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What Does “Native” Mean When Refering to Mobile Web Appliations



When working with web applications and mobile applications, you will hear a lot of people talking about “native” apps versus web apps, but it’s not always clear what the difference is.

According to Dictionary.com, native when referring to computers means:

“designed for use with a specific type of computer”

And when you’re talking about applications on mobile devices, that’s what it means. A native application is one that has been written for iOS (iPhone and/or iPad) or Android, and is not HTML repurposed. Most web applications are not native to any mobile device, and as such can run on any of them as well as desktops and non-smartphones.

But making a native application means that your application can take advantage of features of the operating system that are not available to web applications. Things like: tilt sensing, touch events, and even the phone or camera. Plus most native applications run faster than their web application counterparts because they have more direct interaction with the operating system and don’t need to parse HTML or JavaScript first.

Plus, the most common reason people want to make native applications rather than web applications is that you can sell them in the various app stores. While it is possible to sell web applications, it’s much more difficult and most developers end up offering their web applications for free.

But if you are working on an HTML web application, you shouldn’t despair. There are ways to convert your web applications into native applications for both Android and iOS. One of the easiest is PhoneGap. With PhoneGap, you can load your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript into the program and then convert it into a native application ready for use on Android and iOS (as well as other operating systems—as of this writing, PhoneGap supports 7 different mobile platforms). PhoneGap Build will even let you create one application for free.

So if you decided to forget about HTML5 because you couldn’t use it to create native iOS or Android applications, you should think again and consider using a program like PhoneGap (or SenchaTouch or one of the other tools out there) to convert your web app to a native app.

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