform is built for mobile devices, a typical Android app is designed for a smartphone or a tablet PC running on the Android OS.

iOS (formerly iPhone OS) is a mobile operating system created and developed by Apple Inc. exclusively for its hardware. It is the operating system that presently powers many of the company's mobile devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. It is the second most popular mobile operating system globally after Android.

TYPES OF SERVICES

WEB APPS

Web apps are not real applications; they are really websites that, in many ways, look and feel like native applications, but are dnot implemented as such. They are run by a browser and typically written in HTML5. Users first access them as they would access any web page: they navigate to a special URL and then have the option of “installing” them on their home screen by creating a bookmark to that page.

NATIVE APPS

Native apps live on the device and are accessed through icons on the device home screen. Native apps are installed through an application store (such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store). They are developed specifically for one platform, and can take full advantage of all the device features — they can use the camera, the GPS, the accelerometer, the compass, the list of contacts, and so on.

HYBRID APPS

Hybrid apps are part native apps, part web apps. (Because of that, many people incorrectly call them “web apps”). Like native apps, they live in an app store and can take advantage of the many device features available. Like web apps, they rely on HTML being rendered in a browser, with the caveat that the browser is embedded within the app.

 

Which Should You Choose?

Native | Hybrid | Web App

Each of these types of apps has their advantages and disadvantages, as I’ve tried to point out. Let’s summarize them here

 

DEVICE FEATURE

Although web apps can take advantage of some features, native apps (and the native components of the hybrid apps) have access to the full paraphernalia of device-specific features, including GPS, camera, gestures, and notifications.

OFFLINE FUNCTIONING

A native app is best if your app must work when there is no connectivity. In-browser caching is available in HTML5, but it’s still more limited than what you can get when you go native.
 

PLATFORM INDEPENDANCE

While different browsers may support different versions of HTML5, if platform independence is important, you definitely have a better chance of achieving it with web apps and hybrid apps than with native apps. As discussed before, at least parts of the code can be reused when creating hybrid or web apps.

SPEED

Native apps win the speed competition. In 2012 Mark Zuckerberg declared that Facebook’s biggest mistake had been betting on the mobile web and not going native. Up to that point, the Facebook app had been a hybrid app with an HTML core; in 2012 it was replaced with a truly native app. Responsiveness is key to usability.
 

INSTALLATION

Installing a native or hybrid app is a hassle for users: They need to be really motivated to justify the interaction cost. “Installing” a web app involves creating a bookmark on the home screen; this process, while arguably simpler than downloading a new app from an app store, is less familiar to users, as people don’t use bookmarks that much on mobile.

MAINTENANCE

Maintaining a native app can be complicated not only for users, but also for developers (especially if they have to deal with multiple versions of the same information on different platforms): Changes have to be packaged in a new version and placed in the app store. On the other hand, maintaining a web app or a hybrid app is as simple as maintaining a web page, and it can be done as often or as frequently as needed.
 

DEVELOPMENT COST

It’s arguably cheaper to develop hybrid and web apps, as these require skills that build up on previous experience with the web. NN/g clients often find that going fully native is a lot more expensive, as it requires more specialized talent. But, on the other hand, HTML5 is fairly new, and good knowledge of it, as well as a good understanding of developing for the mobile web and hybrid apps are also fairly advanced skills.

CONTENT RESTRICTIONS, APPROOVAL PROCESS & FEES

Dealing with a third party that imposes rules on your content and design can be taxing both in terms of time and money. Native and hybrid apps must pass approval processes and content restrictions imposed by app stores, whereas the web is free for all. Not surprisingly, the first web apps came from publications such as Playboy, who wanted to escape Apple’s prudish content censure. And buying a subscription within an iOS app means that 30% of that subscription cost goes to Apple, a big dent in the publishers’ budget.
 

DISCOVERABILITY

Web apps win the prize on discoverability. Content is a lot more discoverable on the web than in an app: When people have a question or an information need, they go to a search engine, type in their query, and choose a page from the search results. They do not go to the app store, search for an app, download it, and then try to find their answer within the app. Although there are app aficionados who may fish for apps in app stores, most users don’t like installing and maintaining apps .

USER INTERFACE

Last but not least, if one of your priorities is providing a user experience that is consistent with the operating system and with the majority of the other apps available on that platform, then native apps are the way to go. That doesn’t mean that you cannot provide a good mobile user experience with a web app or a hybrid app — it just means that the graphics and the visuals will not be exactly the same as those with which users may be already accustomed.

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