We're hiring!

A native app or a web app?

A native app or a web app7

Web apps are gaining more and more ground. That’s because they’re super mobile-friendly and amazing for the user experience and, therefore, a perfect platform for the modern-day consumer. But what about the common native app of which we’ve all downloaded at least one on our phones? Are they already outdated? In this blog, you’ll learn all about progressive web apps and native apps and why we’re such fans of mobile websites.


The growth of mobile

Over the past years mobile has spiked, as you can see in these in facts:

  • In 2020, people spent over 4 hours and 10 minutes on their mobile devices, a growth of 20% compared to 20191
  • 60% of all Google searches are done via mobile, almost double compared to 5 years ago2
  • In 2022, more than 50% of the total ad spend will be spent on mobile advertising and will overtake desktop ad spend2
  • In 2020, over 40% more hours were spent on streaming via mobile1
  • Over each year, there is a 30% growth in time spent on shopping apps. Even more so, social shopping via social media channels such as Instagram and Pinterest will grow to a $2 trillion marketing in 20241

The facts don’t lie: mobile has exploded throughout the years—high time to turn your website into a mobile-friendly platform.


What is a web app?

A web app is a mobile website that behaves like an app. This means that a web app can use mobile functionalities, and users have a similar experience as they would have when using a native app.

Unlike a native app, you can use a web app by simply typing the URL into the browser. So a user won’t have to install an app first to use it. This does mean that a web app can’t use all the mobile functionalities that a native app can. The functionalities can also differ between the browsers your users use when visiting your web app.


Progressive web app

Besides a web app, a progressive web app (PWA) is also gaining popularity. A progressive web app is a boosted version of a web app that functions on any device, platform, operating system, and browser. A PWA is far less dependent on the browser used and can, therefore, use more functionalities. Think of functionalities such as sending push notifications and the option to add the ‘app’ to your phone’s home screen. Besides, a PWA is way faster than a responsive web app. Because a PWA saves all data after the first visit, the next time someone visits it using the same device, it will load much faster. This data saving also makes it possible to use the PWA offline when you don’t have an internet connection.

Even Google has discovered the value of progressive web apps. It has converted certain native apps to progressive web apps, such as YouTube Music and YouTube TV, and will do more in the future. Microsoft is also a strong supporter of PWAs and recommends these in the Microsoft Store for Windows. In Windows 11, PWAs get an even more prominent place.


Web app vs. native app

To make a well-informed decision on choosing between a progressive web app or a native app, we’ve summarized all differences below.

(Progressive) web app


Suitable for all platforms, devices, operating systems, and browsers.

Bound to the operating system you build the app for. This can be either iOS, Android, or both. You also need to add the app to different app stores.

Doesn’t need to be installed to use.

Users have to download the app from the app store first before using it.

Service Workers make it possible to use the PWA offline.

Can be used offline.

Limited use of mobile functionalities. A web app can send notifications, use NFC, open the camera, use GPS location, use the microphone, and other apps.

Extensive use of mobile functionalities. Besides the functionalities a PWA can use, a native app can also make NFC payments, detect ambient light, and use smart locks.

Slower than a native app because it has to function on multiple platforms, operating systems, and browsers. It isn’t built for one specific system.

After the app has loaded for the first time, it will load faster the next time a user visits it.

Faster than a PWA because the app is specifically built for one operating system and is better integrated with the phone.

As the developer of the app, you can force an update if there’s an internet connection. The user won’t notice anything from this and thinks the app is automatically updated.

Users need to install an update themselves (except when they use automatic updating).

Can be added to the home screen.

Can be added to the home screen.

The website needs to be visited via a URL; therefore, the quality isn’t guaranteed. Google does state that you need to have an SSL certificate to publish a PWA.

The app stores have quality and security measures to ensure users have a secure and qualitative app.

The great thing about PWAs is that the content is the same as on the website, so you don’t have to spend extra time on content management.

A native app has unique content from the website and needs to be managed apart from it. With a native app, you need to spend double the time managing the website and the app.

Search engines like Google can index a progressive web app. To become better findable, you can use SEO and SEA, and other optimizations you are familiar with.

Search engines don’t index native apps by default. When you have an app and a website with similar content, you can connect these two, so your app will be visible in Google’s search results. Besides, Google shows some apps of its Play Store in the search results when a user is looking using specific keywords.

You can also use App Store Optimization (ASO) techniques to make sure you’re more visible in the app store.


What do you choose?

In the end, it’s, of course, your decision. Determine what you want to use the app for and which option best matches your needs. Consider which native functionalities you need and if a progressive web app better suits these wishes, so you spend less time managing content for different channels.

At Sterc, we love progressive web apps. Want to know more about this powerhouse? Read this and learn all about progressive web apps.


Select a language.