Companies that make mobile apps have been arguing over the merits of native apps and Web apps for several years. You, the consumer, should also know the pros and cons of these options. After all, the type of app that you download will affect what developers do in the future. If you don’t know the differences between native and Web apps, though, you’re not sending a clear message.

Native Apps Can Use Your Entire Phone, Including the Camera and GPS

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When it comes to performance, native apps almost always come out on top. That’s largely because they can use all of the mobile device’s hardware whereas Web apps are limited to their browsers. Native apps, for instance, can use a mobile phones camera to take pictures and make videos. Currently, Web apps can’t do that.

Native apps can also use a phone’s GPS more effectively. Some Web apps can tap into that feature, but they have very limited features.

This could change in the near future since HTML5 gives Web apps greater flexibility. At the moment, though, companies like Google and Apple know they have an interest in keeping Web apps out of some features. They will either have to change their programs to give Web apps more access, or developers will have to crack programming codes to access previously restricted features.

You Can Use Web Apps On Multiple Devices

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If you’re looking for convenience, then Web apps have an advantage over native apps. With native apps, you have to download the software directly to your device. This can get tricky if you have multiple devices. If you have an iPhone and an Android tablet, for instance, you might find that you can’t use the same app on both devices. Even if you can find iOS and Android versions of the app, they probably won’t communicate with each other. That creates a serious barrier for people who have gotten used to carrying multiple devices.

Web apps offer more flexibility because your operating system doesn’t matter as much. If the developer made the app to function seamlessly between devices, you can use your iPhone on the train and then switch to your Android tablet when you get to the office without starting over.

Native Apps are Faster Than Web Apps

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Native apps are almost always faster than Web apps. After all, native apps are built right into the phone’s hard drive. You can open them just like you would open any piece of software on a computer.

Web apps, however, have to work through a browser. That essentially means you’re using two apps instead of one. The load time differs greatly between apps regardless of whether they’re native or Web. Some apps are just larger than others.

If you were to make two identical apps, though, (one as a native app and one as a Web-based app), the native app would always work faster.

Web Apps Offer More Diversity

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Native apps usually have high-quality features that make them look nice and function properly. That’s because Google, Apple, and other device-makers can monitor their apps. Apple, in particular, acts as a gatekeeper that won’t let sub-par apps pose as native software. If it doesn’t meet their quality demands, then it doesn’t go in the App Store.

Large companies don’t have the same control over Web apps. Since Web apps can work on practically any platform, developers don’t need permission from Apple, Google, or anyone else. They can just make their apps and publish them to work through browsers.

That means you get less quality control from Web apps, but it also means you get greater diversity. You can, for instance, play Jackpot City games on any device because it goes through the browser instead of the operating system. It doesn’t matter whether Apple likes the app or not. The consumer gets to decide.

That has led to an explosion in creativity and quick development that you rarely see in native apps.

Native Apps Protect Your Security Better

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Quality control can limit diversity, but it gives companies the ability to make sure apps meet their security standards. When you download a Web app, you don’t really have any security assurance. Anyone with basic HTML5 or JavaScript knowledge could make a Web app that essentially acts like a virus. Apple or Google, however, should spot these security flaws, whether intentional or not. Going native, some argue, means better security for devices that people use to store sensitive information.

Then again, that depends on what you mean by “security.” If you implicitly trust Apple and Google to do the right thing, then, yes, you get better security with native apps. A survey in 2012, however, found that 26 percent of native apps access personal information, including emails and contact lists.

It’s probably (and that’s a big probably) safe to assume that Apple is less likely to use your private information for nefarious purposes than an app developer in Chechnya. If you don’t like the idea of a large corporation viewing your personal info, though, native apps are potentially as troublesome as Web apps.

Web Apps Evolve More Quickly

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Web apps usually get updated more frequently than native apps. One could argue that this is both a good and bad thing for users.

One on hand, it’s good that Web apps evolve quickly because it lets them keep up with changes in technology and it helps developers respond to user demand. Developers don’t have to go through the application process again just to update their software. When they spot problems or see room for improvement, they can just make updates. It’s fast, simple, and to the point.

On the other hand, perhaps Web apps wouldn’t need so many changes if developers spent more time making sure they worked properly before releasing them. The apps that you download from Apple’s store have already been tested, so perhaps they just don’t need so many changes.

It really depends on what you expect from an app and how tolerant you are when things don’t work perfectly.

What other differences have you noticed between native and Web apps? Do you think the future will favor one over the other, or will a hybrid emerge that gives consumers the best of both worlds?