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What To Know About Native, Web and Hybrid Mobile Apps

Knowing your options in mobile app development can save you a lot of time, effort and money. Here is what you must know native, web and hybrid mobile apps.

New developers and small business owners have trouble differentiating between the options they have when it comes to mobile app development, which is obvious because the difference lies in the technology used to develop it.

When developing a mobile app, you have three choices with each having its own pros and cons. Therefore, there’s no perfect choice here. What’s best for a specific type of app may have a lot to do with the requirements of its intended users.

Regardless, if you are well-informed about various options available, it will be easier to take the right decisions. So without further ado, here is what you must know about the three types of mobile apps.

Native Mobile Apps

native mobile app

These are apps that have been designed and developed for a specific platform or device. For example, an app that is for iOS only. You might be thinking why they are called native? The native or own language of one platform could be different for another. For example, the native language of iOS is Objective-C, while Java is for Android. Hence, an app developed in the native language of a device makes it a “native app” to that device.

The good thing about native apps is that they are built for the mobile (and for the specific platform) which is why they can take full advantage of a mobile device’s hardware and APIs such as camera, flash, compass, memory, GPS etc.

Since native apps are optimized for a particular device, they have seamless animation and fast performance. However, it can be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to develop and maintain a native app for each platform.

Web Mobile Apps

web vs native

Web apps, also known as HTML5 apps, are basically websites that look and feel like a native app, but actually aren’t. They are called apps, but they run on web browser of a device (i.e. Safari for iOS and Chrome for Android).

Web apps are developed just like any website, i.e. using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. Users cannot access this from their mobile devices without Internet connectivity since these apps cannot be installed in a device. They would need to access a native browser to access this type of app through a URL.

What make them a lot like “native apps” is that they render HTML and adjust according to the mobile device that is sending the page request. A lot of developers have used “graceful degradation” to employ this approach which has become very popular ever since HTML 5 and CSS took the web by storm.

The best thing about web apps is that it’s sort of a one-size-fits-all approach. However, the downside is that they require internet connectivity and have limited access to a mobile’s device’s hardware and APIs unlike a native app. However, there has been talk about making these available on web apps as well (i.e. tap-to-call, GPS) but of course, this has its limitations as well.

Hybrid Mobile Apps

hybrid mobile app

By now you can probably guess what a “hybrid app” is. Yes, it’s a combination of both a web and native app. Hybrids become necessary when you want the “best of both worlds” and cancel out the negatives as a result. But we’ll get to the “negative” for this later.

Much like native apps, hybrid apps can be installed in a mobile device and so can also be used when you are not connected to internet, but unlike native apps, they can be used on different platforms.

Hybrid apps run on native web browser of a device, UIWebView for iOS and WebView for Android. Hybrid apps are also developed on HTML5, CSS and Javascript, but they are wrapped in a native container, like Cordova or Ionic. A native container gives hybrid app the access to a device’s hardware and APIs.

So, why would someone build a hybrid app? For even better cross-platform compatibility, access to local device services (camera, accelerometer, etc) and local device storage capability. Also, hybrid apps are relatively cheaper than a native app. The downside: hybrid apps are still not as smooth as native apps.

So What’s Best For Me?

native, web or hybrid

This is a good question since what type of mobile app you choose to develop will greatly affect the usage of your application. However, this is a question only you can answer after prioritizing and contemplating what will work best for the type of application required, what device target audience is using and what are their expectations or requirements and what is the budget.

For example, information-intensive enterprise apps work best as hybrid apps to allow ease of access (from any device) and maximum earning potential. However, apps that require fast performance such as games work best as native apps.

Remember that each type of mobile app development varies in terms of richness of UI, performance, connectivity, availability, speed, and resources (time and cost) required to develop. We hope we’ve brushed over the basics that will allow you to judge and prioritize the latter mentioned functionalities better – and hence, come up with the best solution for your mobile application. In the end, it should be about providing the best user experience.