The Mobile App Comparison Chart: Hybrid vs. Native vs. Mobile Web

EducationSummary: As mobile apps grow in the business world, companies face a problem: Misconceptions still surround mobile app development. Many businesses venture into mobile app development without truly understanding the difference between each approach. Others enter the mobile app world with false beliefs about the pros and cons of each method…that could cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. To help clear up confusion, we’ve created a handy comparison chart to help you understand which mobile app approach is right for you.

photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc

photo credit: geralt via pixabay cc

Native, mobile web, or hybrid? For companies considering mobile apps, that is the million dollar question. Which direction do you take?

The answer: It depends. There’s no single correct answer that applies to every situation. Each option (mobile web apps, hybrid apps, and native apps) has its own advantages and disadvantages.

The right path for your company depends on a variety of factors, such as:

  • What are you trying to accomplish with your app?
  • When do you need it?
  • Which skills do you have in-house?
  • How much can you spend on the app?
  • What features do you require?

For instance, what if you need an app that lets salespeople access data while on the road? Or, what if you need an app that lets employees scan inventory with their smartphones? Or, what if you just need dashboards available on your executive’s tablets? Which option is best in each scenario?

To help you understand all of the options, as well as the pros and cons of each, we’ve put together the comparison chart below. It lists the differences between each approach, and will help you get a better feeling as to which one is right for you.

A couple of quick notes about the chart:

  • It is not an “either/or” choice. Even if you’re building native or hybrid apps, you can’t ignore the mobile web. After all, what if a user doesn’t want to download your app? Or, what if your app isn’t available on the user’s mobile platform? In the age of mobile, a mobile web app is table stakes, as explained in this article. At the very least–regardless of whether or not you build a native app–you need a mobile web app.
  • We’re only referencing Android and iOS platforms in the “native” category. While Blackberry still exists, and Windows Phones continue to hang in there, they don’t own a significant marketshare.
  • Some points (like development cost), require more information than we can fit on the chart. For these points, we’ve included a link to outside articles that contain more info.
  • (UPDATE) As a commenter pointed out below, distributing an app via an app store comes with its share of risks–which cannot be properly explained in a chart format. When placed in an app store, a native application is controlled by the app store’s owner (like Apple or Google). For instance, if Apple/Google decides an app doesn’t meet their terms of service, or if they decide the app isn’t right for their store, the app is removed. Am I saying you shouldn’t build a native app? Not at all. Just be aware that the app store model puts your app at the mercy of a third party.
  • If you don’t want to read everything in the chart, we’ve included a list of “Key Takeaways” at the bottom that summarize the most important points.
Native
Hybrid
HTML5 (mobile web)

Skills needed to reach Android and iOS

Objective-C, iOS SDK, Java, Android SDK

HTML, CSS, Javascript, Mobile Development Framework

HTML, CSS, Javascript

Distribution

App Store/Market

App Store/Market

Web

Development speed

Slow
(More Info)

Moderate

Fast

Development cost

High
(More Info)

Moderate

Low

Maintenance cost

High
(More Info)

Moderate

Low

Graphical performance

High

Moderate

Moderate

App performance

Fast

Moderate

Moderate

Device Access and features

Camera

Yes

Yes

Yes
(More Info)

Push Notifications

Yes

Yes

No

Contacts

Yes

Yes

No

Offline access

Yes

Yes

Yes
(More Info)

Geolocation

Yes

Yes

Yes
(More Info)

File upload

Yes

Yes

Yes
(More Info)

Gyroscope

Yes

Yes

Yes
(More Info)

Accelerometer

Yes

Yes

Yes
(More Info)

Swipe Navigation

Yes

Yes

Yes

Microphone

Yes

Yes

Yes
(More Info)

Best Used For

Games or consumer-focused apps where performance, graphics, and overall user experience are necessary

Apps that do not have high performance requirements, but need full device access

Apps that do not have high performance requirements, and do not need push notifications or access to contacts

 

Key Takeaways from the chart:

  • Native applications are very expensive. While cost varies dramatically depending on the application, surveys find an enterprise app ranges from $50k – over $1,000,000, with an average cost of $271,000.
  • Native applications provide the best user experience: If your app requires a great user experience to succeed (like a consumer-focused app), create a native app. The native approach provides the most ability to customize your app to fit the device, and provide the best overall experience.
  • Mobile Web apps (HTML5) device access has come a long way. Mobile web apps can access almost every feature on the device.
  • In most cases, a business will not need a native app, unless the app requires a great user experience (as explained above) or great graphics (like a game). The hybrid and mobile web approaches can handle most everything, at a fraction of the price.
  • Don’t underestimate maintenance costs. A Forrester survey once found that the average amount spent on a typical native mobile app is just 35% of the true two-year cost.

Summary

As you can see, there’s no straightforward answer. But, hopefully this chart sheds some light on the mobile app decision. What do you think? Feel free to share in the comments.

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20 thoughts on “The Mobile App Comparison Chart: Hybrid vs. Native vs. Mobile Web

    1. I considered adding this point to the chart, but decided against it as push notifications are specific to Chrome right now. I fully expect that to change, but for now there’s not enough browser adoption of this feature.

    1. It’s a good point, and definitely something to consider in a mobile app decision. I’ll update the “notes” section with a brief explanation of this process.

  1. I really appreciate your post and agree with you. Thanks for good information and way of explaining., This will be really useful. thanks for posting such information.I have one request that i wanted to know about some more free websites where i can post my android apps.

  2. I’m ome of native app development. I think pros of Native Apps are:

    Since native apps work with the device’s built-in features, they are easier to work with and also perform faster on the device.

    Native apps get full support from the concerned app stores and marketplaces. Users can easily find and download apps of their choice from these stores.

    Because these apps have to get the approval of the app store they are intended for, the user can be assured of complete safety and security of the app.

    1. There is a downside to working “with the device’s built-in features” — your app may misbehave or fail if the vendor changes or deletes those features in some future version. When considering the number of platforms (typically Android, iOS, Web), you also have to worry about your app working with different versions of each platform and, on the Web, different versions of different browsers with different options set/disabled.

      If you are going to adopt multiple platforms, you need to have sufficient support, development and test staff to keep up with the platform vendors. For me, I’d wait until the app has reached enough maturity and stability as a Web app (lowest cost platform) before graduating to multi-platform versions.

  3. Excellent information and very helpful on The Mobile App Comparison Chart: Hybrid vs. Native vs. Mobile Web so know the difference. Did you know how to care for smartphone correctly lest something happen to your favorite smartphone will be a problem? read more displayverzekering.nl

  4. This chart is incredibly misleading. A great deal of these web options just don’t work on all mobile platforms. Examples of non-working web-app features on iOS: photo capture, geolocation & microphone. Therefore annotating that cell with a green box is simply untrue. I’d accept an orange colored box with caveats around “only available on Android devices” at a push.

    It’s all very well having a particular preference as an author of these articles, but please make the facts – the reality – clear and don’t bend the truth to match your preferred narrative.

    Thank you for an otherwise useful article.

  5. For me exists a better possibility: shareable business logic (call to services, computation, local storage, …), written in JS, and native user interfaces. Of course, JS business logic MUST be shared also in web applications.
    This is the best quality/productivity compromise.
    For this reason I’ve created a framework for my company: aj-framework
    Take a look, it’s completely open source
    https://github.com/bfortunato/aj-framework

  6. Well, very good post with informative information. I really appreciate the fact that you approach these topics from a stand point of knowledge and information.
    Nowadays, with a variety of uses sky is the limit for mobile applications. An amazing mobile apps regularly makes a similarly great online vicinity in the applications market.

  7. Since native apps work with the device’s built-in features, they are easier to work with and also perform faster on the device.

    Native apps get full support from the concerned app stores and marketplaces. Users can easily find and download apps of their choice from these stores.

    Because these apps have to get the approval of the app store they are intended for, the user can be assured of complete safety and security of the app.

  8. There seems to be a ton of buzz lately about building a “Progressive Web App”, which seems part Google marketing, part reality.

    With a hybrid framework like Ionic 2 supporting PWA, I believe the hybrid option now can bypass the app store distribution model and have the PWA (web version) be “installed” (or so it seems to the end user) on a mobile device?
    http://blog.ionic.io/announcing-pwa-support-in-ionic-2/

  9. Hello there,

    Anyone contemplating a mobile app is often bugged by this problem – Should I develop a native or hybrid app? Well, there are various factors that go into answering this tricky question. To help you decide, we bring you the most famous case of LinkedIn and Facebook, the social networking giants. These two decided to go back to native after working with the hybrid/HTML5 based approach for mobile development and with this infographic you would know what were their pain points with hybrid app and why they went the Native way?
    I had recently gone through this infographics on Why LinkedIn & Facebook decided to go the NATIVE way?
    its so much informative for the viewers.

    Why LinkedIn & Facebook decided to go the NATIVE way?

    I hope it may help you!

  10. This was a very well laid out explanation of 2 distinct approaches to mobile web app development. As, a s/w developer, I believe that each approach has its own benefits and drawbacks. It isn’t really possible to say that one is better over the other. Native development may be necessary in apps with rich media content whereas, hybrid apps would work fine in all other cases.

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