Once the time comes where you start to think of creating your own mobile app, you will quickly encounter words like Hybrid Apps, Native Apps and Progressive Web Apps. What are these terminologies, why do they matter and most importantly, how would you know the type of technology that should be adopted for your app idea? And how do you pick between Native vs Hybrid app development?
If you’re seeking an answer to such questions, this blog is for you. And let me make it clear, there is no straightforward answer to these questions. There are various aspects you need to consider including your budget, timeframe, feature list, target audience and so on. Here, we’ll discuss them all to give you a clear idea of what you should opt for - a Native App or a Hybrid App.
What can make your App Idea a Success?
Before we dive into the details about the pros and cons of Hybrid and Native mobile apps and which one is the way to go for your business idea, you should know the most important aspect of mobile: it's a very personal and important device for an individual.
People keep their mobile devices with them, almost all of the time. And when the device accompanies them throughout the day, it needs to be reliable and responsive. Hence, mobile phone users expect apps to provide them with an amazing user experience.
Please don’t just consider this as the final verdict, but it is true that hybrid apps aren’t capable of matching the astonishing user experience achieved by the best Native Apps.
However, the importance of user experience varies as per the nature of the mobile app. Apps like Evernote require the best possible user experience while ‘Marketwatch’ can settle with an okay experience.
The most important decision you will have to make regarding your app development approach is:
- Are you interested in astounding and enticing your customers by providing them with a Native mobile app that is tailored to their mobile platform (iOS or Android)?
- Or do you want to go with the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) approach and develop a hybrid mobile app that can be released very quickly for both platforms?
There are hundreds of articles out there debating the native vs hybrid app development topic. Some believe that the war is being won by Hybrid, as technologies released by the likes of Google and Facebook have made Hybrid Apps much more prominent in comparison to 10 years ago. Others support a more balanced approach, assessing the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats), and use this to suggest the most appropriate technology stack.
This article will take you through the factors that get impacted when you take any of the approaches to mobile app development.
Native vs Hybrid App Development in a Nutshell
While talking about Native vs Hybrid App Development, you may find that both of the approaches have their pros and cons, as they both fit perfectly for specific circumstances. But, what are the differences between Hybrid and Native Apps?
Native Mobile Apps are created for a particular mobile platform, either iOS or Android, whereas the hybrid mobile app development process focuses on cross-platform functionality. Therefore the native apps are built on programming languages that are supported by a certain mobile platform. In most cases, Swift & Objective-C is applied for iOS and Java & Kotlin for Android.
The Hybrid App Development process makes use of several web technologies including HTML, CSS, and JS frameworks. In layman terms, hybrid apps are websites that emulate software behaviour for various mobile platforms to function in a natural manner. In the cross-platform mobile application development process, the developers write one core code that works for both the mobile platforms. This is why the development process is one of the key differentiators for native vs hybrid app development. And the best part is that users will, most probably, fail to see the difference if the apps are created professionally.
The pros of each approach are well-defined and clear. It is on the app owner to make the expectations clear before going into the development phase. The specialised native apps are more secure and therefore preferred by financial institutions like insurance companies and banks. These institutions are ready to pay a premium for development and maintenance as they have to provide security to their customers. Big companies have huge funds to invest in to provide their customers with astonishing user experience for both platforms. Amazon, Paypal is also among the examples for successful and popular Native apps.
The cross-platform mobile application development approach is more appealing for small-mid sized companies and startups. The native mobile app development approach is favourable for business cases associated with travel, goods review, customer rating, and photos as native mobile development methodologies can easily produce astonishing user experience and are easy to optimize for App Store rankings. The most popular hybrid apps are Instagram, UBER, and Twitter.
The choice of native vs hybrid mobile app development has not caused problems for businesses, but it actually has brought more opportunities for companies to select the approach that suits best their needs. In the next sections, we’ll discuss Hybrid and Native apps in more detail.
Hybrid App Development
After looking at the benefits of hybrid app development, you surely will give it a consideration. And when you decide to build a hybrid mobile app, you should know it’s processes and frameworks. You will have to analyse the features that are possible with cross-platform mobile application development. To attain the desired features that you want, you may have to integrate specifically developed APIs. Interestingly, the hybrid mobile app frameworks leverage the rendering engine of the built-in OS browsers, to operate a web view control to receive full-screen JS and HTML files, which helps them access some native functionalities such as accessing camera and location.
Hybrid Mobile App frameworks - the Technologies
Mobile app development companies work with a combination of frameworks to develop hybrid mobile apps. The following are the top three most popular frameworks used when developing cross-platform mobile applications:
React Native: An open-source technology created by Facebook for cross-platform compatibility. It has simplified user interfaces that improve performance especially when reloading. Because of it’s short development time, React Native is very popular for cross-platform mobile application development. The developers get access to units that are ready to apply. Though the framework lacks some components, Facebook and the React community keeps providing regular updates.
Xamarin: This open-source framework is maintained and supported by Microsoft. Recently, they have launched an improved hybrid mobile app development approach that codes across different platforms. Thus, developers can build and maintain apps quickly. However, Xamarin cannot deal with complicated graphics but can be used for simple applications.
Ionic: This framework uses standard web technologies like HTML, CSS, JS, Angular, etc to build cross-platform mobile applications. The developers can leverage the readily available UI components to boost up the development process. Other than the benefits, there is a disadvantage, as the maintenance of the Ionic framework is quite difficult. This is because Ionic grants several plugins, and when there are any issues, the developer may need to do many extra manual adjustments.
Flutter: Flooter is an open-source user interface software development kit that is provided by Google. It is widely used to build mobile applications for Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, Google Fuchsia and many others. Flutter was released in May 2017 when the first version was called “Sky”. Flutter provides high performance and simple to use. However, Flutter isn’t one of the first choices for mobile app development that requires many device-specific features.
Benefits of Hybrid App Development
One code for all platforms - An advantage that hybrid app development brings which is really significant. The hybrid apps are preferred by some businesses as they can perform on both Android and iOS while not requiring two separate codes.
Lower Cost - When just one app is capable to perform on both the mobile platforms, hybrid app development will bring cost savings for the businesses. You will only require one team with some expertise on both platforms, but they will need to be highly capable in hybrid and web-development. As a result, your cost of hybrid app development will be lower in comparison to native app development.
Faster Time to Market - Usually the apps chosen to be made with hybrid technologies are less complex and include easy to implement sets of features. Therefore, building and testing hybrid mobile apps typically won’t take a long time. Also as the code will be created only once, the development and testing teams will take less time to launch the app to the market.
Easy and Cost-Efficient Maintenance - As the single update will be reflected on both platforms, the maintenance time and cost will often be less, leaving more time and money for the business to provide users with frequent updates that have impactful features.
The benefits of hybrid app development that we've just discussed are just the gist of the bigger picture. In the longer run, hybrid apps are easy to manage and prove to be cost-efficient.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Mobile App Development
Bounded efficiency - The cross-platform mobile app development frameworks heavily depend on plugins that are to be connected with the device features. And many times, developers will be required to manually create the plugins to implement a feature.
Cost of Hybrid App Development
Native App Development
While considering the difference in hybrid and native mobile app development processes, it should be kept in mind that as the key features for native mobile apps are built specifically for one platform, the technologies will differ. For Android native apps, the developers mostly use Java or Kotlin; and Objective-C and Swift for iOS.
Though the development for building two separate apps for both the platforms require longer time and efforts, the final result will make it worth the effort. The native apps provide a more smooth and responsive user experience. Native apps are also more secure than hybrid applications.
Frameworks for iOS Native App Development
Objective C - Objective-C is a mature app development framework that is also compatible with other programming languages. It is known for its vast libraries and pool of experts.
Swift - Swift is a programming framework that was introduced by Apple, and since its launch, it has been a great alternative for iOS native app development. Developers have found it easy to learn and work with Swift, plus apps using Swift perform quickly and efficiently. It is said by many in the tech industry that Swift will completely replace Objective-C in the near future.
Frameworks for Android Native App Development
Java - Java is not only for Android mobile app development, but also most desktop and web development work is based on Java. Java provides developers access to a powerful library that helps simplify the overall programming process. However, the apps built-in Java perform slower and require more memory as compared to other frameworks.
Kotlin - Due to the fact that Kotlin programming language is developed to work specifically with Java and Java Virtual machine, it is supported and approved by Google for Android native app development. An advantage of using Kotlin over regular Java is that its type interface lets developers work using shorter syntax. This significantly reduces the development time for Android native apps.
Now, Kotlin has become an alternative to the standard Java compiler for the Android Studio. Some popular companies that have used Kotlin for their Android apps are Square, Expedia, Flipboard, and Pinterest.
Advantages of Native Mobile Apps Development
- Android apps are way faster and smoother than hybrid apps because they are built using the frameworks that are native to the platform.
- Native apps are much more secure than hybrid apps. Data security is crucial for most companies operating at the enterprise level in sectors like fintech, insurtech, health tech.
- Native apps have the ability to connect to device hardware features without requiring plugins and extra tools.
- As the native apps leverage the mobile platform’s features and hardware functionalities, the user experience is highly commendable.
Drawbacks of Native Mobile App Development
Note: the disadvantages are based on the platform for which the app is developed.
Time and money consumption - It requires more time to build a native mobile app, especially if the company is aiming to launch the app on both mobile platforms. Typically as the development time increases, the cost does too.
Lack of uniformity - Still in 2020, it can still occur where the UI is significantly different in the Android and iOS version of an app. This is mostly due to budget strains, incompetent teams (teams not concentrating on creating uniform designs), or platform indecencies. In contrast, hybrid apps encourage the development of UI elements and features that can work on both iOS and Android.
Cost of Native App Development
When you’re building your native app for Android as well as iOS, you require separate developers to develop the two technologies for the app. This will result in a higher cost than hybrid app development.
Due to the popularity of Android, you might think that developing a native app for Android should be cheaper. Well apparently, this is not the case. In fact, one study by Infinum found that developing an Android app world requires 40% more code and 30% more development time compared to iOS.
The average cost of a native app developer is $150 per hour. While the price drastically decreases when we look at the hourly prices in India and Eastern Europe where it ranges between $30-50 per hour.
iOS vs Android
As you may already know, Android and iOS platforms almost own the smartphone markets. According to Statcounter, Android’s share in the smartphone market counts to 74.14%, whereas iOS stood at 25.26%. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should develop your mobile app to prioritize Android.
Android is a mobile operating system used by many smartphone manufacturers. Whereas iOS is developed and supported by Apple and is only being used in their own devices like iPhones and iPads. Apple has a more loyal customer base compared to Android.
Your decision of platform preference should solely be based upon your customers. In the preliminary analysis of your app feasibility, you should know which mobile platform most of your potential customers use.
Mobile App vs Web App Development
A Web app is an application accessed via web browsers using a network i.e. Internet. Now, the question is, how is it different from a website? Well, the difference between both is subjective, but in layman terms, a website will be informational while a web app is intended to provide additional interactivity and functionality.
For example, Facebook is a web application due to its functionalities but Wikipedia is a website. Now, you might wonder what is the word ‘app’ for? You may ask this because web apps don’t need to be downloaded, as opposed to the way native and hybrid apps need to.
Advantages of Web Apps
- Compared to hybrid and native mobile apps, web apps are easy to maintain because of a common code base across multiple platforms.
- Web apps can run on any mobile platform as long as they are compatible with the latest web browsers.
- Web apps are less expensive compared to mobile apps.
- Web apps don't require any approval from the marketplaces as they don’t adhere to protocols for mobile operating systems. Thus they can be released in any format any time.
- When the new version gets released, the users don’t have to download the app, as opposed to the way they do with mobile apps. Whenever the user opens the app, the latest version will be loaded.
Disadvantages of Web Apps
- Web apps lack the ability to leverage device features and hardware.
- As the web apps are accessed via web-browsers, the users will require to take more steps to reach the desired destination i.e. searching for the page by typing URL. It complicates the user experience.
- Not every user accesses the web app via the same browser. And as a result, the usage patterns and performance metrics become difficult to analyse.
- Web apps have poor discoverability and branding as they aren’t listed in the marketplaces. This drawback can be mitigated by marketing campaigns pointed towards awareness.
- Compared to native apps, web apps are slower and less responsive.
- The user experience with web apps is poor as they are less interactive and intuitive.
Until lately, some native apps functionalities weren’t available for web apps. Those functionalities included sending push notifications, loading on the home screen and working offline. Since the browsers and web apps are upgraded, there are apps that leverage the aforementioned features. These apps are called Progressive Web Apps (PWAs).
Progressive Web Apps should be your way to go?
It depends on your goal behind the app creation. If you are intending to reach the audience on iOS and Android, then PWAs aren’t for you. This is because,
for Android, PWAs can get access to many features, but iOS is yet to support PWAs properly. That means, you’ll lose access to PWA functionalities for many iOS users, which will limit the success of your app idea.
In this sense, Progressive Web Apps doesn't look like the suitable option for native mobile apps, but they are a great substitute for web apps. PWAs are a considerable option to quickly deliver mobile-app-like web apps into your customer’s hands.
Final thoughts about which one should you pick Hybrid or Native?
The answer to Native vs Hybrid app development question is subjective. If you really require a spectacular app, and both security and user experience are high on the priority list for your app, then you should opt for native mobile app development when building an app from scratch. However, if you are fine to go without some native app features like device hardware optimization, then you can build your app in hybrid to save both time and money.
Madhukar is marketing communication specialist at Nimble AppGenie. A writer by day and reader by night, he specializes in technical blogging. Throughout the time, he has been helping businesses by writing valuable business guides and articles. Nimble AppGenie is a renounced fintech and healthtech development service provider that is helping small-large scale enterprises.