1. Understanding Native, Web and Hybrid Apps

Native vs Web App vs Hybrid: Which One Should You go For?

The mobile app development is getting quite interesting, but also quite confusing.

This is because there are so many apps available today, making it extremely difficult to choose the right type.

When choosing an app, one has to consider three factors: your needs, the budget, and the time-scale.

This article’s purpose is to help you understand different types of apps – native app, web apps, and hybrid app – and decide which type is best suited for your needs and budget.

The Basics

Almost all mobile devices use two types of operating systems – Android (48.3%) developed by Google and iOS (41%) developed by Apple.

Image Credit: BGR

Clearly, as you can see with the market share, Google and Apple are dominant in the app development industry.

But there’s a huge difference between these two operating systems and their related devices: you cannot install and run an app developed for iOS (for iPhone) on your Android device.

1. Native Apps

Image Credit: Six Revisions

Native apps are mobile apps that you can download from the App Store or Google Play.

They are installed within your device’s applications and can be launched by simply tapping their icon.

They are specifically developed for one particular platform, and hence, they are capable of fully utilizing all the device features – they can use the GPS, the camera, the compass, the accelerometer, and so on.

Native apps can also utilize the device’s notification system; they can work offline too.

What’s the Difference: Native Apps vs. Others

What differentiates Native apps from other app types is that they’re designed and developed for a particular device type. For example, Android apps are developed using Java, while iPhone apps use Objective-C language.

Developing a professional native app is very easy. Both iOS and Android offer users their very own app development tools, SDK (software development kit), and interface elements.

There are many benefits of developing your app this way:

  • You can build native apps relatively faster
  • The apps built this way are reliable and responsive
  • They can fully utilize all the features of your mobile device, including its camera, GPS system, swipe gestures, accelerometer, compass, and microphone.
  • Publishers can utilize the push notifications, which allow you to send alerts to your readers every time a new content is published, or whenever you need their attention.

If your budget allows, native apps are the best among all other app types offering the best user experience.

But when building apps from the scratch and providing cross-platform support is vital for you, understand that building native apps this way can also be costlier for you.

A developer can easily quote between $20,000 to $50,000 for a custom native app, built from scratch.

Multiply that cost by a number of platforms you need to cover, considering all apps has to be built for both iOS and Android devices.

2. Mobile Web Apps

Image Credit: Six Revisions

Web apps look like native apps, but they are not actually real apps. They’re mobile version of a site.
They load within a mobile web browser, such as Safari and Chrome, just like every other website.
You don’t have to install them on your mobile device, and hence, they won’t use the device’s space.
Web apps, although designed to look and function like native apps, are ideal for making content or functionality available on the mobile device.
Developing web apps are simple and quick (they’re developed with CSS, JavaScript, and HTML5).

However, their simplicity is also their downfall.

Although experts argue web apps equal to, and sometimes, even better than the native apps (flexible in terms of costs and functionality and hardware independent) web apps are limited in terms of features they offer.

  • They require an Internet connection to work.
  • They’re less intuitive and slower.
  • Web apps are designed once for every platform, and hence, they won’t behave or look like a real app for any of them.
  • It’s difficult to engage with your audience; you cannot send notifications to your audience to bring back to your content.
  • If you’re using web apps, understand that it becomes very difficult to build a loyal customer-base. This is because the app’s icon isn’t on the home screen as a constant reminder.
  • Furthermore, web apps don’t appear on the App Store and Google Play, as native and hybrid apps do. Hence, if you’re using web apps, you’re missing a great source of downloads and traffic.

But, not everything is negative about mobile web apps.

Read this Mozilla article that explains why web apps are not so poor cousins of native apps.

In fact, there are great examples of web apps out there. Check out the collection that Top Design compiled.

3. Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are a mix of both native and web apps.

Image Credit: Unified Infotech

They’re often easier and quicker to build than native apps (hence a cheaper solution), but also one step above of what a browser-based web app offers.

So, you might ask, “Is hybrid apps better of both the worlds?”

Hybrid apps use the same languages (JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS) that web apps use.

Native codes are also used to allow the app to access all the features and functionality of the device and to deliver great user experience.

The advantage of this approach is apparent: to make the app work on different platforms and devices out there, only parts of the native app have to be re-written.

Advantages of Hybrid apps over Native apps:

  • Hybrid apps are quicker and easier to develop than native apps.
  • You can change platforms
  • Hybrid apps are also easier to maintain

However, hybrid apps won’t be as fast as native apps because they still rely on the browser speed.

Using tools such as PhoneGap/Cordova and Appcelerator Titanium, you can create CSS/HTML/JavaScript files, design, and build hybrid apps just like you’d build a website.

Then, you can use Cordova to convert them into a mobile app.

It takes a lot of work to make your hybrid app run on the different platform.

Sometimes, the cost of building a hybrid app is almost equal to that of native apps, making the cost-benefit almost negligible.

However, hybrid apps still have a huge advantage over native apps.

Because hybrid apps are developed on a single base, you can easily add new functionality and have all versions of all app benefit from it.

On the other hand, for native apps, for every new feature you want to incorporate, it’ll have to be replicated on each platform.

If you were thinking about building app for an existing website or you have a web app that does exactly what your app should do, but only lacks certain features of a native app (app store presence, home screen icon, push notifications, and offline use), then turning your website or web app into native app is going to be extremely quick and economical.

Native, Web App, and Hybrid App: Which One Should You Go For?

Image Credit: Digital Dividend

The answer to this question totally depends on YOU, as there are no one-size-fits-all answers.
Of course, it is going to be quite confusing and challenging to find the ‘right’ app.
However, if you know what your main goals are and what your audience are looking for, then it’s just a matter of finding a great developer and building an app that best suits your expectations.

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