Native Apps
November 9, 2021

The Complete Guide to Native Mobile Apps

By 
Geoff Parent
Updated 
November 9, 2021
Native Apps
November 9, 2021

The Complete Guide to Native Mobile Apps

By 
Geoff Parent
Updated 
November 9, 2021
The Complete Guide to Native Mobile Apps

GoNative provides an end-to-end solution that enables you to deploy web-based applications as native iOS and Android apps. Learn more

Native Apps
  —  
November 9, 2021
Updated on 
November 9, 2021

The Complete Guide to Native Mobile Apps

By 
Geoff Parent
Updated 
November 9, 2021
The Complete Guide to Native Mobile Apps
Updated on 
November 9, 2021
Native Apps
  —  
November 9, 2021

The Complete Guide to Native Mobile Apps

By 
Geoff Parent
Updated 

GoNative provides an end-to-end solution that enables you to deploy web-based applications as native iOS and Android apps. Learn more

What are native apps and why do they deliver a better mobile experience? In this guide, we will cover these questions and you’ll learn more about why native mobile apps are so important.


A Guide to Understanding Native Mobile Apps

Delivering a rich, seamless mobile experience has become crucial to end-user satisfaction, regardless of the products or services your business provides. Consumers are downloading and spending more on apps than ever before; global app downloads hit a new high of USD $218 billion in 2020, while mobile app spending reached USD $318 billion worldwide.

Native iOS and Android apps are known to deliver a superior mobile experience and result in higher user engagement than web applications that are accessed through a mobile browser. But what are native apps? What differentiates them from web applications and why do native apps deliver a better experience? In this guide we will cover these questions and you’ll learn more about why native mobile apps are so important.

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What is a Native Mobile Application?

Native applications are developed to run on a specific hardware platform and operating system — in this case iOS and Android powered mobile devices. In this context, the word "native" indicates that the software is compiled into binary machine code for the specific device. The apps are developed in advanced programming languages that vary by platform:

  • Native Apps on iOS Devices: Written in Swift or Objective-C
  • Native Apps on Android Devices: Written in Java or Kotlin
Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

Native apps are able to access the complete range of hardware and functionality of a mobile device so long as the user provides permission. Some examples include camera and microphone access for scanning QR codes or video conferencing, reading contacts from the user’s address book, utilizing Face ID and Touch ID services for user authentication, and accessing background audio services to play music or podcasts while the device is locked.

Native apps can also integrate with native SDK (Software Development Kit) modules offered by vendors, which provide access to a wide range of specialized features and services. SDK integration makes it possible to add push notifications to your app using a provider like OneSignal, to add video and voice calling with Twilio, to track in-app user behavior using Google Analytics, and much more.

Typically, native apps are published to public app stores where users then download them directly to their devices. However, they can also be distributed through private app stores in enterprise settings. Together, the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are the largest distributors  of mobile apps worldwide, the Google Play Store being the largest with over 3.5 million available apps as of the first quarter of 2021.

What is a Web Application>

For the purposes of simplicity, a web application is a modern website. Usually we think of a website as a set of pages that present information whereas a web app is a more user-interactive experience. However, today it’s often difficult to distinguish between websites and web apps. Web applications are not downloaded or installed on mobile devices but rather are accessed by a web browser (e.g. Google Chrome or Safari). Web apps are written in universal languages such as HTML, ​​JavaScript, and CSS that are compatible with a range of devices from mobile tablets to sophisticated refrigerators!

How Do Native Apps Compare to Web Apps

Web apps do not possess the same user experience benefits found in native apps. For example, web apps have limited access to mobile device hardware. While a web app can access the video camera and microphone on a device through WebRTC, it cannot access the device’s phone functionality. This means that a video conferencing session in a web app will be interrupted by an incoming phone call. Whereas a video conferencing session in a native app can prompt the user to reject or ignore the incoming call.

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash
Key Differences
Mobile Applications Native Applications
Accessed via web browser (Chrome, Safari, etc) Downloaded and/or installed on mobile device from an app store or marketplace
Need to enter a URL or save the page to your bookmarks  to return to the website Installed onto the device and accessed via an icon on the device’s home screen
Typically written in JavaScript, CSS or HTML5 Written using advanced programming languages and run using compiled machine code specific to the device
Cannot access the device’s native features and has very limited access to the device itself Can interact directly with the device’s native hardware and functionality
No access to native third-party SDKs to add additional device-level functionality from other vendors Can integrate with native third-party SDKs
Cannot receive push notifications on mobile Can receive push notifications

What are the Advantages of Developing a Native App?

With native apps, the benefits from both an app functionality and user experience perspective are clear:

Superior Device Compatibility and Functionality

Native apps can access device hardware (camera, microphone, GPS, etc) and device functionality (Face ID, background audio service, push notifications) in a way that is not possible for web applications running in a browser. This elevated level of interactivity leads to more engaging, convenient end user experience. Some examples include:

  • A podcast or educational course app that plays audio content while the app is backgrounded or the device is locked.
  • A news publication or e-reading app that saves data directly to the device to provide functionality when there isn’t a WiFi or cellular data connection available
  • An expense or record management app that allows users to scan and automatically crop documents before uploading.
  • An inventory management app that scans QR codes or barcodes and automatically populates data input increasing speed and accuracy.
  • A consumer app that allows users to login securely and conveniently using Apple Face ID and Touch ID or Android Fingerprint and Face Unlock.
Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

App Store Visibility and Validation

Marketplaces, such as the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store, provide increased visibility for native apps. For example, these stores make recommendations and suggestions to end users based on their activity and previous app downloads. Additionally, end users often place additional trust in the app’s quality, safety, and security features because of the verification needed to publish apps to Google Play or Apple App stores.

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

Push Notifications

Push notifications are a highly effective way of reaching users directly on their mobile devices with announcements, offers and other information. These highly personalized notifications increase engagement and retention, and allow you to target specific users at times when they are most likely to respond. Push notifications can be added to a native app using a variety of service providers such as OneSignal that typically include powerful reporting and optimization tools with their offerings.

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

Revenue Generation

Developing a native app can help your business open up a new channel for revenue generation. Collective in-app revenue (from things like in-app purchases, pay-to-download apps, and subscriptions) grew 15.1 percent YoY to $33.6 billion from $29.2 billion in the third quarter of 2021. Businesses with native apps have three significant opportunities for income:

  1. They charge per app download on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store
  2. They add in-app purchases, subscription services, or premium paid features
  3. They add high value native banner and interstitial ads to monetize their user base

Importantly, native apps can integrate with analytics SDK modules such as Google Analytics to monitor app usage and optimize in-app revenue.

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

Are There Challenges in Developing a Native App?

Despite the benefits of native mobile apps there are challenges associated with developing, deploying and maintaining native apps:

  • They are costly to develop and the development process can require significant time
  • They need to be maintained and managed to ensure ongoing compatibility
  • Publishing to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store is time intensive and can be challenging
  • Developing apps for both Apple iOS and Android demands effectively double the effort and requires different skill sets

With GoNative, These Challenges Don’t Have to Stand in the Way

Build a Native App Entirely Online

GoNative’s highly intuitive online app builder makes it easy to convert your existing website or web-based application into an immersive, visually stunning native app that will deliver a rich mobile experience for end users on both iOS and Android devices. See our examples page for some of the many apps that have been created and published using GoNative.

See More Examples Here

Add Native Features With Minimal Web Development

GoNative’s extensive library of native plugins allow you to easily add push notifications, Touch ID / Face ID, QR code or barcode scanning, and background audio playback. AdMob native ads, and much more. Native plugins integrate with your website using JavaScript and do not require any native app development.

Easily Maintain Your Apps

GoNative maintains core iOS and Android app codebases so you don’t have to. We also ensure your apps remain compatible with future iOS/Android devices and operating system updates. This enables you to maintain your apps without requiring any in-house iOS or Android developers.

End-To-End App Publishing Services

Since 2014, we’ve helped our customers by publishing over 3,500 apps with a 97% approval rate to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Our team manages the publishing process from start to finish, ensuring compliance with app store guidelines, and seeing that your app is approved and available for download as quickly as possible.

Convert your website into a native app

Guaranteed Acceptance by Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Enter any website URL to build a native iOS and Android mobile app.

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Geoff Parent
Geoff Parent
Content Writer
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