If you are looking at Facebook’s downloaded app and comparing it to viewing Facebook’s mobile optimized site through Safari, you would be hard pressed to discover any major discrepancies between the appearances of the two. But despite the similarities, there are some major variations in how each runs and was created.

For potential developers who have a fantastic idea for a new app, there is a pivotal question to begin with before jumping into the design process. Will a native app or a mobile web app work best?

Mobile App

Here is a basic breakdown of these two main options.

So What’s the Real Difference?

The most basic way to differentiate between native and web apps is to say that native apps live on your device. They are downloaded from an application store, i.e. the Apple Store, Google Play, etc., and run as programs on your individual device.

A Web app, on the other hand, makes its home on the Internet. Although it can be “installed,” this type of app is really just a bookmark on the home screen. It can be accessed via a wireless connection but can’t be seen without Wi-Fi. The major benefit to a Web app is that it can cross platforms easily whereas a native application must be created and designed for different devices.

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Development Differences

When it comes to development, a native app must be written in its own programming language and with different user interfaces by custom mobile apps developers. This means that with each platform, like iOS or Android, a different development process is required.

Mobile web apps are built for web browsers which can be run across platforms. They are written in HTML5 or other server languages. After completion, a web app does not have to be submitted to an app store. It can be downloaded from the website.

Making Money from Apps

Because native apps are downloaded through an app store, they often charge a download price. This way, the developer makes a profit each time the app is purchased and downloaded. And in exchange for a percentage of sales, the app store handles all these transactions.

Web apps usually rely on advertisement and subscription fees to generate revenue. But advertisements are something that native apps are also catching onto. Many applications will be offered for free and then grab users at a point inside the app where they will want to pay to continue using, get rid of advertisements or download new updates and features.

Where to Go from Here?

Equipped with an improved understanding of native and web applications, you might still be wondering how to decide between them. This choice comes down to two main factors: function and cost. Depending on the purpose of the app, you should gravitate towards one or the other.

Native apps are ideal for games or programs that need to process information. And although web app capabilities are catching up, native apps also prove superior when it comes to integrating the phone’s features such as the camera, GPS location finding, etc.

But another deciding factor is budget. Because they require specific design for each platform, native apps tend to be costlier to walk through development. Mobile web design tends to be a simpler process is it uses more familiar script and coding language and doesn’t require different versions for separate platform.

With these basics, you will hopefully be well on the way to researching what works best for your app idea.