Native, Web, or Hybrid app – what’s the difference?

Mobile apps are considered to be one of the most dynamic business tools used to connect with customers. According to this year’s statistics, there are currently more than 6.4 billion smartphones worldwide. If we take into account that the world’s population is 7.9 billion, it means that the penetration of smartphones is more than 80 percent. With such use of smartphones, there is also an increase in the development of mobile apps.

The development of mobile apps and the apps themselves are generally divided into 3 basic types – native apps, hybrid apps and web apps. Wondering which app is the best option for you? Before development, you should choose the type of app depending on the business and product goals you want to meet. All three types of apps have their advantages and disadvantages. Read on to find out more!

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Native apps

These apps are always specially created for one platform, Android or iOS. Native apps “live” in the device and can be accessed via icons on the home screen of your smartphone or tablet. The user can install native apps through app stores – whether it’s Google Play or Apple App Store.

Native apps can take full advantage of all the device’s features – camera, GPS, accelerometer, compass, contact list and more. They can also include gestures (control your smartphone with a gesture, without having to touch), use the device’s notification system, and often work offline (the app retrieves the most recently updated data when opened, even when it’s offline). A good example of a native app is Facebook. We can boast of e.g. Rituality app, which deals with mindfulness and meditation.

The technologies used in development vary by operating system. Android apps are written in Java and Kotlin programming languages, and Objective-C or Swift is used for iOS.

The benefits of native apps include:

  • better performance and speed (iOS SDK or Android SDK, on which native apps are usually built, are generally faster than HTML or JavaScript)
  • protection and security due to the fact that native apps are approved by the respective platform
  • they work offline
  • interactivity and intuitiveness

Some of the most common disadvantages of native apps are: 

  • higher development costs
  • they require experienced developers
  • they are not recommended for simple apps
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Web apps

A web app is actually a responsive website that in many ways looks and acts like a native app, but is not implemented as such. It is designed to look good on any device and work with any operating system. As a result, web apps are more cost-effective and faster to develop. They are usually written in HTML 5 and JavaScript.

Users first access web apps like any web page: they go to a special URL and then have the option to “install” them on their home screen by bookmarking that page. On the other hand, such apps are not available in the App Store and Google Play.

Due to the high demands of users on design and controllability, these apps are not considered a very ideal solution. Developers often have trouble achieving a perfect result, whether in load speed or resolution. However, if your project is limited by budget and does not require complex features or access to operating system features, building a web app may be an ideal option for you.

We also have extensive experience with this type of apps. In the past, we have developed a web app for the Austrian branch of EY, which serves as a Document Management System (DMS), or an app for the Austrian woodworking company Latschbacher, which uses a QR code to monitor the movement of wood across the country.

The advantages of web apps are:

  • they are cost effective
  • they require low maintenance
  • they can be run in any format
  • they do not require manual updates

 

The most common disadvantages of web apps are: 

  • weaker user experience
  • the need for an internet connection
  • slowness and slow reactions compared to native apps
  • limited interaction and less intuitive interface
  • they cannot be installed via the App Store or Google Play

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Hybrid apps

As the name implies, it is a type of app that combines elements of a native and a web app. Hybrid apps can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play and can include operating system features like classic native apps. Like web apps, hybrid apps run on different platforms and operating systems. Although the hybrid app is installed on the device as a native app, it is technically similar to a web app. Basically, we can say that a hybrid app is a web app that offers access to other features of native apps. An example is Instagram, where a hybrid app processes a large amount of media and can work offline. From our workshop, we can boast of the hybrid SkipCash app, which serves as a mobile wallet and a payment terminal in one. You can read more about its development in our case study.

It should also be mentioned that hybrid apps are developed using ReactNative or Flutter technology or using standard web languages such as HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript.

The advantages of hybrid apps are:

  • easy adaptation to different operating systems (one code for iOS and Android)
  • access to built-in device features (GPS, camera, push notifications, contacts)
  • thanks to the native infrastructure, hybrid apps allow you to work offline as well
  • faster development compared to native apps
  • lower costs

Some of the most common disadvantages of hybrid apps are:

  • reduced performance as some hybrid apps are rendered in WebView (web browser instance)
  • low speed compared to native apps
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So which apps is the way to go?

After considering all the advantages and disadvantages of each app type, everyone should also consider the amount of time, money or effort they want to invest in the development of the already mentioned apps and what goal it should fulfill. Is the goal a quality user experience? High level of interaction and quality intuitive interface? Or low costs and low maintenance in the future?

Regardless of the app development approach you choose, you should keep the following in mind:

  • your app’s content and services should have easy access to your app’s API infrastructure
  • make sure the mobile app you’re developing is an extension of your brand, not a copy of your company’s website
  • always understand and consider user expectations and behaviors and adopt an approach accordingly

 

However, you should not rely solely on the cost factor. When it comes to app development, a rich user experience is the key to success. Therefore, you should consider the user experience before deciding on the type of development approach. This will help you decide which approach to choose.

The choice of app type depends on several factors. Still not sure what type of app to choose? Contact us, we will be happy to help you!

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