Installing too many apps on your phone not only slows it down, it also makes it less battery efficient. Many of the apps also ask for invasive permissions, making them a privacy nightmare. One way around all of that is to start a browser and use the websites instead of the apps, but that’s not always a very efficient solution. So today, we’ll show you how you can turn practically any website into a native Android app with full functionality, including a dark mode, a full-screen interface, and more.
Turn any website into a ‘Lite’ Android app
There are several apps on the Google Play Store that allow you to convert third-party websites into native Android apps. We will use three of them for our demonstration today. The first, called Hermit , is probably the best-known app in the segment and it’s also the most feature-rich by far. In addition, we will also use an open source application called Native Alpha that has to be downloaded from Github. Finally, we’ll also show you how to use good old Google Chrome to make Android apps from websites. So without further ado, let’s get started.
Services that do not have fully functional websites will not magically gain native application functionality with the methods described below. For example, Instagram does not allow you to upload images to its website, which means that the application you create will also be similarly hampered.
Application 1: Hermit; Developer: Chimbori
As of now, the best way to turn a website into a mobile app is an app called Hermit (Free). It is available for free download on the Google Play Store. Almost all the relevant features including app building, dark mode, ad blocking, full screen user interface, etc. are available in the free version. Some advanced features, such as scriptlets, tags, content blocker, and custom user agent, however, are behind a paywall.
Hermit allows you to create Lite Android apps in two ways: either by selecting a lightweight ‘out of the box’ app from the app’s existing inventory or by manually entering a URL.
- Tap on the ” + ” on the top bar to see the entire library of lightweight apps. Now scroll down to check all available apps and select the one you want. I am using Wikipedia for demonstration purposes.
- Once you create the Wikipedia lite app, it will appear on the Hermit home page and there will also be a shortcut on the phone home page. You can touch any of the shortcuts to start your lite app.
- To use dark mode for the newly created lite app, turn on and press the gear icon (Settings menu) in the upper right. Now tap on Dark Mode in the lower right corner of the slide-out panel. The Android app will reload in all its dark-themed glory.
Note: Remember to change the system theme to dark (Settings> More settings> Theme> Dark) to see all settings pages and menus in dark mode.
Create a Lite app for any website
You can also turn any website into a lightweight Android app using Hermit. We are using Beebom as an example, and this is how it does it:
- Enter your destination URL in the search bar at the bottom and hit Enter. Once the site loads, hit the gear icon in the upper right corner.
- In the slideout menu, tap Create lightweight app . You will have the option to select the name of the application and edit its URL before finalizing your choice. You can also choose to add a shortcut to the home screen using the checkbox . Finally, click on Create .
- The Beebom web app will be added to the Hermit home screen, as well as your device’s home screen, if you choose that option in the last step. You can start the application from any of the shortcuts.
Hermit is a feature-packed app and works great for the most part. It offers a dark mode option, a borderless full-screen user interface, and even a built-in ad blocker, all of which can be customized for each lite app separately. However, it does have some bugs and in my experience you may need to try certain options two or three times before they work as advertised.
Android application 2: Native Alpha; Developer: Cyclonid
Native Alpha is an open source Android app that can turn any website into an Android app in seconds. Created by developer Cyclonid, it uses the built-in Android WebView to display the website. For privacy reasons, you can use alternative web views, such as Bromite, on rooted devices. Native Alpha is still in its pre-release phase and has yet to be hosted on the Play Store. You can download it from Github (Free) on your Android phone.
- Note: Native Alpha is compatible with Android Oreo and newer versions only. The developer says support for older versions is in the works, but there is no ETA for that yet. .
- The first time you start Native Alpha, you will be asked to add a URL to create your first web application. Enter the URL of the destination website . To have a shortcut for the lite app on your home screen, hold the switch to ‘On’  and press OK .
Note: You can create lightweight web applications at any time by tapping the red ” + ” button in the lower right corner of the application home page.
The application will automatically download a high resolution icon if the website offers one. If not, hit Set custom icon to add an icon of your choice from your gallery or your installed icon pack. Hit OK> Add once you’re done.
You will now see your new Beebom Lite app shortcut on your phone’s home screen, as well as on the Native Alpha home page.
Still in its pre-release phase, Native Alpha lacks some of Hermit’s features, including dark mode and full-screen user interface. However, there is an experimental ad blocker that is “Off” by default, but can be turned on from settings. All said and done, Native Alpha has fewer bugs than Hermit, and the features it offers are more polished. The app is in active development and the version I used, v0.85.1, was released on January 30, 2021. So let’s hope the developer adds other cool features as soon as possible.
Application 3: Google Chrome; Developer: Google
Do you know that even Google Chrome for Android allows you (more or less) to create a lightweight Android application from many websites? That’s right, Google’s all-conquering browser can build lightweight website apps that have a built-in Progressive Web Application (PWA) manifest. This is how you do it:
Open Chrome and go to the website you want to create a shortcut for (lite app). Then tap the menu button ( three dots ) at the top left. Finally, in the slide-out panel, select Add to main screen .
Note: This will only work in normal tabs and not in incognito mode.
You will have the option to enter a name for the shortcut before Chrome adds it to your home screen.
Note: You can create website shortcuts on Android devices in the same way as with other popular web browsers, including Firefox. .
Note that while the lite apps created by Native Alpha and Hermit work as standalone apps (more like website wrappers), the shortcuts created by Chrome work as a browser tab rather than a separate app. Either way, it’s still a great option, especially if you can’t bother installing another app on your phone.
Create Android apps from websites to save storage space and improve privacy
Turning websites into apps means that you no longer have to grant any invasive permission to run these services on your phone. They also won’t run in the background, sending your private data to their servers and consuming battery while doing so. So, use our guide above to convert websites to apps on your Android phone and let us know which method you chose and for which website. To further improve privacy on your phone, learn how you can change your DNS settings on Android.