Differences Between Web Apps and Native Apps
A web app is an application or program that you access through the browser on your phone or tablet. It is different from a native app in that you don’t need to download anything to your phone to use it. You access or connect to the web app, purchase if required, and away you go. Think of it as going to a website to play a game or watch a video; you don’t actually download and install the game or video onto your computer, but instead, play the game or view the video online.
A native app is an application or program that runs on the device itself. An example of this would be camera apps, GPS apps, or games. Native apps are downloaded and installed on the device and accessed by tapping the app icon.
Interestingly enough, when the iPhone was created, the intent was for developers to develop web-based apps that would run through the Safari browser included with the phone. Until hackers figured out how to crack the iPhone’s codes and develop their native apps, Apple decided to get on board with native apps. It was at that point that Apple also created the App Store making it incredibly easy for consumers to find and purchase apps, leading to “an explosion in downloads over its platform, and permanently transitioned the gravity of mobile app distribution away from the ‘walled gardens’ of mobile carriers to the app-store environments of handset manufacturers.” (from Mobi Thinking)
Of course, a Web App is not confused with another commonly used term: Mobile Web Site. A mobile website is a website that can be viewed properly on a mobile device. Have you ever tried to browse the Internet on your device and ended up having to scroll to the left and right, up and down, so that you can view the entire site? Frustrating! Mobile websites are specifically designed for viewing on a mobile phone or tablet. Many companies are starting to include mobile websites as part of their online portfolio. They will have one website for viewing on a computer and their mobile website, essentially the same website adjusted for viewing on a mobile phone or tablet.