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Native, Web or Hybrid Apps: What to Choose in 2021?

  • 8-9 min read
  • August 12, 2021
  • 👍 Rating — 4.7 (9 votes)

No matter whether you are an experienced business owner or a startuper, the dilemma of choosing the right mobile OS platform is impossible to avoid. The tension is getting even higher when you have a limited budget or a very short timelimit. So, you face the question what kind of app to build: native, web or hybrid? And what’s the difference between them?

The difference between native, web and hybrid apps

Businesses differ and so do apps. As you might guess there is no silver bullet for successful app development and you should make a decision based on the following criterias:

  • What are the deadlines?
  • What is the business goal?
  • What is your targeted audience?
  • What features are you going to add?
  • What is your budget?

We decided to wrap it up and explain in plain language the difference between these kinds of apps so you can make an informed decision based on your initial conditions.  

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What is native application for mobile?

When it comes to mobile app development many entrepreneurs don’t understand what is a native app. The word “native” seems strange and not aligned with mobile technologies. Let’s figure out what kind of app can be called native.

Native mobile app is an application developed to run on a particular platform, operating system or device. That’s it. No more, no less.

How to build a native mobile app?

In order to provide a seamless user experience on a particular device, native apps are written in a programming language of the OS platforms, it’s made for. For example, native Android apps are written in Java, while iOS native apps are preferably written in Swift.

Since native apps are developed for a certain platform, they can directly interact with the operating system. That gives a nice benefit of using the latest technologies available on a device such as camera, GPS, microphone, gestures or any other innovations. Native apps can also access push notification services and interact with users in the most convenient way.

Moreover, both Google and Apple have dedicated software development tools. These tools can give a notable speed up to development progress and are available to all programmers who are willing to build a native app. Thus, there is a huge community of native developers which supplies “native” programmers with numerous ready-made solutions and helpful libraries. You can develop an iOS app using Xcode and Android app by using Android Studio.

But not only coding has its standards but also the design. For example, Google developed the material design guidelines for developers and Apple has its own human interface guidelines. As a result, you get a native app that perfectly matches the UI/UX conventions, making people feel “like home” when using it.

Examples of native apps: Twitter, Facebook, Lyft, Aviation Study Guide by GBKSOFT.


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What is mobile web application?

Generally, people consider apps to be mobile, they sometimes get confused by the “web app” term.

Web application is actually a web program running in a browser. But how it differs from a dynamic website you ask? Well, there is only a terminological difference nowadays. Each website can be an app and each web app can look like a website. It may sound confusing, but the main point is web apps have a wider functionality than websites such as instant messaging, online sales, webmail, etc.

The advantage of web apps is that you don’t need to install them on your device, instead, you can use them directly in browser anytime you need. This feature allows users to save storage space on their devices but requires the internet connection. Nevertheless, there are web apps that are able to work offline. Check out our page dedicated to custom web apps development if you want to discover more details about it. 

How to build a web mobile app?

Unlike mobile native apps, development of mobile web apps doesn’t require specific SDK (software development kit). You can choose it based on your technological preferences. Generally, web apps are built on JavaScript, PHP, CSS and HTML along with such frameworks as Node.JS and Angular.JS. But, you can build web app by using any Turing-complete programming language.

Examples of web mobile apps: Google Docs, Trello, Evernote, Sea Guide by GBKSOFT.  

What are hybrid applications?

Hybrid apps are very similar to web ones, but they include a lightweight native app container, allowing them to access the device hardware just like native apps. Nevertheless, they are built like web apps, using such programming languages as JavaScript, CSS and HTML5. Hybrid apps can be downloaded from app stores just like native apps. They can access hardware modules like camera, push-notifications, calendar, etc. So what’s the difference between hybrid and native apps?

Though hybrid apps have very much in common with native apps, they are still not optimized for a particular platform and their performance is lower than native apps have. The main reasons why some developers choose to build hybrid apps are time and money. Building a hybrid app is faster than creating two native apps for iOS and Android and may be slightly cheaper. In addition, hybrid apps does not require from developer the proficiency in two programming languages.

But as a result, you get less functional, less performance and not UI/UX optimized app. Plus, if something goes wrong (or you’ll need an upgrade) you won’t have a strong development community to support and advise you.

Examples of hybrid apps: Basecamp, Instagram, Yelp.

How to choose between native, web and hybrid app?

Before making a decision concerning app development, let’s come back to the crucial questions we put in the very beginning of this article. Below are the same question accompanied with the answers that can prompt you to the best decision.

What are the deadlines?

Building one native app is faster than one hybrid app, but if you need both iOS and Android version – the finish line surely will be at the same point in time.

What is the business goal?

CPM for ads in mobile apps is usually higher than in web apps. Thus if you will count on ads for promotion, go for web apps. On the other hand, if you want to monetize through ads, go for the native app. The reason is ad blockers that many people use in their browsers. The result you get is lower revenue. Mobile apps on their part don’t have any blockers.

Also it is crucial to pay special attention to the way your uses interact with the solution. Let’s say your business is related to resale, then it will be reasonable to ensure both web and mobile presence. And on top of that, it would be great to add convenient payment method not to loose your audience and to convert it into customers. For example, if you are selling goods in iOS app, then it should offer Apple Pay option.

What is your targeted audience?

When betting on a native app, choosing a platform is a common dilemma. Hence, there is a statistics confirming that iOS users spend more on mobile apps, meaning, the revenue from such apps might be higher. Nevertheless, everything depends on the functionality of an app, and the needs and expectations of the targeted audience.

For example, if you are planning to develop an app that can be used anytime – the best solution is native since it is working both online and offline. On the other hand, web apps require an Internet connection as they are working through the browser.

What features are you going to add?

As we said before, the more features an app contains, the more difficult the developing process is. Moreover, if you want your app to use the device’s hardware (camera, microphone, accelerometer, etc.) it’s better to choose native apps as they can access all the mentioned functions of a device.

What is your budget?

You should always embrace the long-term thinking for your company’s strategy. This is also true while choosing which app is better to build. It’s better to spend more time on making a decision than later waste it on developing the wrong type of app and rebuild it from scratch with an extra budget.

The cheapest apps are hybrid, since they are made by a team with fewer people involved. But the flip side is the lower performance of the app and higher maintenance costs. Choosing hybrid app for the reason of its cost always means sacrificing some features that would be impossible to add later due to the hardware access limits.


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Mobile Web vs Mobile App

The battle between native, web and hybrid apps is never going to end because each approach has its own benefits. Building a hybrid app might be very appealing due to the high speed of development, lower budget costs and single source code needed. Nevertheless, in the long run, this economy can turn into the constant fixing process in order to enhance the UI and the attempts of raising the app’s performance.

Looking at the discussion from the perspective of 7+ years of our experience in mobile app development, we in GBKSOFT are convinced that choosing native apps is the most reasonable approach. The reason lies in high-class security, performance, and native UI/UX elements providing users with a seamless experience. Time shows that people feel more comfortable and “like home” when using native apps since all the elements are familiar and user-friendly. Plus, native apps require more investments and time to accomplish, in a long run these investments pay off by offering an industry standard app performance and incredible user experience.

So, having examined all the pros and cons of native, hybrid or web apps, it would be easier for you to determine the course of your company growth. One more key decision you’ll need to make is contacting the development team that would bring your idea to life while matching your budget, deadlines and business goals.


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Elena is the business analyst passionate about everything connected with startups, business ideas, and analytics. She’s aiming to find the solution for every challenge, young companies meet on their way.
Leave a comment

Comments (3)

Apr 06, 2018 at 8:02 AM

Great article :).Confused which platform to choose for your mobile app, native or hybrid? Check out pros and cons of native and hybrid platform for your mobile app.

Feb 26, 2018 at 1:02 PM

Wasn’t Facebook app made with react native?

Feb 28, 2018 at 2:25 PM

Sure! And still, it’s a native app =)


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