You may know that there is a difference between an app developed for iPhone or Android, but not exactly what. Well, in this article we are going to give you an overview of the different possible type of apps available and what the main differences are, to help you choose what best suits your needs, budget, and many other factors.

What are Native, web and hybrid apps?

Before digging into the details of each, let’s start with the basics.

Most people’s mobile devices run on iOS or Android. Apple has developed iOS, and it runs exclusively on Apple’s devices. Android is developed and supported by Google, often considered as a more open platform compared to Apple. Many mobile manufacturers run Android on their devices such as Samsung, Huawei, LG and, of course, Google that also produce its phones.

Mobile App:

When we talk about mobile apps in this article, we’re talking about apps you download from an app store.

What distinguishes a mobile app from a web app, is the presence of the company in a store. The visibility for a company is higher on an app store than a web app. Plus, since a mobile app installed on the phone has an icon, it is ideal for remembering it and the company. Mobile apps also allow you to send push notifications to re-engage users, the sharing features are more optimized, and users spend more time on apps than on the web. And finally, one advantage is ads revenue in apps.

Finally, a mobile app can either be native or hybrid.

Native Apps:

The majority of the apps on your smartphone are native applications, and they are built in a specific programming language, for their particular device platform, either iOS or Android.

How are they built?

The language to write Native apps will depend on the platform they are made for. Swift or Objective-C are used to write native iOS apps, and Java is used to write native Android apps. Native apps are also developed using the specific Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for the given operating systems.


  • Native apps offer the fastest, most reliable and most responsive experience to users.
  • Native apps ease access to the phone’s camera, microphone, compass, accelerometer, and swipe.
  • It can receive push notifications.
  • It offers an overall better user experience since the flow is more natural as there are specific UI standards for each platform.


  • You need one code base for iOS, and one for Android app.
  • Native apps are generally more expensive to develop than hybrid apps and take longer to build.

Building Cross-Platform Native Apps

In the past years, several alternatives have become available to reap the benefits of cross-platform development without sacrificing the user experience or access to native APIs. Cross-platform development merely means that a code base for an app can be the same and shared for an iOS and Android app, with a smaller part of adjustments for each system.

Two of such platforms that allow for cross-platform development are Xamarin and React Native.


Developed by Microsoft, Xamarin is a tool used for cross-platform mobile app development that allows engineers to share about 90 percent of code across major platforms, including Windows apps. Xamarin uses a different language to code apps: C#. It also provides free tools to build, test, distribute, and learn from your apps. Xamarin allows you to create platform-specific UI code layers to look like a native app.

React Native:

Launched in 2015 by Facebook, React Native lets developers build real, native iOS and Android apps with one code base as if you were using Objective-C or Java. But the code base is written in JavaScript and React.

Hybrid App

You install it like a native app, but it’s actually a web app on the inside.

Hybrid apps, like web apps, are built with Javascript, HTML, and CSS and run in something called webview, a simplified browser within your app.

Hybrid apps can be the right solution when creating a Minimum viable product (MVP) to test your idea on the market. With a hybrid app, you can put something in your potential users’ hands rapidly, with a simple version of your product. A hybrid app will give you more data to analyze about downloads and utilization on your users’ device than a web app.


  • Hybrid apps have only one code base to manage, and you save time and money in the development.
  • It is easier to scale to another platform.
  • It lets you access devices features like native apps.


  • The performance is much lower than native apps because hybrid apps load in a webview.
  • The user experience is often less optimal with a hybrid app as you cannot customize the app based on the platform.


PhoneGap is probably the best-known among hybrid app platforms and probably the easiest to begin with for a web developer. It offers native plugins that allow you to use all of the device’s functionality including the accelerometer, camera, compass, file system, microphone, media, networks, notifications, geolocation, and storage.

Web app

So how is a Web App different than a Website?

The difference may not be noticeable: a website will generally just be informational, and a web app provides additional functionality and interactivity. For example, Wikipedia is a website; it provides information. Facebook is a web app that is more interactive.

Web apps do not need any downloading from app stores like mobile apps. Web apps load in browsers like Chrome, Safari, or Firefox and they are not stored on the user’s device. The vast majority of Web Apps are built in JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5, and developing a web app can be quick and straightforward, but more restrictive.

But there is also something in between: Progressive web app.

It offers more features like offline use, push notifications and some device touch gestures (like the phone vibration). It’s not downloaded from a traditional app store but bookmarked on the user screen with an icon directly from a web browser. Progressive Web Apps are mobile websites with modern JavaScript frameworks. However, they are much slower than native apps and are less interactive and intuitive.

What to choose?

Now, we hope that you have a better vision and understanding of the different type of app existing. Then, to select the right one will depend on your business objectives. The principal factors that you should consider and will help you make a decision are:

  • How fast you need the app
  • The quality of the user experience you want your app to have
  • The complexity of the features you need for your app to work
  • Your Budget

And do not forget to check the 22 Questions to Answer Before Building a Mobile Application” article. These questions will help us both go in the right direction, understand your idea well, and help you build a successful and efficient mobile app!

Finally, when you are ready to develop an app, we would be super excited to work with you! But don’t worry, if you are a bit lost in the app development world, we will be glad to help you and follow you in your development process. So do not hesitate to contact us here if you have an app project!