Native App vs Hybrid App vs Web App: What’s best for your Business in the Long Run?

January 4, 2022
Native App vs Hybrid App vs Web App: What’s best for your Business in the Long Run?


If you’re reading this article, it’s a given that you’ve been on your choice of electronic device, and if you look up, you’ll fairly see the majority of the population on their respective devices too. Mobile usage has boomed in popularity, and as the average smartphone user, you are more likely to be using around 10 apps a day and 30 a month.

But this is no passing fad. According to Statista, mobile apps are projected to generate over 613 billion dollars in revenue by 2025. While this may sound like a booming business for businesses, this does put some questions into place. What are the success factors for an application that makes it beyond the market and stays on customer devices? What type of app is to be created for your target audience? What are the factors you need to consider before diving into the idea of creating an application?

Deciding on whether to build a hybrid app, a native app or a web app includes the consideration of many features, their pros and cons and their compatibility with your goals and target audience. This comparative blog post will examine the features, pros and cons and considerations for developing a native, web or hybrid app.

What is a native app?

Native apps are the most common type of apps, and as the name suggests, they are built for a specific platform. The apps that you view on the play store or app store are examples of one kind of app. Native apps that are built for the play store are written in Java and ones that are meant for the app store are written in Swift. These apps can gain access to a device’s API and hardware, unlike hybrid or web apps. The fact that native applications help a company interact with an operating system’s features such as camera, microphone, location and so on is a reason for its preference.

Pros of native app development

The design and development of native apps are backed by advantages such as,

  1. Access to platform-specific features- Native apps help developers make the most of platform-specific features that are inaccessible by other app forms

  2. Superior performance- Native apps have an unmatched performance in spite of complex features and heavy graphics due to their ability to meet platform-specific standards

  3. Auto maintenance of aspect ratio- Given the variety of devices that run on specific operating systems, native apps have the ability to maintain the aspect ratio no matter the screen it runs on

Cons of native apps

While native app examples seem packed with features, ultimately, exploring the features and applying them to your use case in the industry can lead to understanding the development process better. Native apps have several challenges such as,

  1. Expensive and lengthy development process- The programming for native requires expertise in platform-specific programming language and requires more resources and time

  2. No cross-platform flexibility- Native apps have different codes for each platform and creating a native app for each platform requires building a code from scratch

When to go for a native app?

Native apps are platform-specific and hence have tools such as development kits offered by operating systems. If your industry is looking for a performance-based, user-specific and security assured application, native apps may be the best consideration. However, the challenges of native applications such as high development costs, the requirement of frequent updates, managing approvals through the app store are to be dealt with. Having an experienced development team is a necessity, along with greater time and resource investment for multiple platform development.

What are Web apps?

A web app is the equivalent of a responsive website that works on just about any device that has access to a browser. Due to their reliance on the browser, they work on any operating system that can access a browser. Rendered as a cost-effective option compared to native apps, web apps are written using Javascript or HTML5. However, there are functional limitations as web apps cannot leverage the features of the operating system used.

Pros of web apps

The increasing popularity of web apps is due to factors such as versatility, fast-paced and cost-effectiveness. To debate, if web apps meet the requirement for your industry, the advantages of web apps to consider include,

  1. Cost-effective and multi-platform- In a native app vs web app scenario, web apps are comparatively cost-effective as only one mode of development is required for different platform browsers. There is no requirement of rewriting the code for various operating systems

  2. Better audience discovery- As web apps need not follow the regulations of an operating system’s app store, they are easier to deploy and can also be discovered in search engines

  3. Download-free usage- Web apps do not require downloads from the app store and can be used within a web browser on any compatible device

Cons of web apps

The challenges of web apps include,

  1. No offline availability- When native app vs web apps are considered, web apps have a mandatory requirement of internet and cannot work in the absence of wifi or cellular data

  2. Limited access to features of the operating system- As web apps are designed for the browser and not for the operating system, access to the features of the latter is limited

When to go for a web app?

The choice of apps is solely based on your business needs. When one considers a native app vs web app vs hybrid app scenario, keeping up with one’s target audience demands is also a critical feature. If your industry is looking for a maintenance-friendly, lower cost, cross-platform functional and easier to build an application, going for web applications is a suitable choice. However, there are certain challenges to consider such as risk to security threats, compromised user performance compared to native apps and no offline mode.

What is a Hybrid app?

Hybrid apps have combined features of a native app and a web app. They function similar to native apps and across different platforms. Comparing native apps vs hybrid apps, these apps run in a web view and are built using programming languages such as Java, CSS, or HTML.

Pros of hybrid apps

The pros of using hybrid apps for industry-specific use cases include,

  1. Have both online and offline access- Hybrid app development is based on native features and web technologies and hence can be leveraged to work offline as an application or online, on browsers

  2. Single codebase- Hybrid apps require a single codebase for different platforms, greatly reducing development time and cost

  3. Leverage additional features- Hybrid apps can access features of the operating system such as location, push notifications and so on

Cons of hybrid apps

The challenges of hybrid apps for industry use cases include,

  1. Makes bug-fixing difficult- Due to the performance of hybrid apps in native and web app platforms, issues may contend from both ends, which can make bug fixing a tedious task

  2. Less customization- As hybrid apps leverage features from both sides, this serves as a limiting factor to customization. As more customization is done, the solution steers towards a native app

  3. Framework non-specificity- To build hybrid apps, development teams need to go beyond just Javascript or CSS and make use of React Native, Ionic or Cordova to get access to native elements

When to go for a hybrid app?

If your industry is looking for app features that span native and web app development, hybrid apps are the answer. With access to native features and web app features, hybrid apps can help reach a wider target audience with cross-platform features, are easier to develop on budget constraints, do not incorporate complex features and need not rely on online connectivity. However, the constraints to keep in mind with hybrid apps include the framework complexity required to develop and higher maintenance cost.

Native app vs hybrid app vs web app: An overall comparison of features

Feature Native appWeb app Hybrid app
Customizability High Moderate Less
Cost-effective NoYes Low development cost with high maintenance cost
Access to OS features Complete accessNo access Complete access
SecurityHighly secure Moderately secureLess secure and vulnerable to threats
Long term investmentYesNoYes
Market Reach OS limited audienceCross-platform audience Cross-platform audience
CodebasePresence of unique codebase for each platform Single codebase for multiple platforms Single codebase for multiple platforms
Connectivity based performance Can work offline and onlineOnly works online Works offline and online
User experience across devices Best Moderate Good
Frequency of updates Needs regular updates Less frequent updates Needs updates on a moderate basis

Native app vs hybrid app: How to choose between native and hybrid apps?

Before getting started with app development, it is necessary to assess all the pros and cons, security, risks, budget and changing requirements over time. Before you make the leap, in a native app vs hybrid app scenario, here are some assessments and difference between native app and hybrid app to consider,

  1. Is your industry looking for a long term approach to app development with regular updates? In such cases, choosing a native app is a better option as hybrid apps have a higher maintenance cost

  2. Is your target audience not limited to specific operating systems but is spread across? In that case, choosing hybrid apps can lead to better market reach as they are accessible by a web audience and an operating system audience

  3. Is your team finding it difficult to handle app frameworks that go beyond Javascript? If sticking to one framework is ideal, native apps are the way to go

  4. Does your app development project have budget constraints? In a native app vs hybrid app situation, Hybrid apps are much more cost-effective compared to native apps in the development process. Native apps are costlier but have a higher return on investment in the long run

Web app vs hybrid app: Can these features benefit your business?

In a web app vs hybrid app scenario, there are several considerations that can help decide which app works best for your business. To settle on the correct choice of app development here is an assessment to consider,

  1. Is the user experience a priority for your business? As web apps are built for browsers and not for operating systems, the performance tends to be slower. In this scenario of web app vs hybrid apps, the latter is the better choice as it has a better user experience

  2. Is budget a major issue? In a native app vs web app vs hybrid app perspective, web apps have the lowest development and maintenance cost, making it a feasible option in a lower budget

  3. Is your industry on the lookout for more discoverability? While web apps can be discovered in search engines, hybrid apps are discoverable in app stores and search engines, giving them the upper hand on reaching a wider audience

Native app vs web app: Which features can benefit your business?

The right type of application is key for your business to be profitable in the long run and retain and grow your audience. Compared to platform-specific apps and apps that run on browsers, here are some considerations,

  1. In a native app vs web app scenario, does your industry prefer a user-centred experience? In such cases, native apps are the better choice as they can leverage complete features of the OS and have an unmatched user experience

  2. Does your industry have a wider audience across different platforms? In such a native app vs web app situation, web apps are the better choice as they are built for browsers and not for operating systems and can function across different devices

  3. Are regular updates not required for your application? With native apps, regular updates are necessary, but with web apps manual updates are not required and need not be as rigorous and frequent as native apps

  4. Is offline functionality a must-have for your business? Given web apps are only functional in the presence of Wifi or cellular data, in such cases, native apps are the better choice for your business

Native app vs web app vs hybrid app: The verdict

Although there are no features that can declare a type of app as the ‘winner among all’ in a native app vs web app vs hybrid app situation, the best use case comes down to the best way of utilizing features for your business.

Different apps are curated for different purposes and choosing the best features can help your industry meet the needs of your target audience.

Considering an overall assessment of user experience, security, maintenance, development team, frameworks, budget and frequency of updates contribute towards selecting the right type of application for your business.