Resolving the Hybrid vs. Native Apps Dilemma in 2023

Apps are like guns.

They make effective tools in helping businesses hit their targets — be it an internal goal or a 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 can be compared to shotguns and lasers. 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.

Without further ado, let’s fire things up and get started!

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. Any native mobile app can only run 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 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 are highly compatible with their respective operating systems.

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

The compatibility of Kotlin and Swift with their respective operating systems 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.

What is a hybrid app?

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

To put it simply, 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 directly using the hardware and software of the host mobile device.

Another important thing to note is: 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 outlining hybrid apps vs native apps vs web apps


You can read our more in-depth article here to learn more about hybrid apps.

I’ve given you the lowdown on both hybrid and native apps so you can better understand why they have their own strengths and weaknesses. I will discuss these in the next section so you can finally resolve the debate regarding which apps are better.

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 Has 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 Needs just one codebase for all platforms

Development is generally shorter and less costly

Requires 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 what key differences hybrids and natives have.

#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 reaching their targets, hybrids and natives differ from each other, like shotguns and lasers.

In case you’re not into this kind of stuff, a shotgun bullet has tiny pellets that spread across a wide area after the bullet is fired. This means the bullet can hit multiple points. Meanwhile, lasers hit a target at a single, focused point.

Like a shotgun bullet, a hybrid app can scatter across multiple mobile users with different operating systems. On the other hand, a native app can only focus on one platform at a time. Specifically, the hybrid can function on both Android and iOS. The native app of similar type and quality, meanwhile, can only run on either of the two.

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 winner in the criterion 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. Additional features require more talented developers. After all, extra bells and whistles usually mean longer lines of programming code. This hikes the cost and complexity of building natives.

Aside from that, native app developers must write code at least twice. This is because 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

Lasers are at the cutting edge of technology. So are the similarly focused native apps.

A native app enjoys the double advantage of being built with advanced tools and focused specifically on one platform. Therefore, it generally trumps its hybrid counterpart in terms of speed, stability, reliability, and user experience.

Again, the advantages in these four performance areas 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. The shells hinder hybrids from fully using their host devices’ computing power. This generally leads to inferior graphics, slower display times, and crashing.

App crashes or failures 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. But our app developers came to the rescue. Check out the Grill’d case study to learn how we turned the restaurant’s app from 1-star to 99.9% crash-free.

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. This is because 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.

Shotgun tactic or laser focus? Hybrid or native apps?

Native and hybrid apps have their own strengths, depending on your priorities.

But, generally, considering the app industry’s competitive nature, I highly recommend the quality and reliability of laser-focused native apps.

“But native apps are expensive to build,” you might say.

Fortunately, there is a way out of the cost-quality tradeoff.

Aside from knowing Android and iOS code inside out, our app developers apply two unique techniques to ensure native apps go from vision to value faster.

Our developers are driven and guided by the MVP way of building apps and our so-called Appetiser Baseplate. Both these innovative processes simplify the app development pipeline, saving our clients time and money while ensuring quality.

Are you as intensely focused on your goals as a laser? If you are, perhaps building an app business is for you. Book a free consultation with us, and let’s talk about how to hit your targets through app design and development.

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Jesus Carmelo Arguelles, aka Mel, is a Content Marketing Specialist by profession. Though he holds a bachelor's degree in business administration, he also took courses in fields like computer troubleshooting and data analytics. He also has a wealth of experience in content writing, marketing, education, and customer support. Outside office hours, he finds deep joy in reading, traveling, and photography.

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