Native apps vs. mobile websites: A new battlefront opens

It’s one of the most challenging ongoing conflicts in mobile technology: native apps vs. mobile websites. Is it better to develop apps for specific mobile operating systems like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android or instead turn to websites that are optimized for mobile browsing. 

Performance vs. flexibility

Traditionally, the tradeoff has been that native apps can do more and perform faster because they can be tied more directly to the mobile operating system and the device hardware. Mobile web apps, on the other hand, are typically easier to develop and more flexible. You can build an app once, and it runs reasonably well everywhere—rather than have to develop multiple versions for every mobile OS. 

At least that’s been the conventional wisdom in the developed world, where native apps’ performance advantage can help tip the balance in a very competitive market. But now, according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, mobile websites are getting a big boost from new users in developing countries. 

Mobile web browsers are more efficient

The issue, the Journal says, is bandwidth efficiency. Native apps “are the product of markets where monthly data plans and home Wi-Fi are abundant.” But relatively expensive pay-as-you-go data plans are much more prevalent in developing markets in Asia, South America, Mexico and Africa. 

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