SF AppWorks Jan 29, 2021 8:44:00 AM 17 min read

Hybrid Apps vs Native Apps: What's the Difference? | SF AppWorks

For business owners, the idea of creating an app for one’s business may seem like an excellent idea. Knowing the difference between hybrid and native apps is the first step to helping figure out what type of app would eventually move the business forward. This is especially so in the age of the internet where applications are just about everywhere and digital marketing is the main mode of advertising.


But how does one go about developing an app? Are hybrid apps the best approach, or are native apps better? Let’s look at everything business owners need to know about hybrid vs native apps, the app boom, and some guidance for creating apps for businesses.


The App Development Boom


2021 is a developer paradise. For the past decade or so, applications have quickly exploded in popularity and just about every consumer in the world uses apps via their mobile device. This is something business owners can absolutely take advantage of.


For e-commerce businesses or service providers, creating an app is a no-brainer. Online stores, counseling services, language tutors, and just about every other business out there that can maximize efficiency with an app for their consumers should definitely consider developing one.

man looking at iphone interface, as a concept of hybrid pass vs native apps

However, apps may not be the best idea for every single business out there. Take a local grocery store, for example. You could consider (in the grocery store example) creating an app for your business where you display coupon codes and other deals. That may be useful to your customers, but if it doesn’t result in an increase in revenue that is equal or greater to the amount of time and money you spend developing the app, then app development may be a better choice sometime down the road.


It all comes down to brainstorming your use cases. Why would consumers want to use your app? What services would it provide consumers in your target market, and would it ultimately be a big enough boon to warrant the time and money that goes into making and managing an app? Take the time to sit down and evaluate exactly why you want an app for your company.



Can just Anyone Create Their Own App for Their Business?


The short answer is “yes, but”. In other words, yes, anyone can create an app, but they will need a compelling use case, a pool of users for the app, and developers. App development requires experience and expertise, which isn’t something a person can just learn overnight. If you’re a small business that is dead set on an app, start looking into hiring developers.


Here are a couple of resources for seeking out contract or freelance app developers:



If you can think of a use case for a business app that can really provide something tangibly useful to your customers and increase your conversions, it’s time to hire a developer.


But even if you do hire an app developer to take on the task of building your business app, you still have to decide whether to build that app natively, as a hybrid, or as a web app. It would be wise to understand some key differences between apps before diving into the project. Here are the critical distinctions between hybrid and native apps.


Related: How to Hire a Mobile App Developer


Are you thinking of building an app? Receive a 4-step app building checklist, from app idea to MVP, directly in your inbox.



What Are Hybrid Apps? 


A hybrid app is, in at least one way, a type of native app. This is because hybrid apps can be downloaded from a platform’s application store like a native app. A hybrid app can access all of the native platform’s features (such as GPS, camera, accelerometer, and more).


There are, however, some very notable differences between hybrid apps and native apps.


hybrid apps vs native apps Infographic


The Pros of Hybrid Apps


There are many pros to using hybrid apps for business purposes:

  • Because there is a single code base for all platforms, developers only need to write it once and run the code wherever necessary. Native apps need to be built and maintained separately and coded individually for each platform.
  • Hybrid apps are able to achieve the same hardware-based performance acceleration as native apps. This isn’t exactly a “pro” since native apps can do the same thing, but it is something to keep in mind.
  • Hybrid apps have a sort of “one for all” build that can save time and money when developing different versions of the same app.
  • Hybrid apps are able to have identical and consistent user experiences across platforms (for better or worse), regardless of whether or not the user moves between different operating systems, devices, or browsers. This can be better for efficiency, but worse in that it doesn’t take into account how users behave in different environments.
  • The same developer or development team will be able to deliver hybrid apps for any and all platforms, including websites because all that is required to develop them is web technologies. 
  • Hybrid apps can have both online and offline access. If you currently only have a website, you’re missing out on a target audience that may sometimes operate without access to internet services. A developer can package a hybrid locally or through a server in order to create an application that functions (mostly) without the internet. You’ll be reaching people on trains, planes, or people with less than ideal data plans.
  • Hybrid apps (as mentioned above) are based on web technologies. Because of this, some can be run on any and all browsers, just like any other website can due to Progressive Web Application (PWA) technologies.


The Cons of Hybrid Apps


vectorial image of smartphones, as a concept of hybrid pass vs native apps

While hybrid apps are pretty useful, they also aren’t perfect:

Hybrid apps tend to have an issue of lagging. This is because hybrid apps are run on so many different operating systems, and interfacing complications can lead to lagging.

  • Because of the nature of hybrid apps, the appearance of the app can vary between users. This depends on the version of the software they’re using and the operating system they are using as well. This will require excessive testing to avoid.
  • For a lot of applications, performance is the same for hybrid apps as well as native apps. However, 3D and HD games, applications with high caliber graphics, and other performance-based apps may not operate consistently or well in hybrid app form.
  • Hybrid apps can access all of the native device features, such as media and touchID. However, hybrid apps are dependant on native plugins. Sometimes, an entirely new device feature may not be readily available as a native plugin. A good developer can write their own, but this adds more complications and headaches to the development process.
  • Hybrid apps are dependent on various different libraries and frameworks, such as Cordova or Ionic. These need to be in sync with the most recent platform version releases and changes.
  • Because different platforms also have different hardware choices, you may have to develop different branches of features and user flows anyway, which increases development costs and time. 


Related: 10 Powerful Benefits of Programming Outsourcing in 2020




What Are Native Apps?


A native app is a type of software or program that has been developed to carry out a very specific task within a particular platform or environment. Native apps are built using software development tools (also known as SDK) for specific software frameworks, hardware platforms, or operating systems.


A native app is usually built using a Java Development Kit for Java platforms (Android) and iOS native apps are created with iOS SDK and Swift.

chart of hybrid vs native apps

Source: Ionic survey.

Related: The Three Main Methods of Application Development


The Pros of Native Apps


Some benefits to using native apps include:

  • Native apps tend to be faster since they are native to the platform they are developed for.
  • They tend to work better offline, meaning there is no internet connectivity required to run them (for the most part.) If one of your users is stuck in the middle of nowhere, such as on a plane or on the subway, they can still access the basic features of your application.
  • Native apps tend to have a recognizable look and feel to them, as they are essentially a nuanced version of the operating system’s default applications. This familiarity can add to over user experience.
  • Graphic-heavy applications, high definition games, and intensive animation applications will likely perform quite well as native applications. This is because native code is still faster than HTML and JavaScript. WebGL standards can help browser apps and hybrid apps for graphics-heavy functions in order to meet performance standards, but native apps still have that advantage of ease.
  • They maintain aspect ratios to improve the quality of graphics and images within the app.
  • Native SDKs are able to access device features without working through the complexity of native plugins. New device features will be available out of the box along with the SDKs, which simplifies the development management process.
  • Native apps have few dependencies on open source libraries and platforms such as Cordova and Ionic, which makes native apps a little bit simpler to work with.
  • From a product perspective, developing for a single platform like iOS can focus your resources on testing and creating the right experience for your users. Once that product-market fit is achieved, then you can more efficiently re-create those winning features for other platforms like Android or web.



The Cons of Native Apps

vectorial images of devices synced, as a concept of hybrid pass vs native apps

Native apps do have a few drawbacks to consider:

  • Releasing the same exact feature on all platforms at the same time is almost always quite difficult and time-consuming. This is because native apps have a different codebase.
  • Different skill sets are required to develop, maintain, and manage the same application on each different platform, which ultimately adds to the cost of keeping up the application.
  • Separate development efforts for each platform can be complicated and tedious, which tacks onto the development time.
  • Each platform code will need to have its own release cycle and updates. This ultimately adds to development time and cost.
  • Native apps tend to take longer to download, which could lead to potential users bailing halfway through the download process if it takes too long. Users will also need to open the app store, search for the app, open it, agree to terms and conditions, and then finally download– which could lead to them jumping ship if your app is not useful enough for the trouble.
  • There is little flexibility when compared to hybrid apps.


Related: When to Build an App vs a Mobile Responsive Website


Hybrid vs Native Apps: Which Should I Choose? 


vectorial image of a developer working, as a concept of hybrid pass vs native apps

To put it plainly, the main difference between hybrid and native apps is this: Hybrid apps are developed across all platforms, while native apps are developed for specific operating systems. It’s the difference between having an individual app for an individual smartphone operating system, or an app that is consistent across all platforms and works identically well across them.


Ultimately, the division lies within the goals and priorities of your business. 


Native Apps Overview


Native apps are fast, fit the device’s features, and can be more targeted to the needs of the user. However, there is a lot of development that goes into native apps and that could lead to more time and money being spent. Look into native app examples to see what other people are doing for inspiration.


Hybrid Apps Overview


Hybrid apps are a bit easier to work with development-wise and may even be cheaper to produce in some cases, but can suffer from lagging and discrepancies between devices and operating systems. This can be highly problematic for a business-grade app. Like with native apps, it may be worth looking into hybrid app examples to see what common end results are.



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Native Apps vs. Hybrid Apps: Conclusion


Ultimately, it is recommended to use a native app if you have less than a handful of months to develop the app. That’s because you want to focus all of your energy and resources on creating one experience for one user base, really well. If you fail at that, you will need to iterate quickly, and updating code for multiple platforms actually increases the workload. If you want to test a limited private market on the user-friendliness of your app, it may be worth developing it as a native app.


Once the testing phase is done and the features are tested and defined, it may be wise to switch to hybrid to scale to more platforms. If the application didn’t work out in the testing phase, you lucked out and saved a good chunk of change by not investing in hybrid development.


If, above all else, you want an app with the best possible user experience, security, and performance, opt for native development for your business’s application. When it comes down to it, a native application is a safer approach to development because it forces you to focus on minimum viable products rather than large scale feature sets. As the saying goes, it is better to do one thing really well than many things poorly.

Contact us for a consultation about which option is best for you!


Related: 5 Guidelines for Mobile App Startups to Follow



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