The dilemma of choosing the right mobile OS platform for your app is impossible to avoid, whether you are just starting up, or an experienced business owner. A limited budget or a brief time limit only raises the tension even higher.
Perhaps you tried to hire hybrid app developers, and you were asked what kind of app to build: native, web, or hybrid? A question that leaves you wondering; what’s the difference between them? Immediately following that question is the previous question of which kind of app your business needs.
The answer to the question of choice of an app depends on a few factors:
- How fast you need the app
- Your budget for app development
- Your company’s priorities
- What features you need
- If you intend to develop any part of the app in-house
But first, let’s look at the differences between native, mobile web, and hybrid apps, and their advantages and disadvantages, in order to decipher which one is best for your app idea.
Native mobile apps are applications built to run on a particular operating system, platform, or device, and they “live” on the device, to be accessed through icons on the device’s home screen. These are the apps that come to most of our minds when we think of mobile apps. They are the apps we download from the App Store or Google Play. What differentiates native apps from hybrid apps or web apps is that they are developed for specific devices. For example, Android apps are written in Java, and only run on Android phones, same with iPhone apps, which are written in Objective-C.
Native apps are the fastest and most reliable for user experience, and this is its major advantage. They are also able to interact with all the device’s operating system features, such as Bluetooth, camera, contacts lists and microphone. If you want your app to work without internet connectivity, then a native app is best. While in-browser caching is available in HTML5, it is still more limited than what you can get from a native app.
The downside is that you will need a bigger budget in order to build your app for multiple platforms (i.e. Android and iPhones). Native apps also need to be constantly updated.
The disadvantage of web apps is that they can be slower and less intuitive. Your users won’t be constantly reminded to use your web app, since its icon won’t be downloaded to their home screens.
A hybrid app uses aspects of both native and web applications. They are usually very similar to web apps, but they include a lightweight native app container or wrapper, which allows them to access the device hardware just like native apps. They can also be distributed through app stores just like a native app. Hybrid apps can use cross-compatible web technologies like web apps, while also incorporating operating system features like native apps.
The upside to Hybrid apps is that they are easier and faster to develop, compared to native apps, while requiring less maintenance. You can also build hybrid apps on a single base, with only minimal modifications needed to make them run on either Android or iOS platforms.
On the other hand, hybrid apps can be less functional and less UI/UX optimized, compared to a native app. Also, the speed of a hybrid app depends on the speed of the user’s browser, this means that hybrid apps are slower than native apps.
Having considered the strengths and weaknesses of each kind of app, your decision should then depend almost entirely on your startup’s needs, while also considering the cost implications.
It is also better to outsource your app development rather than hiring permanent in-house staff, as it will make the project feel like a natural transition, rather than a dive into uncharted waters.