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6 “native” features you can use with mobile web apps

EducationWhat’s the difference between a native app and a mobile web app? Let’s start with the basics. A native app is downloaded and installed on the device, while a mobile web app is accessed through the device’s browser. Native apps must be built separately for each platform, while one mobile web app works on every platform.

Following me so far? Now, let’s get into the confusing stuff.

What can a native app do that a mobile web app cannot do? This is where a lot of businesses seem confused. Many believe that mobile web apps are nothing more than a web page running inside of a mobile browser. They believe that native apps are the only way to fully take advantage of the mobile device’s hardware.

The truth is, mobile web apps are capable of much more than most people think.  What can mobile web apps actually do? I’ve created a list of 6 “native” capabilities that many businesses don’t realize are possible with mobile web apps.  Over the next couple of months, I’d like to write up posts covering each point in more detail, with examples and tutorials on how you can add these capabilities to your mobile web apps.  Sound good?  To start things off, let me first share the 6 “native” features that you may not realize you can use with mobile web apps:

1: Mobile web apps can use GPS

2: Mobile web apps can upload files from a phone/tablet

3: Mobile web apps can function while offline

4: Mobile web apps can use the device’s gyroscope

5: Mobile web apps can use the device’s accelerometer

6: Mobile web apps can use swipe navigation

Many businesses assume that mobile web apps are limited in their device hardware access. The truth is, mobile web apps have far more capabilities than most people realize. Over the next couple of months, I will explore each one of the above capabilities in greater depth, and show you how to add these features to your own mobile web apps. Stay tuned!

14 thoughts on “6 “native” features you can use with mobile web apps”

  1. I question the 2nd item in your list — uploading files. I did some researching not too long ago, and it seems as though an iOS device (iPhone/iPad) will not allow uploading files thru the Safari browser using the standard HTML element.

    Are just talking about Android or is there another work around I have not heard of before?

    I look forward to your examples for each of these items.


  2. Randy –

    Excellent question! I was planning on addressing that issue when I write up the “how-to” post for file uploading. You are right about not being able to upload files through the stock Safari browser on iOS, but it is possible using other browsers. While I’m sure there are more options, we’ve found that the iCab browser works great for file uploading on iOS.

    Thanks for the question, and I hope that helps.


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  5. Hi
    I am facing the same problem that Randy has discussed earlier. i am stuck on that point. could you assist me how can do this? would be a more better for me. thanks

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  9. Can you acsess Bluetooth so you can send and receive things via Bluetooth. This is really important to me and need to know. I’m starting to learn HTML/CSS/JS and how to make mobile apps but I already told someone I could what they needed through a Bluetooth through an offline browser app.

    Please I need help.

    1. I don’t know of a way to use bluetooth for file transfers using an offline browser app. However, I believe that PhoneGap offers something along those lines, if you want to convert that mobile web app into a hybrid app.

    1. sorry, i should be more detail…can i activate the bluetooth to pair with a bt door lock…

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