WebAR on Smartphones vs. AR Headset

July 1, 2024

Find out why WebAR on a smartphone is the smarter choice when developing and publishing augmented reality experiences in 2024


AR headsets have been developing rapidly during the past few years and with the launch of the Apple Vision Pro things have really been taking off, with competitors launching strong alternatives almost every month of 2024.

Simultaneously WebAR has become more powerful, and has reached a point where it can compete with app-based Augmented Reality on most parameters, thanks to being able to access the same sensor data that AR apps use.

While WebAR is still mostly used on smartphones, although it can be utilised on most of the top headsets, creators favour native apps when developing for headsets. And there are several good reasons for both approaches, depending on your needs.

In this article I’ll go through some of the top reasons why you should prioritise developing WebAR for Smartphones over any type of AR for headsets, if you want to reach a large and diverse audience.

This may change within the next 5 years, but in my opinion web-based augmented reality for smartphones is currently the smarter choice.

WebAR vs. Native AR Apps

When developing Augmented Reality, the difference between creating a native app or using WebAR can be quite large, depending on whether you go for a minimal-code solution or you decide to create custom apps.

I’ve collected some pros and cons for both approaches, which could help you decide which approach is best for your project

1. Accessibility and User-Friendliness:

WebAR on Smartphones Advantages:

  • Ease of Access: WebAR experiences are accessible directly through web browsers, eliminating the need for users to download dedicated AR apps. This increases the number of people that can be reached.
  • Platform Compatibility: WebAR works universally across different operating systems and browsers, making it accessible to a wider user base.
  • No Device Dependency: Users can access WebAR on their existing smartphones without requiring specialised hardware.

WebAR on Smartphones Challenges:

  • Limited Features: WebAR may have limitations compared to dedicated AR apps due to browser constraints. Although this is getting better, WebAR still does not offer the full palette of possibilities that native apps do.
  • Network Dependency: WebAR relies on an internet connection, which can be a limitation in certain scenarios.

Native AR on Headsets Advantages:

  • Immersive Experience: Headsets provide a more immersive AR experience by overlaying virtual content directly onto the user’s field of view, giving them a 360 degree immersive experience, seamlessly combining the real and virtual worlds.
  • Hands-Free Interaction: Headsets allow for hands-free access to information, which is beneficial for complex workflows in engineering, med-tech or other advanced industries Hands-free interfaces are also a great thing within entertainment, e-learning and museums.

Native AR on Headsets Challenges:

  • Cost and Device Dependency: Headsets are expensive and require users to invest in specific hardware. And while some headsets are actually cheaper than high end smartphones, they are still a long way from replacing them, and few people have both device types.
  • Niche Use Cases: Headsets are primarily luxury entertainment devices, or are used in specific industries and not as widely adopted as smartphones (see above).

2. Development Cost Considerations:

WebAR on Smartphones:

  • There are currently many different no-code editors, like Hololink’s, to choose from when developing WebAR experiences, making this a relatively cheaper way to go than designing and developing traditional AR apps. Small businesses and startups can benefit from this cost-effectiveness.
  • Resource Savings: By eliminating app development and focusing on design, content and UX, businesses save significantly on expenditure, redirecting resources to other growth-focused areas.

Native AR on Headsets:

  • There are some platforms that allow you to create apps for headsets with a relatively low amount of coding, like Flutterflow or Mattercraft, but while they are low-code, they are still complex and an experienced developer is needed to make good use of this type of editor.
  • When creating immersive 360 degree experiences for headsets, greater care must be taken when designing the UI and UX, which means that you need a specialised designer with specific experience within this type of design.

3. Distribution:

WebAR on Smartphones:

  • WebAR content can be easily distributed via web links, social media, or QR codes, without relying on app stores.
  • Anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection can access your experiences in the blink of an eye, without having to actively download anything.
  • When updating your experience, you simply implement your changes and publish the update to the web with a single click, whereupon it is instantly available to all users.

Native AR on Headsets:

  • Distributing Headset-specific apps involves app store approval, with an approval taking up to several weeks from the point of sending in your app for review.
  • Understanding all of the documents that need to be signed or understood when distributing through an app store can be daunting at best. Although it can be straight-forward, it takes time and therefore money and resources to go through the entire process.
  • Updates go through the app stores and need to go through approval each time a new update is published.


Currently, WebAR, designed for use on a smartphone, is still the best choice when using augmented reality in your communication.

And while headset-specific apps definitely have the edge, when it comes to industry-specific use cases or when creating immersive experiences for a high-end market, web-based smartphone-based experiences give best value for money and cater to a much larger audience.

So if you’re looking to easily create engaging augmented reality experiences for a wide audience, at a relatively low cost and with the capacity to quickly publish and instantly update your experiences, WebAR on smartphones is the way to go in 2024.

Jens, PM @ Hololink

Find out why WebAR on a smartphone is the smarter choice when developing and publishing augmented reality experiences in 2024


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