Advantages and Disadvantages of Web, Native, and Hybrid Apps


Choosing between a native app, web app, and hybrid app is an important strategic decision for companies wanting to take their mobile applications to the market. All of these options have their distinct pros and cons which need to be carefully considered before deciding to go one way or the other.


In a nutshell, a native app on a mobile platform is a software program which is developed using a native programming language such as Objective C for iOS or Java for Android, and is installed on the device. Unlike this, a web app does not require any local installation and it runs its software through a web browser such as Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, etc.. Web applications are deployed on remote servers and rendered to client mobile devices using technologies such as HTML5/CSS/JavaScript. In recent times, a hybrid application development framework that mixes features of both native and web apps, has gained popularity. Hybrid apps run within a native container application though the major part of the content is still delivered as HTML5/CSS/JavaScript from remote servers.


Native apps have the distinct advantage of leveraging the inbuilt features of the native platform, such as camera, accelerator, etc, to deliver the most effective presentation and rich user experience along with superior performance. On top of that, native apps can run in an offline mode i.e. without internet connection. However, the trade-off is having to build multiple versions of the app to support numerous mobile platforms and their versions in a highly fragmented market. In other words, going native means significant development costs and time to market for a software company as native apps are not platform independent. For instance, an app developed for Apple’s iOS will not work for other platforms such as Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows or Blackberry OS. In addition, frequent upgrades in the platforms bring in significant overheads for application developers to test and address compatibility issues.


Web apps have the distinct advantage of being platform agnostic, thus saving significant development costs and time to market. On the flip side, as these apps execute within a web browser, they do not have the luxury of using powerful features of the native platform. Hence, richness in presentation and user experience is quite inferior to those of a native application. In addition, the user needs an internet connection to be able to access the content. It has been quite a challenge for web application development companies to make their apps look like native apps, which has forced a lot of them to go native or take the middle path of developing hybrid apps.


Hybrid apps give a short cut to deploy web apps as native apps by wrapping the web app code using a native framework such as PhoneGap. The distinct advantage the hybrid option gives is the reduction of development cost and time for rolling out apps for various mobile platforms using the same skill sets required for web application development. Wrapper technology frameworks which are available for most popular mobile platforms also expose some platform specific features, thus making them richer than pure web apps.


While the jury is still out on the best model for delivery of content and software applications on mobile devices and platforms, all these have their distinct advantages and disadvantages for content publishers and software makers. Various factors such as user experience, time and cost of development, as well as availability of skills will drive the choice of one over the other.


Three Fourteen has extensive experience developing apps. Tell us about your project and we will advise you the best way in delivering a mobile solution that your customers will embrace.