Native, Cross-Platform, Hybrid, and Progressive Web Apps: Choosing the Right Kind of an App

What Is A Great Mobile App?

  • In-detail personalization;
  • Sleek UI/UX
  • Enhanced performance & responsiveness;
  • Offline functionality;
  • Regular updates;
  • Powerful search features;
  • Social media platforms integration;
  • User feedback channels;
  • Strong privacy and security;

In-Detail Personalization

Sleek UI/UX

Enhanced Performance & Responsiveness

Offline Functionality

Regular Updates

Powerful Search Features

Social Media Platforms Integration

User Feedback Channels

Strong Privacy and Security

Native, Cross-platform, Hybrid, and Progressive Web Apps: The Pros & Cons Identified

Native Apps

  • High Performance. Due to using the native programming language of the device, such apps can support a full range of features offered by the smartphone or tablet. Most importantly, they do it quickly and resource-efficiently.
  • Intuitive UX/UI. Native apps are flat, simple and provide intuitive UX. You just know what will happen when you tap or swipe and you use the app intuitively. This is achieved by implementing the best design practices and popular UI approaches for the users of a particular mobile OS.
  • Full Hardware Engagement. Native apps can benefit from using the full range of device components — camera, GPS, positioning sensors, Bluetooth, player, contact list, NFC, etc.
  • Offline Functionality. While most applications require internet uplink to function, native apps can make use of local storage, data caching and synchronization to work offline.
  • User Data Security. Native apps support two-factor authentication and other security features that ensure customer data privacy.
  • Higher development costs. You need to hire 2 stack developers and maintain 2 codebases. Even if you develop both apps in parallel, you will have to spend twice more to release the app.
  • Memory consumption. Android apps require at least around 15 MB of device RAM on average, while iOS counterparts can require anywhere above 40MB RAM. These numbers might seem insignificant, yet they can be much higher depending on the app type and complexity — and stack up quite fast when users run several apps simultaneously.
  • No SEO promotion. While hybrid apps can benefit from keywords in their content for promotion, you need to dedicate significant effort — and budget — to promote native apps on app stores.
  • Installation. More than 50% of users prefer to browse and shop on a brand’s website to avoid the need to go to the app store, download, install and configure the app.
  • Lyft — a worldwide known Uber competitor provides a seamless native mobile experience for ride-sharing customers.
  • WhatsApp — one of the most popular messaging apps with impeccable performance.
  • PokemonGo — a recent phenomenon that delivers exciting and engaging digital gaming journeys using AR capabilities of iOS and Android devices.

Cross-Platform Apps

  • Stunning Design. Cross-platform apps allow for sleek, near-native designs and seamless UX.
  • Code Reusability. Up to 80% of code can be easily reused across all the platforms, should you choose the most fitting framework and tech stack. This cuts development time in half or even more, as compared to native app development.
  • Wider exposure — a single app can work with iOS, Android, Linux, Windows, macOS, and even smartwatches or smart home appliances, granting access to a much larger user pool.
  • Cheap Maintenance. Updating your apps once a week can consume up to 10–15% of monthly revenue. With cross-platform apps, these costs are largely negated, as a single code update applies to all app versions.
  • Performance. If the app must perform a task requiring lots of CPU or GPU power, cross-platform apps built in React Native, Xamarin or Unity fall significantly behind, as compared to Flutter or native apps. The reason for that is that Flutter renders itself directly into the native code canvas using the Skia rendering engine, which results in near-native performance.
  • Complexity. Developers with experience in iOS or Android development have to deal with a steep learning curve when mastering Xamarin or React Native, which results in a notable lack of React Native experts. Flutter, on the other hand, uses Dart — a C++ and Java-like OOP language, which is much easier to master, and even allows writing code for web apps through Flutter Web. Thus, experienced app developers prefer Flutter to other cross-platform frameworks.
  • Limited 3rd-Party Support. Most 3rd-party modules are intended for iOS or Android, requiring the developers to find ways to integrate them with cross-platform apps. Once again, Flutter comes ahead in this situation by offering platform channels to easily integrate platform-specific modules and features with your cross-platform app.
  • Limited Hardware Access. Cross-platform apps can have access to most device features, though they would need more resources to interact with them, as compared to native apps.
  • Facebook — the world’s biggest social media app providing a feature-rich user experience is built using React Native.
  • Slack — the software developers’ communication platform of choice, Slack runs equally well on any mobile device, Windows, Linux PC, or Mac.
  • Skype — the world-known enterprise-grade communication platform is built using Electron and currently shares codebase across nearly a dozen operating systems.

Hybrid Apps and PWAs

  • Hybrid apps combine web-based back-end components with native mobile front-end coating through an interim rendering layer — a so-called wrapper. Thus, their core operations are performed in the cloud while they provide a seamless near-native user experience on mobile devices. They require a stable Internet uplink to operate yet can provide limited offline functionality and might use some mobile device functions.
  • Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) are websites accessed on mobile devices via browsers. They can also be packed in a wrapper and serve as standalone applications. They don’t require installation, but at the same time, they can’t work offline. They are written using web development tools, frameworks, and libraries. Their core benefit is that they can run easily on any mobile device and provide near-native viewing experience.
  • Twitter. What? How? Twitter is surely native! Well… yes… it is now — but it was hybrid for nearly a decade before releasing native apps for iOS, Android, and Windows, and it handled the booming popularity growth quite well, didn’t it?
  • Instagram. No way! Instagram is a native app! Actually, it is a hybrid, which allows it to process tons of content offline and minimize the amount of traffic used. By the way, Facebook remained a native app even after acquiring and integrating with Instagram.
  • Evernote. Due to its stellar performance and smooth design, many Evernote users believe it to be a native app, especially as it is available for Mac, iOS, Android and Windows separately. Well, it actually is a hybrid, which shows the viability of this approach.

Questions to Ask

  • Do you want to use a broad range of device features and provide a sleek design and smooth UX? Go native!
  • Do you want to minimize the development budget while delivering highly-performant and visually stunning apps for all platforms? Choose cross-platform applications!
  • Do you intend to enable your users to use the app on any mobile device, while not facing the cost of an arm and a leg for the development? Go for hybrid apps!

Conclusion

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