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Native vs Hybrid / PhoneGap App Development Comparison

A comparison of native app development (iPhone: Objective-C / Swift, Android: Java) vs hybrid / PhoneGap app development (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript)

Native app development means using the native programming languages of the devices to build the app. For iPhone, the native programming language is Objective C and the new Swift. For Android, the native programming language is Java.

Hybrid apps are developed using web technologies: HTML5, CSS and JavaScript, then put inside a native container such Adobe PhoneGap. These native containers run the web application code and package it into an app.

Both technologies: hybrid (HTML5, CSS and Javascript) and native can creates apps that are downloadable for iPhone and Android, at Google Play or apple iTunes app Store.

There are benefits and drawbacks to using either technology. In this article I will go over some of the advantages and disatvantages of using hybrid app development (HTML5, CSS and JavaScript) vs native app development technologies.

I. Design of Interfaces

Most mobile interfaces can be implemented using either native app or hybrid app development technologies; however, there is more flexibility in designing these interfaces using hybrid / PhoneGap app development technology. Hybrid app development uses HTML5 and CSS3 that have far superior capabilities when designing interfaces with many form factors and highly dynamic content.

However, there are some drawbacks and interface design issues that may come up when using hybrid app development.

Sometimes it is tedious and is time consuming to implement certain standard native user experience designs and complicated interfaces using hybrid app development technology.

The native app development environment provides tools and design widgets for creating certain standard interfaces with native user interaction experience which are not currently available using hybrid app development tools. So, it is easier to create native app user expereince using native app development environment.

II. Cost:

It is more cost effective to build mobile apps using hybrid / PhoneGap app development technology stack. Hybrid / PhoneGap apps leverage high quality and diverse sets of libraries as well as providing the tools required to reduce the development time.

However, keep in mind that if you would need to create a certain native user experience and native feel, it can be more time consuming and more costly to design and develop a certain native user experience using hybrid app development technology.

Also, with hybrid app development, you can build it once and submit it to all of the platforms (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone) using PhoneGap technology. So, you would be saving money by not having to build the app using native programming language of each platform.

Below tables shows the average cost of mobile app development using hybrid vs native mobile app development:

MVP: Minimum Viable Product

Ball-park Cost Breakdown for Native App Development: Android & iPhone
Project Small MVP Small Enterprise Medium MVP Medium Enterprise Large MVP Large Enterprise
Discovery and Wireframing $1,500 $2,500 $2,500 $3,500 $5,000 $9,000
App Screen Designs $2,000 $3,000 $3,500 $5,000 $5,000 $9,000
iOS native development $9,000 $11,000 $37,000 $45,000 $60,000 $90,000
Android native development $9,000 $11,000 $37,000 $45,000 $60,000 $90,000
Back-end Programing, Database and APIs $5,000 $7,000 $9,000 $10,000 $12,000 $12,000
Application Administration N/A $7,500 $9,000 $15,000 $10,000 $20,000
Quality Assurance and Refinements iOS $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $6,500 $7,000 $9,000
Quality Assurance and Refinements Android $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $6,500 $7,000 $9,000
Deployment and Cloud $1,500 $2,000 $2,000 $3,000 $2,000 $3,000
Total (One Platform) $21,000 $35,500 $68,000 $81,000 $101,000 $152,000
Total (Android and iPhone) $32,000 $49,000 $110,000 $125,500 $168,000 $251,000

Ball-park Cost Breakdown for Hybrid App Development: Android & iPhone
Project Small MVP Small Enterprise Medium MVP Medium Enterprise Large MVP Large Enterprise
Discovery and Wireframing $1,500 $2,500 $2,500 $3,500 $5,000 $7,500
App Screen Designs $2,000 $3,000 $3,500 $6,000 $5,000 $9,000
Hybrid App Development using PhoneGap technology $10,000 $12,000 $38,000 $45,000 $65,000 $100,000
Back-end Programing, Database and APIs $5,000 $7,000 $9,000 $10,000 $12,000 $12,000
Application Administration N/A $7,500 $9,000 $15,000 $10,000 $20,000
Quality Assurance and Refinements $2,000 $4,000 $5,000 $7,000 $9,000 $11,000
Deployment and Cloud $1,500 $2,500 $2,000 $3,000 $2,000 $3,000
Total (Android & iPhone) $22,000 $38,500 $69,000 $89,500 $108,000 $162,500

The above costs is just a ball park averge cost. The cost can be lower or higher based on mobile app project size and specifications.

There are times when the developer uses native coding within the hybrid environment in order to implement certain features that are only available through native development. For the purpose of providing the above cost, I assumed that the hybrid project does not require any native app development.

III. development Timeline

Hybrid apps are easier and faster to develop and deploy. However, if there are a lot of native and complicated features that are beyond the capability of the hybrid app Framework and Environment, then it will be more time consuming to build for hybrid apps.

IV. User Experience and Performance

Native apps provide better performance, responsive and fluid experience and a user can navigate and interact with the app without noticing any loading delays.

Hybrid apps tend to have some user interaction delays, and users can notice that the app is not as responsive sometimes.

Here are some examples of user interaction experience between native vs hybrid apps

  • Clicks are more responsive on native apps, but with hybrid, the user may need to click more than once in order for the app to response. However, there are some workarounds for this problem. Comentum's experienced programmers have come up with a JavaScript code for making clicks more responsive in hybrid apps. But, usually this type of attention to details are not implemented on most hybrid apps and the user may become frustrated having to click a few times before getting a response.
  • Scrolling list feel seemless on native apps, but with hybrid, the user may feel some frame loading delays. There are also some workaround for this problem with hybrid that may help reduce the frame per second delays in hybrid
  • Large animations execute much more fluid on native apps, but with hybrid apps, large animations may not behave seamlessly.

Additionally, the native app development environment provides design and user interaction widgets that comes standard with each platform. So, the users will have a better experience because they are familiar with the standard native expereince of the app.

Also, accessibility is built into the native applications. So, for example if an iPhone user set up his iPhone's preferences to show large fonts by default, native apps will show the larger fonts by default, but hybrid apps will not show default fonts

V. Maintainability

Hybrid / PhoneGap apps is more maintainable as long as the developer chooses a right framework such as KendoUI, jQuery mobile, Ionic, etc. This is because it is easier to maintain the Web app technology (HTML, CSS and JavaScript) than a native app technology.

Also, it is important to note that if the right framework is not used for hybrid app and the code is not written properly, the app will not be maintainable.

VI. Limitations

Native apps are developed using native app Design Tools that are provided for the purpose of building the mobile apps for the platform, so implementing many native features and new technologies are easily adoptable and built into the native mobile app Environment Tools that are provided for each platform.

When building hybrid apps, the developer relies on the mobile app development framework and tools and it's capabilities and provided features to build the app. So, if the tools and framework used is not up-to-date to provide a certain new features, the developer will be at the disadvantage and cannot implement features that are not provided by the hybrid app development Framework and Tools.

So, depending the app feature requirements, hybrid app environment may have limitations on implementing many native features.

VII. Security

Depending on the security requirements of the project, native apps may provide better security environment; however, most of the security issues are created based on the developers lack of expereince is security and server-side security issues.

So, if the app requires many security features, you may need to make sure that all of the security features can be implemented in a hybrid app environment.

VIII. Support and Resources

Since native app development Environment provides a lot of resources and options to develop for mobile apps, there are more support and available resources for building native mobile apps.

IX. Tools and Debugging

Native development provides better development environment and tooling to test and debug the work, so it is much easier and less time consuming to find and fix bugs using native development Tools

There are not reliable hybrid app development tools that can help with debugging and fixing issues, so, sometimes the developer may spend a few hours to fix a problem in hybrid app environment where the same problem can be identified and fixed within minutes using the native app development tools.

X. Platform Independent

One of the main advantage of hybrid app development is that the developer can build it once and then using a technology such as Adobe PhoneGap, submit the app to all platforms (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry)

XI. Popularity

Since native app Environment provide a more fluid user experience and less likely to have feature limitations, most of the large app companies use native app development environment rather than hybrid app environment.

The following table lists the top, popular apps and the platform and languages they use:

app native hybrid - PhoneGap

XII. Summary

Here are different scenarios for building apps in hybrid or native:

Hybrid / PhoneGap:

  • For budgetary limitation, hybrid app may be a better choice.
  • If there is a need to quickly develop the app, hybrid app may be a better choice.
  • If the app is simple, does not have large animations, does not have lots of clicks and does not require lots of native user interaction, hybrid will be a better choice.


  • If the requirement is to create the best user experience, native development is a better choice.
  • For companies with sufficient allocated budget that are planning to build and maintain large app projects and do not want to worry about limitations for implementing new technologies, and support, native is a better choice.
Item native has Advantage hybrid has Advantage
Platform Independent  
Quicker development  
User Experience  
No Limitations  
Tools and Debugging  

Research for this article was completed January 26, 2015; information may change.

Bernard Kohan

Bernard Kohan is a mobile app and web application development and technology analyst expert. He is available to discuss any issues or questions you have about web development and the best choices for your company or project.

Bernard can be reached at

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Joseph Montanez

Joseph Montanez is the head of Comentum's programming department, and technology analyst expert at Comentum.

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