Skip to Content
App Development
7 minutes read

What Is a Native App?

By Mario Tatis
What is a native app
By Mario Tatis
App Development
7 minutes read

Businesses that want to build web apps or mobile apps will want to know more about native apps. What is a native app? Are native apps better than hybrid apps? Are native and web apps the same thing? 

Native apps play a critical role in mobile app development. Businesses that want to build a mobile app should understand what native apps are, how they differ from web apps and hybrid apps, and the benefits of native mobile apps. 

This post will explain everything your organization needs to know about native apps. When you fully understand the different mobile apps your business can develop, you can make a choice best suited to your app development project and the skills of your app developers. 

Everything You Need to Know About Native Apps 

So, what is a native app? Native apps are software built for a specific platform or device. A native app is capable of fully utilizing device-specific hardware and software and delivering an unparalleled level of performance. 

A native mobile app is built with platform-specific programming languages and tools. The two dominant mobile device platforms are iOS and Android. The native languages for iOS are Objective-C and Swift, and the native languages for Android are Java and Kotlin. 

A native mobile app works with the device’s operating system in ways that enable them to work faster, perform better, and operate with greater flexibility than cross-platform apps or web apps. 

For example, native iOS apps can use all of the built-in features and hardware of iOS devices, and native Android apps can use all of the features and hardware of Android devices in ways that a cross-platform or hybrid app can not. 

As a result, a well-built native app can provide a better User Experience than hybrid or web apps built to function across several devices and platforms.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Native Apps 

Before we examine popular alternatives to native apps, like hybrid and web apps, it is useful to understand the pros and cons of native applications. 

The Advantages of Native Apps 

The primary advantage of a native app is better performance and a stronger User Experience. In addition, with a native app, your organization can deliver an experience and User Interface more aligned with the experience of the operating system (OS). 

While this is valuable for Android devices, in terms of performance, the ability to fully utilize device features and create an application that accentuates the User Experience of the underlying OS is particularly striking on iOS mobile devices. 

Apple tightly controls and curates the platform experience for iOS users. While Android is the most popular global platform, iOS is the dominant platform in the US, and users have come to expect a certain level of functionality and performance from their apps. 

Fully native apps perform better and deliver an experience that hybrid mobile apps and progressive web apps can’t match, despite their capabilities. If your target user base is primarily on iOS, you should strongly consider developing a native application for the platform.

The Disadvantages of Native Apps 

While native apps for both iOS and Android deliver a better User Experience and performance level, there are disadvantages to developing native apps too. The primary disadvantage of native apps is that you’ll need to develop multiple code bases to reach users on both platforms

While iOS controls roughly 60 percent of the mobile device market in the US, Android still accounts for a large portion of society, and many businesses want to reach users on both platforms. 

Native apps only work on one platform. As a result, your business will have to develop two mobile apps instead of one. In addition, not only will this approach take longer for your business to get its app to market, but it will also cost significantly more. 

Native app developers are highly specialized development professionals, and hiring these developers often costs more, which makes developing and maintaining two distinct applications more costly than the alternatives. 

Ultimately, the disadvantages of native apps come down to cost and time. If cost and time are not a factor for your organization, no alternative app development option can match the quality of a native app. 

Understanding the Alternatives to Native Apps 

There are three main alternatives to native apps that your business may want to consider, such as:

  • Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
  • Hybrid Apps 
  • Cross-Platform Apps

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

Progressive web apps are built using core web technologies JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. A progressive web app is not downloaded from app stores but accessed online. 

While users typically access PWAs through a web browser, a progressive web app can be downloaded from the Internet and saved to a user’s home screen like any other mobile app. Surprisingly, these apps can even provide limited offline functionality and even deliver push notifications. 

Progressive web apps don’t offer the same levels of performance or functionality as native apps, but they can effectively reach users on any device that can access the Internet. However, it is important to note that some users might not trust an application that is not downloaded from app stores.

Hybrid Apps 

Hybrid apps are also built using the core web technologies, but they also utilize plugins and frameworks to embed the code into a package that acts like a native app. Hybrid apps are half web app and half mobile app. 

While hybrid apps are built with JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, they use tools like Ionic, PhoneGap, React Native, or Flutter. These frameworks and plugins basically wrap the web app in a native package that enables it to be installed like a native app from app stores.

Within the app package, the app runs an embedded browser that runs the code of the application like a web app. Android and iOS use different embedded browsers. The former uses WebView, and the latter uses WKWebView. 

The advantage of hybrid apps is that the code is reusable for both major mobile platforms and drastically reduces the time it takes to develop mobile apps. 

Cross-Platform Apps

Cross-platform apps are similar to hybrid apps in that the source code is reusable between platforms. However, beyond reusable code, cross-platform apps are different from hybrid apps. 

Interestingly, cross-platform apps can be built with native languages like Java, Swift, and Kotlin, to name a few of the popular languages. However, developers must use development frameworks to port the code to other platforms. 

Cross-platform apps offer better performance than hybrid or web apps, but they still don’t offer the full integration and consistency made possible through native app development. Cross-platform apps reduce development time and the time it takes to get your app to market since code can be reused between platforms. 

Final Thoughts 

Native app development cannot be matched by any other development approach. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the best approach for your business. If you want to learn more about native and hybrid apps and mobile web apps, contact an experienced app development partner like Koombea.

Girl With Glasses

Want to Build an App?

Request a free app consultation with one of our experts

Contact Us