Apple and Android dominate the smartphone market, owning over 90 percent of the industry.

To take advantage of this fact, many companies that already have an app based on one platform look to make it work across both Apple and Android devices. But this isn't as easy as it sounds, and taking shortcuts to do so can have serious consequences.

There are a few different routes you can take to make your online product ready for mobile devices. The option you choose largely depends on three main factors:

  1. The quality of the experience you want your app to have.
  2. The complexity of the features you need for your app to work.
  3. Your budget.

To help you choose which approach is best for your app idea, here’s a summary of the differences between the three main approaches to building an app: native, hybrid, or web.

What is a native app?

A native app is written in the programming language specific for a platform, the most popular being Objective-C or Swift for Apple devices and Java for Android devices.

Building a native app provides the most optimal product experience on mobile devices. However, a higher budget is needed to build across multiple platforms and keep native apps updated.

What is a hybrid app?

A hybrid app is a web app that translates to native code on a platform like iPhone or Android. A hybrid app uses a browser view and hooks to allow your web app to access features on your mobile device like Push Notifications, Contacts, or Offline Data Storage.
Hybrid app development tools:

  • PhoneGap
  • Rubymotion

What is a web app?

A web app is an app written in web code that is similar to a website but more interactive so it feels like an app on mobile devices.

A web app is best for products that require minimal native gestures and don’t require access to features from mobile devices like Push Notifications. A web app is typically the most inexpensive option. However, it won't feel like a native mobile app and cannot be distributed through native app stores like the App Store or Google Play. When deciding between which app you should build it's important to consider the different factors related to your business.

Native and hybrid apps typically have better product experiences on mobile devices and can be distributed in the app stores but they are more costly than web apps.

Look at your current priorities and where you want to be in the future to determine what option works best for you.

Choosing between a native, hybrid, or web app is not always clear, so here's a tool we created to help you decide which option is best based on your situation.