Last Updated on
April 25, 2024

What is hybrid mobile app development?

Key takeaways:
  • Hybrid app development combines some aspects of native and webview app development to take advantage of the benefits of both. Its often cheaper and faster than the former and more featured than the latter.
  • Hybrid app development takes a webview component and wraps it in native features, which reduces code complexity and duplication. It lets you reuse code and keep the experience consistent for developers and users.
  • MobiLoud can build a hybrid app for you based on your existing website, which gives your users a consistent experience and the backend keeps your workflows consistent while reusing work you've already done.

You have decided to take the plunge and create an app for your business. That is a good idea, considering the fact that more than half of online traffic today is from mobile devices and 90% of time spent on a phone is in apps.

But how will you build your app, and what form should it take?

You could opt to hire a team of coders and develop a native app, but that can quickly get expensive and complicated. Alternatively, you might try creating a webview app, which is basically a wrapper around a website. While that is a fast process, the end result can be lackluster and limited.

Instead, you can opt for hybrid mobile app development. This approach combines the best of both native app development and web apps. In this guide, we’ll explain what hybrid app development is and the benefits it brings.

What is a hybrid app?

A pair of hands highlighting documents in front of a computer with a phone lying on tap of a stack of papers between them on a wooden desk.
App development requires lots of planning and coordination.

Mobile app development can be broken down into three primary categories: native, webview, and hybrid. You are probably already using a mix of these daily on your phone, and they each have their benefits and drawbacks. To explain what a hybrid app is, we have to explain the other two types of apps first.

Native apps

Native apps, as the name implies, are built from the ground up for a specific device. That means iOS, Android, and other platforms, including Windows, Blackberry, and more. Still, Android and iOS make up 98.7% of the mobile OS market, so when we say native app, we usually mean one of those two platforms.

Native apps are built using programming languages specific to their operating system. On Android, that includes Java or Kotlin, while iOS apps use Swift or Objective-C. Because of this exclusivity, a native app built for one platform will not run on another. It will have to be rewritten to do that.

Why would you use a native app, then? Primarily, because native apps can harness hardware-specific features on their devices that other types of apps cannot. That is important if you need access to the accelerometer or GPS, for instance. They are also the fastest option, so if speed and responsiveness matter a lot, hybrid apps may be worth it.

They can also cost upwards of $150,000 per platform. And if you want cross-platform apps, you need to build two separate apps, doubling the time and monetary investment needed.

Therefore, for many use cases, native apps are not usually worth the time, effort, and platform exclusivity tradeoffs if you do not require such deep access to a device. 

Instead, you can turn to webview or hybrid apps.

Webview apps

Webview apps display a webpage. At the most basic level, this means you can access web content without going through the platform’s web browser (e.g., Firefox, Chrome, or Safari) directly.

You can think of a webview app like a browser embedded inside a frame, but with the tabs, scrollbars, and other UI elements of the browser stripped away. These apps primarily use web programming languages, including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

This approach gets an app built fast and cheap. It still looks like an app on a user’s device, too, with a launcher icon showing up in their apps list. It is also inherently cross-platform because you are not writing any platform-specific code and instead relying on a web browsing engine that already exists. 

You do not have to maintain separate code bases, either. That cuts down on development time and cost, plus a smaller team of people can create apps for both Android and iOS.

However, there are drawbacks to webview apps. Since you are basically presenting a user with a web page, you can only do what is possible on any other web page without native device features. Furthermore, you inherit all the quirks and hiccups of a platform’s web browser. So, on iOS, you get Safari’s quirks, and on Android, you get Chrome’s.

And one other crucial note is that basic webview apps that do not add any functionality and are basically just a webpage will not pass the Apple App Store Guidelines. It has to have more going on, like navigation features, splash screens, and other enhancements.

What is a progressive web app?

You may have heard of progressive web apps (PWAs) as well. This can get tricky to explain, because PWAs are rather subjective.

PWAs can be thought of as responsive websites that look and function like apps. That is also true of webview apps, right?

But unlike a webpage, the general idea behind a PWA is that you can visit the site in a browser, and it looks, feels, and works like an app. Plus, PWAs creep a little into hybrid territory because they can work offline, and show an app icon on the home screen.

We have a full guide on PWAs if you want to learn more about this development approach.

Hybrid apps

A diagram showing a hybrid app. It shows arrows pointing to the native elements at the top and bottom of two phones screens on the left and right and another set of arrows pointing to the web portions in the middle.
Hybrid apps combine native and web elements.

As the name implies, hybrid apps combine the approaches of native and webview apps. The core of the app uses webview technologies, and then it gets wrapped in native code for each platform.

On iOS, that means using WKWebView to display content, and on Android, it means using WebView. You can also add plugins or extensions that let you access native device features if and when you need them.

As you can see, this comes with many benefits. It is easy to create cross-platform apps because the core functions of your app are web-based, and then you only need to port a few lines of native code between platforms to get it working on iOS and Android. You can even access native features if you need them.

Like any app development approach, though, there are still drawbacks. Since you are using the same browsing engine as a platform’s native browser, there will be platform-specific hiccups and slowdowns to contend with. And the more extensions or plugins you add to access native features, the more you will have to tailor each version of your app for a specific platform.

Still, for many use cases, hybrid apps offer the ideal middle ground between native and web apps. You probably use many hybrid apps daily without realizing it, including Amazon, Instagram, Walmart, Etsy, and many others.

You can learn more about the app development process in this post.

The advantages of hybrid apps

Now that you know the basics of each app type and how they work, we can explore what specifically sets hybrid apps apart and why you might consider one. 


When you consider that Android and iOS are relatively evenly split in most markets, it makes sense not to favor one over the other. Hybrid apps are easy to create for both, and you get a consistent experience with each one.

Consistency is vital for both you and your customers. On your end, you will not have to maintain entirely separate codebases and timelines when you develop a hybrid app. Plus, you’ll use the same backends and workflows for each, so you will not duplicate any effort.

Hybrid apps will look and feel the same for customers, too, no matter what platform they choose. You will have access to the maximum number of customers, and they will have a smooth, consistent experience. 

Inconsistent, wonky apps that work differently on different platforms reflect your brand poorly. You’ll avoid all that with hybrid apps.

Much easier, cheaper maintenance

Beyond the actual app development process being easier and faster, your maintenance costs will be, too. Remember, every app requires upkeep, bug fixes, and improvements, and with a hybrid app, it all flows much more smoothly.

As a result, every time you launch a new feature, fix a bug, or publish a security update, you can quickly push it to both your Android and iOS users. Instead of having separate teams coding for both or long wait times between sending updates to one platform versus another, everyone gets the same experience.

Since you are not maintaining two separate code bases, you’ll also reduce your maintenance costs. 

What development options are there for hybrid apps?

Now that you have an idea of the benefits of hybrid apps, we can discuss how to get one built. There are many frameworks out there, but here are some of the most popular and the highlights of each one.


Ionic lets you build hybrid apps using CSS, JavaScript, HTLM, and mobile-specific code for Android, iOS, desktop, and the web. Like most hybrid app development tools, if you need to dive into native device features, you can.

Some notable brands that use Ionic include the Southwest Airlines app, the Instant Pot app, the Target app, and many others. 

One of the handy things about Ionic is that you do not need to create a UI to use the rest of its features. So, if you have a specific look and feel in mind, you can do it with Ionic. However, it likely won’t let you reuse your website and turn it into an app.

Apache Cordova

Apache Cordova uses web languages, including CSS, JavaScript, and HTML. It’s been around for a while now, and as a result, it powers some notable hybrid apps, including Untppd, SparkChess, and many others.

As mentioned earlier, you can tie in plugins to access native features if you wish. The app you build will use a webview inside a larger app.

Remember, to pass the Apple App Store Guidelines, you need to add actual functionality beyond a webview. So, be sure to do that if you want your Cordova app accepted by both the Android and iOS app stores.

.NET MAUI (formerly Xamarin)

Microsoft has entered the hybrid app development world with .NET MAUI. It uses C# and .NET and lets you build apps for iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. Unlike some other hybrid app platforms, however, you have to use C# rather than web languages.

However, it does mean you can use Visual Studio to build apps. Many Coding teams already use Visual Studio, which might be more familiar to you. Some apps built using .NET MAUI include the UPS Mobile app, Microsoft’s Azure app, and NBC Sports Next.

Just remember that C# comes with a learning curve. And .NET MAUI likely won’t let you turn your website into an app.

Build your hybrid app today with MobiLoud

A screenshot of the MobiLoud webage reading "Turn your online store into a mobile app in under 2 weeks."
MobiLoud can build you a hybrid app quickly and for far less money than a native app.

We have already covered the fact that you can share code between iOS and Android with a hybrid app. But did you also consider sharing code between your website and app with a hybrid approach?

Remember, you have already established your online presence with a website. Reusing the way it looks, feels, and functions means a much smoother process for you and better experiences for your customers.

Chances are, whatever you have coded for your website would have to be rewritten to be a native app. That means separate backends, logins, and workflows. Plus, it won’t be the same for your customers, either. Webview apps would likely be unsatisfactory as well because they would essentially be a mobile view of your website.

Hybrid apps avoid all this. Instead, you can quickly turn your website into an app, with all of your custom code, plugins, and features in place. They even let you maintain the same catalog and logins on the backend.

So, instead of reinventing the wheel, you can use what you already have with hybrid apps.

You can turn your website into a hybrid app with MobiLoud. We can help you launch an app in under a month. There is no need to hire large teams of programmers or do any coding yourself. We do all the work; you get a fully functional hybrid app.

We convert your existing website into an app using native elements for tabs, push notifications, content preloading for your pages, caching, and offline support. Thanks to our use of the latest technologies and caching, we have also addressed the slowness sometimes associated with hybrid apps to ensure the best speeds possible.

Your app includes all the existing features on your website, including storefronts, checkout, plugins, custom code, and more. 

You also get all the essential features of a mobile app. These include push notifications, a mobile-friendly UI, and cross-platform support.

We have built apps for all sorts of businesses, too. Whether you are a fashion retailer, a magazine, or a music festival, our hybrid apps have been used for every kind of use case. To see what your app could look like, use our free preview feature.

Contact us today to find out how quick and easy it is to turn your website into a hybrid app.

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