What’s the difference between Native Apps, Web Apps and Hybrid Apps?


What’s the difference between Native Apps, Web Apps and Hybrid Apps?

If you’re about to build a mobile app, sooner or later you will need to choose between native apps, responsive web apps or hybrid apps. See our comparison!

As you assume, each of the mentioned solutions has their pros and cons. From this article you will learn what are the main differences between major mobile app development solutions and how to pick the right one for your project.

Difference between native apps web apps and hybrid apps

Native Apps

According to Statista, there are neatly 2.56 million apps available at the Google Play Store, and another 1.85 million at the Apple Store. Most of them are native apps, and are exactly the thing which typically comes to your mind when you think of a mobile app. Native apps are those available at app stores and which can be installed right on your device. Once you have them downloaded, you can access them by pressing the icon located on your screen. Easy!

Moreover, native apps are typically deployed for a specific platform. It means that they are equipped with functionalities compatible with the target device, and able to use its specific features like camera, list of contacts or GPS. By this, the user can enjoy the stunning functionality and fully interactive UX (User Experience). Moreover, native apps can use device’s notification system and are able to work offline. 

Most popular technologies used in native apps development:

For Android:

  • Java
  • Kotlin


For iOS:

  • Swift
  • Objective C

If this already sounds perfect to you, hold on - there are still two more mobile app development solutions which have to be considered.

Web Apps

According to the Buildfire research, there are already more than 2.7 billion smartphone users in the world, and the total revenue from mobile apps is expected to reach $935.2 billion in 2023. However, building native apps dedicated typically to mobile devices is not the only solution to boost this number.

Web apps, as the next solution for mobile apps development, only pretend to be applications. Technically, they are just websites similar to mobile apps in both design and functionalities.

So, how do mobile web apps work? In fact, they are run by regular browsers and accessible like any other webpage. It means that they can be used right away, without additional effort and using the memory of the device. 

Moreover, it is also possible to get a fast access to a mobile web app. It only requires creating a bookmark to this page, which can be called a fake mobile app icon. To learn more about this solution, check out this short tutorial.

What are the main advantages of mobile web app development? In fact, they became popular when developers found out that with HTML5 they can successfully obtain functionality similar to native apps. Actually, along with the development of this technology, it’s getting more and more difficult to recognize it at the first glance. What do mobile web apps look like?

The first important thing is that website-specific elements, such as browser buttons or bars, are usually not visible. Next, the user can move on to next sections by swiping horizontally - exactly like in a mobile app.

Moreover, web apps also have access to features of the device, such as GPS or camera, and are able use their functionalities. However, it’s true that they can run a bit slower or be less intuitive. But don’t worry - although some functions are not yet accessible within web app development, like running in the background or notifications, this technology can still provide users with nearly-native experience. 

Most popular technologies used in web apps development:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Java
  • Javascript
  • C++
  • C#
  • Python
  • PHP

Now, let’s move on to the last mobile app development solution which you need to consider.

Hybrid apps

The last but not least, mobile apps can be successfully designed within hybrid apps development. As the name indicates, hybrid apps are a blend of native and web apps solutions, and combine functionalities typical for both types of app deployment. How do they actually work?

Hybrid apps are accessible via app store and able to use device’s features - exactly like native apps. However, they rely on HTML and are rendered in a browser. The only difference is that, on the contrary to web apps, the browser is embedded into the app.

In fact hybrid apps are often built over existing web pages. The main benefit of this approach is the app can be visible in the app store without a huge effort for building an entirely new app. 

Moreover, hybrid apps also ensure quite easy cross platform development. The same HTML code elements can be applied for various mobile operating systems with no loss of native-specific features. In this way, with the help of modern mobile app development tools, apps can be built for a number of operating systems simultaneously in a very cost-effective matter. However, this solution is recommended rather for less advanced apps and might not be the right choice for those which are going to be frequently updated and intensively scaled. 

Technologies used in hybrid apps development are a blend of both web and native apps-dedicated languages and frameworks including:

  • React Native 
  • Mobile Angular UI
  • jQuery Mobile
  • Xamarin


Native app, web app or hybrid app - which one to choose?

As you assume, each app development solution has their pros and cons, and choosing the right one might be quite challenging.

To make this decision a bit easier for you, we summarized all the crucial factors you must consider before making up your mind. Let’s catch a glimpse of them.

  • Offline accessibility
    If you expect your app to work offline, building a native app might be the right idea. Thank to a smooth integration with device’s specific features, it’s the best way to ensure the efficient performance of all functionalities when the user gets disconnected.

  • Scalability
    If you’re planning to scale up your app in the future, it is also recommended to build native apps as their scalability is nearly unlimited.

  • Speed
    It is not a surprise that native apps tend to work a bit faster than hybrid or web apps. So, if speed of the app is your priority, think twice before choosing web app development.

  • Installation process
    You need to be aware that the installation process is way different for native and web apps, and this factor may actually determine your decision. Installing a native or hybrid app requires switching between the browser and app store. On the other hand, with web apps it’s also not that easy, as it is necessary to create a bookmark to get easy access. Some of your customers might not be familiar with this solution, and not enthusiastic about it as well. To mitigate the risk of failure, you can provide them with a short tutorial of how to create bookmarks for web apps.

  • Device features
    If your app really requires using specific features of the target device, there might be no other option than building a native app to ensure the right performance.

  • SEO
    Of course, the next advantage of web apps over native apps is ability to generate organic traffic. Users commonly use search engines to find solutions to their problems, and it’s a chance for your app to get discovered thanks to simple SEO. Moreover, as such apps can be downloaded and installed right away without exiting the webpage, you can obtain a nice conversion rate. 

  • Costs
    Finally, mind also the maintenance and development costs. Native apps are typically more expensive, as developers need to deal with a number of codes deployed for different platforms. In this way maintaining a web app or hybrid app is far less complicated - and cheaper as well. 


Any doubts about how to choose between native apps, web apps or hybrid apps? Feel free to contact us. We will be happy to analyze your project and provide you with an advice on how to move on with the right mobile app development solution!

Michał pursues success and growth with the determination of a shark and optimism of a Golden Retriever. He looks for new clients, but he prefers to call them partners. A huge fan of NBA and business-related books.

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