Native apps vs Web apps vs Hybrid apps: The differences you should to know

You’ve probably heard about web apps, native android applications or native iOS apps, maybe even hybrid apps. A lot of people mistake these all as interchangeable terms. But this is just a somewhat common misconception. Whilst they might be similar, web apps, native apps and hybrid apps all have very distinctive differences. We will take a deep look about them in this blog today.

What’s the difference among Native apps, Web apps and Hybrid apps?

Before we jump into examining the benefits of each different app or development technique, it’s helpful to understand the differences between each one.

Here’s an overview of what each app actually is:

Web Apps

A web app is developed to be used by any browser on any system. Moreover, it is essentially a highly interactive, fluid and responsive website optimised for smartphone use. A common example of a popular web app is Facebook.

They are built primarily on the front-end nowadays (although not strictly true) in front-end JavaScript frameworks such as React, Vue or Angular. These reactive applications bring a lot of logic and interactivity to the browser and interact with API’s for business logic and data.

Web apps absolutely must be connected to the internet at all times to work. So they aren’t as accessible as mobile apps can be.

Native Apps (Native Android Applications and iOS)

A native (or mobile) app is designed to be used specifically on one system or platform, such as Apple (iOS) or Android devices. You can, of course, build your app for each of these platforms if you have the budget.They are downloaded directly to the handset via the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, providing quick and easy access. Though they are a different product to a web app. For example: the Facebook is a downloadable app.

Native Android applications

Unlike web apps, native products from Native Android applications and iOS do NOT need to be constantly connected to the internet. While they will require updating (through a connection), they can still be used offline and eventually send and receive data.

The term native simply means that the app is native to your smartphone or another device.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are a little more complicated. They effectively combine elements from both web and native Android application and iOS. They allow developers and consumers alike to experience the ‘best of both worlds’.

Native Android applications

In most cases, a hybrid app is simply a web app that’s been ‘repackaged’ into a native app shell. This will give your device the ease and convenience of a native apps, with the connectivity and power of a web app.

Hybrid apps are typically built using web development technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Then they packaged and exported to work on multiple devices (iOS, Android). Some technologies you might be familiar with are React Native and Ionic.

Native Apps, Web App, or Hybrid: Which Should You Choose?

Each of these types of apps has their advantages and disadvantages, as I’ve tried to point out. Let’s summarize them here to choose your suitable one.

Device features

Although web apps can take advantage of some features, native apps (include native android applications) and the native components of the hybrid apps have access to the full paraphernalia of device-specific features. It includes GPS, camera, gestures, and notifications.

Offline functioning

A native app is best if your app must work when there is no connectivity. In-browser caching is available in HTML5. But it’s still more limited than what you can get when you go native.


Web apps win the prize on discoverability. Content is a lot more discoverable on the web than in an app. When people need information, they go to a search engine, type in their query, and choose a page from the search results. They do not go to the app store, search for an app, download it. They do not try to find their answer within the app. Although there are app aficionados who may fish for apps in app stores, most users don’t like installing and maintaining apps (and also wasting space on their device). And they will install an app only if they expect to use it often.

Speed Optimization

Native apps win the speed competition. In 2012 Mark Zuckerberg declared that Facebook’s biggest mistake had been betting on the mobile web and not going native. Up to that point, the Facebook app had been a hybrid app with an HTML core. In 2012 it was replaced with a truly native app. Responsiveness is key to usability.


Installing a native or hybrid app is a hassle for users: They need to be really motivated to justify the interaction cost. “Installing” a web app involves creating a bookmark on the home screen. This process, while arguably simpler than downloading a new app from an app store, is less familiar to users. As people don’t use bookmarks that much on mobile.


Maintaining a native app (including native Android applications and iOS) can be complicated not only for users, but also for developers. Especially if they have to deal with multiple versions of the same information on different platforms. Changes have to be packaged in a new version and placed in the app store. On the other hand, maintaining a web app or a hybrid app is as simple as maintaining a web page. And it can be done as often or as frequently as needed.

Platform independence

While different browsers may support different versions of HTML5, if platform independence is important, you definitely have a better chance of achieving it with web apps and hybrid apps than with native apps. As discussed before, at least parts of the code can be reused when creating hybrid or web apps.

Content restrictions, approval process, and fees

Dealing with a third party imposing rules on your content and design can be taxing both time and money. Native and hybrid apps must pass approval processes and content restrictions imposed by app stores, whereas the web is free for all.

Development cost

It’s arguably cheaper to develop hybrid and web apps, as these require skills that build up on previous experience with the web. NN/g clients often find that going fully native is a lot more expensive. As it requires more specialized talent. But, on the other hand, HTML5 is fairly new. So good knowledge of developing for the mobile web and hybrid apps are also fairly advanced skills.

User Interface 

Last but not least, if one of your priorities is providing a user experience that is consistent with the operating system and with the majority of the other apps available on that platform, native apps are the way to go.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, native apps, hybrid apps, or web apps are all ways to cater to the needs of the mobile user. There is no unique best solution. Each of these has their strengths and weaknesses. The choice of one versus the other depends on each company’s unique needs.

Want to work with web and mobile app development company?

To clarify, the biggest advantage of a software development company is that they can take ownership of the whole project.

If you’re considering web development services, you can explore more about us – ArrowHiTech. Above all, we are proud to be one of the most well-established outsourcing companies all around the world. In addition, with over 12 years of experience, we can provide the best Mobile development services for your business.

Also, if you want to go through our showcase, you should visit our product page here: MageSolution and our portfolio: ArrowHiTech portfolio.

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