What’s difference between a native AR app and web-based AR?

by First Descent AR • 29 March 2023

Augmented Reality(AR)usage has increased over the years and even more so through the massive digital shift we saw companies make to stay relevant (and profitable) during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can test nail polish colours, view products up close, try products on and play games all while staying in the comfort of your home all through the use of AR. If you want to learn more about the basics of AR, check out our blog post where we break down what AR is.

If you’re looking to develop an AR experience for your customers, the first big decision to make is: Do you develop for web-based AR or native App AR experience? We’re going to go through what the differences are between these two platforms as well as their pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision.

What is the difference between web-based AR and native app AR?

For users to experience AR using a native app they first have to download that app onto their smart device, from there they have quick access to the AR experience and even more.

Web-based AR enables users to engage with your AR experience by simply using the web, rather than committing to a specific app. Users scan a QR code then typically click to allow access to their camera and possibly their motion stabilizer. Once these permissions are granted, the user can then view the AR experience. This is a huge disruptor for Native AR apps since it removes the extra step of downloading an app to a device, which increases the likelihood of a user choosing to engage with the experience.

With the major differences in the platforms out of the way, let’s go into the pros and cons of each:

Pros and Cons

Native AR App

Access: Once users download the app, there isn’t a need for internet connectivity to continue to use the app.

Speedy delivery: There is an improved speed of delivery of content with less load or lag time since all the content is stored directly inside the app.

Better graphics: Building an AR experience on an app allows you to have a higher quality rendering since more can be programmed into an app. If you have a lot of content or complex 3d models with great animation, an app experience is the way to go.

Longer shelf life: Apps are better suited for longer campaigns or for experiences that you want to improve on in the future.

Added information: An App can hold other information or functionality beyond the AR experience.
Added Step: Before people can view the AR experience, they must download the app which might not sound like a big deal, but some people, for a multitude of reasons, are weary about downloading an app.

Web-based AR

Easy Access: A Web based AR experience is easily accessed. Almost anyone with a current smart device and internet connection can view the AR experience.

Easy to use: Users simply point the camera of their smart device at a QR code and follow the instructions.

Usage: Since there is less of a commitment involved in scanning a QR code as opposed to downloading an app, there is a greater likelihood that your target audience will give it a try.

Easy updates: Making updates to a Web-based AR experience is slightly quicker and easier than for an app.
Resolution/Detail: There are limitations to delivering the experience through a web browser. 3D renderings have to be optimized for web use and it means giving up a little bit of detail in the models.

Internet required: Since users are viewing the AR experience through the web, it goes without saying that they need an internet connection any time they want to view the experience.

Monthly fees: You need to pay a monthly subscription fee to a hosting platform, which can get expensive depending on how long you’re running the experience for.

Choosing between the two

As previously mentioned, when developing an AR project you have to decide prior to the actual programing of the experience whether you want to use a Web-based experience or a Native App experience because once you decide, you can’t change your mind. But the assets that are created for your AR experience could be placed into either a web-based or app platform. For this reason it’s of the utmost importance that you consider the pros and cons for each and determine which is better suited for your project.

So, once you’ve chosen your programmer, here are some questions to ask yourself in order to help you pick the right platform for your project:

  • What is the goal of the project?
  • What environment will the viewer be in when activating the AR experience? (Ex; will they be at a trade booth, at home, in the grocery store?)
  • How long will the project run for?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • What content am I offering?
  • Is my audience likely to download an app to access the experience?

Those are but a few questions to get the dialogue started between your marketing team and the developer. Of course each AR experience is different, and each business is different, so a thorough, diligent approach to planning is highly recommended. First Descent AR would be happy to participate in that conversation if you’re at that stage. Email our AR creative problem solver, Brian Dusselier, he’s just a click away from answering all your questions concerning finding your story to flushing out technical elements.

Both approaches have merit depending on the application. At the end of the day, however, the primary focus should be delivering engaging and meaningful content that will inform and entertain your audience.

You can also connect with Brian via LinkedIn.

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