Native Apps vs Hybrid Apps Comparison

In the world of mobile applications, not all apps are created equal. Native apps, web apps and hybrid apps are different in many ways. 

Before comparing the differences, let’s first look at how each of these types of apps vary, followed by the advantages and disadvantages for each.  The purpose of this article is to show a comparison of native apps vs hybrid apps, but we will also cover web apps for the sake of completeness.

Defining Native vs. Web vs. Hybrid Apps

Let’s start by defining each of these types of apps:

Native apps 

Native applications are smartphone apps specifically designed for a particular operating system—iOS or Android. This is what comes to mind most when we think of mobile apps.  They are downloaded from the App Store or Google Play and installed on a device.  

What distinguishes native apps from mobile web and hybrid apps is that they are developed for specific devices. For instance, Android apps are written in Java and iPhone apps are written in Objective-C or Swift. The advantage of choosing a native app is that it is the fastest and most reliable when it comes to user experience. Native apps are built using an operating system’s SDKs and can also interact with all of the device features, such as the microphone, camera, GPS, device storage, etc. The disadvantage, however, is related to development and maintenance costs. A bigger budget is required if you want to build your app for multiple platforms (i.e. iPhones and Android) which also relates to any on-going updates needed to keep your native app updated. 

Web apps

Web-based applications are websites optimized for mobile browsers. They are solely developed to be accessed via a web browser. They can run in multiple browsers, such as Chrome or Safari, and are written in JavaScript and HTML5.

These apps are essentially websites with interactive features that make them feel similar to a mobile app. The advantage however, is that these apps are often less expensive to develop.

If you’re on a budget and don’t require complex functionalities or access to operating system features, then building a web app can be the least expensive option. The disadvantage is that web apps can be slower, less intuitive, and inaccessible through app stores. 

Hybrid apps 

Hybrid applications combine features of both native and web apps. They can be accessed via a web browser and downloaded from app stores. They are written in HTML5 and JavaScript, like web apps. For the most part, they are web pages wrapped in a mobile app using WebView. However, they also have access to the built-in capabilities of a device. They are built using cross-platform frameworks like React, Ionic, Sencha and Xamarin.

The advantage of hybrid apps is that they are typically easier and faster to develop than native apps.  They also require less maintenance. However, the speed of your hybrid app will depend entirely on the speed of the user’s browser.  Ultimately this means hybrid apps will almost never perform as fast as a native app.

Related Content:

Hybrid Apps and the Future of Mobile Computing

Native vs. Web vs. Hybrid Mobile Apps: Testing Tools and Techniques

Testing A Hybrid Mobile App Using Appium

Written by

Heather Wellington