What are the three types of apps a business can develop, and which one should you choose if you are considering investing in an app?
In the era of technology, also known as the Information Age, the use of electronic devices has skyrocketed to levels never known before. Nowadays, users browse through hundreds of websites and apps every day, and they do so without thinking about the technical difference between them. Or the amount of development that each one requires.
And, honestly, they don’t really care about that at all. They simply want to consume the information that they need in a neat, fast, intuitive, and non-intrusive way. For them, how companies achieve that really doesn’t matter.
For businesses, however, the perspective is completely different. They should find the best way to reach their target audience, capture their attention, and maintain them engaged in the long run. This means that app development should be carefully thought and evaluated in order to get the best return on investment. For this reason, today we will see the 3 main types of apps that an organization can invest in, what are the pros and cons of each one, and which one is the best from both the perspective of users and businesses.
Three Types of Apps: Native, Hybrid & Web
With a global mobile penetration of 63.4%, it is no surprise that mobile devices have become an inseparable part of our daily lives. This tendency has made many businesses evaluate the possibility of investing in app development to ensure that they provide an enhanced experience for their audience, making it easier for them to consume a product or a service right from their smartphones.
So, let’s say that you have already researched your market and competitors, created a clear business concept for your app, and you are ready to start developing it. However, what kind of app will suit your target audience and business goals the most? There are three types of apps that you can choose from:
- Native mobile apps;
- Hybrid apps;
- Web-based apps;
Although all three types of apps may serve the exact same purpose for a business – and that is, connecting and engaging with the audience, they can be very different in terms of costs, development, scope, and efficiency. So, let’s see what exactly is that makes them so different:
Type 1: Native mobile apps
Native mobile apps are software applications that are most commonly found in stores such as Google Play, the Apple App store, Samsung Galaxy apps, and so on.
They are typically designed for a specific store or operating system in mind, whether it is the Apple’ iOS, Google’s Android, or even Windows phone – which means that developing the same app for another operating system will require separate development and costs associated with it.
Of course, all this native app development has its pros and cons:
- Good user experience – because native mobile apps are designed specifically for a particular platform or operating system, they are more adapted to the peculiarities of each one. Using the native UI of the device is great for ensuring positive user experience.
- Full functionality – since the native app connects with the user’s operating system and device, it is capable of using its features to offer a richer experience. For example, many apps will ask for consent to access the device’s image gallery, microphone, camera, or other features.
- Security – because native apps are offered by a third-party app store, this means that they will have to comply with the store’s rules and requirements for safety, good user experience, and following the best practices. Many apps that don’t meet the requirements of the app store actually suffer app store rejection. This process, although slow and lengthy for the business, provides an additional layer of security for the user.
- Integration – because native mobile apps immediately become part of the system interface for the user, they easily blend in with the device experience. Which, as a result, makes their performance efficient and intuitive.
However, despite the clear benefits of native mobile apps, this one from our three types of apps is not all moonlight and roses.
Let´s see some of the cons when it comes to their development for businesses:
- High development costs – developing a native mobile app, especially if you want to publish it across different app stores and operating systems, can be really expensive. As we mentioned in our previous article, you might expect to pay for an app anywhere between 10,000$ to even 100,000$! This amount of money can not only be out of budget for many businesses, but also return on investment is not always guaranteed. Additionally, support and app maintenance are much more costly for native apps than any other type.
- Difficult distribution – native apps always require a third-party inmediator in order to be used and distributed- or in other words, the App stores. To get a user to download your app is not precisely easy. They will have to click on a button that takes them to the app store, go there, locate your app, and wait until it’s fully installed. On top of that, many apps require or at least recommend a wifi connection because they are so heavy. For the user, this means that he can’t simply download an app on the go if he is not at home.
- App fatigue – out of all three types of apps that we are discussing today, this one is particularly well associated with the so-called app fatigue. Considering the fact that app stores contain over 3 million apps and hundreds of businesses are fighting for the user’s attention, it is not a surprise that users are already getting a bit tired of having to select from so many apps at this point. And, even if you convince a user to download your app, they can still un-install it at any point if it doesn’t provide value for them.
- App size and weight – as opposed to web apps and even hybrid apps, native mobile apps have to be fully downloaded on the user’s phone. Many people are almost always out of space on their smart device, which means that they can only store a limited number of apps before having to get rid of some of them to clean up space. This makes it difficult for businesses to maintain the attention of the user and get them to keep the app long-term.
Having said of all this, businesses must carefully evaluate the pros and cons of investing in a native app. Ask yourself some of the following questions: What are your particular goals? What return of investment are you expecting? In what ways are you going to promote you app? How do you want your customers to use the app?
The answer to all these questions will help you develop a more clear idea in mind. But of course, you do not have to make up your mind just yet. We still need to see the next two types of apps:
Type 2: Hybrid apps
As the name suggests, hybrid apps are a combination between native mobile apps and web apps, as they incorporate elements from both types of apps. They can be distributed through an App store just like native ones, but a single code base makes it possible for them to be available for all operating systems without the need for separate development. (Nor the costs associated with it!)
Hybrid apps use a combination of different web technologies and native APIs, including Objective C, Ionic, HTML5, Swift, and others.
When it comes to the different types of apps, this one in particular is designed to take the best of both the native and the web app world. However, this has its pros and cons:
- Lower development costs – the fact that a single base code serves for all App stores and operating systems means that development costs will be much lower compared to native mobile apps. In fact, it is estimated that hybrid app development is about 30% cheaper than native one. Which is great news for businesses that want to have a mobile presence without having to spend all their budget on it.
- Faster to build – again, because developers do not need to write a unique code for every single app platform, hybrid apps are significantly faster to build compared to complex native frameworks. Of course, provided that you are not trying to incorporate a lot of custom or advanced features that require more attention in order to be deployed correctly in each app store. However, especially if you stick to the basics of hybrid app development, the same code can easily be translated to both iOS and Android much faster.
- Maintenance – of course, the more complex your app is, the more technical support and maintenance it will require over time. However, generally speaking, hybrid apps require a lot less maintenance than their native counterpart. Which does not only reduce costs, but also time for many businesses.
- Limitations in functionality – one of the biggest cons for these types of apps is their limitations when it comes to native functionality. Because hybrid apps rely on plugins – in other words – someone else’s code, users might not be able to incorporate all of the built-in features offered by their devices. Some plugins might be unreliable, inaccessible, or simply out of date.
- Lack of power and speed – compared to native mobile apps, the overall performance of hybrid ones is generally slower. Because a hybrid app has to download each element separately, they need more time to process and load information, which might also have a negative impact on user experience. And, after all, user experience is one of the most important aspects that every business must consider when considering an investment in app development.
- Connection limitations – another disadvantage for these types of apps has to do with internet connection limitations. Because they are essentially websites, they are not capable of working in offline mode. For users, this means that they will not be able to use their app whenever they want. For businesses, this also means that you are missing out on engagement opportunities that come with other types of apps, such as the ones we will discuss in our next section!
Type 3: Web Apps
Web apps are applications that behave and look like native apps, but they do not have to be downloaded on your phone from an app store, and they can be accessed from every device with a single URL. They are not standalone apps, meaning that you will not have to install actual code into your device. Web apps are, in fact, responsive websites that can easily adapt to the user interface of the device that the user is on.
However, you can still download them securely and directly on your phone as an icon or a bookmark in order to have an easy access to it. With the advantage that, compared to regular mobile apps, they are actually very light, and can take up to 90% less space than their native counterpart.
And now, let´s see the pros and cons for these types of apps:
- No need for third-party distribution systems – with native apps, you will have to go through a lengthy and somewhat frustrating process in order to get your app. Progressive web apps, however, are among the easiest types of apps to share and promote – because you do not have to download them from a third-party app store such as Google Play or the Apple app store. With a single URL or a QR code, your app can quickly reach your audience.
- Low development costs – compared to native mobile apps, which usually require custom development for each platform and operating system, the cost for developing progressive web apps is significantly lower. In fact, you can build one for just 11.99£ per month with Beezer´s intuitive drag & drop app builder. Because a single app meets the full requirements for practically all devices, platforms, systems and even browsers simultaneously, both production and maintenance costs are dropped significantly.
- Offline mode – as opposed to other types of apps, progressive web apps can actually work in offline mode. This means that your audience can access them even if they have connectivity issues, or even no connection at all. When a user opens his app online, all data is stored automatically so he can access it later even without connection.
- Can be indexed by search engines – one of the biggest benefits of PWAs compared to other types of apps is that they can actually be optimized for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This means that people could find your app by just browsing on Google, looking for something related within your industry. For example, native mobile apps are not indexable by search engines.
- Limited mobile feature accessibility – one drawback, although not necessarily a major one, is the limited ability of web apps to access the native features of the mobile device that the user is on. For example, being able to interact with the camera, gallery, location services, fingerprint scanners, and other ones.
- No app store access – the fact that there is no need for a third-party digital distribution system can be considered both an advantage and a disadvantage. Advantage, because this particular feature makes these types of apps much easier to share and promote on all your digital channels. However, it can also be considered a drawback as well because many people are used to look for apps in the app store, and they will simply not find this one there.
- Browser variation – variations between the different web browsers that people are using might occasionally cause challenges for running the app. Because progressive web apps are relatively new, not all browsers are going to support all features. There could be some functionalities available on some browsers but not all of them, so the experiences might be different between users.
Types of Apps: Choosing the right one
If you are evaluating the possibility to invest in app development and you need to make a decision, it is highly recommended that you look into all types of apps and the pros and cons of each one. Your final decision will probably depend on a variety of factors, such as:
- Budget – what is the approximate budget that you are expecting to invest in your app? If you are looking for a cost-efficient type of app, progressive web apps are probably your best bet, and even hybrid ones will be cheaper than native mobile apps.
- Complexity – how complex do you expect your app to be? If you want to develop an app with highly personalized and advanced features, you might want to go for a native mobile app. However, in this case, get ready to expect really high costs for its development.
- Time – if you need an app as soon as possible, and don´t want to wait months and even years for native app development, progressive web apps are probably your best choice. You can have them up and running in the matter of a single day! Or even a few minutes.
So, before making your final decision, make sure to evaluate all factors and types of apps, and of course – your business goals. What exactly are you trying to achieve with your app? The answer to this question will guide you towards the right type.