Comparing the 4 Mobile Application Development Approaches – When to Use What?

by sagacity

An average consumer spent $10.64 on mobile apps in Q4 2021. Considering that 6.64 billion smartphones are sufficing the modern world, the inevitable conclusion is that mobile apps are a necessity and a massive revenue generator. 

Naturally, then, the commercial success of almost every business is heavily correlated with its ability to leverage the mobile-first approach. But not every app is (and should be) born equal. Depending on the target audience, various strategies and techniques are employed to make apps most engaging, measurable, and cost-efficient.

Broadly speaking, there are four primary methods of developing mobile apps: native, progressive, hybrid, and responsive web. Each method has its pros and cons, and your choice depends on what you need your mobile app to do. 

Let’s break down these approaches, how they differ, and what would work best for you.


Native App Development

Native apps are software programs that run on a specific platform (operating system). This means that they are explicitly designed to work within the rules and limitations of that operating system.

They are compiled into executable files that can be uploaded to Google Play Store or Apple App Store for distribution. Users need to download the apps from the specific app stores.  

All in all, native apps can take advantage of the OS’s hardware and software capabilities, making them more efficient than hybrid and web apps (explained below) in that regard.



  • Faster performance: Native apps have the advantage that they use platform-specific features which helps speed up the application’s performance.
  • Enhanced user experience: Native apps have a better grip on user experience (UX) courtesy of their offline availability and consistent OS design. Of course, a lot goes into defining the UX; however, this consistency keeps the users’ interests intact. 
  • Better compatibility with platforms: Around 230 billion apps were downloaded in 2021 across major categories like social media, OTT, IM, etc. All these apps must work consistently across different device sizes and operating systems. Favorably, native apps support dynamic compatibility and keep the design and functionality consistent across OSs.


When To Use?

Native is the best bet for building a product if you need a smooth and high-quality UX that’s customized for every device. This is complemented by high-performance functioning, thus, driving the full use of platform/device/OS under consideration.


Progressive Web Applications Development

Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) combine the best of the web and native applications. They’re built with progressive enhancement in mind and designed to work even if the app users are offline or have a poor internet connection. As such, they can be accessed from anywhere and could work across multiple platforms.

PWAs provide an app-like experience with notifications, home screen icons, and more. They’re also just as fast as native apps, and users don’t need to install them on their device – one just needs to visit their URLs in your browser, and they start working immediately. Thankfully, they’re created using modern web development standards rather than relying on older technologies like Flash.



  • Faster mobile website loading time: There is no need for a separate mobile site with a progressive web app because it works well on any browser or device. It also loads faster than a regular mobile website, meaning users will experience faster loading times without straining their data usage.
  • They can access device features: PWAs use all browser APIs, meaning they can access device hardware like cameras, GPS, accelerometers, etc., just like native mobile applications do. This makes them more interactive than standard websites, which cannot access such out-of-the-box functionality under normal circumstances due to security restrictions imposed by browsers.


When To Use?

PWAs have a broad use case. Emergent Research projects them to capitalize at more than $10 billion in the next few years. You should consider using progressive web apps if your website needs to offer users a consistent experience across multiple platforms or if your website needs to be accessible in areas without an internet connection. It allows you to get an app-like experience while still using the power of a browser.


Hybrid Mobile App Development

Hybrid mobile app development combines native and web technologies to create compelling mobile applications. The main aim of the hybrid approach is to facilitate cross-platform functioning with one coding language. 

Technically, hybrid mobile apps are built using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, etc. They combine with native components, such as UI elements, graphics, animations, etc., to create a cross-platform application that seamlessly works on Android and iOS platforms.



  • Easier to build: Hybrid apps are easier to develop because they use existing web technologies, like HTML5 and CSS3, rather than building everything from scratch. This means that developers don’t have to learn new languages or frameworks. They can employ what they’ve mastered.
  • Faster: Enterprises don’t have to wait for the app store approval process because they use existing web technologies. They can publish their hybrid apps immediately and get users’ feedback right away.


When To Use?

Hybrid mobile app development is a great way to get a lot of functionality out of a smaller development budget.

As elucidated above, they’re built using web technologies, allowing them to be used on any device with a browser and internet connection. This gives them a highly desirable versatility edge.


Responsive Web Design

Responsive mobile experience emanating from the responsive web design approach is characterized by the device-agnostic method of creating a web experience that adapts to any screen size and orientation. Such an approach ensures that the app is compatible with the most popular mobile platforms and browsers.

This technique is used on websites that are viewed by various devices with different screen sizes, such as desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Apps built with responsive web design can automatically resize themselves to fit whatever display they’re being viewed on. Responsive web design also allows one code base to be applied across all devices, reducing costs. This is an alternative to building multiple page versions for each device.



  • Affordable: It saves time (therefore money) because enterprises don’t have to build multiple versions of their app for different devices (which would require hiring more developers). Besides, responsive web design costs less than the usual native apps because enterprises do not need to build multiple versions from the ground up.
  • Better usability: It’s easier for users because they don’t have to click through several links to get where they want to go. They won’t feel the difference between your mobile website and a native app.


When To Use?

Responsive web design is an excellent choice for any business looking to expand its reach and attract more customers. Responsive web design allows them to reach a wider audience and give app users a better experience. Furthermore, it’s an easy way to ensure your mobile site looks great on all devices, no matter their orientation.



While creating a mobile app, you must address aspects, including usability, graphics, modules, or software used for your app. You need to consider the user, how they will use the application, and what device they carry.

Favorably, with various approaches to developing mobile applications, you can create custom solutions that suit your needs perfectly.

Have an excellent idea for your app? Sagacity can help!

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