Web Apps vs. Native Apps vs. Hybrid Apps: Which is Best for Your Business?

Any smart businessperson knows that if you want your company or organization to sustain growth, you have to reinvest profit earnings back into the company. In the digital age, profit reinvestment can prove difficult with many new avenues to choose from, but the fundamental rules remain the same: Reinvest profits in business segments that will deliver the largest ROI possible.

Let’s play a situational game.

As a company executive, you have to determine which of the following options present the best investment opportunity for your company to expand into the mobile market: web apps, native apps, or hybrid apps. The following information will help you uncover the pros and cons of each and help you decide which is best for your business.

Why Mobile is Better Than Desktop

Many businesses still question the importance of mobile. They have a website, it gets a decent amount of traffic, and they like how it looks, but in today’s world, that simply isn’t enough. We say this because data over the last few years proves that the mobile market is far outpacing the desktop market in growth.

The graph below highlights 2014 as the year that global mobile users exceeded the number of desktop users. Since then, that gap has continued to widen at a steady pace.

Mobile-stats-vs-desktop-users-global-550x405.pngWhat does this mean for your business? After you answer that, pull out your phone and look at your website through a mobile lens. Does your mobile website provide a quality customer experience?

Remember, your customers arrive at your website clamoring to learn about your business, but they also want to take something actionable away from the experience. If your website doesn’t allow for a user a good experience, chances are those users won’t come back.

At this point, you’re probably thinking that you need to do something to make your website mobile friendly, but which medium do you choose? Even more important, what are the mediums?

The information below will answer these questions and define the differences between web apps, native apps, and hybrid apps, and the impact each can have on your business.

Web Apps

A web app isn’t a basic website you find when looking up your favorite mom-and-pop store on the internet (websites are about providing information to an end user). A web application, or web app, allows a user perform a specific task in their web browser. That task may be something as simple as keeping notes or more complex tasks such as keeping an online budget.

Web apps are a good choice for your business for several reasons. First, web apps have the advantage of being distributed through a web browser. Everyone who owns a desktop or a smart phone has access to a web browser for free that comes built into the main operating system (think Safari or Chrome). This makes distribution a no-brainer.

Another benefit is that while a web app has a different purpose from a website, it’s built using the same technology, which means it’s cross-platform ready, development costs are lower, you have complete freedom to make it how you want, and updates are released instantly.

Web application drawbacks, however, include limited graphical ability and minimal device integration. Because the user is interacting with your app through a web browser, they cannot take advantage of phone hardware such as the microphone or camera.

Examples of Web Apps:

Native Apps

Native apps are applications that end users install on their smartphone. The end goal, like with web apps, is to allow the user to complete a specific task. However, these apps differentiate themselves with their capabilities. Native apps thrive on the benefits to access certain hardware on a phone that a website cannot, such as the camera.

In short, native apps are separated by their ability to be fully integrated into a mobile device. Native apps can use features such as the camera, microphone, GPS, and accelerometer among many other phone features that enhance the user experience.

Having the ability to access the processing power of the phone or tablet is a primary advantage for native apps. This allows the app to look and feel elegant with advanced graphical designs and animations that cannot be replicated in the web environment.

Native apps are also hosted on its respective app store (like App Store and Google Play), acting as an additional search engine for customers to find your business.

Native_App_Cost.pngTime and money are the two biggest drawbacks with native apps. According to the Kinvery Survery, the average cost of a native application is $270,000. This far exceeds the cost of the other options and is due to the specific knowledge needed to build a fully-functioning native app.

In addition, native apps aren’t portable, meaning if you build one for Android it will only work for Android phones and tablets. You would need to build a completely different version for iOS (iPhone and iPad).

Examples of Native Apps:

how_long_does_it_take_to_build_a_native_app.pngHybrid Apps

Hybrid apps function as the man in the middle. Just like the name suggests, the goal of a hybrid app is to achieve the look and feel of a native app while maintaining the simplicity of a web app. Hybrid apps are usually web apps wrapped inside the shell of a native application that allows for quicker development while retaining access to the native hardware functionalities only accessible through the shell.

Hybrid apps attempt to combine the best of both worlds. They maintain the lower development costs of web apps and include the functionality of a native app with the ability to put it into the app store.

In combining these together, hybrid apps also come with negatives. Just like web apps, hybrid apps are limited in their graphical capabilities. Development cost is also higher than web apps because of the more specialized knowledge required to interface with the different parts of the phone.

Time and cost can also be an issue with hybrid apps if you’re working under a tight deadline or have a limited budget. Take the short but true quote below for example which puts into perspective how much time and dedication it took to build Basecamp (listed in the examples below):

“A team of two full-time programmers and a half-time designer made Basecamp for Android in about 6 months.”

It’s important to note that while they were building this app for Android, the hybrid app allowed them to seamlessly port every change for every version they were building, instead of needing to build each feature multiple times for multiple apps.

Examples of Hybrid Apps:

Which to Choose?

Only you can decide which app is best for your company or organization based on need and budget. Web apps are cheap and quick to develop, yet lack the power available in a mobile device. Native apps take advantage of all that power, but come at a steep cost to the company. Hybrid apps attempt to access the power and feel of native apps while reducing the cost and time to develop it. Each app works in its own way and will benefit your business in a way that only an app can.