Native, Web Or Hybrid App – Points of Difference

Before making an investment decision over mobile apps, businesses have to decide between native apps, hybrid apps, and web apps. Here I aim to define and describe the differences between various app categories for business owners and app developers!

Which app is best, and what are the major points of difference among the three?

Native Apps

They are installed in the device from an application store (such as the App Store, Google Play) and appear as icons on the device. They remain with the device and utilize the device features such as the camera, contact list, accelerometer, GPS, etc. They are designed and coded to cater to one platform (for a specific device). For instance, iPhone apps are coded in Objective-C, and android apps are coded in Java. Coding apps in this manner helps users have a responsive user experience, and apps can integrate standard operating-system gestures or new app-defined gestures.



Native allow push notifications to be used by the business for real-time information for the users. They keep on functioning offline and can use the device’s alert system. They function following the design and standards of the platform (either android or iOS), which leads to customer satisfaction. They are platform-specific (an iOS app will not work in an Android platform) due to differences in coding language. A business that seeks to develop an operational app on both platforms would be expensive as it would require creating two different versions(for both platforms). Depending on the budget, investment decisions can be made to develop an app for single or multi-platform options. Examples are Angry Birds, Shazam, etc.

Mobile Web App

They are mobile-optimized web pages that are not actually apps but websites. They resemble a native app in look and feel and are ideal for making information or features available over a mobile phone. Developing a native app is not a viable option financially. Coded in HTML 5, they run on a browser, and users access them just like normal web pages. They provide an option of installing them on the home screen as a bookmark.

Many websites use HTML 5 to turn their web pages into web app for users who appear as appealing as a native app. An example being the mobile-optimized web pages of news websites. The web app has limited functionality and generally requires an internet connection to function. Users can easily forget them unless they run as a constant reminder on their home screen. They do not feature on any app marketplace. With huge daily traffic in the application stores, they miss out on the potential to be discovered compared to the native or hybrid app.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are a combination of native and web apps and are downloaded from an App store. Faster and cheaper to develop than the native, they are better than a browser-based web app. They are developed using web technologies that are compatible across multiple platforms and are coded in HTML 5, CSS, and JavaScript. However, for enhanced user experience, sometimes specific native code is also used. Tools like PhoneGap and Secha Touch enable cross-platform designing and coding by using HTML.

Organizations go for hybrid apps to make their presence in the application store without making a significant investment of money or effort in developing a separate application. However, if the company wants to go too close to a native design, the cost and coding effort would rise to make the development difference between a native and hybrid app insignificant. Examples of the hybrid app include Facebook, Linked In, Banana Republic, etc.

Which to Choose

The decision to choose a category of the app entirely depends on the client’s need – the best return to his business based on user requirements. If the primary requirement of the organization is to provide content for its readers, a responsive web application would be better. On the other hand, a native app would be advantageous for task completion.

A user can decide upon a category depending on the application’s compatibility with device features, need for offline/online task completion, speed factors, ease of maintenance, dependability on platforms, content limitations, ease of installation, and fees. Maintaining a web app is much simpler for the user and the developer as it involves maintaining web pages. At the same time, native is complicated as developers need to code the same information for multiple versions across different platforms.

Application stores pose various limitations on the content and design of the application, with variability in the subscription cost. Hybrid and web apps are comparatively cheaper to develop than native. Web apps, on the contrary, are free of content censure and less taxing in terms of cost and time. If the client’s priority is enhanced user experience compatible with a specific platform in which many apps are available, it is best to develop a native app.

To conclude, native, web, or hybrid apps are tools for a mobile user to satisfy variable needs and requirements. There is no specific solution as each category of the app has their own strengths and weakness and going for one of them depend on the client’s unique need assessment. At the same time, even web and the hybrid app can provide a good user experience with variation in graphics and visuals.