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Type of Mobile Apps: Native, Web or Hybrid

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What’s in a Mobile App? Is it a Native, Web, or Hybrid App?

In an Internet landscape that has more and more users shifting from traditional personal computers to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to browse the Web, mobile apps are king. As such, it’s common to hear new terms like web apps, native apps, and hybrid apps being thrown around.

Native apps are found on the device itself, accessible through icons on the home screen or app drawer. These apps can be installed through application hubs such as the App Store for Apple and Google Play. Native apps are specifically developed for one platform, and can have features that tap into the device’s camera, accelerometer, compass, contacts, image gallery, GPS and more. These apps can also utilize gestures native to the device or the app itself.

Web apps are not actually apps per se, as they are only websites designed to look and feel like native apps. Web apps run on a browser and use the language HTML5. They are accessible through a URL (just like any other web page) and provide users the option of “installing” them on the desktop by creating a shortcut/bookmark. Web apps gained popularity with the rise of HTML5, which allows for native app-like performance in the browser itself.

Hybrid apps are just that, a hybrid between a native app and web app. Just like native apps, they can be accessed through an app store and can utilise features available on a device. However, they also rely on browser-based HTML—just like a web app—as they feature a browser within the app. Many companies use hybrid apps because they enable cross-platform compatibility, which means they can be reused for different mobile operating systems and allow for lower development costs.

For a more comprehensive explanation on the characteristics of native apps, web apps, and hybrid apps, you can turn to this article by Web usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group.

Which Type of App Do You Go For?

We at Enform think that each of these app types have their own pros and cons. Here’s a look at them.

Device-specific features

While web apps have limited access to device features, it’s a far cry from what native apps, and even the native aspect of hybrid apps, can do. Native apps get full access to a device’s suite of features, from gestures, notifications, camera, GPS and so on.

Offline Function

Native apps work best when online connectivity is a problem. HTML5 allows for in-browser caching, but again, it’s more limited compared to native functioning.

Discoverability

Content on the Web is easier to find than in an app, which gives web apps the advantage over the other app types. People use search engines to find information on the Web; it’s rare for users to go to the App Store to do the same thing.

Installation

Installing a native or hybrid app may be somewhat of a hassle compared to the simplicity of bookmarking a web app to the home screen, but the latter is a less familiar process to users. Native and hybrid apps are still superior in this regard.

 

Smartphones used more frequently in household with kids

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How often do you use your smartphone, and what do you mainly use it for? Do you have children at home with you? If so, have you considered that there might be a correlation between the two?

A study by Harris Interactive shows that smartphone owners living with children at home are more likely to use their mobile devices for a variety of uses compared to those without kids. The study outlines that smartphone users living with children are more likely to engage regularly in the following activities than those without kids:

  • Downloading and buying apps, music and videos
  • Researching about products and services
  • Purchasing products and services

It should be pointed out though, that the order of popularity of these activities is largely similar between the two groups, even with the gaps in engagement.

Closer Look at Results

The Harris Interactive reported the following numbers on these discrepancies, showing that smartphone users living than kids are:

  • 16 percent more likely to use maps and navigation apps on their smartphones
  • 16 percent more likely to download free apps and other content
  • 22 percent more likely to be on a social media site or app
  • 19 percent more likely to play games
  • 38 percent more likely to be looking up information about products and services
  • 39 percent more likely to buy apps and other content

Although we at Enform found that the survey from Harris Interactive doesn’t say anything about whether respondents with kids in the household were actually parents, another study, this time from Ipsos MediaCT shows that parents actually have an adoption rate of web-connected devices that’s well above average. This seems to suggest that being with kids has a correlation with technology habits.

So what exactly does the survey mean? Good question. We at Enform like to believe that time constraints and busy schedules are encouraging people living with children to multitask; that is, to do more with just one device.

Whereas the average Internet user living alone at home probably has time to engage in online activities across other devices, users living with children probably have to do things on their smartphones alone.