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What is a native app? Benefits and key features explained

TL;DR: Native apps shine with exceptional performance, robust security, and seamless integration, delivering a superior user experience as evident in apps like Snapchat and Uber. However, they pose challenges such as increased costs and a lengthier development timeline. When deciding between web, native, or hybrid apps, carefully weigh factors like user experience, cost, and development time, and tailor your choice to your project's specific needs and resources.

A native app is a software application created in a dedicated programming language, specifically tailored for particular device platforms such as iOS or Android. This specialized approach ensures that native apps operate at their best by fully utilizing the capabilities of the devices, resulting in improved user experiences.

When users wonder “What is a native app?” and how they compare to other app types, they’ll find that native apps offer a host of unique benefits — think full-on integration with your device's features, top-notch performance, and solid security measures.

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Key takeaways

  • Native apps are specifically designed for a particular operating system (like iOS or Android), leveraging the platform’s native programming languages and tools to offer superior performance, polished UI, and enhanced user experience. This leads to higher user engagement and satisfaction.
  • While native apps have the advantage of offering better performance, security, and integration with device features like camera and GPS, they can potentially present challenges. These include higher development costs, longer time to market, and the necessity for platform-specific expertise.
  • The decision to develop a native, web, or hybrid app should be based on factors like desired user experience, projected costs/your budget, desired development time, and required access to device features. Native apps generally provide the highest quality user experience at a greater development cost.

Defining native apps

Native app development concept

Native apps are specifically designed for a particular operating system on mobile devices. They utilize programming languages and tools specific to the platform, following its guidelines to maximize device capabilities.

Some common examples of native applications include navigation programs like Google Maps, music streaming services such as Spotify, e-commerce platforms like Amazon, and popular games including Pokémon GO.

The key advantages of developing native apps include exceptional performance levels, a sleek user interface that’s visually appealing, and an enhanced user experience due to consistent UI design that seamlessly integrates with the device’s interface.

Fact: According to data from App Annie, as of Q4 2021, there were over 3.48 million apps available on Google Play Store and nearly 2.22 million apps available in the Apple App Store. This underscores the significant role of native apps in our increasingly digital world.

These factors contribute to heightened user engagement and hold significant potential for enhancing customer satisfaction. This is particularly crucial in vital sectors like mobile banking apps, where both security measures and user experience play pivotal roles in earning consumer trust.

Despite the various advantages they bring, native app development does present some challenges. These include the high costs associated with creating unique builds for each operating system, as well as ongoing maintenance requirements that add to overall expenses.

Native app development can also be complex, demanding skills across various programming languages depending on target platforms. Despite these obstacles, many businesses still favor native apps. 

Key characteristics of native apps

One of the defining characteristics of native apps is their reliance on programming languages specific to each platform. 

For instance, Objective-C and Swift are commonly used for developing iOS apps, while Java or Kotlin are preferred for creating Android applications.These language choices allow developers to make hybrid applications that use the capabilities of different devices.

Complying with app store guidelines is another key feature of native mobile apps that gives them a competitive edge in terms of acceptance and distribution through official channels. These apps enhance user interaction by seamlessly integrating with device features like the camera, microphone, and GPS.

Tip: Remember, native apps offer a high-quality, platform-specific user experience. They make the most of a device's capabilities, but require specialized knowledge and often involve higher development costs.

Many native iOS apps exist because of their ability to properly use these features, resulting in a more engaging and practical user experience overall.

In short, native mobile apps are characterized by the use of specific programming languages, the ability to comply with guidelines for wide distribution via official channels, and optimization for seamless interactions using devices like cameras, microphones, and GPS.

Platform-specific development

Platform-specific development involves developing separate versions of software for different platforms, such as iOS and Android. This is necessary to accommodate the specific technological needs of each platform and ensure compatibility with app stores.

In native Android app development, popular languages like Java, Kotlin, or C++ are commonly used. Swift and Objective-C are preferred options for creating iOS apps.

Companies also offer specialized tools like Xcode from Apple or Android Studio provided by Google to assist developers in building their platform-specific native applications instead of mobile web apps.

Benefits of native apps

Benefits of native apps including performance and security

Creating a native app has many benefits. One major advantage of native features is the superior performance they provide, with faster loading times and a more responsive user experience. This is because native apps can effectively harness the device's resources, a capability that sets them apart from hybrid or web apps.

Native apps also offer improved security by incorporating platform-specific features that ensure better protection for sensitive data and user privacy. In today’s digital world where cyber threats are on the rise, this aspect is crucial.

Tip: Native apps, while demanding in terms of development cost and expertise, offer unmatched performance, security, and seamless integration with device features. They’re the go-to choice for a high-quality, platform-specific user experience.

Native mobile apps seamlessly incorporate a device's features by closely adhering to the design and interaction guidelines established by Apple and Google. This ensures users experience a seamless and uninterrupted interface that harmonizes effortlessly with their mobile operating system.

One of the most notable advantages of using native mobile apps is offline accessibility, which allows access to important information and functionalities without requiring an internet connection.This feature greatly enhances usability in various situations.


Native apps are renowned for their superb performance, which is a significant advantage over hybrid apps. They’re designed to utilize the device’s capabilities and resources more efficiently, which results in superior speed and responsiveness.

The seamless integration with the operating system allows for improved reliability and faster execution of tasks.

This efficient utilization and integration provides users with a more compelling experience overall. To summarize, the exceptional performance of native apps can be attributed to:

  • Efficient utilization of device capabilities and resources
  • Superior speed and responsiveness
  • Seamless integration with the operating system
  • Improved reliability and faster task execution


Native applications are known to have strong security advantages. They leverage platform-specific security features, delivering robust protection for both user data and privacy.

A significant aspect of this enhanced security is their ability to utilize hardware-based features. For instance, native iOS apps can employ Secure Enclave, a technology that provides advanced protection for sensitive information like passwords and cryptographic keys.

These exclusive capabilities inherent to native applications are crucial for the effective management of sensitive user data. It goes without saying that when dealing with confidential user information, native apps emerge as the preferred choice. Key takeaways from this include:

  • Native apps leverage platform-specific security features, providing robust data protection.
  • They can utilize hardware-based features like Secure Enclave on iOS for advanced security.
  • These capabilities are exclusive to native apps, making them vital for effectively managing sensitive user data.

Access to device features

Native apps have the ability to utilize the core features of a mobile device, including its camera, microphone, and GPS.

This accessibility plays a crucial role in creating an integrated and interactive user experience, resulting in improved app functionality and increased overall user satisfaction.

On the flip side, cross-platform development might face challenges in achieving the seamless access to all device functionalities that native app development excels at.

In comparison to other platforms or applications developed for multiple devices/operating systems (cross-platform apps), native apps stand out by excelling in their enhanced capabilities to access various mobile device functions. This leads to a substantial improvement in both user experience and app performance.

Popular native mobile app examples

Examples of popular native apps

In today's market, numerous successful native apps abound. Popular examples include Snapchat, Uber, and Airbnb.

These apps have not only achieved remarkable success, but also serve as tangible demonstrations of the capabilities of native apps.


Snapchat is a prime example of a successful native application, boasting millions of active users worldwide. The app is primarily centered around sharing ephemeral photos and videos, which disappear after they've been viewed.

Snapchat skillfully utilizes device features to enrich the user experience. By enabling functions like adding filters to photos and videos, creating and sharing stories, and engaging with other users through snaps, the app fosters a high level of user engagement, which ultimately enhances overall satisfaction with the app.


Uber, a highly sought-after mobile application for booking rides, is another great example of a successful native app. 

With the help of GPS technology, Uber allows users to track their drivers in real-time, which ensures accurate location details for both parties involved. The app provides an efficient and seamless ride-hailing service by utilizing various features on devices, most notably GPS to enhance user satisfaction.


Airbnb, a platform that allows users to book accommodations and experiences, has effectively utilized the features of its native mobile app to enhance user satisfaction and engagement. The app’s capabilities include adapting to user input, building an interface from scratch, and ensuring a seamless experience for each operating system.

By utilizing these key elements in their design process, Airbnb guarantees a smooth and efficient experience for users across various operating systems. This attention to detail creates a highly accessible platform that maximizes the full potential of different operating systems. The company used ReactNative as their choice of app framework.

Native app development tools and frameworks

Native app development tools and frameworks

Creating native apps may seem intimidating, but there are various tools and frameworks available to streamline the process, and build apps that have native and hybrid-native features., Android Studio, and are highly recommended for their extensive capabilities and user-friendly designs specifically catered towards developing Android applications.

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An interesting screenshot of Fitbit iPhone app with Touch ID login prompt. is a platform that allows you to convert any website into a hybrid webview app for iOS and Android. It has an extensive collection of built-in features, including push notifications, biometric authentication, QR code scanning, and more — meaning businesses can power the app with their existing web content, but also integrate secure and rich native functionality (the best of both worlds).

With’s library of native plugins at your disposal, you can easily integrate various functionalities without having to rely on conventional methods like developing separate native apps. This innovative approach simplifies the process while still allowing you to create high-quality apps for both iOS and Android platforms.

Android Studio

Android Studio is an all-in-one software that serves as a comprehensive integrated development environment (IDE) specifically crafted for the creation of Android apps. Its exceptional attributes include:

  • A versatile Gradle-based system for building projects
  • An efficient emulator with advanced functionalities and features
  • A universal platform to support app development on any Android device
  • Live editing capabilities
  • Design composition options
  • Code completion assistance

This IDE provides comprehensive support for the development of native Android applications. It achieves this through a streamlined workflow process, improved code-editing tools, a high-performing emulator, readily available code templates, and a layout editor designed exclusively for crafting apps on the Android platform. is primarily used for creating web and mobile applications, including those for iOS and Android. Its features include the ability to integrate third-party plugins, add custom code, and design advanced user interfaces.

In addition to its app development tools, provides functionalities for hosting, scaling, and enhancing the capabilities of current applications. It also facilitates seamless collaboration among team members, all at a cost-effective rate. Whether you're venturing into native app creation or enhancing existing ones,'s web-based platform offers an excellent solution.

Challenges in native app development

Despite the numerous benefits associated with native apps, they also present certain difficulties. These include increased expenses for development, a longer timeframe for release to market, and the requirement of expertise specific to each platform.

It’s important to take into account these challenges during app development as they can have an impact on its overall success.

Development cost

One of the main reasons for the high cost associated with developing native apps is due to the requirement of separate codebases for each platform. This means that native apps are created specifically for individual platforms, resulting in a significant expense.

The typical range for creating a native application can vary greatly from $10,000 to $500,000, depending on the complexity and capabilities required by the app itself.

Time to market

Developing and launching a native app typically takes around 4 to 6 months (or more!) due to the need for separate development processes on each platform.

This time frame is longer compared to web or hybrid apps, which benefit from shorter development cycles using more universal methods. 

The extended timeline of approximately six months is essential to tailor the app to the unique requirements of each platform. 

Platform-specific expertise

Native app development requires specialized knowledge of programming languages and frameworks specific to each platform.

Tip: Native apps offer superior performance, security, and seamless integration with device features. However, they require specialized knowledge and often involve higher development costs.

This expertise is crucial for creating high-quality apps that meet performance expectations and provide a positive user experience.

It can also affect the cost and timeline of native mobile development due to its platform-specific nature. Thorough understanding of each target platform is essential in native app development.

Making the right choice: Native vs. web vs. hybrid apps

Comparison of native, web, and hybrid apps

When selecting the most suitable type of app for your business, there are multiple factors that should be taken into account. These considerations include the intended user experience, development expenses and timeframe, and the ability to utilize device features.

Each of these elements can influence which type of app — native, web-based, or hybrid — best suits your development needs.

User experience

Native apps provide the highest quality user experience, boasting efficient performance and seamless integration with device capabilities.

Their development may come at a higher cost due to the requirement for skilled developers and separate codes specifically designed for each platform they’re used on.

Development cost and time

Native apps tend to have higher development costs and longer timelines in comparison to web or hybrid apps. This is due to the fact that web and hybrid apps share a single codebase, requiring less specialized expertise.

Despite this drawback, native apps offer superior user experience and direct access to device features, which often justifies the extra investment of time and money needed for their creation.

Access to device features

Native apps have the advantage of offering improved access to device features, which greatly enhances the overall user experience and functionality of an app.

This sets them apart from web apps and even hybrid apps, which may face challenges in efficiently accessing these features seamlessly, unlike native applications. The potential drawback for hybrid apps, in comparison to their native counterparts on devices, lies in the challenges related to feature accessibility.


Native apps offer numerous benefits, including exceptional performance, robust security, seamless integration with device features, and an engaging user experience. 

However, they can also present certain challenges, such as higher development costs, longer time-to-market, and the need for platform-specific expertise — but this depends on the app development method you choose to work with.

The superior user experience offered by native or native+webview apps is evident in popular applications like Instagram, Uber, and Airbnb. The development process of these apps is made more efficient with tools like, Android Studio, and, making native apps more accessible to developers.

When deciding between developing a web, native, or hybrid app, factors such as the desired user experience, cost, development time, and required access to device features should be carefully considered. 

Each type of app has its unique advantages and challenges, and the choice should be based on the specific needs and resources of your project.

Frequently asked questions

What is a native app?

A native app is a type of application that has been designed specifically for use on one particular operating system, such as iOS or Android. Unlike web apps, which are accessible through the internet browser, these apps can make full use of all the functions and features available on your device. This sets them apart from other types of web applications.

Is Facebook a native app?

Facebook is not a pure native app, instead, it's a hybrid app, which means it combines elements of both native and web applications. For a purely native app example, consider Instagram. Instagram is designed and developed specifically for different operating systems, with separate versions for iOS and Android, making it a true native app.

Is WhatsApp a native app?

The app WhatsApp is categorized as a hybrid app because it utilizes both web and native components. By incorporating a webview within its native shell, the development process can utilize skills and coding from web development, resulting in more efficient cost and speed compared to solely using native techniques.

What are the benefits of native apps?

When it comes to apps, native ones stand out for their top-notch performance, enhanced security measures and smooth integration with the features of a device. This ultimately results in an elevated user experience without compromising any key aspects such as functionality or compatibility.

*DISCLAIMER: This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not exhaustive and may not be relevant for your requirements. While we have obtained and compiled this information from sources we believe to be reliable, we cannot and do not guarantee its accuracy. This content is not to be considered professional advice and does not form a professional relationship of any kind between you and LLC or its affiliates. is the industry-leading end-to-end solution for developing, publishing, and maintaining native mobile apps for iOS and Android powered by web content. When considering any technology vendor we recommend that you conduct detailed research and “read the fine print” before using their services.*
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