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Native Apps, Hybrid Apps, or Progressive Web Development

As per the latest data from GSMA Intelligence, there are 5.21 billion unique mobile phone users in the world today. That’s a huge market! It doesn’t matter if you have a well-established business or if you are just starting out. Having a mobile application to complement your business offerings is now essential.

But once you decide to launch your mobile app, you are faced with some choices.

Whether to go with native, hybrid, or progressive web apps? Which one would be the most suitable for my business? What’s the difference between these three anyway?

To be successful, your mobile strategy should be aligned with your business objectives. So, deciding what to go for could be a defining factor for your success.
Native Apps, Hybrid Apps, or Progressive Web Development - Exploring the When and Why
To help you figure out the answers to these questions, we would be doing a detailed comparison of native, hybrid, and progressive web apps in this article. We’ll also help you figure out the when and why of all three. So, let’s get started.

What are Native Apps?

The term ‘Native’ is simply to signify that the app is designed natively for the OS on your smartphone. The native apps are designed to work specifically on one platform or system. Think of apps built specifically for either Android or iOS devices.

Benefits of Native Apps:

The following are the benefits of native apps:

  • Native apps can offer the fastest, most reliable, and most responsive experience to users.
  • Native apps may not require constant access to the internet.
  • Native apps support push notifications out of the box. These notifications can be triggered by the native apps to increase user engagement.
  • These apps can be downloaded directly to the device (Android or iOS) without the need for looking for a supported browser.
  • These apps are quicker and more responsive as they have access to system resources. Native apps can seamlessly access device components like camera, location, microphone, sensors, swipe gestures, etc. to offer a better user experience.
  • These apps are easier to discover since they receive complete support from official app stores.
  • Native apps offer a higher scope of integration with the device’s features.
  • They often have better quality, security, and compatibility because these apps are approved by respective operating systems.
  • Native apps are usually easier to build because of an abundance of developer tools available in the market.

Drawbacks of Native Apps:

The following are the problems with native apps:

  • Native apps generally have higher upfront costs as compared to other apps. Since these apps need to be developed for both iOS and Android separately, it increases development costs because you will need resources with skills in each area. This will also, eventually, impact the maintenance costs.
  • These apps need to be updated regularly to retain users. Moreover, updating the app regularly can be an expensive process.
  • These apps are not ideal for many simple operations because of the costs involved. It doesn’t make sense to use native apps for simple operations that don’t require native capabilities or rich user experience.
  • The process of obtaining approval from the app stores (Android and iOS) can sometimes be quite lengthy.

What are Hybrid Apps?

Hybrid apps are installed like native apps but they are actually web apps on the inside, thus combining the elements of both web and native apps. These apps give you the convenience of a native app along with the connectivity and power of a web app.

Hybrid apps are built using technologies like HTML, CSS, and Javascript, and run in something called webview which is a simplified browser within your app.

Benefits of Hybrid Apps:

The following are the benefits of hybrid apps:

  • Hybrid apps are built using a single codebase. This allows them to be quickly ported to other operating systems. So, you need to make only one app and make a few tweaks to it to make it work on both iOS and Android.
  • Cost-effectiveness is one of the major benefits of using a hybrid app because these apps give you the benefit of developing native-like apps only at a fraction of the cost of a native app.
  • These apps are faster to develop than a native app since hybrid apps are basically web apps that are packaged in a native shell.
  • Since they are quicker to develop, hybrid apps are ideal for people who want to release their apps on a tight deadline.
  • Since hybrid apps have some elements of native apps, they are capable of utilizing your system resources (like camera, sensors, etc.) close to how a native app would.
  • Working with a single codebase gives the advantage of not having to hire different developers for iOS and Android.

Drawbacks of Hybrid Apps:

The following are the problems with hybrid apps:

  • The most common and biggest issue found with hybrid apps is a lack of performance.
  • Cross-platform development is tough in the case of hybrid apps. Getting your app to run optimally on each platform can be difficult.
  • Swiping gestures and some similar features might not always work properly in a hybrid app.
  • Hybrid apps require an internet connection at all times since they are basically repurposed web apps.
  • The hybrid apps may require plugins to make full use of your device resources.
  • In hybrid apps, the process of obtaining approval from the respective app stores (Android and iOS) can be lengthy at times.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

Progressive web apps (PWAs) are quite similar to hybrid apps, with the key difference being the fact that they are not distributed through native app stores.

Just like a hybrid app, PWAs take elements of native apps and web apps. These apps merge both elements into an accessible web application that can work both with and without the internet.

PWAs enhance the functionality of traditional web apps by giving it the ability to send push notifications, work offline, and even load on the home screen.

PWAs run in the browser like a traditional web app but they may or may not require an active internet connection. These apps work by storing information in a web browser’s cache which can later be recalled for quick offline access.

Benefits of Progressive Web Apps(PWAs):

The following are the benefits of PWAs:

  • PWAs can work in any supported browser and provide good offline access.
  • They are also much quicker to load than regular web apps. This is a crucial factor for increasing user retention on the app.
  • PWAs can be built in a shorter time span and at lower costs than a native app.
  • Since these are built on a standard codebase, PWAs are cross-platform compatible. You won’t have to redesign the app for Android or iOS separately.
  • PWAs also have access to phone resources like a native app.

Drawbacks of Progressive Web Apps(PWAs)

The following are the problems with PWAs:

  • Even though PWAs have access to many system resources, they don’t have the access to all of your system resources that a native app does.
  • PWAs are comparatively more demanding on the battery than native or hybrid apps.
  • Since PWAs cannot access contacts or Bluetooth, they are unable to give a deeply personal response to users.
  • PWAs cannot be distributed through app stores and hence these apps are not ideal for businesses that want to reach the audience on Android and iOS.
  • PWAs are not ideal for businesses looking to implement an in-app monetization strategy.

When and why to choose Native Apps, Hybrid Apps, or Progressive Web Apps(PWAs)?

To set up your app for success, you must carefully choose between native, hybrid, or progressive web apps. Here are the factors you must keep in mind while making your choice:

  • Your mobile app should have a clear purpose in order to succeed. You must think about the pain points of your customers and choose an app built to address that. The features and capabilities of your app must be user-driven. A native app could provide better functionality and excellent user experience than a hybrid app or PWA.
  • The budget is also an important factor to consider. You must choose an app type that fits within your budget. It can be done by choosing the right app type at the beginning itself. Choosing a PWA or hybrid app could often be more cost-effective than a native app.
  • Keep the long-term vision in mind while choosing your app. If you want to offer regular updates in your app then going with a native app could be the better choice. Making the right choice for the app type will allow you to account in advance for all the resources that you might need for future releases and maintenance updates.
  • Similarly, if you want to quickly release your app in the market, then PWA or hybrid app can do that for you. If you want to launch your app in respective app stores then a hybrid app would be the better option to choose than the PWA.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but true anyway, that the choice is defined by your specific needs and circumstances. We hope the information contained here will help you make the right choice!

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