Web App vs. Native App? Or Web App AND Native App?

The last month’s blog posts and twitter tweets are popping up about the advantages or downsides of Web Apps or native apps. Just saw a new one again today.

People are taking one side and are passionate about why one technology is great and the other just rubbish. It’s interesting to see and assume the motivation behind it, as it seems that most people just argue towards the specific technology what they use (as a content provider) or offer (as a technology provider).

And here’s a good chart that shows when to use what:  http://ow.ly/nSXed


I am not going to take sides, I rather ask: Does it really matter?

Regardless of whether your content is in Web Apps (which are basically HTML5 pages that appear like an app without being one) or in native apps (that you get from the App Stores), there should be one common theme:

Your content should tell a story. It should excite. It should engage with your reader.


The majority of your readers do not care what technology you use to deliver content as long as there are no obvious flaws (crashes, performance or quality problems). They want content to adopts best to the device and platform they use and give them the best user experience.


Even better (and maybe surprisingly) the two technologies, web apps and native apps, seem to become more and more similar.

Two recent examples:

  • Up until last week it was not possible to distribute web apps via an app store. That’s not true anymore since Amazon opened their app store for web apps: http://ow.ly/nWZX2
  • Today web pages cannot (and therefore neither can web apps) trigger notifications. Well, it seems that Apple will enable iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks to do exactly that: http://ow.ly/nX08K


So, if there is no objective criteria or differentiators as to which technology is best for your readers, why not offer both:

  • Native apps for those who like to browse Apple’s or Google’s app stores and prefer native apps.
  • And web apps for those who use a Desktop browser with Linux, OS X or Windows or prefer web apps on mobile.

It also broadens your audience. Have a look at what Vacature, a Belgian publication, is doing. They use App Studio to offer both, native app and web app:

Which one do you prefer? And why?

Both an engineer and a layout artist, Matthias bridges the gap between technology and people.

Before joining Quark, Matthias pioneered print, Web, and multimedia products for multiple German publishing companies. Since 1997 he has played a central role in shaping Quark’s desktop and enterprise software.
Starting 2003 Matthias has focused on Quark’s interactive and digital publishing solutions. He is an active participant in design and publishing communities and represents Quark in the Ghent PDF Workgroup.

Since February 2014 Matthias heads Quark’s Desktop Publishing business unit and is therefore responsible for QuarkXPress.

4 thoughts on “Web App vs. Native App? Or Web App AND Native App?

  1. Charles

    Web App… Why, let’s do some basic math:

    Web App Monthly Cost: ZERO ($0.00), no additional cost to monthly hosting fee.
    Web App Support: TONS of FREE Support Forums or Freelance.com/ODesk.com for an affordable solution.
    Web App Limitations: UNLIMITED, I can have 1 Million downloads and should be the same price but not more then my current hosting price of $20/month or less.
    Web App Conversion: Anyone can convert a Web App into a iOS, Android, Amazon, Blackberry App for… FREE ($0.00)
    Web App Dependance: Unless the internet goes down, my Web App will publish.

    Native App Monthly Cost: App Studio, $99+/Month/Publication with MAJOR LIMITATIONS!
    Native App Support: App Studio… I only get Bronze Support BUT can spend more $$$ for Silver or Gold. (Note they don’t even mention the cost of this or what is/isn’t included with any of their support plans!?)
    Native App Limitations: App Studio, 1,000 issue downloads/month on the $99/Month/Publication plan.
    Native App Conversion: App Studio… your locked in! NO SOUP FOR YOU!
    Native App Dependance: App Studio… Company goes under after you trained your staff and you get fired for being 100% dependent on an outside company you have no control over.

    Conclusion… WE HAVE A WINNER: Web App, and convert into a Native App for FREE via Cordova ( http://incubator.apache.org/cordova )!

    Seriously, I can’t believe that App Studio charges so much!!! If they where reasonable, sure but for our family owned business with three real estate publications, $99/Month/Publication with a limit of 1,000 downloads!? We have ten thousand physical magazines picked up right now, if we offered download, what the hell would it cost us if there was 5,000 downloaded!? Right now the $499/Month/Publication only offers 2,500 downloads… so 5k downloads would cost us, $1,000/Month/Publication or in our case $3,000+++!? Versus… FREE or am I missing something here!??!


  2. Hi Charles,

    you are right, you can put websites onto a hosting server and pay for transfer costs only (which can be high depending on availability and volume). And you can use technology like Phone Gap to convert a web package into an app by putting an app wrapper around it (and you could argue that then it is still a web page though). And of course you could put in some animations you manually created with 3rd party software.

    However where App Studio is offering you a huge advantage is that you can design layouts using InDesign or QuarkXPress, pixel perfect, enrich them with animations, slideshows, flip pages, buttons etc. and publish that to apps and web apps. Not using a coding environment and not using a web development software. App Studio uses Amazon S3, so a high-available hosting with CDN possibilities for world-wide delivery, I doubt that you hosting provider will offer that cheaper.

    And if all you are concerned about is download prices (which by the way are cheaper than most other players in the Digital Publishing market), then please talk to one of our sales persons, as we offer self-hosting options too. However I am pretty positive you’ll find that for a similar availability and download volume, our prices are competitive. The prices for additional downloads are here: http://www.appstudio.net/Plans/Add-ons.aspx

    That said, we of course constantly mirror the market and adjust accordingly, you will (and have) seen that if you watch us closely.

    And by the way, the main aspect of the article was to take a position that you should have to decide whether it’s native app or web app, just do both. As written, native Apps still have advantages, currently push notifications (which iOS7 will also allow for web apps), subscriptions and in-app purchases without having to implement that yourself, access to certain hardware aspects of the device, trust of customers (a soft factor) and so on. And some advantages of web apps you already reiterated. So just do both.

    Feel free to drop me an email if you want to discuss further.


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