Evident increase of mobile device users results in rapid expansion of the mobile applications market. It is no wonder that business owners also strive for turning mobile. If a person has already made a decision to create a mobile application, the next stage is to determine its kind: native, web or hybrid.
Native applications are downloaded through application stores (App Store, Google Play or its affiliates, Windows phone store etc.) and installed in the smartphone software. An essential difference is that native applications are developed solely for a certain platform (for example, iOS, Android or Windows Phone) and require from a mobile software developer particular skills and abilities to work in a certain environment (xCode for iPhone, eclipse for Android). In addition, only “native” programming languages can be applied for creating such applications. The process is, of course, more labour-consuming.
Thus, native applications are fitted to a particular OS and look very attractive on smartphones. Such applications can easily utilize all software functionality of a smartphone (camera, microphone, geolocation, address book, player etc.) and, meanwhile, consume the phone resources more efficiently (energy saving, memory). Due to its purpose an application can be used either with, or without internet connection.
Web applications or html5
A web application is reasonably called HTML5-application, for it is actually a website adapted for smartphones. User interface is created by means of standard web technologies, and you don’t need to download them from application stores, but they can be located in special web app stores that some up-to-date browsers (like Chrome) may have. Web applications employ the phone’s browser and their basic particular qualities include a cross-platform feature. That means capability to work on all devices without additional customization.
Regardless of the installed software such applications can’t use the software of smartphones. To update the application you will need to have an internet connection and the performance is limited by traffic speed of the internet provider.
In fact, the difference between a website adapted for a mobile device (or with an adaptive design ensuring an appropriate display on any device) and a web application is very slight.
The point is that web technologies are developing very swiftly and the difference is getting more diffused, for websites are getting more similar to web applications. To explain briefly, a website represents rather static information (it’s in fact a digital booklet or leaflet). And if a user can interact with that information (alter texts and design, create own sites etc.), we call it web application.
Hybrid applications combine the features of native and web applications. Such applications can be downloaded through app stores and are able to update independently. Hybrid applications require internet connection, for the web part is updated via internet.
The development of a hybrid application proceeds faster and cheaper than of native one. Although the shell is coded in the native programming language, the contents can be coded using HTML5. It is to be mentioned that a user can scarcely notice the difference between a native and hybrid application.
Thus, all technologies have their pros and cons. You can scarcely decide for sure which one to choose. It is vital to determine the purpose of the developed product, who is going to use it, how often, which priority is higher – performance, functionality or versatility. In any case, before starting a mobile software development it is highly recommended to conduct a detailed analysis.