Recently, we have seen a transition from websites to apps when delivering digital services. Most consumers today own at least one smart device, which puts millions of mobile applications at their fingertips. These apps range from home automation to eCommerce, to ride-hailing services and more. This has also extended to the business world, with many traditional office programs now being available on mobile devices.

All these experiences are delivered through digital applications. Have you considered the many tangible benefits that developing your own digital app could bring you? End-users will appreciate the practicality of instant access to your service on their home screen, while enterprises can gain access to more data to drive insight. Done correctly, it can be a win-win for both sides.

The Different Types of Digital Apps

There are many different types of apps, with differing levels of complexity to develop and maintain. Each one offers various benefits to the end-user and your enterprise—meaning you should be aware of each type.

  • Native Applications – A native application is designed and developed to run on a specific operating system. Much like desktop computers running macOS are unable to run Windows applications, Android and iOS native apps are unable to run on each other’s operating systems. Instead, each application is a tailored software package that is fully optimized to take advantage of the hardware and software capabilities of the device.

    Native applications are the most difficult to develop, mainly because they are not interchangeable between different ecosystems. Regardless of which OS you start with, you will have to work from the ground up to redevelop the application for another platform. This means you effectively double the support requirement when implementing digital app delivery into your IT strategy, as you have two different applications to maintain over time.

    At the same time, native applications have better performance and much more functionality when compared to other digital application types. Firstly, each mobile OS has a design language that you can use to offer a UI experience aligned with the device for which you are developing. With Android and iOS, there are application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow you to natively use device features like the gyroscope, camera, and microphone. This offers a higher capacity for feature development, allowing you to build a richer application experience that is fully accelerated by the device hardware.

  • Web Apps – Unlike native applications, web apps use HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. These are device-agnostic web development standards that can be run through any mobile web browser. The basic premise for web apps is leveraging the existing web browser on the device and making your website available as a shortcut on the home screen.

    Web apps are straightforward to develop, requiring little more than the existing web browser on the device to function. Most web apps can be installed through your web browser, with Google Chrome allowing you to add it to the home screen on Android through an on-screen prompt. All user data will be stored on your servers, except for cached data to speed up page loading, which improves accessibility when transitioning between devices for end-users.

    With web apps, performance is highly reliant on the quality of your existing website. It reduces development overhead by centralizing the codebase for your services, but also severely limits functionality due to limited access to device APIs. Performance is also dependent on network conditions. This means no internet connection = no service for end-users.

  • Hybrid Apps – These aim to leverage the simplicity of web apps while expanding functionality to behave more like a native application. Much like web apps, the experience is delivered over the internet but disguised through a native browser wrapper that can be posted on the App Store or Google Play.

    Unlike web apps, some functionality will still be available offline, improving service availability in adverse network conditions. The use of standardized coding languages like HTML and CSS means that hybrid apps will work across all devices, reducing development times while still being able to leverage more advanced system APIs.

    At the same time, there will be limited integration with OS design languages due to everything being browser-based. You will be reliant on native browser plugins to access more advanced system APIs, meaning you may lose access to several features with new OS updates. Standards like WebGL can accelerate graphics in a hybrid app, but you still have a performance penalty when using hybrid apps for 3D gaming or animation-heavy UI elements.

When deciding between these different application types, you will have to determine what sort of application you aim to deliver. If you want to minimize costs and deliver your website in the form of an application, a web app may be best. Or you may be planning to deliver a feature-rich digital app with custom-built integrations and full hardware acceleration, making native applications the best choice. It could be that you want a mix of the two, to balance development costs with service quality, in which case a hybrid app may be best for you.

Build Your Best-Case Digital App with Trianz

Trianz is a leading digital app consulting firm with years of experience helping our clients to determine their application requirements and deliver their vision through the App Store and Google Play. Our keen development expertise allows us to advise you on the best app development strategy, to build digital experiences that deliver maximal functionality while minimizing development costs.

Get in touch with our digital apps consulting team and start delivering native app experiences for your customers with Trianz.

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