An overview of the three core types of mobile apps – native, hybrid & web

We live in a super-connected world where thousands of apps are launched daily. Choosing the best for business or building one from scratch becomes even more challenging with the variety of possibilities to get it done. Prior to making a decision, a thorough assessment of the main mobile app categories is crucial. This way, it will be easier to understand how each type works, as well as what are their pros and cons so that the end result fits end goals and target audience.

Native mobile apps – fast, interactive, and intuitive

Mobile apps that are “native” are built exclusively for a dedicated operating system (OS), such as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android. In simple terms, native mobile apps built for Android phones cannot be used on iPhones. In terms of key differentiators, they leverage coding language and dev tools developed for that specific platform: Objective-C and Xcode for iOS or Java and Eclipse for Android.

As for the advantages and core benefits of native mobile apps, excellent user experience and high performance are two of the most important. As opposed to other types, natives provide users with a more optimized and streamlined customer experience because they employ the device’s native UI.

Since they can connect with the hardware directly, native apps can easily access a wide variety of features likes NFC, Bluetooth, camera roll, contacts, and more. Because they are built for one specific OS, the core drawback is that developers must duplicate their effort in the making process. The code created for iOS, for example, will not work on Android.

Mobile web apps – affordable, adaptable, and easy to maintain

Similar in behavior to natives, mobile web apps open in a web browser on mobile devices, although they don’t operate as standalone apps. There’s no need to download anything to access web apps because they adapt to the mobile device – and browser – used by the user. In terms of language, they leverage web tech stacks like Javascript, HTML, JQuery, and CSS, and cannot access functionalities specific to native apps (e.g. geolocation, camera, or calendar).

From a business point of view, mobile web apps are more affordable to develop. There’s no installation required and they’re a lot easier to keep up-to-date. On the downside, they’re highly dependant on internet speed and they require a longer timespan to develop.

Hybrid mobile apps – cost-efficient & cross-platform compatibility

Hybrid mobile apps are a perfect blend between mobile web apps and native apps. Developed using a wide variety of tech stacks (e.g. Javascript, HTML, Cordova/PhoneGap, JQuery, CSS), hybrids are downloaded from app stores and installed on user devices. In spite of having the ability to operate offline, as well as responsive design and fast performance, hybrid mobile apps are in fact mobile web apps built to look like natives.

Their main benefits are cost-efficiency and cross-platform compatibility. Unlike native apps, hybrids can be based on an MVP and since they leverage a single code base, maintaining them is much easier. For businesses looking to launch an app in countries with slow internet, the hybrid approach is ideal because of the fast loading capabilities of the dual architecture.

Conclusion

Each of the three mobile app categories mentioned above has its own pros and cons. Prior to choosing a type – native, hybrid, or web – it is important to do your due diligence just to make sure your final selection matches all business requirements.

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