There are many ways we access content online. The easiest example is that of a web browser. We enter a URL and watch website content load on the screen. Web browsers have been around for a long time. They are still used a lot, but there is competition from other mediums.
Mobile apps are one of the most common ways we access content now. From a little tweet to an entire movie, we consume all sizes and kinds of content on mobile apps. Their ubiquity has never been greater. In fact, people now are much less inclined to use web browsers unless they’re using a desktop.
However, when it comes to developing an app, one often gets confused between different formats of apps and various methods of development. In this blog piece, we address one such dilemma. Continue reading and find out how native and webview apps compare against each other.
In this blog
- How do we access content on web browsers and mobile apps?
- What are native apps?
- What is the scope of native apps?
- Native vs Webview apps: The verdict
- Building native and webview apps with AppMySite
- Frequently Asked Questions
How do we access content on web browsers and mobile apps?
We know how web browsers display content. The browser’s rendering engine generates the requested content and displays it on our screens.
How do mobile apps display content? Since browsers have been around for a long time, we know a lot about them. Mobile apps are relatively new so it’s natural that we don’t know much about how they display content or even generally work.
App development still remains beyond the technical ability of many entrepreneurs and small companies. It is not uncommon for many to depend on a DIY free mobile app builder. While we may not notice, many schematics go on behind the curtain that allows us to view content on mobile apps.
This discussion brings us to native and webview apps. Both native and webview apps have different approaches to app development. Hence, the method of accessing content also changes with a change in path.
To understand how content is accessed on native and webview apps, it is important to understand the core differences between the two and learn how the apps work. This has been addressed in the following sections.
What are native apps?
It is highly likely that any mobile app you use on your phone is a native app. In fact, we use the phrase ‘native app’ when we speak of mobile apps in general. However, the scope of native apps extends beyond mobile phones. If you use MS Office or any other software on your desktop or laptop, they are also examples of native apps.
So, what is a native app?
Native apps are applications installed directly on a device’s memory. Users don’t need to go to a web browser to access native app content. They can simply go to the app and view any content they wish to see.
To build such an app for mobile devices, users have two options –
- Developing app with traditional coding
- Use a native mobile app builder for iOS and Android
The second option is much better if users don’t have the technical background needed to develop an app. A good native iOS app or Android app builder can help create an application worthy of passing smell tests and becoming successful.
App builders have come far now. Users running an online store on WordPress can use WooCommerce native iOS app builders to create stable successful mobile apps. AppMySite is an example of the same.
Native apps are more common when compared to their alternative, webview. Most popular apps we use are native and not webview. There are many reasons why it is so, and the forthcoming sections will cover the same.
What is the scope of native apps?
Native apps are the first choice of many businesses. Such apps are developed specifically for a platform like Android or iOS, using programming languages and tools meant specifically for that platform. The UI and UX are also designed by following platform-specific guidelines.
These apps ensure better features, functionalities, and performance. Most of the apps that we download from app stores (Google Play Store and Apple App Store) are native apps. Thus, native apps also remain easily discoverable as they are available on the app stores.
Go through some of the pros and cons of native apps in the following sections.
Pros of native apps
Native apps often perform better than other types of apps. The key advantages of native apps are as follows:
- Built to run on specific platforms (Android, iOS, etc.)
- Compact design to assure better speed and performance
- Highly interactive, facilitates smooth input and output
- Distributed through app stores (Google Play & Apple App Store)
- Ensures better security and data-safety
- Leverages native hardware features and functionalities
- Often available for offline accessibility
- Installation on the user’s device ensures consistent branding
Cons of native apps
Native app development can be more challenging than other formats. Some disadvantages associated with native apps are as follows:
- Native apps are expensive to develop
- Requires separate code and development
- Time-taking and complex development process
- Requires approval from app stores for submission
- Longer development and testing cycles
What are webview apps?
WebView apps have always been an alternative to native apps. While native apps are essentially programmed to perform one or more functions, webview apps are different. To put it briefly, a webview app is an app that contains a webview.
But then, what is a webview?
To understand the concept of a webview, we first need to understand what a web browser is. A web browser is essentially the sum of two parts – the user interface and the engine. The user interface includes the address bar, plugins, menu, and the output screen.
The above stated is the visible part of the browser we are used to seeing. The engine is the area where the markup and code are turned into the display, we tend to see on the user interface. If we remove the engine part from the browser, we basically get a webview.
When this engine is placed in a native app, we get a webview app. Basically, any app that loads content from a web page is a webview app.
To build a webview app, users again have two options –
- They can either code their way to building an app with webview
- Use a mobile app builder for iOS and Android.
For those who don’t know how to code, the second option is much better. Today, a user can even use a WooCommerce to app converter for iOS and Android to develop a webview app.
What is the scope of webview apps?
There are many ways to build an Android webview mobile app. There are many for building iOS webview apps as well. However, is it wise to concentrate on building webview apps? Let us understand the scope of webview apps.
As discussed above, a webview app is a software that displays web content, without using a traditional web browser. It resembles a responsive website that extends some app-like functions to users. While webview apps are easier to build and the process isn’t as pricey as native app development, it has its own set of disadvantages alongside advantages.
Some outstanding benefits of webview apps are as follows:
Pros of webview apps
Webview apps are easier to develop. They have shorter development cycles and can be distributed through flexible channels like the web. Here are some advantages of webview apps:
- Platform specific development is not required
- Device-agnostic apps that can be used by all users
- Easier to design, develop, and deploy
- Quicker and easier bug fixes and updates
- Requires less storage space on users’ devices
- Suitable for dynamic and content-heavy platforms
- Best when turning existing websites into apps
- Can be built and maintained on a limited budget
Cons of webview apps
Webview apps may seem easier to develop. However, it cannot really outperform native apps in several aspects. Here are some demerits associated with webview apps:
- User experience is not as smooth as native apps
- Cannot ensure a truly native mobile experience
- Can suffer slow load time, speed, and connectivity issues
- Screens often lag due to performance issues
- Consistency can be an issue across different platforms
- Limited leveraging of device and native features
- Apps cannot function offline as they rely on servers
- Open-ended environment can cause security concerns
- More prone to rejection from app stores
Native vs Webview apps: The verdict
Native apps are built to work within the operating system of a mobile device. This is why every element of a native app integrates seamlessly with the hardware. Touch screen, camera, and GPS all work very smoothly within a native app. Additionally, every feature is programmed to work within a set framework which makes navigation easy.
On the other hand, webview apps are not essentially built to work within a mobile operating system. They are a collection of webpages working on an embeddable browser. Moreover, webview apps load their content from a website, bypassing the native hardware environment. Therefore, users may not get the same seamless experience.
However, this does not mean we should totally discount webview apps. With PWAs (Progressive Web Apps) in picture and advanced app creator technologies coming into play, the lines between native and webview apps are slowly diminishing. In fact, the demand for faster and more affordable development is making webview apps a better alternative than native apps.
So, what is the best solution? The answer lies in the maxim “to each their own”.
If the app is going to be at the leading edge of your business, and you have the time and budget, then you should go for native app development. On the other hand, if you just want to offer a mobile-friendly solution to your web visitors and customers and are working under constraints of budget and time, then webview apps are the best. You can just turn your website into an app and you will be ready in no time.
Building native and webview apps with AppMySite
AppMySite is a mobile app builder for iOS and Android that helps users build all kinds of apps without coding. Here, you can build native as well as webview apps without any prior technical experience. The best part is that it only takes a few minutes to design and create the app.
It is also the ideal solution if you are only resorting to webview apps because of time and budget constraints. AppMySite lets you build premium, feature-rich, and native apps on an affordable budget. The platform offers deep integration with WordPress and WooCommerce and enables users to create native apps for the same.
In fact, it is widely used as a WooCommerce app builder for iOS and Android. However, you can also create webview apps and apps for other web technologies with AppMySite. Build native apps, or webview apps that look and perform at par with native apps. The choice is yours.
This piece offers an important contrast between webview and native apps. Through the course of the piece, we argued for native apps over webview. There are some situations where a webview app might make sense.
For instance, it makes sense to develop a webview app while testing an app idea. This is because webview apps are faster to make and much cheaper. Moreover, you can develop webview apps when the app is not going to be a core asset for your business and will only fulfill limited goals like making a payment, opening a brochure, etc.
However, native apps are ideal for almost every kind of business. Native apps are truly mobile-first and can help your users get the true app experience on various levels. Therefore, we recommend you make a choice based on your personalized goals. You can drop a comment or explore AppMySite to know more.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a webview app and a browser?
A browser is an application program that is used to view and interact with all the information on the web. For instance, Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are web browsers. However, unlike standalone browsers, webview is an embeddable browser that is placed in a native container and used to display content. A browser’s interface gets replaced with mobile UI elements to show webview applications.
How many apps use webview?
Most apps and app companies do not share their technology. Therefore, one cannot precisely say how many apps use webview. However, the numbers are estimated to be higher than what one would generally assume. In fact, a study by ResearchGate showed that 86 percent of the sampled apps were webview. Several popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, CNN, and eBay are known to be webview.
Are webview apps allowed in the app stores?
Unlike popular opinion, app stores do not detest webview apps. If the app serves a strong purpose and has meaningful features and functionalities, it will likely pass through the review process and get submitted to the app stores. However, apps failing to offer the true native experience might indeed get rejected on the app stores. Apple is especially stringent about publishing such apps. Therefore, you must develop native UI elements for your app and make it more mobile-like.
What are the benefits of native apps?
Developing native apps can be time and resource-consuming. However, it is worth all the effort. Native apps ensure matchless speed and performance. Such apps are built using dedicated SDKs (Software Development Kits) and are designed to suit specific platforms and thus blend well with the existing architecture and native features of the hardware. Native apps are also more interactive, intuitive, secure, and reliable.
What are the benefits of webview apps?
If you already have a website that is content rich and is up and running efficiently, there is no harm in converting it into a webview app. Creating webview apps can reduce your time to market and enable you to create budget-friendly apps in no time. One code base can be used to develop apps for different platforms (Android & iOS). Designing the UI and UX also takes less time. These are some of the outstanding benefits of webview apps.
How to create native apps without coding?
Traditionally, native apps are built with programming languages and tools that are meant for dedicated platforms. For example, Java or Kotlin for building Android apps and Swift and Objective-C for creating iOS apps. This process is time taking and requires coding experience. However, you can also build native apps without coding. Explore a no-code app maker like AppMySite and launch your own native and feature-rich app without the complexities.
How to create webview apps without coding?
If you already have a website, you can easily convert it into a webview app with AppMySite. Here, you can create, design, and personalize your app without writing a single line of code. You can easily switch from native to webview from within your AppMySite account and build apps that have a native look and feel. Create separate builds for Android and iOS apps and launch them on the app stores.