Native apps vs Web apps

Enrique Ortiz compares these two phenomena:

Mobility in 2011- Mobile Apps, Webapps and Tipping Points – About Mobility

Here’s a slightly edited commentary, as I couldn’t edit my note at the site:

I consider these to be the most important points, with the status for each right now:

  • What generates the most money, the easiest way? (native apps)
  • What makes it easiest to get a broad phone compatibility? (Web apps)
  • What provides the best user experience? (native apps)
  • Which is easiest to install/access? (native apps)

With native apps I don’t count MIDlets in “traditional” featurephones, that were hard to install and hard to later find on the phone, which hampered the uptake of MIDlets. The iPhone changed all that, as we all know.

Web apps can generate the same revenue and as easily as native apps if they are ad-funded. It’s really the same thing.

When it comes to pay-per-instance, clearly native apps win out, as download and purchase are handled through an application store.

I have yet to see in-app purchases work as well for Wep apps as for native apps.

I experience native apps to have much much better interaction and usability than Web apps, by design. In part due to the state-less and page-loading paradigm of the traditional Web. The solution is to run all code in the browser with no need at all for the browser to load new pages (except the first one containing all the application logic). In practice: All UI and functional code in client-side Javascript and all data exchange with a service (primarily database lookups and inter-app communication, not “number-crunching”) done via Ajax. If needed, standards need to be defined for UI elements en par with those in native apps. I don’t see that HTML 5 really reaches across that gap.

The access to Web apps needs to be as simple as for native apps. In other words no manual saving of bookmarks, but direct “installation” like for native apps (that of course under the covers is primarily still about saving a bookmark together with an app icon) via an application store.