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Native app vs. webview app: What's the difference?

TL;DR: Below, we compare native apps to webview apps (A.K.A. web apps). In a nutshell: native apps are OS-specific, offering high performance and superior hardware compatibility, but can be costly and take longer to develop. Web apps are versatile, budget-friendly, and easy to update, but may not fully exploit device-specific features or perform as well as native mobile apps. The choice depends on factors like budget, goals, and target audience (and choosing the right app development solution!

Choosing between a native mobile app and a web app can impact your business's success. In this guide, we'll explore both options, looking at their features, strengths, and drawbacks. We'll start with native mobile hybrid and webview apps, discussing their characteristics, benefits, and challenges. Then, we'll focus on web apps, analyzing user experience to performance reliability. Finally, we will compare these two, focusing on factors such as cost, time, and engagement levels.

Before we begin, let's define some terms.

Native mobile apps are applications designed for a specific operating system (OS), such as iOS or Android. They are developed specifically using unique coding languages, like Swift for iOS and Java for Android.

A webview app is an application that runs on a web browser. They're typically developed using web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Webview apps can run on any platform with a web browser, making them highly versatile and adaptable to difference kinds of mobile and desktop devices.

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Key takeaways

  • Native apps: These are applications built for specific operating systems, offering seamless user experience and hardware compatibility. They offer high performance but require more resources and time to develop.
  • WebView apps: These are applications that run on a web browser, developed using web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They are versatile, cost-effective, and easy to update, but may not fully leverage device-specific features or perform as well as native apps.
  • Choosing between native vs. webview apps: The choice depends on factors such as budget, goals, target audience, and the required level of performance and hardware compatibility.
  • Hybrid solutions: Hybrid apps combine the benefits of both native and webview apps, offering a balance between performance, cost-effectiveness, and cross-platform compatibility.

Remember, the right choice will depend on your specific needs and resources. It's important to consider all factors to make an informed decision that best suits your business goals.

Want to explore further? Let's get started.

Native apps: What are they, and how do they work?

Illustration of a mobile device with a native app interface

Native mobile apps are crafted for specific Operating Systems (OS), using platform-specific languages like Swift for iOS ,and Java for Android. This approach ensures a seamless user experience and perfect hardware compatibility.

Distribution primarily happens through app stores like Apple's App Store and Google Play, which not only ensures quality standards but also discoverability for users.

However, this level of customization comes at a cost. Each version needs to be created from scratch using the language specific to the platform, which increases both development cost and time.

Despite the higher costs, many find the benefits of native mobile apps (such as improved mobile performance, seamless hardware compatibility, and a polished user experience) to be worth the investment.

Key Features of Native Apps

Phone, Android, apps, Google Chrome, YouTube, Facebook

Native apps are able to leverage hardware features such as cameras, microphones, and GPS more effectively than their web or mobile app counterparts. This is due to the fact that native apps are designed to integrate seamlessly into the device they're used on. This seamless integration results in a faster and smoother user experience.

  • Offline capability: Native apps can in some cases function without an internet connection. This is particularly beneficial for mobile apps that need to function in environments with no or low connectivity (think map- and document-specific apps). By storing data locally on a device, users can interact with the app even when there's no internet connection.
  • Hardware integration: Native apps can utilize hardware features like cameras, microphones, and GPS effectively, simply due to their seamless integration into devices.
  • Seamless user experience: Native apps are known for their fast and smooth user experience. This is because they are built specifically for the platform they are used on, resulting in optimized performance.
  • Device compatibility: Native apps are designed to be compatible with the specific device they're used on. This ensures that the app can leverage the device's hardware features to their full potential.
  • Performance: Due to their seamless integration with the device, native apps often offer a faster and smoother user experience compared to web or mobile apps.

All these benefits contribute to better utilization of device capabilities, making native apps a more advantageous choice for mobile devices compared to non-native alternatives.

Fact: Native apps are able to leverage hardware features such as cameras, microphones, and GPS more effectively than their web or mobile app counterparts. This is due to the fact that native apps are designed to integrate seamlessly into the device they're used on. This seamless integration results in a faster and smoother user experience.

Pros of native apps

Native apps provide a variety of advantages over web and mobile applications. One of the most significant advantages is their superior performance. Thanks to the fact that they are tailored for specific operating systems, native apps can utilize the full power of the device's hardware. This results in faster load times and more responsive user input.

  • Performance: Native apps are faster and more responsive in the mobile device context because they can easily use the full power of the device's hardware, resulting in a smoother user experience.
  • Hardware compatibility: Native apps work seamlessly with the device's hardware. This results in enhanced graphical elements and more responsive user input.
  • Offline capability: Native apps can function without an internet connection. This is a significant advantage over other app types, which have limited offline capabilities.
  • Smooth functionality: Native apps rely on specific operating systems, not continuous internet connections. This results in a smoother user experience compared to hybrid mobile apps or web apps.

Cons of native apps

While native apps offer many benefits, they also have drawbacks:

  • Higher development cost: These apps typically require platform-specific programming, making them more expensive to develop as you'll need to pay a premium for this kind of engineering expertise.
  • Increased testing and development cycles: More often than not, testing a native app is a heavy lift, as they need more time for testing and compatibility checks.
  • Platform-specific requirements: Building a native app for iOS and Android is truly a duplicate effort, as you'll need to create a separate version of the app for each platform or operating system, increasing production costs and time.

What is a hybrid web+native app?

There is a 'best of both worlds' app solution that leverages the best of native apps (speed, performance, and access to a device's hardware) and webview apps (powering an app with existing web content and being able to manage coding all in one place, not duplicating effort): hybrid web + native apps. They allow for cross-platform applications development, reducing programming time and resources.

Hybrid apps and hybrid app technology combine the performance and hardware compatibility of native apps with the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of web apps. They offer:

  • Superior performance: They can utilize the device's hardware capabilities fully.
  • Enhanced hardware compatibility: They can use features like the camera, GPS, and other built-in sensors.
  • Cost and time effectiveness: They are generally lower in cost, and faster to develop than native apps.

So, in a nutshell: while native apps have their drawbacks, their benefits often outweigh these cons. They offer superior performance, enhanced hardware compatibility, and a polished user experience.

Webview apps: Understanding the basics

Photo of a smartphone displaying a WebView app

Webview apps use web technologies like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5. Webview applications, which do not necessitate a download, conserve valuable device resources. Nonetheless, they may not fully utilize device-specific features or perform with the same efficiency as native apps.

Additionally, it's worth noting that WebView apps can be a great choice for businesses that want to reach a wide audience without the need for a significant investment in platform-specific development. While they may not offer the same performance or feature set as native apps, they can still provide a satisfactory user experience for a wide range of applications.

Key features of webview apps

nokia, lumia, microsoft

Webview apps, otherwise known as web and mobile apps or simply web apps, facilitate the creation of apps that are compatible across a variety of platforms. The construction of these hybrid apps is streamlined by the use of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, significantly reducing the time required to build these apps.

One of the significant advantages of these apps is their ability to provide a consistent user experience across all platforms. This is due to the fact that their content can be easily rendered across multiple platforms within a native app environment. As a result, users experience a familiar interface, regardless of the device they are using.

When it comes to updates, WebView apps or web mobile apps have a more straightforward process compared to their native counterparts. Users are not required to download and install a new version from the App Store. Instead, updates for these various mobile browsers and web apps only require editing or replacing the displayed web content within the app's interface.

This process is significantly faster compared to other methods. It ensures that users gain quick access to any new features or bug fixes. More stable versions are always running, enhancing the overall user experience and security.

Key features of webview apps include:

  • Cross-platform compatibility: Webview apps can run on any platform that supports a web browser, making them highly versatile.
  • Quick updates: Updates to webview apps are quick and straightforward, only requiring the web content within the app to be edited or replaced.
  • Consistent user experience: Webview apps provide a consistent user experience across all platforms, as their content can be easily rendered in a native app environment.
  • Cost-effective development: The use of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript allows for a cost-effective development process, as these technologies are widely known and used by developers.
  • Enhanced security: Webview apps ensure more stable versions are always running, without compromising security.

Pros of webview apps

coding, programming, css

Webview apps offer several benefits, making them an appealing choice for businesses. The reduced time and cost for development is one of the key advantages. Leveraging existing web technologies simplifies the development process, avoiding the need for platform-specific programming languages.

Furthermore, WebView apps streamline the update process. Unlike native apps, which require new versions for each update, WebView apps only need modifications to the web content. This results in less maintenance work.

WebView apps are a practical choice for small businesses. The cost-effective development and reduced maintenance make them a viable option. They can be an attractive choice for businesses with limited resources.

However, it's important to note that while WebView apps offer these advantages, they may not be the best choice for every business. The right choice will depend on a variety of factors, including the business's budget, goals, and target audience.

Some key advantages of webview apps:

  • Cost and time efficiency: By using existing web technologies, businesses can cut down on development costs and time. No need to learn or apply platform-specific programming languages or frameworks.
  • Quick updates: Updating content in webview apps is much more straightforward than it would be for native apps. For instance, there's no need to develop new versions of the app for each software or device update, which aids in reducing maintenance work.
  • Accessible for small businesses: The reduced maintenance work and cost-effective development process make webview apps a viable option for small businesses with limited resources.

However, it's important to note that while WebView apps offer these advantages, they may not be the best choice for every business. The right choice will depend on a variety of factors, including the business's budget, goals, and target audience.

Cons of webview apps

Webview apps, while providing certain advantages, also have certain drawbacks, such as: 

  • Slower speeds: They often have slower loading and response times than native applications. This is because their content isn’t tailored to the device platform.
  • App store rejection: WebView apps may be rejected from app stores, including Apple’s, if there is a lack of meaningful features and functionalities or an unfitting user experience.

To overcome these issues, developers should adopt certain measures:

  • Adding value: Developers should ensure that their WebView program offers something extra to consumers.
  • Meeting app store conditions: It's crucial to meet all Apple App Store conditions to avoid rejection.

By addressing these points, app developers can make the most of webview apps' potential and mitigate their drawbacks.

Comparing native apps vs. webview apps (or web apps)

mobile phone, metaverse, smartphone

With two decades of writing experience in the tech field, I can tell you that when weighing the pros and cons of native apps and webview apps, several critical factors come into play. These encompass the development costs, the quality of the user experience, the potential for engagement, and the overall performance of the app.

Native apps, crafted with a specific operating system in mind, offer a seamless and smooth functioning. This finesse comes with a higher price tag and a lengthier production timeline compared to webview apps.

Web app technology, on the other hand, provides a more cost-effective solution. While it may not offer the same level of sophistication as native android apps, if speed is your prime concern, this could be the most beneficial route.

The final decision between the two will hinge on your specific goals. If your aim is to create an efficient mobile game or banking app, investing in a fully native app version might be the most prudent course of action.

On the flip side, if your objective is to convert existing websites or web applications into an app without the need for complex hardware integration, a webview solution could be the more advantageous choice.

Development costs and time

iphone, hand, screen

For businesses aiming for a balance between both native and web apps or mobile apps and web apps, hybrid apps are the most cost-efficient option. Developing these hybrids requires fewer developers than traditional native single web app development and can be completed in a much shorter time frame.

Due to their separate code-bases required for each platform, creating conventional native apps entails greater expenditure of both capital and labor compared to using webviews as they employ technologies like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5.

User experience and engagement

website, woman, user interface, purple hair, yellow sweater

Native apps provide a superior user experience and increased engagement due to their compatibility with the device and high performance. They also access device features like GPS, camera, and accelerometer, enhancing the app's functionality and user experience.

On the other hand, webview Apps, limited by web technologies and restricted access to complex hardware resources, may not provide optimal interactivity or extended functionality compared to native apps. But be assured: it is entirely possible to have a webview app that looks, feels, and functions with native functionality (and that's why the New York Times, United Airlines, and other big companies are betting on web+native apps to scale their businesses).

Performance and reliability

rating, phone, customer, gold stars, 5 stars

Native apps are custom-built for specific platforms like iOS or Android devices. They offer high performance, reliability, and responsiveness. These apps have direct access to system resources and APIs, which results in a smooth user experience. However, they require more resources and time to develop due to the need for platform-specific programming.

In contrast, webview applications are built using web technologies. They are more cost-effective and quicker to develop. These apps can run on any platform with a web browser, making them versatile.

But depending on the way you go about developing them, webview applications can have limitations, especially where high performance or advanced device components are needed. They rely on web technologies, which can slow down loading times and limit hardware function usage. (That's why you should opt for a hybrid web+native app option)

Finally, as webview apps run in a browser, they don't have the same system access as native apps. This can affect their functionality and user experience.

How do I choose between native vs. webview apps?

When deciding between native and webview apps, it's essential to evaluate your project's specific needs, resources, and objectives. Here’s a simplified guide to help you make an informed decision:

  • Project Budget: Native apps may cost more upfront because they need special coding for each platform. Webview apps can be more cost-effective and quicker to deliver on, since they use common web code.
  • Performance Expectations: Native apps are built for specific devices and can run smoothly. Webview apps are optimal, too, especially for simpler tasks that don't need a lot of device power.
  • User Experience: Native apps can feel more natural on your device. Webview apps provide a reliable and consistent look across different devices, which is also great for users.
  • Development Timeframe: If you need an app fast, webview apps can be ready sooner. Native apps take a bit longer but can be fine-tuned for a perfect fit with the device.
  • App Complexity: If you need to use the phone's camera or GPS a lot, native apps are the way to go. But for most other things, webview apps work just fine.
  • Maintenance and Updates: Updating webview apps is a breeze — changes can be made in the web environment, and the app updates automatically. Native apps take a bit more work to update, but they can make the most of your phone's features.
  • Universal Compatibility: Webview apps adapt seamlessly to different devices and platforms without the hassle of crafting a unique version for each one.
  • Marketplace Visibility: A native app can seamlessly leverage their vast user base for distribution and discoverability. Keep in mind, though, webview apps might have to jump through extra hoops to meet the stringent criteria of app stores.

Finally, with an app builder like, you don't necessarily have to choose between the two. offers a hybrid option that combines the best features of both webview and native apps.

This means you can enjoy the cross-platform compatibility and ease of updates commonly associated with webview apps, alongside the performance and user experience enhancements typical of native apps. Choosing this approach can provide a balanced strategy, ensuring your app is both effective and efficient without strictly being labeled as hybrid.


Choosing between native or apps vs. and webview apps depends on several factors. These include development costs, time, user experience, and performance consistency.

Native apps deliver high-quality hardware-first results but come with higher costs and longer development time. On the other hand, webview applications are quicker and more budget-friendly to develop. However, they may not offer the same level of usability as native apps.

In making a decision, consider the available resources and the goals of the project. Remember, delivering a user-friendly app should be a top priority for any organization building digital products.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between native app and web app?

Native apps are created using the code libraries of a specific platform in order to make use of its hardware capabilities, while web applications can be accessed via an internet browser without requiring installation on the user’s device. They must be downloaded and installed onto their devices if users want to see progressive web apps benefit from native app functionality.

What is a native app?

A native app is one created specifically for a particular mobile operating system (think Android or iOS). Native apps are available via the Apple App Store and google Play Store, and have access to hardware/software specific components of that OS platform.

According to, "Native applications excel in delivering superior speed and performance on mobile devices, showcasing intuitive design principles and fortified security features."

What is the best tool to use to build a native app?

When it comes to building native apps, stands out as an exceptional tool. It offers a comprehensive suite of features that streamline the native development language and process, making it easier to create high-performing, feature-rich applications that are tailored to specific operating systems. is known for its user-friendly interface, extensive support, and robust capabilities, making it a top choice for developers looking to build native apps.

What is the main difference between native apps and web apps?

Native apps are built to work directly with an operating system, while Web Apps or WebView apps display web content through an embedded mobile browser.

*DISCLAIMER: This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not exhaustive and may not be relevant for your requirements. While we have obtained and compiled this information from sources we believe to be reliable, we cannot and do not guarantee its accuracy. This content is not to be considered professional advice and does not form a professional relationship of any kind between you and LLC or its affiliates. is the industry-leading end-to-end solution for developing, publishing, and maintaining native mobile apps for iOS and Android powered by web content. When considering any technology vendor we recommend that you conduct detailed research and “read the fine print” before using their services.*
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