So, you want to build an App? While there is considerable planning and lots of steps to take before you get to the development of the App, we’re going to jump right to deciding on the technology behind it. When you get to this step, you’re going to have a decision to make. Do you build a Native App or a Hybrid App? Before we go over the benefits of each, let’s first define what each is.

Native App is built using the native programming language of the platform it was developed on. For example, Apple’s iOS platform uses Objective-C (and more recently, Swift) while Google’s Android platform uses Java. These two programming languages are quite different from each other. Apps are downloaded through the platform’s App Store.

A Hybrid App is built using a combination of front-end Web programming languages such as HTML5, Javascript, and CSS, and can run on almost any device regardless of the platform it was built on. Hybrid Apps use the platform’s browser to display the App, and are packaged into an App container and sent to an App Store.

Web App is basically the same as a Hybrid App, but isn’t packaged into a container and is only accessible by going to a Website instead of downloading an App. Web and Hybrid Apps are essentially the same except for the way they are accessed.

As with most big decisions, there are plenty of pros and cons to each side. We’ll go over a few of those in the table below.

Native AppHybrid/Web App
Time & CostThe App has to be programmed in each platform’s native language, thus doubling or tripling development time and cost.The App only has to be programmed once since it can run in-browser, keeping development time and costs down.
User InterfaceThe App will look like it belongs on the platform (because it does) and can use all native UI components of the platform.Since the App is universal across all platforms, there can only be one look and UI. There are various libraries that can emulate the look of a native app with some small differences.
AccessibilityThe App will have access to any and all components and features of the native platform (accelerometer, camera, etc).There are a few Javascript libraries that can access these components, but you are at the mercy of the library developers to create them when new device features become available.
SpeedThe App will be faster and more responsive in the native platform.Web Apps can run slower since it is at the mercy of the browser on the device, but for most non-processor intensive Apps, the speed is adequate.
MaintenanceAny changes will need to be packaged into a new version and uploaded to the App store for approval.If the App can connect to the Internet (which most do), App changes can be made as easily as editing a Website.

So which one should you choose? Well, there is no absolute winner, and it really depends on your needs and budget. If you are building a simple, data-driven App and need to keep your development costs low, a Hybrid App may be for you. If you are building a game or a very device-intensive App, you may want to go the Native route. Be sure to investigate both options before you decide!

Chris Markham

Director, Web Development

As an experienced Digital Developer, Chris is always implementing new and creative solutions to help websites reach their full potential. Chris possesses a unique and valuable combination of both visual and technical skills.