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Cross-platform Web App, Native App or Hybrid App?

In modern digital space, mobile app development has become an essential part of businesses worldwide.

When it comes to building a mobile app, developers have multiple options to choose from: cross-platform web apps, native apps, and hybrid apps.

Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages, and selecting the right one requires careful consideration.

In this article, we will explore the differences between these three types of apps and weigh their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

Key Differences

Before diving into the details, let’s establish a basic understanding of the key differences between cross-platform web, native, and hybrid applications.

Key Differences Web App, Native App or Hybrid App

Native Applications

Codebase

The first thing to mention when speaking about native mobile apps is that they have different versions for each operating system (OS), like Android or iOS. It means the app requires several codebases and needs to be developed for each OS.

Cost and Time

Native app development requires multiple OS development teams, which increases costs and time. If developers are proficient in multiple technologies, expenses may decrease, but time-to-market may be prolonged.

Maintenance

The more sophisticated the development, the harder the maintenance. At the same time, the native app might be easier to test and debug, even though it still requires several development teams.

User experience

Native applications provide the best user experience and personalized products among all types of applications. This means higher conversion rates and increased loyalty of the end users.

Speed

​​When it comes to performance, native apps excel hybrid or mobile web applications by a significant margin. While this might not be a critical factor for content-based apps with static data (such as mobile banking or newsfeed apps), it becomes crucial for applications involving games and animations.

Security

One more point which pushes native apps far ahead of any other competitor is security. Native apps allow the implementation of two-factor authentication and access to existing security features of a device (e.g., TouchID).

Cross-platform Web Apps

Codebase

Web apps are typically built using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

This means a single codebase can be used across multiple platforms and devices, making development more efficient and cost-effective. Developers can leverage existing web development frameworks and libraries to expedite the coding process.

Cost and Time

Cross-platform web apps are generally more cost-effective compared to native apps since they do not require numerous codebases for different platforms.

With a single codebase, developers can build an application that users can access through different browsers on various devices.

Maintenance

Maintenance of cross-platform web apps is relatively easier in contrast with native and hybrid apps. Updates and bug fixes can be implemented instantly, and they are automatically available to users across all platforms.

User Experience

Cross-platform web apps can provide a satisfactory user experience, but they may not match the level of user experience offered by native apps.

Since they run within a web browser, web apps may lack the seamless integration and native design elements that users are accustomed to in native apps.

However, with modern web technologies and responsive design practices, developers can create web apps that offer a user-friendly and intuitive interface.

Speed

The speed of cross-platform web apps depends on various factors, such as network connectivity, server response time, and the complexity of the application.

While cross-platform web apps have made significant improvements in terms of performance, they may not match the speed and responsiveness of native apps, especially for graphics-intensive applications.

Security

Security is a critical aspect of web apps. Developers need to ensure that proper security measures are implemented to protect user data and prevent harmful actions.

Web apps are vulnerable to certain web-based attacks, such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF).

However, with proper protection and regular updates, web apps can become more secure and robust.

Hybrid Applications

Codebase

Hybrid apps are built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, like websites. This allows writing only one single code to run the app on all devices regardless of OS.

Cost and Time

The most considerable advantage of hybrid apps is that they need only one codebase. Therefore, it takes perceptibly less time, money, and effort to create them.

At the same time, further customization is a weak point of any hybrid app. The more custom features you need, the harder and pricier the development becomes. Adding new features in the future may result in paying more than a native app would cost.

Native Features

Just like native applications, hybrid mobile apps can get access to the device’s built-in features but require the deployment of special plugins.

On the one hand, your hybrid app can provide users with almost the same functionality as native apps do. On the other hand, it makes you dependent on the third-party code.

Speed

Compared to a robust native app’s performance, a hybrid application is slower and is hardly applicable to apps with a lot of graphics and animation.

Maintenance

Hybrid apps are generally simpler to maintain than native apps. But hybrid apps usually take more time to identify and fix the problem, while for native apps, there are a number of good tools for testing and debugging.

Pros and Cons

If you want to develop a native app, or a cross-platform web app, or a hybrid app, you must consider the following advantages and disadvantages of each approach:

Pros and Cons Web App, Native App or Hybrid App

Native Apps:

Pros:

    • Superior performance and responsiveness.
    • Access to native device features and APIs.
    • Enhanced user experience through platform-specific design.
    • Availability of extensive development tools and resources.

Cons:

    • Higher development costs and longer development timelines.
    • Requires separate codebases for different platforms.
    • Updates and bug fixes need to be implemented separately for each platform.

Hybrid Apps:

Pros:

    • Faster development time and cost-effectiveness.
    • Single codebase for multiple platforms.
    • Access to device features through plugins and APIs.
    • Easier maintenance and updates compared to native apps.

Cons:

    • Limited access to device capabilities compared to