Every year the number of mobile applications is growing. The pandemic, world cataclysms, and wars become a boost for the development of technologies. Today, we are ready to pocket our whole lives: 2,110,063 apps are available for download on the App Store, and 3,298,329 apps are available for download on Google Play Market in the first quarter of 2022, according to statista.com. Statista Digital Market Outlook estimates that revenue in most segments will grow over the next few years, reaching around $613 billion by 2025.

Are you ready to create your mobile application? To get started, read this article.

Types of mobile applications

At the initial stage, companies and individual customers who decide to create a mobile application for business or their needs are faced with the choice of the type of application — native, web, or hybrid application. This article will help you deal with this issue and focus on native applications and their differences from all others.

Native apps

A native mobile application is an application that is created for a specific platform. The native mobile application is written in the platform's native programming language: for Android — Kotlin and Java, for Apple iOS — Objective-C and Swift. A native mobile application has access to all native technologies and hardware capabilities of a particular platform. Native mobile applications must be downloaded and installed on the device, for example, through the official Google Play Market and App Store.

Pros:

  • access to the device hardware (geolocation, camera, microphone, accelerometer, light sensors, calendar, push notifications) and broad functionality due to this;
  • can satisfy more different requests from customers and users;
  • user data can be easily collected and analyzed;
  • usually, they work more stably and efficiently with any devices used on their OS;
  • there is no limitation on the functionality of the speed and quality of the Internet connection — the application can work without access to the network;
  • better suited for applications with custom interfaces and complex business logic.

Cons:

  • expensive development;
  • development takes much time;
  • each app store must to verify native apps;
  • cover few platforms and are incompatible with other operating systems;
  • even slight changes require regular updates.

Web apps

They work through a web browser on the user's device. These are customized websites that look like real applications but are not hosted on the user's device. You open from a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop PC (a web application is not necessarily only for mobile devices) a page on the Internet that "mows" under the application. It is similar to storing data in the cloud or on a computer hard drive. Often a web app complements a mobile native app and vice versa. With quality development, web applications work almost like native ones. Let's understand this "almost" what the difference is.

Pros:

  • web applications can work on a platform with any OS;
  • developers do not need to approve the app with stores;
  • the development cycle of CSS, HTML, and JavaScript goes many times faster.

Cons:

  • there is no access to the hardware of user devices, which significantly reduces the functionality of web apps (for example, it is impossible to make a web application that uses the accelerometer on the device or turns on the camera);
  • use is possible only via the Internet and depends on its availability, speed, and stable operation;
  • applications are not cataloged in one place and are harder to find.

Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps are a compromise between native and web apps. They are placed within the native application and work through the WebView. They have access to information on the user's device.

They look and work like native applications: they can be downloaded from the store and installed on the device. The installation can be nominal, as such applications have access to the user's data but often do not themselves store their data directly on the user's device.

WebView is a system component that opens web pages within other applications. When you open a particular link in a social network or email client, it begins in the interface of the social network or email client itself instead of going to the browser. It is the job of WebView.

Pros:

  • comprehensive functionality and a high degree of customization;
  • you can create an application that will work with multiple platforms;
  • reduce the cost and speed up the development of an MVP or a simple finished product for customers;
  • are a middle solution between the functionality and performance of a native application and the low cost of a web application.

Cons:

  • applications that are too complex are better to create native, as are applications with cumbersome visual solutions like games;
  • the development will require more time and effort to make the hybrid application look and feel like a native;
  • stores reject apps that don't perform well enough, and it's essential to meet quality standards.

Cross-platform apps

Cross-platform app development means that the app is developed with a technology/language/framework that allows it to be used on several different operating systems — Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, etc. For example, React-Native apps can work on Android and iOS.

Hybrid app development means that an app is developed using multiяяяяple languages/technologies, but it doesn't always mean that it will be cross-platform. Applications can be hybrid but will not necessarily be considered cross-platform.

An app can be considered cross-platform, but it doesn't have to be hybrid. It can be a web app or even native (for example, the React Native framework uses a JavaScript runtime to render JavaScript code and then publish the app to both the Google Play Market and the App Store).

Likewise, apps can be hybrid and cross-platform simultaneously (e. g. React-Native + native platform language).

Approaches in the development of a mobile application can be combined. For example, create performance-critical screens on native technologies and secondary ones on cross-platform ones.

Pros:

  • cross-platform development is much faster than the development of native mobile applications for several different platforms at once;
  • great for startups that need to get to market faster with an MVP to test a theory;
  • suitable for creating event applications, for example, for business conferences, fairs, etc., due to the speed of creation;
  • cross-platform development often contributes to the more effective development of developers, as it involves working with several technologies and environments and also stimulates problem-solving skills;
  • cross-platform is useful when writing a simple application with a small number of screens for multiple platforms (a simple mobile game is ideal for cross-platform).

Cons:

  • iOS and Android differ significantly, and this causes development difficulties and many lags in the work of the finished application (more often, these concerns interface elements and their rendering, Animation FPS, and Animation RAM indicators can differ by 3-5 times);
  • cross-platform applications crash more often and slow down;
  • it is more challenging to maintain cross-platform code — updating systems leads to frequent updating of programming interfaces, which requires more time;
  • in the cross-platform world, there is a small community, and often you have to solve problems on your own. There is a high risk of encountering a problem that few people know about;
  • development of cross-platform applications can significantly simplify life and save money for a customer and business owners who are limited by financial resources, and can add headaches to a developer;
  • but a cross-platform application may require vast efforts of developers and significant investments of the customer when moving from MVP to a finished product and when scaling the product;
  • a cross-platform application can use more battery life of the user's device, and even one and a half times, which is inconvenient if the application is used frequently.

Thus, cross-platform is more a property than a type of mobile application. Different types of mobile applications can be both cross-platform and non-cross-platform. Many sources confuse and use these terms ("cross-platform application'' and "hybrid application'') as synonyms, although there is a difference between them.

How to choose the type of application for your project?

It is essential to understand the types and features of mobile applications to quickly determine and decide which one will bring maximum benefit to both the application customer and its end users.

Consider several factors at once when choosing the type of application:

  1. development budget — a small budget will redirect you to a web application, a medium budget will allow you to focus on different options for hybrid applications with cross-platform capabilities, and a high budget will allow you to create a native mobile application with maximum speed and performance;
  2. goals of the project and project stage — if you only want to test the startup idea and release an MVP, you should not immediately spend money on the entire development cycle of a native application;
  3. do you need cross-platform, and with the help of what technologies it will be easier for you to implement it in your project;
  4. the target audience of the product and their real needs versus their possible expectations. Will users use this application often? Do you need graphics and animation? Do you need a high speed of the application for the user? Do you need multi-user capabilities or access to device hardware features? How many screens will get the application?
  5. product release speed — the complete development cycle of a native mobile application can take months; for a quick release, you need to implement a hybrid application or a web application;
  6. plans for scaling the product — is it possible to scale your product on the initially selected type of application (web or hybrid), or will you have to switch to native development in the future.

All these answers will help adequately start the beginning of the project and move in the right direction.

Is there a way to keep the best qualities of all apps?

No-code platform AppMaster.io offers the concept of all-in-one for developing a mobile application.

The critical feature of native mobile applications is that they are optimized for a specific operating system and can use devices' hardware capabilities. As you already know, this leads to much more development time, money, and developer effort. Some developers make an application for Android, others for iOS.

In the current market of no-code app builders, no-code platforms don't bother with this since creating native no-code apps is too complicated a process. As a result, no-code platforms offer their customers to build web applications or hybrid applications that gravitate towards the web, which can work everywhere. Still, their functionality is limited because the hardware capabilities of the devices cannot be used.

AppMaster.io uses a more advanced approach:

  1. separation of backend and frontend applications, due to which it is possible to separately create server applications for the backend and user applications for the frontend, which, in turn, are divided into web applications and mobile applications;
  2. the mobile application created on the platform works concerning the device and can use its hardware capabilities;
  3. you can create a universal application that will initially be virtually identical on iOS and Android — you can add your features to it, for example, make changes to the interface for one of the operating systems.

Access to the device hardware provides incredible functionality in mobile applications, for example:

  • Interaction with light sensors — the application can receive information about the level of illumination in the room from the device and, based on this data, change the theme from night to day;
  • Access to the device's camera — use it for the QR code scanner, which is available on AppMaster.io as a free module;
  • The purpose of a trigger action on a device that will occur if the device is shaken;
  • The ability to run any triggers when the application is minimized or even the device is turned off;
  • Obtaining information about the geolocation of the device and using it in the created application;
  • Check the battery level and adjust the application according to it.

The codebase has already been created, and the code is auto-generated by the requirements for the application. There is no need to look for developers or learn a new language. The mobile app builder makes it easy to develop for different platforms, and it takes ten times less than the classic development of any mobile app. The cost does not depend on the choice of OS — the tariff for iOS and Android is the same, and the subscription price is much lower compared to the cost of the classical development of a native mobile application.

Server-driven UI removes the dependency on updates to change the user interface. It is enough to publish an app once on the AppStore or PlayMarket, and all interface and logic updates will be delivered to users instantly. You need to make changes on the AppMaster.io platform and republish the frontend and backend in one click.

It is an entirely new level for the no-code platform, which brings no-code to the creation of native mobile applications but without the main disadvantages of the classic development of native mobile applications. You can only use their advantages — get everything at once.

Conclusion

There are several types of mobile applications. The choice of a mobile application depends on the customer's needs and future users. Also, this choice is made taking into account the disadvantages and advantages of each type of mobile application for a future project.

Suppose a fully native and fully web application can be clearly defined. In that case, the degree of the hybridity of the application can be represented as a spectrum — it can gravitate towards native or rely on web functionality.

You can try to create your first application of different types right now on the AppMaster.io no-code platform without writing a single line of code, only with the help of a convenient visual editor.