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Web vs. native: The debate rages on

Web vs. native may be one of the biggest debates in the software development community. From a cost perspective alone, it seems like web will always win, but there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to making your own decision about which development path to take.

In this article developer and consultant Mark Betz provides a great look into the mindset that goes into making the decision between developing web apps and deciding to go native. As he points out, the explosive diversity of devices available means that developing natively for each type of operating system is almost always going to be the most expensive way to produce apps. On the other end of the spectrum, HTML5 web apps may often be the cheapest.

But is there is a compromise that can help you avoid having to pick a side in the web vs. native debate, and that is to go hybrid. Hybrid apps, he says, are responsive web apps contained within a native binary hosting a web browser control. As opposed to using just HTML5, developers can have more control over the app’s lifecycle and provide the slick user experience that they would hope to achieve with native. However, it wouldn’t be a compromise without compromises: This method still requires developers to know the native languages to create and maintain the wrapper apps.

If you’re not interested in a compromise and simply have to choose one or the other, author Priya Viswanathan provides this list of the pros and cons of each approach. Some of the standout things on this list include:

  • Native apps get full support from the concerned app stores and marketplaces. This makes it easy for users to find them.
  • Also, because native apps have to get the approval of the app store they are intended for, the user can be assured of complete safety and security of the app.
  • However, the process of getting apps approved at an app store can be a long and tedious process that may still end in non-approval. Also, there is no guarantee that the app becomes popular.
  • Web apps can be manipulated and made compatible with older mobile devices.
  • Since web apps do not need to be approved by a marketplace, they can be released at any time per the developer’s preferences.
  • Mobile web apps only have limited access to a mobile device’s features.
  • And since there is no standard quality control system for web apps, safety is not always guaranteed.

Both authors lay out the critical considerations you must take in regards to your own application needs and development capabilities when choosing to go web or native, including what you need the app to do and what you can afford. Opinions abound in the web vs. native punch-out, and there are convincing arguments in both corners. But remember that the decision doesn’t boil down to the opinions of the community – it comes down to what’s best for you.