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Native App vs. Web App vs. Hybrid App: Which Is Best?

Keith Shields January 4, 2021

Hundreds of decisions must be made when you set out to build an app, from its graphic style to the features it will include to how you’ll market it. One of the most important of those decisions is whether you’ll build a native, web, or hybrid app. The development method you select will impact your app’s budget, timeline, usability, accessibility, and performance. 

Everyone has an opinion on which type is best, but ultimately, your decision will depend on your business objectives and product goals. Here’s what you need to know about the app development options to help you decide which choice is right for your app.

Considerations for Choosing the Type of App

Native, web, and hybrid apps each have their own pros and cons. You’ll want to become familiar with these advantages and disadvantages. But before you begin considering those details, you’ll want to identify the parameters you’re working within. 

  • How quickly you plan to launch the app — Are you dealing with a tight time constraint? Or is your timeline flexible?
  • The features you’ll include — Will the app make use of the device’s native features such as phone or GPS?
  • Your budget — Are you restricted to a small budget or will your budget accommodate the full range of options? 
  • Development resources — Can you outsource the build to a partner or will you need to use in-house resources?
  • What you are trying to accomplish — Do your users need a mobile app or will a web app serve them just as well? What market do you plan to target? 

Keeping your users front-and-center in your planning will ensure that you choose the most efficient option that provides value to your users. 

What is a Native App?

A native app is built for a specific platform in languages that the platform accepts. So, if you want to develop an app for iOS and Android, you will need to code each version separately. Additionally, native device functionality works best in apps coded specifically for them, so if you plan to leverage device features, this may be the right method for your app.

Native App Pros

Improved Usability Since native apps are built specifically for the device they are being used on, native apps are generally more intuitive, easy-to-use, and provide the best user experience.

Optimal Performance — The native option provides developers with access to the full feature set for the operating system, so native apps run smoothly with fewer glitches.

Single Customized Code Base — Coding native apps is simpler and more streamlined, as the developer is coding for only one platform at a time and not trying to use one code base across multiple operating systems. 

Native App Cons

Specialization required — Building a native app means finding a team of developers that specialize in Android and iPhone development

Separate development efforts — It takes two separate development efforts to build an app for both Android and iPhone. Development may take more time as a result. On the other hand, if you’re only planning to develop for either Android or iPhone, this consideration doesn’t matter as much. 

What is a Web App?

A web app is a responsive website that can launch in a browser on a desktop computer, tablet, or mobile device. Web apps are designed to look good on any device and work with any operating system. As a result, web apps are a more cost-effective option and faster to build. If your goal is to offer mobile-friendly content to a wide range of users, this may be a good option.

Web App Pros

Easy to Maintain — Since web apps use standard website development coding, web apps are just as fast to build and updates as a regular website.

Development is faster and more cost-effective Only one set of code is needed for all devices, so development costs are lower, and the development process takes less time and requires less specialized knowledge. 

Improved speed to market — Web apps can be built faster. They can also be released to the market faster since they do not require approval by app stores and marketplaces.

Accessibility — Web apps are accessible through a browser, so they can be used on any device, regardless of the operating system.

Traffic — Not only can web apps get traffic from search engines like Google, but you can also send your website visitors to your web app on mobile devices without them having to download anything.

Web App Cons

Internet connectivity required Web apps cannot be accessed unless a user has WiFi or cellular data. 

Instability — Differences and changes in web browsers can cause issues with running a web app. These regular updates will require a higher maintenance budget.

Limited device feature accessibility — Web apps have limitations since they can’t access a mobile device’s native features. 

No app store and marketplace access — Users are accustomed to searching app stores and marketplaces for apps, and since web apps aren’t listed there, they may not find the app as easily.

What is a Hybrid App?

A hybrid app is essentially a combination of web and native development. It may use HTML, CSS, and javascript, or a more modern programming language like Google’s Flutter (which uses Dart), but can be installed from the app store. It forms a single app that works on all platforms, including Android and iPhone. 

Hybrid App Pros

Fast development — Developing a single code set speeds up both the initial build of a hybrid app and also its maintenance. Cross-application development tools help to enable this process.

Ease of development — Developers don’t need to learn multiple technologies to create the app. This makes it a faster and easier process for in-house developers. 

Increased reach for less cost — Creating an app for iOS and Android provides access to a wider audience, as the app can be available in both marketplaces. Though Android’s market share dominates globally, it’s close to 50/50 in the United States, so reaching both platforms is an advantage.

Hybrid App Cons

Poorer user experience — Usability is often not as good with hybrid development, and apps created for multiple platforms can’t always take advantage of all native features on all devices. They are also often slower than native apps.

Customization challenges — The more customizations an app requires, the more likely it is to also require native coding for each device. This drives up development time and cost and reduces the advantages of hybrid development.

New feature delays — Developers need to wait for the cross-platform framework to develop compatibility for new features that are released natively.

Performance issues — Communication challenges may arise, as the app isn’t built specifically for any one operating system. Additionally, you’re dependent on a third-party platform to deploy the app’s wrapper.

Native App vs Web App vs Hybrid App: No Right or Wrong

It’s great to have options when developing an app. Whether you choose to build a native, web, or hybrid app, there is no single right or wrong answer. Rather, the type of app you build depends on your app’s specific needs and purposes. Knowing the pros and cons of each approach will help you determine the right development method for your app.

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