Cross Platform Compatibility: Native App VS Web App

A recent Mashable article reported on the disillusionment with native apps amongst certain publishers. The article goes on to explain a subject broached here a few times, basically Web Apps versus Native Apps, but there was a little snippet that caught my attention:

“Given the amount of traffic publishers are seeing from mobile-web browsers, coupled with improvements in HTML5, the success of the Financial Times‘s mobile web app, the difficulties of constantly iterating for new versions of iOS, and the rise of Android and other mobile software platforms, does it make sense for publishers to continue to invest in native apps for tablets and smartphones?” (Source: Do Publishers Still Need Native Apps?)

This quotation gets to the heart of one of the major downsides of native app development, the lack of platform cross compatibility and constant updates to meet the newest iOS. If you don’t want to limit your app to one OS, then multiple apps have to be developed. Also with each new OS update means your going to have to update that app again. This means time and money to maintain the app.

Web apps on the other hand don’t have to worry about such things. A web app on an iPhone is the same as on an Android. This is because a web apps run off browsers, not the phones themselves, so no need to worry about what operating system you use. The only exception to this is Flash and HTML5. Flash works on Android but not on iOS. This was, and to some extent still is a problem, but the future looks like it’s falling on the HTML5 side.

Another article form TechCrunch points at an interesting trend, iOS dominates mobile web browsing traffic. It also points out that 33% of traffic comes from Android devices. By simply choosing to develop a mobile web app instead of an app, you automatically get access to a 33% wider market than just sticking to one OS or going down the costly road of developing multiple versions of a native app.