Hybrid vs. Native Mobile App Development – Which is Better?
Mobile apps rose to the fore with the quick adoption of smartphones. They became so popular that Apple decided to trademark the phrase “There’s an app for that” in 2010. Be it ride sharing, gaming mobile banking or even dating – there’s an app for everything you can think of.
It is no secret that smartphone users have become too dependent on these apps to look beyond them. This has pushed companies across all verticals to come up with mobile apps to better engage their customers leading to a confusion between native and hybrid mobile apps.
This topic has spawned innumerable debates between developers and companies since decades. Being a part of the company that has developed numerous mobile applications (both hybrid and native) for a worldwide clientele, we decided to give you the pros and cons and we also have a clear answer on which to choose. Let’s find out.
An Overview of Native & Hybrid Apps
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s take a quick look at what hybrid and native apps are.
As the name suggests, a native app is specific to the operating system it lives in like iOS, Android, Windows etc. So, it is built using a Software Development Kit (SDK) that is specific to the OS. For example, Objective C/Swift for iOS, Java Development Kit (JDK) for Android, and .Net for Windows.
The Battle of the Native vs. Hybrid App: Who Wins?
Let’s compare the features of native and hybrid apps to better judge which one trumps.
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1. App Performance
Let’s be honest. Most mobile app users wouldn’t give a second chance (let alone third) to an app that fails to meet their expectations. I know I wouldn’t. Why? Because I know I would find another (and then another) app performing better while meeting my requirements on the App Store. Bottomline: User experience is everything.
This is where hybrid app takes a hit. The major challenge with hybrid apps is that they are dependent on the native browser. As a result, they are not as fast as native apps.
Why? At the very basic level, a hybrid app is a website wrapped in a native application. This application is downloaded from the app store but it doesn’t necessarily contain all the elements of the app. Most of the data is loaded from the server when it is called for by the user. Now, a server can only take so many pings at a time. This makes the hybrid app’s performance dependent on the number of server requests and load balance requests.
On the other hand, all the elements of a native app is already present in the user’s phone thus resulting in quicker downloads and an uninterrupted experience.
2. Access to Built-in Functionalities
With native applications, it is easy to access native APIs that reside in the mobile phone’s operating system. These include camera, microphone, push notifications, GPS accelerometer, compass, in-app purchases, contact list, swipe gestures etc. This makes native apps more effective for organizations that need to use all device sensors. Hence, the native apps come with a high degree of functionalities and possibilities.
While this feature may not be available for hybrid apps, an alternative solution may be achieved using plugins. But the result isn’t usually as smooth as a native app.
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3. Development Time & Cost
This is where hybrid apps trump over native apps. Since native apps are meant for only one platform, you would need to build the entire app more than once for every platform you decide to launch it on. This means for an Android and iOS app launch, you need to work on the coding and development from scratch, twice. Considering the effort that goes into this, the development cost and time doubles. You shouldn’t be surprised if the app launch takes more than a year.
On the other hand, hybrid apps are easy to build. They are built on one source code and a single hybrid framework. A few minor tweaks make them operable on all platforms. So, you don’t need an entire team to build, design and test the app. This frees up most of the team up for other work. Development time and cost are also reduced.
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4. User Experience
Native apps are built according to the platform guidelines and conventions. As a result, you get a better user experience with native apps. The app’s usage feels smoother and easier for users since they are accustomed to their OS’s UI standards. It feels more natural than a hybrid app.
With hybrid apps, users may find it more difficult to understand its navigation and functionalities. Also, hybrid apps can be slower than native apps. This difference in speed can be felt the most in a gaming app.
5. App Updates
For every new feature, users need to update a native app. However, with a hybrid app, if the update has been done a page that is pulled from the server, a user does not need to update the app. This makes the process less cumbersome. Regular app updates can be quite annoying and users may end up uninstalling it altogether.
Here’s a quick overview to sum it all up.
No doubt, a native app performs way better than a hybrid app. It’s the user experience where a hybrid app falls short to make its mark. However, considering the quicker and easier development process, a hybrid app is a natural choice if time is a constraint. You can use various plugins and tweaks to overcome some of its shortcomings. Also, maintaining one codebase is easier depending on the complexity of the app. But if you want an app that works well in the long run and ensures a seamless user experience, native app takes the prize.