Web, Mobile, Native, Hybrid, Progressive or Software Application? What Are the Differences?
Created March 25, 2021
Updated March 11, 2024
8 min read

Web, Mobile, Native, Hybrid, Progressive or Software Application? What Are the Differences?

If you need software or an application, you might wonder what types of applications exactly do you need?

Developing an application entails a significant budget expenditure, and there are different mobile development solutions. 

Between hybrid applications and native, web or progressive applications, you will have to be certain to validate what functionalities the application should have.

If so, you are in the right place, in the following lines, we will explain each of them and give you tips on how to navigate them.

What is an App?

An application is software designed with very specific functionalities in order to meet very specific needs for its users.

In general, the term application brings to mind mobile applications, or even web applications.

But, in reality, an application can be developed in different forms depending on your needs.

The Different Types of Applications

Each type of application below has advantages and disadvantages. Here we will try to shed light on the gray areas and understand the nuances between each of them.

Web Application

A web application is a computer program or software that uses web browsers and web technology to perform tasks on the Internet.

Web App made by Oshara
Web App made by Oshara

This means that if you do not have access to an internet connection, you cannot use web applications.

To better illustrate this, imagine accessing Facebook without an internet connection on a computer. We agree that this is quite impossible.

Web applications are built using programming languages such as HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3 which form the front-end of the application. The back-end usually consists of languages such as PHP, Python,.NET, Java, etc., and one or more databases and servers that process user requests and return results in real time.

Apart from Facebook, you certainly use several web applications depending on your needs such as human resources management, customer management, invoicing etc… 

Here are some other application names with which you are familiar: HubSpot, Quickbook, Mailchimp, Osortoo and so on.

Mobile Apps

A mobile application, more commonly called an “app” in English, is a type of application (software) designed to run on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. 

Mobile apps have similar functionality to web apps, but simply adapted into an aesthetically pleasing visual interface (UX), more user-friendly on a mobile.

Example of Mobile App
Example of Mobile App

Native App (Mobile)

Native mobile applications or native apps are first and foremost mobile applications. However, their particularity is that they have been developed specifically for a device type like IOS and Android.

Native App example
Native App example

To create this type of application, developers will therefore choose different programming languages depending on the device for which they wish to create code.

For example, developers could use Objective-C or Swift for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android.

The principle is the same as applications developed for Windows which do not work on Mac and vice versa. You will therefore understand that for each platform, you will need a different code which of course can be connected to the same database.

Native applications are generally very efficient, because they allow simple access to the functionalities and different components of the device, such as the camera, the accelerometer, the microphone, etc., but they are also more expensive. 

In addition, they are faster and do not need internet to function at least.

In the realm of mobile app development, developers often opt for a combination of native and web technologies to create both native mobile apps and hybrid mobile apps.

These apps are built to run smoothly on mobile browsers, reducing development cost and ensuring a seamless user experience. In hybrid app development, the app may also leverage web development, allowing apps to use the full potential of the mobile web while maintaining the advantages of native and hybrid app development.

Hybrid Application

A hybrid app is a mix of a native app and a web app.

Hybrid App
Hybrid App

Hybrid applications use a native container (Web View) which serves as middleware that has its own language, providing it with access to the functionality of the native platform.

They are mainly developed using a development language like HTML5 and JavaScript, which is then encapsulated in the web container.

Apache Cordova is the best-known starting technology for developing hybrid applications. However, there are several others now such as React Native, Flutter and many others.

Among these many advantages, hybrid applications are easier and faster to develop than a native application, it only has a single programming code to make it work on different types of devices.

However, interacting with all the features of the mobile phone can sometimes be tedious and quite limited in the possibilities.

The differences between native or hybrid apps are basically that you have less control during app development if you are looking to develop a complex mobile app.

Progressive Application or PWA

Progressive web apps are developed like standard web apps, but they resemble hybrid web apps.

They have functionality allowing an experience similar to a native mobile application, such as being run offline.

The name Progressive Web App is because it is:

1- first a mobile application;

2- a web application;

3- Progressive since it adapts to all types of devices.

Progressive apps can work on multiple platforms and operating systems such as web, iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, mobile, tablets and others.

They are recognized for their “Add to home screen” functionality, their performance, and their more affordable cost than a hybrid application. 

Unlike a hybrid app, it can work with a weak internet connection or even offline.

Progressive App by The Washington Post
Example of installation button of Progressive App by The Washington Post
Twitter installation as PWA from Chrome
Twitter installation as PWA from Chrome

Progressive applications provide the majority of the capabilities of a web application, in addition to those of a mobile application. 

This type of mobile technology falls somewhere between a native mobile product and a web application.

Possibilities and scope of different types of apps
Possibilities and scope of different types of apps

Comparison Table of Application Types


If you always want to know what the difference is between native application vs. hybrid and web or progressive application, know that for end users, it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between them.

So the choice you have to make will depend on your needs and objectives, your context and your means.

Native apps run directly on the device without requiring a browser and are typically downloaded and installed from an app store like the Play Store for Android and the App Store for Apple.

Hybrid apps combine web technologies with access to platform-specific features that a browser alone cannot provide. They are encapsulated in frameworks that allow developers to create applications that can be deployed on multiple platforms..

Progressive web apps (PWA) are essentially websites that ensure a mobile app-like experience. They are designed to load quickly over any connection like native apps. They are accessible directly through a browser and do not require installation from an application store.

While web applications are accessible only through a web browser.

Native apps generally offer the best performance and access to all features of mobile devices, but require separate development for each platform. 

Hybrid apps prioritize cross-platform compatibility, but may be limited in terms of performance and access to certain device features. 

Progressive web apps ensure broad compatibility and easy updates, but may have some limitations compared to native apps.

Again, assess your needs and choose accordingly.

Do you have an app in mind, but you still don’t know what type of application to choose or how to develop it? So don’t wait any longer and tell us about your project. Our experts are here to help you.