April 21, 2015

Web app vs. Native app

What's the difference between a web app, a native app, and a hybrid app?
Grant Glas
grant@app-press.com

As co-founder and CEO of App Press, Grant created his first app in App Press, and has since built 10 more with over 100K downloads.

The cost of building a mobile solution is partially tied to how you build the app. The app can actually be built as a native, hybrid or a web app. What does that mean?

Native app = Highest cost, more development time needed (90+ days)

Hybrid app = Medium to low cost, can be built in 30-60 days

Web app = Medium to low cost, can be built in 30-60 days

Native App

A native app is one that is installed directly onto the smartphone and can work, in most cases, with no internet connectivity depending on the nature of the app. Native apps are installed through an application store (such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store). They are developed specifically for one platform, and can take full advantage of the device features — they can work much faster by harnessing the power of the processor and can access specific hardware like GPS.  In some smartphones the app can control devices and act as a controller itself. They can also incorporate gestures (either standard operating-system gestures or new, app-defined gestures). And native apps can use the device’s notification system.

Web App

Web apps are not real applications; they are websites that, in many ways, look and feel like native applications, but are not implemented as such. They are run by a browser and typically written in HTML. Users first access them as they would access any web page: they navigate to a special URL and then have the option of “installing” them on their home screen by creating a bookmark to that page. Today, as more and more sites use HTML5, the distinction between web apps and regular web pages has become blurred. Web apps require internet access and its operation speeds are dependent on the quality of cell signal or the speed of the wi-fi broadband you are connected to.

Hybrid App

Hybrid apps are part native apps, part web apps. Like native apps, they live in an app store and can take advantage of some device features available. Like web apps, they rely on HTML being rendered in a browser, with the caveat that the browser is embedded within the app. Often, companies build hybrid apps as wrappers for an existing web page; in that way, they hope to get a presence in the app store, without spending significant effort for developing a different app. Hybrid apps are also popular because they allow cross-platform development and thus significantly reduce development costs: that is, the same HTML code components can be reused on different mobile operating systems. Tools such as App Press allow people to design and code across platforms, using HTML in Web UI views (an App Press embed layer). The dilemma is that in contrast to the native app, it requires internet access and its operation speeds are dependent on the quality of cell signal or the speed of the wi-fi broadband you are connected to. This also alludes to the fact that you have to be in range of either connection. You might not be able to use the web/hybrid app inside of buildings or in lower level facilities.

Bottom line: Think of the app creation options like travel. All modes of travel serve the same purpose. At the end of the day it’s getting you from point A to point B. You can buy a Moped (Web app), Car (Hybrid app) or Jet (Native app).   

P.S. Native and Hybrid apps are the types of apps created in App Press. 

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