A Quick Guide to Mobile App Types

So you’ve decided to build an app. One of your first steps – if not the first step – in the design process needs to be deciding on the technical approach you will take to build it. From a development standpoint there are multiple options to pick from, each with their own unique benefits and drawbacks. So how to choose the one that will work best for you? Several different items factor into this decision, including (but not limited to) business goals, type of content, existing content resources and overall usability and user experience.

Below we break down three of the most popular types of mobile apps to give you a big picture view of the options.

Native App

Native apps are developed with the tools provided for each mobile platform (i.e. Apple’s iOS or Android).


  • Full access to all the native device features

  • Immediate access to latest native coding libraries and features

  • Optimized app performance


  • Increased development time and cost if you need to develop an app for each platform

Cross-platform Framework/Tools

Cross-platform apps are developed with a third-party framework or tool that works across multiple development and delivery platforms. There are quite a few of these frameworks available (Corona SDKAppceleratorPhoneGapXamarin, and LiveCode to name a few). While some of these tools focus on the creation of specific types of apps - like games - they all have the ability to export a binary that works in each platform from a common source code.


  • Access to most native features

  • App for each platform is created from one source code


  • Committment to a third-party framework. Changes to the framework (or lack thereof) made by it’s vendor can easily derail development of new apps or maintenance/updates to existing ones.

  • Use of “least common denominators” instead of the best features available on each platform. This is done in an effort to keep as much of the code as possible common for each platform.

  • Potential lag in support for latest platform features or app submission requirements


Hybrid apps are built with the technologies used to develop Web apps (HTML5, JavaScript, CSS), in combination with any extensions available to access device features. A native app “wrapper” is then added in order to deploy on each platform.


  • Build once, run on multiple devices

  • Development skills needed are well established in the marketplace

  • Can share code, skills and resources across web apps and mobile apps


  • Access limitations to native features

  • Lower performance

  • Hard or imposible to create non-HTML/web type functionality

Share this post

The Author

Stelios Stylianou


Other Posts By Stelios