Web vs. native vs. hybrid mobile app development

Once you've decided to build a mobile application, you have to face one of the hardest choices: whether to build a native, a hybrid or a web application. Actually, the choice is not that hard when you exactly know what you expect from an application.

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Today, it’s difficult to imagine a business that doesn’t connect to its clients via a mobile application. Smartphones have become an essential part of our everyday life and have even replaced computers for certain groups of people.

When you need to check the weather forecast, read a film review or order a pizza, do you wait for your laptop to turn on, or do you just reach for your phone and do everything in a few taps? The mobile experience is everywhere.

It is faster and more convenient, allowing us to do most things on the go, in a queue, or during our ride home. A smartphone saves us time. And this is why mobile applications have become that popular.

Smartphone usage statistics

If you’ve already decided to build an application to attract and astound mobile device users, there is one hard choice left: web app or native app or hybrid app. Let us make this choice a bit easier for you!

Native, Web and Hybrid apps. What are they?

There are three essential approaches to creating a mobile application:

  • web app development,

  • native app development,

  • hybrid app development.

Each has their advantages and disadvantages and none is better than another.

To choose the right approach, you must evaluate available resources and understand the goals you want to achieve with the app release.

Native mobile apps - exclusive performance and solid budget

Which platforms should your application support? Most likely you are targeting Android and iOS users.

So, if you decide to develop for the two platforms, be ready to build two separate applications since each platform has completely different standards that need to be strictly followed.

Native app development advantages and disadvantages

As a result, you have to hire two development teams:

  • Objective-C or Swift team for an iOS app

  • Java or Kotlin professionals for an Android app.

Sounds like there is a lot of job to be done, but the benefits of such approach are also impressive:

Advantages of native app development

  • High-end performance
    Native applications perform better, especially in the case of heavy graphics or complicated calculations (HD or 3D games, etc.).

  • Native user interface
    Standards of a specific platform are followed. As a result, user experience is smoother and generally better.

  • Access to platform-specific features
    A native app can access the camera, calendar, contacts and other built-in features of the device or the platform.

Disadvantages of native applications

  • App store availability only
    Such an application can be found and downloaded only in an app store. Also, any update must be manually approved by a user, which negatively affects user experience.

  • Higher development costs
    Native apps should be created for each platform from scratch. Therefore, they require more time and resources to complete. No need to explain that the costs rise as well.

Obviously, the budget for native app development is higher since the costs are based on the time spent to build the needed functionality for each platform.

But the higher development cost is rewarded with better performance. In addition, a native app’s interface is perfectly adjusted to the platform, making it feel better for the user and reducing the learning curve.

Still in doubt on whether native app development is the right choice for your business? Get in touch and have your questions answered by our consultant!

Web app development - one application for all screens and platforms

A web app is an application that works on browsers. However, it can be easily run on any type of device, be it a laptop, a tablet, a smart watch, a TV or even the screen of a smart fridge. The only prerequisite is that the device should have a browser.

Regardless of the number of targeted platforms, you build only one application. Sounds good, right?

Web app development - advantages and disadvantages

Advantages of web app development for mobile devices

  • Usage of widespread technologies
    Web app development is at peak popularity nowadays. This means that finding a development team won’t be an issue.

  • Compatibility with any platform
    Once you create a web application, it is ready to be used on any device immediately. The development time is minimal, just like the price.

  • Instant updates
    Users always access the latest version of your application, so there’s no need to download updates

  • Continuous innovations on the web
    Google has already introduced progressive web apps (PWA) and accelerated mobile pages (AMP) to make the mobile experience smooth. The developments go on and it’s sometimes hard to say whether you’re using a native or a web app.

Disadvantages of mobile web applications

  • Basic performance
    This approach works perfectly for simple applications such as news publishers and online stores. But some apps require better performance that web technology still lacks.

  • Inability to support all web browsers
    There are dozens of browsers, and then tens of versions of each browser. A web application usually supports only the latest and most popular ones, making it impossible for users with exotic browsers to use your application.

  • Limited access to native features of the platform
    A web app can’t access your camera, storage, contacts, and other native features of the device.

  • Not accessible through app stores
    Web apps can’t be downloaded from the app store, they are accessed via link. This is easier for the user, but you’d have to think of other ways to promote your application.

Web app development is still on the rise. The introduction of WebAssembly may also boost interest in this type of app. Being one of the main web trends of the year, WebAssembly enables code originally written in any programming language to compile in the browser. This means that performance-critical features will soon be implemented in web apps as well. We can’t wait for this to happen!

Hybrid mobile apps - shorter time-to-market and reduced budget

You’ve already read about native and web apps. A hybrid mobile app is somewhere in between - an application that can be run on any platform with just slight improvements. Literally, it is a web application in a native wrapper, which makes the app feel more native.

Hybrid app development - advantages and disadvantages

Hybrid applications are based on web technologies: HTML, CSS, Javascript, and are supported by a hybrid development framework (Ionic, Apache Cordova, etc.).

Of course, this approach has its pros and cons.

Advantages of hybrid apps

  • Usage of web technology
    Hiring a web app development team is a no brainer. Moreover, a JavaScript  application is easier to maintain even in a changing environment.

  • Lower price when compared to native
    A hybrid application is built just once and is ready to run on any platform. The development time is shorter, just as the cost of such an app.

  • Better performance when compared to web
    Hybrid frameworks enable an app to access platform-specific features, improving performance and user experience.

Disadvantages of hybrid app development

  • Not as powerful as native apps
    The hybrid approach won’t work for performance critical applications and heavy games.

  • Need for third-party services
    Pure JavaScript won’t work until you use a hybrid app development framework, such as Cordova or Ionic. Both have a learning curve.

The obvious benefit of this approach is the ability to hire just one web development team. Also, once built, the application can be run on any device or platform, which cuts the development time and enables to reach wider audience. The hybrid approach is preferable when it is critical to reduce the time-to-market of an application without exceeding the budget.

Hybrid development is often described as a compromise solution due to lower performance. However, in 2019 technologies are already so advanced that you are able to deliver an exclusive cross-platform experience without the user even noticing the difference.

If you still are not sure whether hybrid development is an option for your case – we’re here to answer your questions. Just drop us a line!

Native app vs Hybrid app development - comparison

The most important characteristics of hybrid and native mobile apps are described in the table below. Read this comparison to choose the one that fits your use case best!

Characteristics

Native app development

Hybrid app development

Platform

You have to develop a native app for each platform.

A hybrid application can be used on any platform that has a browser.

Development technologies

Objective-C or Swift for iOS,

Java or Cotlin for Android,

Native SDKs for each platform.

HTML, CSS, Javascript,

Hybrid development framework (Ionic, Apache Cordova, etc.).

Access to Calendar, Contacts, Camera, GPS, etc

Access to any native smartphone features directly.

Access to smartphone features through third-party plugins.

Performance

Highest performance even for HD/3D graphics and other complicated calculations.

High level of performance. Some issues possible when dealing with HD/3D graphics.

User Interface (UI)

Native look’n’feel consistent with other native applications, low learning curve.

Unable to reproduce some platform-specific gestures, frustration in usage is possible.

App-stores availability

Available for download and updates in Apple’s and Android’s app stores.

Available for download and updates in Apple’s and Android’s app stores.

Time-to-market

Longer, depending on the number of supported platforms, and planned the functionality.

Significantly shorter, the app is developed once and is compatible with all platforms.

Development cost

Higher, you have to pay to multiple development teams.

Much lower, there is only one team and the development time is shorter.

There is one more option that combines these two approaches. It’s called cross-platform app development. This technology combines the advantages of hybrid and native app development while eliminating the disadvantages.

With cross-platform development, you are able to use just one technology stack for multiple platforms. At the same time, the user experience is native, and the performance is significantly higher. You can dig deeper into this topic by reading our comparison of cross-platform development frameworks.

Web app vs. Native app

Web and native app development are two completely different approaches. Here’s what you should pay attention to when choosing one or the other for your project:

Characteristics

Native app development

Web app development

Platform

Need to develop an app for each platform.

A single app works regardless of the platform.

Technologies

Objective-C or Swift for iOS,

Java or Cotlin for Android,

Native SDKs for each platform.

HTML, CSS, React/Angular/Vue.js for frontend;
Node.js/Laravel/etc. for backend.

Access to Calendar, Contacts, Camera, GPS, etc.

Access to to all native features on the platform.

Limited access to device’s hardware and software.

Performance

Best possible performance for any type of application.

Doesn’t fit performance-critical app ideas.

User Interface (UI)

Native interface according to platform standards.

Unified interface that sometimes doesn’t look native.

App-store availability

Available for download and updates in Apple’s and Android’s app stores.

Accessible via link, no need to download updates, which saves traffic and storage.

Time-to-market

Higher, depends on the number of supported platforms, and the functionality.

Much shorter, one app can be run on any device.

Development cost

Higher, you have to pay multiple development teams.

The result of reduced development time are significantly lower costs.

Web apps are the top choice for startups and businesses that are not ready to invest a lot of money and wait many months to launch.

Conclusion: Web vs Hybrid vs Native apps

When comparing hybrid, web and native app development, no one is better than the other. They all have advantages and disadvantages, and each of them works better in specific business cases.

Web app development is a must for startups and beginner businesses when time-to-market is critical. This approach is usually used for minimum viable product (MVP) development  when time and budget are limited.

However, a web app is not just a temporary solution. Many companies adhere to it due to easy support and satisfactory performance.

When aiming for better performance and wider functionality with a limited budget, consider developing a hybrid or cross-platform application.

But, if your company aims to deliver an exclusive experience to your clients choose native app development. Yes, it requires more expenses and effort, but faultless performance and consistent user interface can be worth every cent.

The team at Clockwise Software is proud to work with various types of businesses to find the most profitable solution at each stage.

Still not sure which approach to choose? Is your case unique and hard to categorize?
Drop us a line describing your business case and we’ll find the best suitable solution together!

Comparison of native, hybrid and web apps

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