Native vs Hybrid vs Cross-Platform vs PWA Development

Native vs Hybrid vs Cross-Platform vs PWA Development

All set to build your mobile application but confused about which development method should you choose? Here is a blog that takes you through different mobile app development methods, their advantages, disadvantages and when you should use them. We’ll also look at some examples of these methods to help you make a wise decision. 

With the market volume of the mobile app industry expected to hit a whopping $641,013 million by 2026, it’s a great time to venture into the market. You may come up with many out-of-the-box app ideas to solve real problems of consumers, simplifying their lives. The bigger question, though, is which mobile app development methodology should you choose? 

Since there are plenty of options, don’t be surprised if you find yourself diving deeper into the battle between native vs hybrid app development. Or adding pointers to conclude the seemingly never-ending debate of hybrid vs cross-platform app development. 

So what should you do? 

Selecting the best-fit option from the numerous mobile app development types is a difficult call. It depends on multiple factors, including your app idea, project budget & goals, target audience, and the region where you’d like to launch the app. Your decision will influence the app’s development cost, duration, and functionality, making it either a hit or a failure. 

Knowing this, we have composed this article detailing the four types of mobile app development methods, along with their pros and cons. We’ll also walk you through examples and the best-fit conditions for each of those processes to help you gain a better perspective. 

So, without wasting any time, let’s get started. 

» Native Mobile App Development 

    • What is Native App Development?

By definition, native mobile app development refers to building an app for a single platform using its dedicated set of programming tools and languages. In other words, when you are developing a native app, you are building an app for iOS, Android or Windows operating system. For the app to work on all these platforms, you would need to develop three separate mobile applications. 

What’s important to note is that each of these platforms comes with its own set of code repositories and resources for the mobile development process. While a native Android application would require Java or Kotlin to build, a native iOS app would need you to pick between Objective-C or Swift framework.   

Pros

    • Allows hassle-free access to all the APIs, code libraries and tools of the platform, making the entire development process faster, easier and smoother 
    • Offers robust functionality and rapid performance 
    • Provides highly customized user experience, optimally leveraging the system’s inherent resources
    • Supports the use of device APIs, maximizing the usability 
    • Offers greater scope of scalability

Cons

    • Makes the app development process a costly affair, especially when you want your app to work on multiple operating systems
    • Requires an expert team of niche app developers, which, in turn, raises the overall cost 
    • Takes more time as you have to build from scratch for all the platforms you intend to build
    • Includes a relatively complex maintenance

When to Go, Native? 

It’s best to go for native mobile app development when your app - 

    • Targets the user segment of only one platform
    • Involves comprehensive and complex features
    • Requires the use of device hardware options, like GPS and Camera
    • Requires heavy usage of animations 
    • Is a game, 2D or 3D 

Examples 

All the built-in apps in the devices we use are examples of native mobile apps, for instance, Notes and Calculator. Plus, a majority of gaming apps are also native to attain the best possible UX and performance. 

» Hybrid Mobile App Development

    • What is Hybrid App Development?

Hybrid app development refers to the process of creating an app that blends in your native app and web app features the right way. This methodology gives you the freedom of using multiple programming languages and tools for development with ease. For example, you can use Java, JavaScript, TypeScript, HTML and CSS without compromising the app’s functionality. 

To put it simply, developing a hybrid app means developing a product combining both web and mobile elements that would work perfectly well on diverse platforms. You could write the code in one language and tailor-make the UI according to the devices you want the app to run on.   

Interestingly, hybrid app development is very much similar to its cross-platform counterpart, which we’ll see in the next section. 

Pros

    • Offers faster time-to-market than native app development
    • Facilitates creation of a single codebase, letting you reuse/edit the code whenever and wherever necessary
    • Enables easy additions of new features due to a centralized codebase across variants
    • Allows seamless customization and deployment whether it is mobile, web, or desktop apps
    • Involves lesser development cost compared to native apps
    • Offers hassle-free maintenance 

Cons

    • Possibility of performance issues for complex hybrid apps
    • Does not support offline functions
    • May cause troubles while using certain Android-only or iOS-only features 
    • Access to the latest device features would need additional plugins or native browser support

When to Go Hybrid? 

You should choose hybrid mobile app development if your app - 

    • Has a simple use case that is content-rich, not graphic-heavy
    • Appeals to a broader audience base using both the web and mobile platforms
    • Targets users using a diverse set of devices

Examples 

Out of the many hybrid apps out there, Instagram, Evernote and Gmail make for a great example to showcase the efficiency hybrid methodology has to offer. 

» Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

    • What is Cross-Platform App Development?

With the cross-platform app development method, you can build a mobile application that can work perfectly well on multiple platforms. In simpler words, you can develop and deploy an app on both iOS and Android since the app is built using tools such as Flutter, React Native and Xamarin. 

Similar to hybrid development, cross-platform also enables mobile app developers to share the same codebase for the app to work on different platforms. The UI, in this case, can be distinct depending upon the requirements of that respective platform. 

Out of all the four app development methods, cross-platform enjoys the most popularity. Wonder why? That’s because it empowers developers to build the app in a language they have got the highest proficiency in.     

Pros

    • Offers a shorter time-to-market since you don’t need to build separate apps for different platforms
    • Includes a single, centralized codebase that can be reused
    • Provides a greater reach in terms of the target audience 
    • Saves your time, cost and resources with respect to the mobile app development lifecycle

Cons

    • Provides slower performance compared to a native app 
    • Packs in flexibility issues in terms of UI components 
    • Spells problems when it comes to leveraging native UX elements to their full potential, bringing the whole UX experience a level down 
    • Requires developers to write separate codes for parts of the app due to unique platform requirements  

When to Go Cross-Platform?

You should create a cross-platform app when - 

    • You want to target users across platforms 
    • Your app ranks low on the complexity bar with characteristics that remain more or less similar on different platforms
    • You have a tight budget and a shorter time-to-market deadline 

Examples

While you may find many cross-platform app examples through an internet search, Slack and Alibaba are seemingly the most popular ones. 

» Progressive Web Apps

    • What is a Progressive Web App (PWA)?

A Progressive Web Application or PWA is a type of web application that’s delivered to the users through the web. You can build a PWA using technologies common to the web, such as JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and WebAssembly. 

While building using the PWA development method, you don’t have to create multiple apps. Like hybrid and cross-platform methods, you can fall back on a single codebase. What’s more? PWAs allow you to make the most of the hardware features of the device, whether it is geolocation, camera, offline mode, or push notifications. The best part, however, is that you can modify a current codebase to make it function as your PWA. 

Pros

    • Offers speedy development 
    • Packs in a single, central codebase, facilitating reuse of code and web infrastructure
    • Includes capabilities for SEO optimization like a website, giving you the scope of reaching out to a broader audience
    • Works offline as well as on devices with poor and slow connection offering reduced data usage
    • Adapts to devices with diverse screen sizes easily
    • Keeps your development cost low
    • Offers a native app-like experience minus the installation hassles

Cons

    • Offers limited performance
    • Provides restricted usage of device hardware components

When to Go For PWAs?

PWAs are ideal to use for launching an e-commerce app. You can also choose to build a PWA if you need an app that is multi-platform and offers native app-like functions and experience.  

Examples

Many well-known apps have launched their PWA counterpart. The list includes giants like Twitter, Pinterest and Uber

Final Thoughts

Selecting the right mobile app development method depends on more than one factor - your product, budget, timeline, and target users. It also requires you to take into account the level of complexities and a set of functions the app would include. Getting clarity on these aspects helps you finalize whether you should opt for a hybrid app, a native one or go cross-platform. Since there are so many options, it’s only wise to stay updated with the latest developments in the technological sphere to pick the right solution.

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