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Native app or web tech app for a digital magazine?

Team PaperLit


A lot has already been said about native apps versus web tech-based apps. There are even hybrid apps that combine the best of both worlds. However, not much has been said yet about their suitability for digital magazines.

To be able to make the right choice, we need to understand first what are the requirements for digital magazine apps.

Digital magazine apps have been created to make your digital magazine portable on your subscribers’ devices, whether they are mobile phones, phablets or tablets. Subscribers want fast and immediate access to your digital magazine.

Another factor to consider is the experience of reading your digital magazine. By having a magazine app, you need to decide for yourself whether you need to provide a superior experience for your readers and this commands everything from intuitiveness to certain functionalities such as push notifications.


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You may also need to consider the behaviour of your readers. Do they tend to be read in transit where internet may be spotty such as the subway or a fast-moving train or even an airplane? Then your app will have to factor for that.

Now that we understand the factors to consider when deciding whether to opt for native or web tech app, let’s take a closer look at each.

Digital magazine apps based on web tech

These apps, also known as web apps, have been quite popular for a number of reasons. Firstly, they’re easy to create. They’re essentially websites that run on usual web browsers in your phone and instead of an app launcher in your phone, you basically have a shortcut that links to the address online. They’re also fairly cheaper to develop, and you just need to build it once and it can run on all platforms. Best of all, since it’s hosted online, it occupies no space in your phone.

However, despite all these advantages, there are a couple of downsides as well. Generally, web apps are slower than native apps. This doesn’t bode well if your readers would like a seamless reading experience that doesn’t depend too much on a fast and steady internet connection.

There’s also the issue of web apps not being as interactive or intuitive as their native counterparts. The lack of push notification functionality is a sore point.

Recently, there have been new developments in the mobile web tech arena in the form of Progressive Web Apps which came about as a response to the disadvantages of web apps. Push notifications are now available and some functionalities such as accelerometer use and vibrate functionalities have become available as well. However, they can only run on Google Chrome, so there’s still some way to go for this type of web tech.

Native apps for digital magazines

When someone thinks of an app, this is usually the kind that comes to mind. It’s the kind that you download from an app store, install and run on your phone, and you know that it’s housed in your phone the moment it’s installed.

Many developers opt for native apps because of its speed. When you install an app, the app you download was built and optimised specifically for your phone’s operating system whether it’s Android or iOS. It’s also more responsive and intuitive and performance is at its best compared to other types. All the special in-house app functionalities such as push notifications are available which is very useful for digital publications.

Internet connection is also not a necessity to run the app. Naturally, it will still need to download online data such as your magazine files, but it can be programmed to download when there’s wifi connection and save the latest issue/s for viewing even while offline.

However, since it requires specialised developers, you may need to invest more to produce native apps than web apps. You’ll also have to consider developing apps for at least two operating systems – Android and iOS, further contributing to your costs.

For free digital magazines that need only simple functionalities, native apps may be too expensive and not worth the bother. But for large publishing houses that have several issues distributed with good subscriptions and have a very active engagement strategy through their apps, then native apps may be the right choice.

Hopefully, this quick guide gave you a better idea of the main factors to consider when choosing the type of app you want.