PWA vs Native VS Hybrid App – Which Is Right For You in 2024?

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), native apps, and hybrid apps are 3 popular options for mobile application development. Each has its own architecture, features, and use cases.

PWAs are web apps that use modern web capabilities to deliver app-like experiences. They run in the browser and work across different platforms.

Native apps are built specifically for a device's operating system, like iOS or Android. They are installed through app stores and access all of the device's capabilities.

Hybrid apps use web technologies but are wrapped in a native container and deployed to app stores. They bridge web and native approaches.

This blog will compare PWAs, native apps, and hybrid apps across various factors to help you determine the best option for your needs. We'll look at performance, user experience, development, accessibility, offline usage, maintenance, security, and more. Understanding the key differences will allow you to make an informed decision when building a mobile app.

What is a PWA?

A Progressive Web App (PWA) is a web app that uses modern web capabilities to deliver a native app-like experience to users. PWAs are built using standard web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Unlike traditional web apps, PWAs take advantage of features like service workers and web app manifests to provide additional benefits like offline access, push notifications, and an icon on the user's home screen.

Some key characteristics of PWAs:

Progressive - Work for every user, regardless of browser choice. They are progressive in nature as they work for all browsers.

Responsive - Fit any device screen size: desktop, mobile, tablet, etc.

Connectivity independent - Service workers allow work offline or with low network connectivity.

App-like - It feels like an app with app-style interactions and navigation.

Fresh - Always up-to-date thanks to service worker update process.

Safe - Served over HTTPS to prevent snooping and ensure content hasn't been tampered with.

Discoverable - Identifiable as “applications” through W3C manifest and service worker registration.

Re-engageable - Web push notifications re-engage users.

Installable - Allow users to “keep” apps they find most useful on their home screen.

Linkable - Easily shared via a URL and does not require complex installation.

So in summary, a PWA combines the best of web and native apps - it provides a native-app-like user experience but is built using open web technologies. PWAs are reliable, fast, and engaging while reachable by anyone on any device with a single codebase.

Architecture Differences

Native, hybrid, and progressive web apps have fundamentally different architectures and approaches to how the app is built.

Native Apps

Native apps are built using the native development tools and languages for each platform - Java/Kotlin for Android, and Swift/Objective-C for iOS. The codebase is platform-specific and apps have direct access to all native device capabilities through platform-specific APIs.

Native apps provide the highest performance since everything is natively compiled and optimized for the given device OS and hardware. The downside is you need to build the app separately for each platform, resulting in higher development costs.

Hybrid Apps

In Hybrid app development, various web technologies are used, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript along with frameworks like Apache Cordova, Ionic, or React Native. The web codebase is wrapped in a native container that has access to native APIs via JavaScript bridges.

While hybrid apps use web code, they are still installed on devices like native apps. Performance relies on the web view rendering and can be slower than fully native. But you can build for multiple platforms more easily sharing most of the codebase.

Progressive Web Apps

PWAs are built using standard web technologies - HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The website is enhanced with features like offline support, background sync, and push notifications that make it feel more app-like.

PWAs run in the browser so no installation is required. They can match native app performance by utilizing service workers for caching. PWAs work across all platforms with a single codebase. However, they have limited access to native device hardware and APIs.


Performance is a crucial factor when choosing between PWAs, native apps, and hybrid apps. This includes both speed and responsiveness.

PWAs can offer near-native performance thanks to features like service workers for caching assets and background sync for network requests. Well-optimized PWAs load fast even on slow networks. They are also responsive since they rely on web technologies like JavaScript. However, native apps still have a slight edge when it comes to consistently smooth animations and transitions.

Native apps offer the best performance since they are built specifically for the target platform. They have direct access to native APIs and are compiled into machine code, allowing them to achieve 60fps animations and seamless UX. However, the performance depends on the skills of the developer. A poorly coded native app can still be slow and clunky.

Hybrid apps fall somewhere in between. They use web technologies but are wrapped in a native container, giving them access to some native APIs for performance boosts. However, they still cannot fully match the speed and fluidity of well-optimized native apps, especially for complex visuals and animations. The performance can also deteriorate over time as the app grows.

So in summary - PWAs can offer great performance that meets most user needs, but native apps edge them out for consistently flawless animations and transitions. Hybrid app performance depends on the complexity but will likely fall short of well-coded native apps, especially as the app grows over time.

User Experience

The user experience can vary significantly between PWA, native, and hybrid apps.

PWAs aim to provide an app-like experience while still leveraging the benefits of websites. The key advantage is the ability to work cross-platform, delivering a consistent UI whether on mobile, desktop or tablet. PWAs also load faster than websites and can provide features like push notifications. However, they may lack some native capabilities and smoothness compared to native apps.

Native apps provide the best user experience as they utilize platform-specific UI components and have full access to device capabilities. The UI is fast, fluid and optimized for each platform. Native apps can fully leverage features like advanced animations, gestures, 3D touch etc. However, native apps need to be built separately for each platform which can be more work.

Hybrid apps use web technologies but are wrapped in a native container which allows accessing some device capabilities not available to websites. The UI is rendered using web technologies so it may not be as smooth or fast as pure native. Hybrid apps can work cross-platform but may have limitations in leveraging native features. The upside is faster cross-platform development though the UX tradeoffs need consideration.

Overall, native apps deliver the best and most optimized UX. PWAs aim for app-like UX but with web strengths while hybrid apps take a middle path. The choice depends on development priorities and target users. For consumer apps demanding high quality native UX, native development is recommended.


Developing each type of app comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages from a developer's perspective.

Progressive Web Apps

PWAs can be built using standard web development skills like HTML, CSS and JavaScript so there is no need to learn new languages or frameworks. The service worker and manifest file do add some additional configuration but overall PWAs are fast and easy for web developers to build. The main benefits of developing PWAs include:

• Leverage existing web dev skills and avoid learning new languages

• Quick iterations since there is no compilation step

• Seamless integration with web analytics and other web-based tools

• Can be hosted and deployed just like a website

The downside is that PWAs do not have access to all native device capabilities out-of-the-box so for advanced features, additional plugins or libraries may be needed.

Native Apps

Developing native apps requires learning platform-specific languages like Swift/Objective-C for iOS or Java/Kotlin for Android. There is a steeper learning curve compared to web development. However, native apps have full access to device capabilities and APIs for the richest user experience. Other benefits include:

• Maximize performance through direct access to native APIs

• Tighter integration with OS features like notifications or widgets

• Distribution through app stores for discoverability and updates

The cons are slower development speed due to compilation and more effort to build for multiple platforms.

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps use web development skills combined with a native wrapper framework like React Native, Flutter, or Ionic. This allows access to some native features while reusing existing web skills. Benefits of the hybrid approach include:

• Faster cross-platform development using web skills

• Partial access to native APIs through the framework

• Ability to deploy as a website or native app package

The downsides are performance may not be as fast as pure native and some device integration limitations. The framework also adds its own learning curve.

Overall, it depends on the specific app requirements and team skills when choosing the best development approach. PWAs offer the fastest web development while native maximizes performance and customization. Hybrid provides a middle ground for teams with web skills.


Accessibility refers to how easily people with disabilities can use an app. This is an important consideration for any app development approach.

• PWAs have good accessibility support across modern browsers. They utilize web standards like WAI-ARIA for accessible components. However, PWAs may have limited accessibility on some older platforms.

• Native apps have the best accessibility support on their target platform. iOS and Android provide robust accessibility APIs to support screen readers, text-to-speech, captions, and more. However, a native app only targets one platform.

• Hybrid apps also have good accessibility support on mobile when built properly with web standards. The embedded web content can interact with native APIs for accessibility. But support will vary based on review implementation.

Overall, native apps tend to provide the most robust accessibility support, followed by hybrid apps and PWAs. However, PWAs have the advantage of a web codebase that can be accessible across multiple platforms. So there is no clear winner - it depends on the target platforms and user needs. Developers should aim for high accessibility regardless of approach.

Offline Usage

Offline capabilities are an important consideration when choosing between PWAs, native apps, and hybrid apps.

• PWAs offer robust offline support through service workers and cache APIs. Once a user visits a PWA, it gets cached locally and loads like a native app when offline. PWAs can also leverage background sync to submit data and receive push notifications when connection is restored.

• Native apps have full access to device features and can build offline workflows leveraging local storage. Data is persisted and the app remains functional without an internet connection.

• Hybrid apps can also leverage browser caching and local storage for offline support. However, the webview container may limit access to some native features that fully native apps can utilize offline. Performance could suffer compared to a truly native experience.

Overall, PWAs and native apps generally provide better offline capabilities over hybrid apps. PWAs match or exceed hybrid apps for offline use cases, while native remains optimal for full control. The choice depends on weighing offline needs with other factors like development costs and time to market.


Maintenance needs vary greatly between PWAs, native apps, and hybrid apps.

• PWAs require very little maintenance since the app codebase lives on a server. As long as the server is maintained, the PWA will be updated for all users automatically when they load the app. Some additional maintenance may be required for the service worker and cache, but overall maintenance needs are minimal.

• Native apps require releasing new versions of the app in the relevant app store(s) whenever new features or fixes need to be deployed. This makes native app maintenance more complicated than PWAs. Automated testing and CI/CD pipelines help streamline some of these processes.

• Hybrid apps require app store deployments like native apps. But they also require maintenance of the web codebase that renders within the native wrapper. This makes maintenance more complicated than native or PWA. Any changes to UI, business logic, or data require repackaging and redeploying the hybrid app. Developers must also ensure the web and native layers remain in sync through ongoing maintenance.

So in summary, PWAs have the lowest maintenance overhead, followed by native apps. Hybrid apps require the most involved maintenance processes.


Native and hybrid apps have the advantage when it comes to security compared to PWAs.

• Native apps are written specifically for the platform they are built for, allowing access to built-in security features provided by the OS and hardware. For example, iOS apps can take advantage of Apple's App Transport Security feature which enforces secure connections. Android apps can integrate with the Keystore system to securely store cryptographic keys.

• Hybrid apps also have access to native security features as they are essentially native apps running embedded web views. The native container handles permissions, certificates, and encryption while the web code accesses APIs through a bridge.

• PWAs on the other hand rely on the security model of the browser which sandbox web resources to prevent access outside of it. Without native integration, PWAs cannot access native encryption, key stores, trusted hardware, etc. PWAs also do not have the walled garden approach of app stores for vetting.

However, PWAs can implement other measures like HTTPS, CORS, Content Security Policy, and authentication with protocols like OAuth to strengthen security. When hosted on HTTPS, PWAs can take advantage of TLS for secure communication. Proper implementation is key for PWAs to provide adequate security.


Native and hybrid apps have security advantages from tight OS integration and app store review processes. PWAs can still achieve solid security but require more effort compared to leveraging existing native security features.

Posted By Silvia Smith
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