Hybrid App vs Native App vs Web App: Which one is best to opt for

Hybrid App vs Native App vs Web App

Among many mobile app types being used today, hybrid app, native app, and web app are three main app types that have gained a surge in popularity. For those of you who are wondering: “Between Hybrid app vs Native app vs Web App: Which one is the best to choose?”, it’s important to consider a variety of factors. This comparative article will provide the basics of each option, associated with its strengths and weaknesses, to help you greatly in your decision-making. 

1. Hybrid App vs Native App vs Web App: Understand the Basics 

1.1. What is a Native App?

Introduction about Native App

Hybrid App vs Native App vs Web App: Understand the Basics 

Native apps are applications that are developed for specific devices, using a platform-specific programming language. This means that if a native app is developed for iOS, it won’t appear in the Google Play Store or work on an Android phone.

Native apps’ specifics are as follows:

  • Technology: Objective C or Swift is used to write iOS apps; Java is used to write Android apps.
  • Access to native API: Native apps can fully access device features and API.
  • Distribution method: Through app stores (App Store or Google Play).
  • Multi-platform capability: Not supported.

Once installed on the devices, they can have access to all the device features such as camera, GPS, accelerometer, compass, contacts list, and so on. Additionally, native apps have other capabilities like being able to incorporate gestures (either standard operating-system gestures or new, app-defined gestures), use the device’s notification system, and work offline.

Native app advantages and disadvantages

Native app advantages: 

  • Deliver the highest performance three development approaches: Hybrid App vs Native App vs Web App.
  • Get complete support from app stores and the overall app marketplace.
  • Interactive, intuitive, and smooth-running user input/ output.
  • Enable developers to access the full feature set of the selected operating system.
  • Offer superior user experience due to each mobile operating system’s specific UI guidelines and standards.
  • Offer assured quality, security, and device compatibility (since any app must be censored by the app’s respective operating system before its release).

Native app disadvantages: 

  • Developers are required to be experienced and familiar with difficult programming languages.
  • When comparing the development cost between the native app vs hybrid app and web app, the native app is much costlier than the other two options.
  • Native Apps are not the optimal choice for simple applications.

>> Read more: Mobile application: Definition, Technology types and examples

1.2. What is a web app (or progressive web app)? 

What is a web app (or progressive web app)? 

Introduction about web app

A web app is an application that uses a web browser to perform a particular function, unlike computer-based software programs that are run locally on the Operating System (OS) of the device. A PWA (progressive web app) is a modified version of a traditional web app that offers a quick, responsive, and native-like user interface. 

To understand it better, let’s cover a web app’s specifics: 

  • Technology: built in HTML, CSS and JavaScript, platform-agnostic.
  • Access to native API: not supported.
  • Distribution method: through web browsers.
  • Multi-platform capability: reusable codebase is distributed across multiple platforms.

Using a combination of server-side scripts (PHP and ASP) to store and retrieve the information, and client-side scripts (JavaScript and HTML) to present information to users, web apps facilitate the interaction of the users with the company through online forms, content management systems, shopping carts and much more. Besides, they include useful features for employees like creating documents, sharing information, collaborating on projects, and working on common documents no matter where they are or which devices they are using.

Web app advantages and disadvantages

Web app advantages: 

  • Easy for maintenance as only a common codebase can be reused across multiple platforms.
  • Web apps can be developed for all platforms as long as they can run in an appropriate web browser. 
  • Less money is needed to develop compared to native apps.
  • No need for approval; web apps can be released at any time and in any format.
  • No need for manual updating; the newest versions automatically update when users open a web app.

Web app disadvantages: 

  • Web apps have a limited ability to leverage device features and hardware.
  • Usage patterns and performance metrics are more difficult to collect since users interact with different web browsers.
  • Less interactive and intuitive compared to native apps.
  • Branding opportunities are fewer than native application and hybrid application, those with the availability of app store listing.
  • When comparing the native app vs progressive web app, PWA ensures less security as they don’t have access to the device’s hardware components, thus not being able to implement additional layers of security.

1.3. What is a Hybrid App?

What is a Hybrid App?

Introduction about Hybrid App

Hybrid apps refer to applications that combine both the native app and web app. They are coded in popular web technologies while being hosted inside a native shell that utilizes WebView (a chromeless browser window that’s typically configured to run fullscreen). 

Let’s grasp the main characteristics of a hybrid app

  • Technology: built on HTML, CSS and JavaScript, platform-agnostic.
  • Access to native API: hybrid apps can access native APIs due to the solutions that bridge the native SDK and the WebView the apps run in.
  • Distribution method: through app stores.
  • Multi-platform capability: reusable codebase is distributed across multiple platforms.

Thanks to WebView, hybrid apps can have access to a phone’s hardware-based functions such as the accelerometer, camera, contacts, and more. These are capabilities that are typically limited to mobile browsers.

Hybrid app advantages and disadvantages

Hybrid app advantages: 

  • Only one codebase needs to be developed for multiple platforms.
  • Hybrid apps can access the device’s internal APIs and device hardware.
  • Unlike the web app, the hybrid doesn’t need a web browser.

Hybrid app disadvantages:

  • Have a slower speed compared to the native application and web application.
  • Users have to be dependent on a third-party platform to deploy the app’s wrapper.
  • Comparing the native application vs hybrid application, the latter approach provides a poorer user experience.

2. Hybrid application vs native application comparison

Hybrid app and native app differences are shown in the table below:

CharacteristicsHybrid appsNative apps
PlatformCan run on any platform that has a browserEach native app is built for one platform only
Development technologies HTML, CSS, Javascript, Hybrid development framework (Ionic, ReactNative, etc.)Objective-C or Swift for iOS, Java, or Kotlin for Android, Native SDKs for each platform
Access to the device’s features Access the device’s features through third-party pluginsAccess the device’s features directly
Performance Performance may be affected when dealing with HD/3D graphicsPerformance is highest even for HD/3D graphics
User InterfaceUnable to reproduce some platform-specific gestures, frustration in usage is possibleNative look and feel consistent with other native applications, low learning curve
App-stores availabilityAble to be downloaded and updated  in the app storesAble to be downloaded and updated in the app stores 
Time-to-marketSignificantly shorter; an app can be developed for multiple platformsLonger; depending on the number of platforms (each app is developed for one platform only)
Development costMuch lower, you only have to hire one team and the development time is shorterHigher, you have to hire multiple development teams

3. Native application vs web application comparison

To understand how the two app types are different, let’s compare web app vs native app characteristics:

CharacteristicsNative app developmentWeb app development
PlatformEach native app is built for one platform onlyA single app works across multiple platforms
TechnologiesObjective-C or Swift for iOS, Java or Kotlin for Android, Native SDKs for each platformHTML, CSS, React/Angular/Vue.js for frontend; Node.js/Laravel/etc. for backend
Access to the device’s featuresAccess to all native features on the platformLimited access to the device’s hardware and software
PerformanceBest possible performance for any type of applicationDoesn’t fit performance-critical app ideas
User Interface (UI)Native interface according to platform standardsUnified interface that sometimes doesn’t look native
App-store availabilityAble to be downloaded and updated  from  app storesAble to be downloaded and updated  from  app stores
Time-to-marketLonger; depending on the number of platforms (each app is developed for one platform only)Much shorter, one app can run on any platform
Development costHigher, you have to hire multiple development teamsLower cost due to reduced development time

>> Must read: Mobile application vs Web application: What is different?

4. Hybrid App vs Native App vs Web App: Choosing the right app type

Which one you should choose from 3 options: Hybrid App vs Native App vs Web App? 

Below is the detailed comparison of the 3 app types which we have split up into many categories to make it easy to catch on. Let’s take a closer look!

Device features. In this area, native app and hybrid app both take the lead as they have access to the full device-specific features including camera, gestures, GPS, and notifications. 

Offline functioning. If offline functioning is the priority in the list of must-have functions for your future app, then going native is an ideal choice. Though in HTML5, in-browser caching is available, it can’t be compared to what you can get when choosing the native approach.

Speed. Native apps are the winner in the speed race. It is developed for a specific platform and utilizes the platform’s core programming language and APIs. This makes native apps the fastest and most responsive of the three app types. 

Installation. In this category, each app type has its limitations. For the hybrid app native app, the installation might be a little bit irritating as users have to justify the interaction cost. While bookmarking a web app appears to be simpler than downloading an app from the app store, the thing is people don’t use bookmarks that much on mobile devices. 

Maintenance. It is more complicated and time-taking to maintain a native app because the developers have to deal with different codebases for multiple platforms. If they want to make any change to the app, it needs to be packed in a new version and placed in the app store. For web apps and hybrid apps maintenance, it is just as easy as the web page’s maintenance and can be done frequently. 

Platform independence. Parts of the coding for Hybrid and Web apps are reusable, which makes their platform independence way superior to Native apps.

Content restrictions, approval process, and fees. Native and Hybrid apps must go through approval processes and content restrictions imposed by the app stores, which might be taxing both in terms of time and money. Meanwhile, web apps are free from those. 

Pricing. Regarding the development cost of the Hybrid app vs Native app vs Web app, all vary depending on various aspects such as the complexity of the app, its feature, the platform it is built on, etc. Generally, the hybrid app approach is the most affordable and suitable for small and medium-sized companies that only need to develop simple apps with basic functions.  

User Interface. Compared to the other two app types, native applications provide a greater user experience as it takes the full advantage of the strengths of mobile devices.

Discoverability. Web apps excel when it comes to discoverability as most people prefer using search engines to find and discover data. Often, people are reluctant to download the native or hybrid app from the app stores if they are not going to use it frequently. 

Final words 

To conclude, each app type has its advantages and drawbacks and there is no fixed answer to the question: “Which is the winner between Hybrid app vs Native app vs Web app?”. Since the choice of app type can make or break the success of your mobile strategy, various aspects should be taken into careful consideration. It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t choose an approach for its technologies and features only. But instead, choose what your company actually needs an app. This way, you will avoid wasting time and money doing the thing that adds no significant value to the company’s performance. 

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