Resolving the Hybrid vs. Native Apps Dilemma in 2024

Hands on various design wireframes for a mobile app

Apps are like nets.

They make effective tools in helping businesses catch their big fish — be it nailing an ambitious internal goal or beating a top competitor. Case in point: Amazon.

At some point, Jeff Bezos’ brainchild threatened to end Google’s dominance.

Undoubtedly, mobile apps can be so innovative they can turn the world upside down. The question is, which types of apps best do the job?

Mobile apps come in two forms: hybrid apps and native apps. These two app types differ mainly in how wide a net they can cast to attract users. Whichever you choose depends on your business needs, priorities, and resources.

Read this article to discover what hybrid and native apps are, how they stack up against each other, and which is better for growing your business.

Let’s dive in!

What is a native app?

A native app is a mobile app purposely built for a particular operating system (OS) or platform.

Two main operating systems dominate mobile devices these days: Android and iOS. A native mobile app only runs on a specific platform. For example, an iOS app can’t run on Android phones, while an Android app can’t function on an iPhone.

The nuts and bolts of a native app are programming languages that are highly compatible with the world’s biggest mobile operating systems. For example, when app developers write code for an iOS app, they use the Swift language. Android developers, meanwhile, use Kotlin. Both Kotlin and Swift work seamlessly with their respective operating systems.

This sort of language-OS compatibility enables native apps to access their host phones’ hardware and software directly. You will see why this direct access is important later when I compare the performance of native apps and hybrid apps.

Just a side note, our programmers are equally capable of using Kotlin and Swift for mobile app development. If you’re interested in using native apps to grow your idea into an app business, we’ll be glad to provide you with a free consultation.

What is a hybrid app?

A hybrid app is a cross between a native app and a web app.

Simply put, a web app is an app that needs a browser to function. A native app, in comparison, runs on its own after a single tap of its icon.

Hybrid mobile apps are essentially web apps wrapped in native shells. Each of these shells is an extra layer of code that enables a hybrid to be compatible with multiple operating systems. Even though a single hybrid app can run on both Android and iOS, its native shell prevents the hybrid from fully leveraging the hardware and software of the host mobile device.

Another important thing to note is that unlike a native app, which needs at least two codebases to run on both Android and iOS, only one codebase is necessary to develop a similarly versatile hybrid app. Why? Again, it’s the native shell that does its magic to make this possible.

HVNA: Diagram explaining the difference between hybrid and native apps


You can read our in-depth article on hybrid apps if you want to learn more about them.

Hybrid vs. native apps

To help you decide whether you need a hybrid or a native app, I’ve listed important criteria below and how each app type adds up.

Hybrid Apps Native Apps
Features Limited compared to native apps Have more extensive features than hybrids

Can directly access phone hardware and software

Accessibility Work across multiple platforms Function on one operating system at a time
Development Need just one codebase for all platforms

Development is generally shorter and less costly

Require a separate codebase for Android and iOS

Programming takes longer and tends to be more expensive

Performance Generally slower and less reliable than native apps Better overall performance compared to hybrids

Let’s delve deeper into each criterion to learn more about the key differences between hybrids and natives.

#1 Features

Hybrid apps don’t have direct access to a phone’s features because of their native shell.

On the other hand, natives can directly access device features like cameras, microphones, etc. This is because the programming languages used to develop native apps are highly compatible with their host operating systems and devices.

This tight compatibility means that native apps tend to have more bells and whistles than hybrid apps.

#2 Accessibility

When it comes to the diversity of users, hybrid and native apps differ greatly from each other.

Sticking to our fishing analogy, hybrid applications can cast a wider net compared to their native counterparts. In other words, a hybrid app can accommodate mobile users who use different operating systems or platforms. On the other hand, a native app can only focus on one platform at a time.

Specifically, a hybrid app can function on both the Android and iOS operating systems. Meanwhile, the native app of similar type and quality can only run on either platform.

Since the average hybrid app is platform-versatile, its developers can launch it on both Google Play and the Apple App Store. These app stores are for Android and iOS users, respectively. Meanwhile, a native app equivalent can only be uploaded to either of the two stores.

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The fact that a hybrid can be uploaded to twice as many stores as a native app makes hybrids the clear winner in terms of accessibility.

#3 Development

Hybrid apps are relatively easier to develop than intensely focused native apps.

I mentioned before that native apps can have more features than their hybrid relatives. And additional features require more talented developers. After all, extra bells and whistles usually mean longer lines of programming code. This increases the cost and complexity of building natives.

Additionally, native app developers must write code at least twice. The development team needs to use two programming languages to make the app compatible with both Android and iOS devices.

Developers of a hybrid app, meanwhile, need to program only once to make the app compatible with multiple platforms. This shortens the development time, making the app less expensive to build than its native equivalent.

#4 Performance

Figuratively speaking, native apps can catch only one type of fish at a time. But once they do, the fish rarely escape.

Why is this so?

A native app enjoys the double advantage of being built with advanced tools and having a platform-specific focus. Therefore, it generally trumps its hybrid equivalent in terms of speed, stability, reliability, and user experience.

And given a choice between an app with superior performance versus one that performs suboptimally, users tend to choose and get more hooked on the former. This is how the sturdier net of native apps often trumps hybrid applications in terms of keeping the fish, or army of users, loyal.

The advantages in performance come from the fact that native apps can take full advantage of their host device’s hardware and software capabilities. This means faster loading times and reduced instances of crashing.

But that’s not all.

The programming tools for building a native app and its host operating system (Android OR iOS) are closely compatible. This harmony enables the app to display higher-quality graphics. The superior visuals of the average native app make users come back for more.

For hybrid apps, their platform-adaptive native shells are also their Achilles’ heel. They hinder hybrids from fully using the computing power of their host devices. This generally leads to inferior graphics, slower display times, and crashing.

Crashes are a big problem, especially for app-dependent businesses.

Take, for example, the Australian company Grill’d. The giant restaurant chain needed help keeping customers because of its unreliable app. Fortunately, our app developers came to the rescue. Read our Grill’d case study to learn how we turned the restaurant’s app from 1-star to 99.9% crash-free.

HVNA: Grill'd mobile app crash instances dwindling within 5 months of collaboration with Appetiser Apps

HVNA: Grill'd mobile app screenshot showing a food ordering interface featuring a vegan cheeseburger

In general, the reliability and smooth performance of native apps make them more popular than hybrids. The more popular an app is, the more income it tends to generate, even if users don’t pay for it.

The hybrid app wildcard: React Native

Many hybrid apps on the market today are developed using web technologies like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. These technologies, which also power web apps, are partly why hybrid apps usually fall short of native apps in terms of performance.

This prompted hybrid app development experts to come up with React Native. React Natives are meant to be the happy middle ground between “pure-breed” native apps and hybrid apps. Hybrids developed using React Native tend to beat their conventional hybrid relatives in the following areas:

  • Loading speed
  • Reliability (less prone to freezing or crashes)
  • User experience (React Native apps look and feel more like natives than hybrids)

React Natives are built using many of the components used to build native apps. Hence, the three advantages above.

Given that React Natives are almost as easy to build (and therefore as inexpensive) and versatile as hybrid apps, it may look like React Natives are the superior choice. Even big enterprises like Facebook, Instagram, and Bloomberg all build React Natives.

However, the fact remains that React Natives are still hybrid apps at their very core.

And as I mentioned, hybrid apps are prone to reliability issues. This means that even though hybrids are cheaper to develop, they become quite expensive in the long run due to post-launch bug fixes. React Natives, despite the “native” part in their name, share this weakness with hybrids.

Quantity or quality? Hybrid or native apps?

A typical hybrid app definitely casts a wider net than its native counterpart. Hybrid apps are champions when acquiring a large diversity of users in one fell swoop.

But native and hybrid apps have their own sets of ideal use cases. For instance, where intensive hardware and multimedia performance is necessary, native apps tend to have the upper hand.

Despite their massive performance advantages, native apps inevitably hit two walls: prohibitive cost and limitation to one platform at a time.

But at Appetiser Apps, we smash walls that stop you from developing your app idea well. Make things stick from app ideation to market launch by leveraging these assets we have:

  • Our app developers’ in-depth and updated knowledge of Android and iOS code
  • Our patented Baseplate and MVP way of building apps that enable you to manage costs while increasing speed to market

Of course, if you decide to tap us for your native app development project, we still need to build two apps to net your desired Android and iOS users. However, given our proprietary technology, developing native apps with us need not be twice as costly as making a similar hybrid app.

Whether you are still planning to hook your future app users or have already chosen your digital net, we are here to help turn your app idea into a working and financially sustainable asset. Book a free consultation with us and learn how to fish for a lifetime through app design and development.

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