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

By Jaap Vlaming | May 23, 2019
Table of content:

You would think an app is an app, right? Well… no. Nowadays, there are three options to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. When you build an app, there are a lot of things you should keep in mind. Don’t worry, we’ll help you with this!

Do you already have an idea in mind for your app? The look and functionality? Great, then you’re a long way. And now you have to decide if you want a native, a hybrid or a progressive web app. Let’s see what each of these apps entail and what works best for you.

Native apps

Building a native app is done by programming in the language that is specifically made for that platform. You need to programme the app twice as a result: once for Android and once for iOS. Developing will take a bit longer, but you will get a lot in return. You use its full capacity: memory, (design) standards and functionalities. You can also integrate the fingerprint scanner or push notifications with a native app.

Possibilities Sometimes a native app is your only option when you want to enable specific hardware or functionalities of a smartphone. For example, the Coop app needed the camera and device performance to make the product scanner work. In addition, you have a bigger range of memory and performance than with a hybrid or pwa.

Building As mentioned, you actually build two apps with a native app. This can create a longer build time but doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive compared to a hybrid app. Native development can sometimes even be faster and easier, especially when it comes to complex apps.

User experience For most users, a native app feels better than a hybrid app or a pwa. A native app is built for a specific system and directly connected to it, making it even faster.

Distribution You can download native apps in the App store or Play store. An advantage: people trust these stores. A disadvantage: people trust the stores because apps get checked there. Therefore, your app will also need to be approved, which can take a few days. And it will also need to be checked again with every update.

Maintenance As mentioned, natives are built in Android and iOS. As a result, you also need to update both if new operating systems or smartphones come out. But you will be the first to access the beta versions of the development tools, so you can anticipate the changes in time.

Hybrid apps

What distinguishes a hybrid app is that all of the code is written in one development tool and language. That means that your app is available on multiple operating systems. That’s a big advantage!

Building a hybrid app can be done in two ways. Firstly, a web approach: you create it with web application functionalities. A ‘middle layer’ ensures that it complies with an app. This way you get access to the functionalities of the smartphone, just like with a native app.

Secondly, you create it with different programming languages (for example Flutter or Xamarin), where you can use more native components. In both cases you use one platform as a basis, and you can make it feel as native as you want.

Of course, there are several possible options. But for the sake of convenience, we will focus briefly on the two most common solutions.

Possibilities You can use all of the phone’s functionalities. But beware: it can take more effort because you are dependent on third parties. You also lose a bit on performance compared to a native app.

Building You are dependent on many components when building a hybrid app. Which telephone functions do you want to use and are they available in the hybrid building tools? This means you still have to code two components to make it available for iOS and Android.

User experience The look & feel of a hybrid app comes very close to that of a native app. If it is built well, it can give you the same user experience. So, don’t let that stop you.

Distribution A hybrid app can also be downloaded in the App store and Play store. Which gives the same advantages and disadvantages as the native app.

Maintenance Just like with a native app, you have to adjust your app when changes occur with smartphones. However, the anticipation is more difficult, since it depends on your development platform when these updates are available.

Progressive web apps

The app bit of pwa is misleading, because it isn’t actually an app. In short, it’s a website that you install on your phone as an app. A pwa responds in the same way as if you were to open the code as a website via your browser.

Possibilities A pwa works the same on your app as a modern webpage and therefore has little access to the functions on your phone. Sending push notifications from the app, for example, is possible on Android, but not yet on iOS. But if you only need a few phone functions, a pwa will suffice.

Building Is your web strategy about the same as that of your app? In that case a pwa can be built in no time. Especially if you already have a responsive website.

User experience You will notice the difference as a user, just as with a hybrid app. It feels more like a website, because it is one; usually a with a custom design to make it look more like a native app.

Distribution You can download pwas in a browser. It’s also possible to make it available through the Google Play Store for Android. This can be seen as an advantage, but if you ask the average person if they would install an app without a store, many people will be cautious. Apps in a store generally provide more traffic to your site/app and are shown as ‘similar apps’.

Maintenance If your site runs well, the pwa will generally also run well. You also don’t have to release the app with every update, because it adapts to the latest version of the website.

Which type of app should you choose?

Yes, that’s the hard part. Do you choose a native, hybrid or progressive web app? Or do you choose an app alongside your pwa? This all depends on your strategy and vision. Your decision may still not be entirely clear even after reading this blog. We are happy to help you with more information!

We will collaborate with you to map all your goals, challenges and wishes. Based on these outcomes, we will try to arrive at an app strategy and vision that best fits your company or product.

Share article via

Jaap Vlaming

Jaap Vlaming is Business Development Director and responsible for the commercial activities of Incentro Interactive. He helps clients to transform strategic goals into digital solutions by delivering the best user experience.

Want to know more?

Get in contact with Jaap.

next story

Marketing Analytics: collecting out-of-the-box data

By Jordy de Jong | May 16, 2019