Responsive Web VS Native Apps

Sep 16, 2015

Being adapted to mobile is a need  that  brands and businesses are already aware of. User consumption has changed drastically over the past few years, and so have the information and sales sources. Adapting our business to mobile is a process that can be confusing not only in terms of marketing decisions, but also in the technical aspects. Plus, it might be even more confusing when the technical ones don’t sound familiar to us.

One of the first decisions we have to make to start working in mobile is whether we are going to just make our web “friendly” for mobile screens, or we are going to invest in developing a mobile application. In the first case, we are talking about responsive websites or mobile web apps. In the second, we are referring to mobile apps that require downloading from the app stores.


But, what is better to develop? A responsive Web or a mobile app? This is like asking if is better to travel by car or by motorbike. It will depend on your taste and what you need. 


When it comes to develop a mobile solution. What is a better choice?


To begin with, we have to clarify that, unfortunately,  this isn’t a black-and-white decision, as within mobile apps and mobile-friendly Websites there are several options for development. Mobile apps  can be developed native or hybrid. Responsive Webs can also be developed adaptive or responsive.

However, in order to simplify it, we are going to focus on native development and Responsive Web apps –also known as Responsive Webs- , as the they are the most complete development options within mobile apps and Website development.

There are pros and cons within each option. Adapting the Web content to mobile devices through responsive design has two main advantages: time and money. Both are parameters we normally consider when we gage different options, specially if we are not close to the technical aspects that the development process involve. However, if we go deeper in terms of quality and services, we will probably see that there are lots of other attributes that are worth being taken into account. But let’s go through step by step.


  • Mobile Web Apps / Responsive Web:

These are equitative concepts, and both refer to the use of Web designs that are able to self-adapt to any device in order to be seen. Responsive Webs boosted when businesses realized that not working well on mobile devices could make the difference between being chosen from the competitors or not. That’s pretty obvious: when we are looking for a service or a product, and the Website doesn’t work perfectly smooth, we probably will redefine the search, rather than wait for the first one to give results.

As we pointed before, even though both are “mobile-friendly”, Responsive Webs aren’t the same as Adaptative Webs. While Responsive Webs are able to self-adapt to any device automatically, Adaptative Webs have pre-set sizes in which they are able to be shown. That means that, if you plan to develop an Adaptative Web, you will have to bare in mind every screen size in which you want your business to be shown: the ones that already exist and those which are to come. If your Web isn’t supported by any of them, it won’t be displayed in a proper way.

Anyway, going back to Mobile Web Apps, we can point out two main advantages: time and money, since just one development process allows the Web App to be seen on most modern mobile browsers. Furthermore, we won’t need to follow either any OS’ politics or its permissions, as we are developing a Website that isn’t distributed through the app stores.

However, when we choose to develop a Responsive Web, we also have to keep in mind that it has several drawbacks, as it is a simple solution for a problem which has multiple faces -as many as OS and devices there are-. Tictapps, a mobile development and consultancy expert agency,  features the following cons when talking about Responsive Web Apps:


  1. Web Apps need Internet connection to work: they take the information directly from the browser, which means that your app won’t be available everytime, everywhere. This might disappoint your users and won’t be really useful for your business if you goal is being found and being available in any context.
  2. Poor performance: Web Apps usually suffer from poor performance on mobile devices because its components -such as images or animations- are too slow and heavy for them. Moreover, we will have to wait for the browser to download the entire page and its elements in order to see it. This means a huge consumption of data, battery and also time.
  3. Lack of natural navigation: UI and UX conventions for iOS, Android or any other OS are different. Their look and feel is different, and the user tastes are diverse as well. So, if you build an app which is going to be the same for each OS and Web, then it will never feel native to the users, who won’t be using it for a long time because it just doesn’t seem natural.
  4. Other aspect that is important to take into account is the Push Notifications, which are a straight and visible way to attract the user attention and that cannot be performed on a Web App.
  5. Web Apps can’t access to phone functions like camera or calendar, for instance. This kind of technical limitations will affect not only the performance of the app, but also the creativity in the design of its functions.
  6. Technologies like QR codes, voice recognition or augmented reality can’t be used with responsive webs on mobile devices.  These are tools that require a specific mobile development, such as native.


  • Native apps


Native development is the most surgical solution for a business mobile problem.” Bertellotti assets It means taking into account the particularities of each OS. The codes, designs and good practices that suit, look and work the best.”

This is, obviously, a better and more expensive option than the Responsive Web,  since we have to resolve as many developments as OS we want to work with (Android, iOS, WindowsPhone, etc). We will also have to face the different approval processes that each system requires, and that could take from 2 days to 2 weeks of our schedule.  However, the results in terms of quality, speed and chances of using different technologies of the smartphone and others systems are many times superior.

With native apps, we won’t necessarily need Internet connection in order to use them. Once it has been downloaded, it’s stored directly on our devices, so we will be able to access them in every context. Thanks to them, we also solve the problem of loading times, as natives elements are designed specifically thinking of mobile performances. They are much lighter, much faster and finally provide a much better user experience. Furthermore, we will be able to access to all the device’s functions, because the app is installed on it and it works in conjunction with its different tools. Not only does this mean a better experience for the user, but also an increment in the services we can offer as a business through our app.  


“Native Apps get  the best of the online and offline world: they are able to work on both and complement each other”


Security is another plus side of native development. When you get in contact with a business through the Internet, you are exposed not only to its trackers, but also to all the Web’s. Nevertheless, when you establish a connection through an app you let it handle the connection without third party intervention, so you are not that exposed.

To sum up the pros of native development, we must talk about brand awareness. When we decide to make an investment in an app, which probably will be much more expensive than a Responsive Web’s, we have to take into account that this tool gives us the chance of being on the user’s mobile desktop, the mobile phone’s main stage.

Let’s use an example: Responsive Web Apps require users to go through a long way to find us. They have to think of our brand; open the mobile navigator; type our website’s domain or, even worse, google it; wait for the browser to load; use it and repeat all the process each time they want to contact us.  While, if we have a business app, they will only have to think of us once. Then, after the app has been downloaded, we will be on their screens and minds every time they use their smartphones.

All in all, the cons of Native Apps are basically, time and money. While the pros are the quality of the product and the wide range of development possibilities.

As a conclusion, using one of Tictapps Business Developers words, Nicolas Rajcovich,  “The differences between Responsive and Native would be like differences between a car and a motorcycle, there is no one better than the other, it is just a matter of taste and needs.  If you like the wind on your face, and want to get to a place fast, the bike will be you choice, right? If you like to travel with friends and carry heavy luggage, the car might fit better. From this analogy, if your site is just about company information and you would like to invest a small budget, a responsive website might work fine. But, if you are looking for an engaging experience, and your site is transactional, needing more interactions than read and go, I would highly recommend to invest in a native application.”

Do you want to know more? Write to us!


Posted by María Murillo 

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