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Native vs. Hybrid vs. Progressive Web Apps - Find Out Which Is Best For You

Native vs. Hybrid vs. Progressive Web Apps - Find Out Which Is Best For You

17/01/2020
Native vs. Hybrid vs. Progressive Web Apps - Find Out Which Is Best For You

Apps are a vital part of many businesses and organisations nowadays. However, not all apps are created equal, and it’s vital that you get it right if you want yours to be a hit. Seemingly minor faults can have a huge impact on your functionality and user experience, and this can be the difference between success and failure.

In this post, we’re going to examine the differences between native mobile applications, progressive web applications and hybrid applications to help you decide which best suits your mobile app.

When deciding the technology stack, you should consider the following:

  • What happens if the mobile device has no internet connectivity?
  • Do you need access to advanced device-specific features of the mobile device?
  • Where do you want to market your app? On the web? In one or more app stores? Or both web and app stores?
  • What type of user experience does your target audience expect?
  • The cost of one or more native applications versus one web application.

Native Apps

Native Apps are programs written in the native language of smartphone operating systems; for example, Swift for iOS (Apple) devices or Java for Android devices. They are typically installed on the device via an app store and have access to device-specific hardware and software features.

Pros

  • Access to native functionality (push notifications, accelerometer, geofencing, sensors, Bluetooth, access to other apps such as calendar, alarms etc).
  • Has offline storage, which is good when the device has no internet connectivity.
  • Performance is better than anything browser-based.
  • Better UI/UX encouragement. For example, All iOS apps must comply with Apple’s Human Design Guidelines to be published on the App Store. This typically leads to a higher quality product, but does come at a cost.
  • App Store presence; this grants a perceived credibility of brand as there is a cost associated with being in the app store.
  • App Store approval; perception of your code reviewed by app store is valuable.
  • Interaction with other apps.

Cons

  • Typically, the costs to develop Native Apps are significantly more than Progressive Web Apps.
  • You’ll need to completely build a separate app for each store, so this also increases cost. This also increases the cost of maintenance.
  • You still need a marketing website for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
  • App Store Optimisation (ASO) for each store is needed if you want your product easily found in app store search results.
  • App Store approval process can be time-consuming and increase costs and delays in updates.
  • Some app stores take a percentage of app revenue.
  • Users are in charge of whether they update to the latest version or not.
  • Higher maintenance costs in constantly keeping the app updated for mobile operating system compatibility.

Depending on which app store you publish your app to Apple App Store or Google Play store for examples, there are also differences to note.

iOS

  • High compatibility with devices; the majority of apple users update to the latest version of the operating system.
  • More likely to spend money on apps and in-app purchases. 
  • Harder to get app approval.

Android

  • Larger user-base. 

  • More device versatility; screen sizes and operating system versions. Additionally, if the device is purchased through a telecommunication provider, there is a risk that they have altered versions of native Android or installed ‘middle-ware’ and therefore delay the operating system update process.

Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web Apps are essentially web applications (web pages) that utilise advanced web and browser technologies to simulate the experience that a native app would present to a user. They are accessed and installed simply from a browser, usually by ‘Add To Home Screen’ functionality within the browser/operating system.

While they don’t have the same access to device-specific features and some of their functionality may be limited when the device has no internet connection, they are more cost-effective to build and maintain.

Pros

  • One site used across all platforms. This means one code-base which greatly reduces the cost of development and maintenance.
  • Accessed by browser of choice, so users get an experience they are familiar with.
  • Updates can be deployed without app store approval process delay.
  • All users use the same version as you’re in control of when updates are deployed.
  • Only Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is required, no App Store Optimisation (ASO).

Cons

  • No access to certain native functionality (fingerprint scanning, vicinity sensors, NFC, Bluetooth, geofencing, inter-app communications, and advanced camera controls).

  • No iOS push notifications. Push notifications are not only a good way to get users back into your app, but navigate the user to a precise location within the app.
  • No app store presence.
  • Limited Storage. If off-line a PWA might have limited functionality or none at all. For Apple users, the off-line storage is limited to 50MB and will automatically get cleared if not used for two weeks.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps combine the native app and web app (web page). They essentially are a web app wrapped in a native app using a platform such as Xamarin or Cordova. They are installed via an app store but are usually a light-weight application that uses a web view to display an existing web application.

The main benefit of doing this is having one code-base for multiple app stores, which greatly reduces development and maintenance costs. They can also utilise more offline storage and access device-specific features.

Pros

  • One code-base used across all platforms, which greatly reduces the cost of development and maintenance.
  • Access to native functionality (push notifications, accelerometer, geofencing, sensors, Bluetooth, access to other apps such as calendar, alarms etc).
  • Has offline storage, which is good when the device has no internet connectivity.
  • Most updates can be deployed without app store approval process delay.
  • All users use the same version as you’re in control of when updates are deployed.

Cons

  • Performance is slower than native apps.
  • Some customisations might make the code-base more complex and therefore lead to increase cost and development time (compared to a PWA).
  • Deal with issues that stem from both Native Apps and Progressive Web Apps (PWA).
  • App Store Optimisation (ASO) for each store is needed if you want your product easily found in app store search results.
  • App Store approval process can be time-consuming and increase costs and delays in updates.
  • Some app stores take a percentage of app revenue.
  • Still need to keep base app updated for operating system compatibility.

As you can see, type of web you choose to develop can have a big impact on factors like cost, user experience and functionality, so it’s important that you make the right choice. If you’re considering developing and are wondering which is the best option for you, just get in touch with us today and we’d be more than happy to give you some helpful advice.

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