Tech & Development

Native, Hybrid, and Progressive Web: Understanding Apps and Their Defining Features

There are three primary approaches when developing mobile apps today – Native Apps, Hybrid Apps, and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). Each approach has its own unique set of characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. In this article, we’ll explore these three and highlight their defining features and ideal use cases.

The Fundamentals of Native Apps

Native Apps are developed for a specific platform, such as iOS or Android, using the platform's native programming languages (Swift or Objective-C for iOS; Java, or Kotlin for Android).

First, let’s evaluate the advantages of Native Apps.  

Optimized Performance

Native Apps are optimized for their respective platforms, delivering excellent performance and responsiveness.

Direct Access to Device Features

Native Apps have direct access to device features like camera, microphone, GPS, and push notifications, enabling developers to create highly interactive and feature-rich applications.

Enhanced User Experience

Native Apps offer a seamless and intuitive user experience, leveraging platform-specific design guidelines and UI components.

Offline Capabilities

They can work offline and store data locally, providing users with uninterrupted access to content and functionality.

App Store Support

Native Apps can be easily distributed through app stores, benefiting from app discoverability and potential marketing opportunities.

While Native Apps bring plenty of advantages, they also bring their share of disadvantages.

Here are some downsides of Native Apps.

Higher Development Costs

Developing Native Apps requires expertise in multiple programming languages and frameworks, which can increase development costs.

Longer Development Times

Building separate versions for different platforms prolongs the development timeline.

Heavier Maintenance Effort

As multiple codebases need to be maintained, updates and bug fixes can be more time-consuming and resource intensive.

Limited Reach

Native Apps are platform-specific, meaning developers need to create separate versions for different platforms, limiting their potential audience.

Intensive Approval Process

Submitting an app to an app store involves adhering to specific guidelines and passing approval processes, which can lead to delays and potential rejections.

When it comes to use cases, Native Apps are ideal for creating high-performance, feature-rich applications that require access to device-specific features, such as gaming apps, social media platforms, and multimedia-intensive applications.

The Ins-and-Outs of Hybrid Apps

Hybrid Apps are developed using web technologies (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) and then wrapped in a native container to be deployed as a mobile app. Again, Hybrid Apps can be both advantageous and disadvantageous depending on their uses.

Here are some benefits of Hybrid Apps.

Cross-Platform Development

Hybrid Apps can be developed once and deployed across multiple platforms, reducing development time and costs.

Faster Development

Leveraging web technologies enables faster prototyping and development cycles.

Access to Device Features

Hybrid Apps can access device features through plugins or APIs, providing access to functionalities like camera, contacts, and geolocation.

Simplified Maintenance

Since Hybrid Apps share a single codebase, updates and bug fixes can be applied uniformly across platforms.

Wider Reach

Hybrid Apps can be distributed through app stores or made available as web apps, reaching a broader audience.

Here are some areas where Hybrid Apps fall short.

Performance Limitations

Hybrid Apps may not match the performance of Native Apps, especially for computationally intensive tasks or graphic-intensive applications.

Limited Access to Features

Hybrid Apps may have limited access to some advanced device features or APIs not supported by hybrid frameworks.

Dependency on Third-Party Frameworks

Hybrid Apps rely on frameworks like Apache Cordova or React Native, which may introduce dependency issues or require additional troubleshooting.

Platform Limitations

Certain platform-specific functionalities or UI elements may not be fully accessible or supported by Hybrid App frameworks.

User Experience Challenges

Hybrid Apps may not provide the same level of user experience and responsiveness as Native Apps, especially in terms of native look and feel.

If you have a limited budget and a shorter timeframe where a cross-platform presence is essential, a Hybrid App might be your best bet. They are well-suited for content-based applications, business apps, or apps with moderate UI interactivity.

The Nuances of Progressive Web Apps, or PWAs.

Progressive Web Apps are web applications that offer an app-like experience to users through modern web technologies. They can be accessed through a web browser but can also be installed on a user's home screen like a Native App.

Here are some distinct advantages of Progressive Web Apps.

Cross-Platform Compatibility

PWAs work across different platforms and devices, eliminating the need for platform-specific development.

Offline Functionality

PWAs can function offline or with limited connectivity, allowing users to access content and perform tasks even without an active Internet connection.

No App Store Dependencies

PWAs can be accessed directly through a web browser, eliminating the need for app store submissions and approvals.

Seamless Updates

PWAs are updated automatically, ensuring users always have the latest version without the need for manual updates.


PWAs can be easily discovered through search engines, making them more accessible to a wider audience.

On the flipside, here are some distinct disadvantages when it comes to Progressive Web Apps.

Limited Device Access

PWAs have limited access to certain device features, as they rely on web APIs that may not be as comprehensive as native APIs.

Browser Dependency

PWAs rely on web browser technologies, which means they are subject to browser compatibility and performance limitations.

Reduced Native Functionality

PWAs may not be able to replicate the same level of functionality and user experience as Native Apps.

Limited App Store Integration

Although PWAs can be installed on the home screen, they may lack deep integration with the operating system and app store features.

Awareness and Adoption

Despite growing popularity, PWAs are still relatively new, and user awareness and adoption may vary across different demographics.

PWAs are often chosen for content-based apps, e-commerce platforms, or any application that focuses on delivering information and services through the web, while providing an app-like experience to users.

In summary, understanding the differences between Native Apps, Hybrid Apps, and Progressive Web Apps is crucial for making informed decisions when developing mobile applications. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages, catering to different project requirements, development budgets, and target audiences. By carefully considering the specific needs of your project, you can choose the most suitable approach and provide an optimal user experience to your app's audience.