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Native, Cross-Platform, Hybrid, or Cloud-Based Apps: Which is the Right Choice For Your Mobile Needs?

Before planning your next mobile app, you need to know which type is the right one for your business.

Damian Scalerandi

By Damian Scalerandi

SVP of Professional Services Damian Scalerandi leads every step of IT project delivery with multi-cutural teams to help accomplish client goals.

10 min read

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If your business doesn’t already have a mobile app, you’re behind the curve. Most likely, your competition has already released a mobile app that makes it easier for their customers to interact with their website, their services, or their eCommerce solution.

Given that mobile apps have become easier to develop and deploy, there’s absolutely no reason why your business shouldn’t have such an option. And as you begin the journey of mobile development, you’ll immediately run into a question you must answer before that first line of code is written. 

That question is—which type of mobile app is best suited for your business? You might be surprised to know there are a few different types of apps that can be used on a mobile device. The 3 primary types are:

  • Native
  • Hybrid
  • Web apps

There are also 2 secondary types you might consider:

  • Cross-platform
  • Cloud-based

Let’s take a look at each of these types of apps to see which one is the right fit for your business.

Native Mobile Apps

This is, by far, one of the most popular types of mobile applications. Native apps are designed from the ground up to be installed and run natively on an operating system. This means a native app developed for iOS will only run on iPhones and apps developed for Android will only work on Google’s platform. 

These apps can’t be installed on a competitor’s OS, so your developers not only must know those platforms well but be able to develop in their native languages (Java for Android and Swift for iOS).

Native apps take full advantage of mobile devices, which is why so many opt to go this route. When the performance of an application is at the top of your list of must-haves, the native app is the way to go. This type of app is also better capable of optimizing the experience for the end user.

The primary benefits of opting for native mobile apps include:

  • High performance
  • Better security
  • More interactive and intuitive
  • Can access the full device feature set 
  • Fewer issues during the development process

Native mobile apps have a few pitfalls to keep in mind. First off, they can only run on one platform, which means if you want to deploy to both Android and iOS, you’ll have to develop for both platforms. This means native mobile apps can be costlier to develop, and they also require specialized developers for each platform.

Hybrid Mobile Apps

Hybrid mobile apps are installed on both Android and iOS devices in the same way as native apps, only they run through the native web browser (or a subsystem, such as Android’s WebView) that renders app content. Hybrid mobile apps are developed using HTML5, so anyone with a solid grasp of the language can write an app that will run on either Android or iOS.

The biggest benefits of hybrid mobile apps are that you can develop one app to run on both major mobile platforms and the development lifecycle is considerably shortened. So not only can you save money with the hybrid mobile app, you can release them faster. And because any developer who knows HTML5 can develop this type of app, the talent pool is considerably large, so you shouldn’t have any problem hiring top developers.

Web Apps

The final type of primary app is the web application. Think about this type of app in terms of your website. When you visit your website on a desktop browser, it is displayed in such a way that it takes advantage of the entire screen and a web browser that can be resized at will. When you view that same desktop website on a mobile device, it becomes almost impossible to use without zooming in and dragging the page around to read the text. 

That’s where web apps come in handy. When a user visits a site that takes advantage of adaptive web applications with a mobile device, that site automatically displays the pages in such a way that is not only perfectly viewable but the site elements are displayed in such a way that they are optimized for both the smaller screens and touch interaction.

The primary advantage of these types of mobile applications is that they are generally built into modern-day web frameworks, so they’re easy and cost-effective to deploy.

Cross-Platform Mobile Apps

Instead of building a native application for each platform, why not develop for both at the same time? That’s precisely what you get with cross-platform apps. There are a few development tools that make it possible for you to develop these apps, such as:

  • Xamarin
  • RhoMobile
  • NativeScript
  • Kony Mobile Platform
  • Monocross
  • Sencha Touch
  • Appcelerator
  • PhoneGap

The biggest downfall of developing cross-platform mobile apps is that they can be more expensive because you’re hiring developers who know very specific technologies. But although those apps can be a bit more costly, they do make it possible for you to deliver apps for both platforms much faster.

Cloud-Based Mobile Apps

This type of application is designed such that it can be accessed from any type of computing device. Both mobile cloud applications and web applications are very similar. The biggest difference is that cloud-based mobile apps tend to run in a virtual environment (such as a third-party cloud host). Like web apps, cloud-based mobile apps aren’t downloaded or installed but are served up from cloud-hosted accounts and platforms.

This means, like web applications, developers only need to write one app that can be viewed on both Android and iOS. The biggest downfall of cloud-based mobile apps is that developers must be skilled enough to write and manage numerous APIs and cost-effectively work with cloud services, otherwise, this type of app can extend well beyond your development budget.


In the end, the choice is simple. If you want the best app experience for end users, you go with a native mobile app. If you want to cut costs but give the end user a good experience, you go with the hybrid. If you want speed of delivery and lower cost, go with the web-based application. 

No matter which route you take, just remember it’s important to make a choice. Your business needs a mobile application to make it easier for more and more clients to access your products and services.

Damian Scalerandi

By Damian Scalerandi

Damian Scalerandi is SVP of Professional Services at BairesDev. Damian leads every step of IT projects from design through project delivery. His 10+ years of experience in the tech field helps him lead globally diverse teams on large-scale tech projects.

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