Difference Between Native Apps, Hybrid Apps and Web Apps

Wondering the difference between these popular types of mobile applications? This page has got you covered.

Last Updated: Nov 11, 2021

What is a Native App? 

What is a native app? The simplest explanation is to say that these apps are developed in the native environment designated by the operating system publisher. For Android that would be Java. Google also has a Native Android Kit that tries to optimize Java development, but it isn’t widely promoted. You cannot create a native website into a native app overnight.

Native mobile app development for iOS uses Swift. Apple created the language to streamline app development, and it largely works and is one way on how to identify app is native or hybrid on iOS. On average, Apple apps are created faster and generate revenue sooner than their Android counterparts.

The big takeaway is that Java and Swift are not interchangeable. The primary disadvantages of native apps are that they require more time and money if you want to reach every audience.

A list of native app examples would be incomplete without including the most famous native app examples: Google Maps, Instagram and Facebook. Some people wonder if Instagram is native or hybrid app and they most often are associated with their native app. Facebook went mobile long before hybrid and universal systems had really been explored, and the difficulties of creating a working iOS version of Google Maps still craft one of the most important stories in the short history of app development.

What is a Web App?

A web app is conceptually similar to a PWA. In fact, two words are in common between the two delivery methods. Basically, web apps are simpler than PWAs. Web apps are delivered across web browsers. This still gives them a universal component to the delivery, and they’re easier to distribute across platforms. It’s important as a marketer to focus on the mobile first mindset mentality. In this episode of the Mobile Matters podcast between Stephanie Cox and Patrick Flanagan, SVP of Digital Marketing at Simon Property Group, they speak about the perspective shift that needs to happen to make mobile front of mind. 

Now that we’ve defined what a web app is, let's look at a few web app examples and some of the top web apps 2018. Some of the best examples of web apps are the Evernote and Slack. Slack is a great mobile web app example. Slack does have a web app along with a native app. 

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What is a Hybrid App? 

Before Progressive Web Apps came into their dominant state, hybrid apps provided a means to publish on both major app stores with a little less work. While web apps run everything from the server and merely stream the information to the end user, hybrid apps utilize hardware resources on the device for rendering. In simpler language, hybrid apps function somewhere in between PWAs and native apps.

The advantages of a native app vs hybrid app is that the hybrid app focuses on universal languages (like HTML) to help you spend less time working in proprietary systems, meaning the answer too ‘are hybrid apps good’ is yes some times. Comparing a native app vs web app vs hybrid, the web app requires the least amount of development work, and the native requires the most. A few disadvantages of hybrid mobile apps are that they do not have a native app feel and have slower performance than native apps. PWAs have been a great way to improve the functionality of hybrid apps. 

A few hybrid app examples would include Gmail and Instagram. Clearly, this method can get the job done, but you’ll find the best hybrid apps are those that invested in it years ago.

What is a Progressive Web App? 

One of the most important things to understand about Lumavate is that all apps developed with our platform are delivered as Progressive Web Apps (PWA). A Progressive Web App is one that is delivered across standardized web browsers. This delivery method gives PWAs a universal nature that makes them accessible no matter what operating system is in play.

It’s easy to see why PWAs are beginning to replace native apps. If you develop a mobile web app specifically for Android, you’ll have to rebuild it from scratch to put it on the Apple App Store. This is the essence of the native app vs web app choice.

You might think that a PWA sacrifices functionality by abandoning native delivery, but this isn’t the case. You can still customize a PWA for performance on different systems, but you get to do so with much less invested effort and money. In many cases, Progressive Web App vs native app performance differs with PWAs’ speed.

Mobile Progressive Web App examples can help drive this point home. Two well-known apps that you might have used are Starbucks and Uber. Both of these apps are widely used across software platforms, and the user experience is consistent throughout. If Uber can run on a PWA, then the native vs web app debate should probably end here.

If you want to have a Progressive Web App tutorial make sure to sign up for Lumavate’s free account!

Difference Between Native App and Hybrid App and Web App 

Now let’s look at the difference between native app and hybrid app and web app and how they compare and contrast to one another. If you want to learn more about how these three app types differ from one another and what type of app your team should build, check out Lumavate’s Mobile Champion resource comparing native app vs. web app vs. hybrid. 

Native App vs. Web App 

Let’s dive into the difference between a native app and web app. We’ve looked at what a native app and web app are separately but now let’s compare the difference between native app and web app. A native app is a mobile app that was designed specifically for the operating system in use. Many companies have built native apps because that is what was the normal strategy to take but as technology changes it’s important to look at what could be new and work best for your company. Native apps take a ton of time and money to implement and usually require hiring a dev team. Web apps have been around for a long time, and some of the best examples are Google Docs and Netflix. Web apps are a lot simpler to build and can be used across different operating systems. This decreases the cost and time to market. However, web apps have been seen as less customizable to a devices screen. Luckily, Progressive Web Apps have made a huge impact on the tech industry and have brought the best of both native apps and web apps together. There are many native app vs web app pros and cons, but you can't forget about progressive web apps!

If you want to better understand the native app vs web app and how they differ, this interview will help.

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Native vs. Hybrid App 

We looked at native apps vs. web apps. Now let’s look at native vs hybrid apps and the difference between native and hybrid app. The native vs hybrid app comparison can start with looking at the pros of native apps. Pros of native apps are that they can use less data, they can be more intricately designed for a specific user base, and they are available through a trusted store. The advantages of native app vs hybrid allows you to create a more custom app but your team will have to decide if time to market and costs outway the customization. 

The pros of hybrid apps is that they can provide a more consistent user experience across different devices, and they can cost significantly less to develop. You’ll find a lot of information on hybrid vs native app 2019 but make sure to also look into progressive web apps. Hybrid apps do not bring as many advantages as progressive web apps as you will read below. Let’s look at the difference between native and hybrid app with examples.

  • React Native Hybrid App - React Native hybrid app tries to give you the best of the hybrid vs native apps pros and cons. It is technically a hybrid app.
  • Whatsapp - Some wonder if WhatsApp is native or hybrid app. To check if the app is native or hybrid iOS you can tell if the app is hosted behind a URL or if it is downloaded onto your operating system. 

That’s the gist of the native vs hybrid app comparison. 

Web App Vs Mobile App 

In order to really understand the web app vs mobile app discussion, we first have to answer, what is a mobile app? A mobile app is designed to run utilizing the hardware on a mobile device. The main difference between web applications and mobile applications is where the work is done. With a web application, a server does the rendering and simply sends results to the device. Web apps can only be accessed through a URL and need connection to the internet. A mobile application does the rendering on the device itself. Mobile applications can be native, web apps, hybrid apps or Progressive Web Apps. The difference between web application and mobile application are obvious but also it needs to be remembered web apps can be mobile apps but native apps cannot be web apps.

Mobile App Testing 

Once you’ve created your app it is important to test it to make sure there are no bugs and that it can pass quality assurance (QA). There are multiple phases that may occur when going through mobile app testing. It is best practice with native app testing or web app testing to have an individual whose job is specific to testing the quality of your mobile app. It can be the difference of a great user experience (UX) right off the back or a poor UX that pushes users away. There are some differences in testing approaches between web app and mobile apps. Progressive Web Apps have a great tool called LightHouse when auditing a web app or PWA. Don’t forget to test your app multiple times before pushing it out live. 

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