Differences between Native, Hybrid, Cross-platform, and Web App

If you want to have an app developed for as any operating system, you are spoiled with choices as to which framework you can rely on. The decision between a native, hybrid, or web application significantly influences your budget and the possible functions that you can implement in your app. This article is intended to provide you with an initial guide to help you decide which implementation option is right for your app. 

Native app

A native app is an app that was developed individually for a specific operating system. However, if you take it exactly, a native app has been compiled individually for a specific operating system. There is usually a native app for mobile devices for iOS and Android. Native components are used to display the interface so that the user of the app feels comfortable using the app.

•    Advantages of native apps

The big advantage of native apps is that they ensure the best possible performance and user experience on the respective operating system.

A native app can access all device functions and offers the ability to use certain functions and data offline on the mobile device. A native app for iOS is programmed with Swift, while a native app for Android is developed with Java or Kotlin. All of the programming languages mentioned are used for native app development. Another important advantage of native apps is that updates to the operating system can be used directly. In other approaches, you usually have to wait for an update of the framework or the libraries used.

•    Disadvantages of native apps

The most important disadvantage of native apps is the fact that each app has to be developed individually for the respective operating system. Even if both teams work in parallel, the costs are almost twice as high. Nevertheless, you should also consider the special features of the UI here. If you want to plan your budget safely, add a factor of two to the effort.

Hybrid app

In the narrower sense, a hybrid app is a browser application in a native shell, i.e., a website that has been packed in a native container so that it can be made available as an app on a mobile device.

The web app is developed once and “exported” in a native container as a hybrid app for the respective operating system. Frameworks used for hybrid app development are PhoneGap or Apache Cordova.

•    Advantages of hybrid apps

The biggest advantage of hybrid apps is that you save a lot of time and money because you develop a website once, and then (if there are no problems), you can export it directly for iOS and Android as a hybrid app. The advantages of hybrid app development are essentially time and cost savings in the initial development, but also in maintenance.

•    Disadvantages of hybrid apps

The disadvantages of hybrid apps are poorer performance and compromises in the user experience. The fact that the user mostly uses individual web components in the app and not the usual native elements is often accepted as a disadvantage of hybrid apps in order to benefit from the lower costs.

Cross-platform app

A cross-platform app is developed in a programming language and exported (or actually: compiled) to the respective operating system using a cross-platform app framework such as Xamarin or React Native. With the cross-platform app frameworks, however, you have to differentiate again between hybrid and native – cross-platform. The main difference is the rendering of the UI, i.e., how the surface is created. Hybrid frameworks (e.g., Phonegap) use HTML5 and are, therefore, comparable to a web view (behaves like a browser). Native frameworks (e.g. React Native), on the other hand, have their own rendering to make the UI more performant and more fluid. However, the behavior and the “feeling” of the UI can still differ from a native app, since the native UI is completely overridden by your own rendering (all interactions and animation are “reproduced”).

•    Advantages of cross-platform apps

The main advantage of cross-platform apps is the balanced compromise between native performance and good user experience on the native device. Most cross-platform app frameworks can also be used to develop native plugins, which can then be integrated to provide certain functions or UI elements natively with full performance and a native look-and-feel. If the apps have to implement complex logic, then the time and cost savings are a big advantage here.

•    Disadvantages of cross-platform apps

Even though you can use almost all of the native functions here, one disadvantage of cross-platform apps is that they are just “a few.” Where the pitfalls lurk can usually only be seen during development. This can lead to considerable additional expenses every now and then. Especially with cross-platform apps, there may be significant delays if the framework provider does not provide timely function updates.

Web app

A web app is a fully browser-based application. It is accessed via the browser and uses only web technologies such as JavaScript. The web app is optimized for the use of mobile devices and can, therefore, be accessed anywhere and platform-independently via a browser. As browsers make more and more functions of mobile operating systems functions (GPS, etc.) and the Internet is getting faster and faster, the disadvantages of a web app are disappearing.

•    Advantages of a web app

The biggest advantage of a web app is that it is based on proven web technologies and proven Javascript frameworks. In the meantime, everyone knows how to use modern web apps, and the behavior in dealing with them is mostly learned. In addition, you save twice the development costs for several operating systems and still include all users via a standard browser.

•    Disadvantages of web apps

Web apps have “no” disadvantages in themselves – unless you have fundamentally wrong expectations. Regarding the disadvantages of web apps, you should know that you always need internet access, and the apps do not work offline and that you cannot publish them in the app store. Therefore, a web app in the classic sense is not compared to a “mobile app.” The app runs exclusively in the browser and not natively on a mobile operating system.

Author Bio: Melissa Crooks is a Content Writer who writes for Hyperlink InfoSystem, a mobile app development company in New York, USA, and India that holds the best team of skilled and expert app developers. She is a versatile tech writer and loves exploring the latest technology trends, entrepreneur, and startup column. She also writes for the top Instant Help Solution

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