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Hybrid vs Native Apps

In today’s tech-enabled environment, all businesses seek to build innovative, interactive, and scalable applications. Imagine what your life would be like if there were no Google Maps, weather forecast applications, or networking platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. The point is that the use of applications is proliferating at a lightning pace.  

But most companies face the dilemma of choosing the type of application they should build for their business – should it be hybrid or native apps? And why should you choose one over the other?  

This article seeks to answer all these questions. It explains what native and hybrid apps are, their pros and cons, and which would suit your business the most. It also provides relevant examples.   

So, without further ado, let’s dive into this debate to unravel the best option for your business. Let’s start by explaining what native apps are.  

What are Native Apps?  

Native apps are software programs designed to run on a specific platform, say Android, iOS, or Windows. Developers use officially supported tools and languages for creating these apps. Android by Google and iOS by Apple are the two most popular platforms in use today. In other words, one can say that native apps are platform-specific.   

Google uses Java to write code for Android applications. Apple employs Objective-C and Swift (its new proprietary language) for iOS applications. And Microsoft uses C# for most Windows applications. All these programming languages differ from one another.   

Once downloaded, a native app lives on your device and is accessible from your smartphone’s home screen. Native apps have the capability to access many features on your device, like your contact list, GPS, camera, Bluetooth, etc. This is because web apps are designed to operate on a specific platform. You can download a native app from your iPhone’s App Store or Google’s Play Store if you use an Android device.  

Let’s look at the pros and cons of native apps.  

Pros   

  • Speed – Native apps, due to their platform-specific nature, always run faster than hybrid apps. They work with the in-built features of a device and fetch user data directly from the web instead of bringing it from the entire application.  
  • Offline Availability – A distinguishing feature of native apps is their ability to work without an internet connection. So, native apps function even if you are stuck in a basement or an elevator where you don’t have an internet connection.  
  • Notable Look and Feel – Native apps offer a more refined version of your mobile’s default apps. It is effortless to understand the flow of a native application owing to its platform-specific nature. Many non-native apps try to imitate the look and feel of native apps, but they fail to emulate it completely. Thus, they end up offering a grotesque user experience (UX) 
  • Aspect Ratio – The aspect ratio refers to a screen’s width and height ratio. It is crucial in determining the quality of an image or video. Native apps maintain their aspect ratios irrespective of the size of the device screen, as they have greater leverage over the size, orientation, and resolution of an application. Other apps often fail to maintain their aspect ratios when changing a device.   

Cons  

  • Downloading Process – Users can only use native apps once they have been downloaded from an app store (App Store or Play Store.) Research suggests that nearly 20% of people fall out of the app downloading funnel at each stage.   
  • Inflexibility – Native app development is inflexible because it restricts developers to a specific platform. Your app development team has to code for one platform at a time, thus writing separate code for iOS and Android.  
  • Costly Development – It is often tricky to write code for native apps. It is time-consuming and costs more because you need to hire separate resources for writing code in Java and Objective-C or Swift. Moreover, the maintenance cost of native apps is higher than hybrid apps’ maintenance costs.  
  • Frequent Updates – Any app can have bugs that surface once you start using it. Software application developers must submit the updated version of the app to the app store once a bug has been fixed. But it all rests on the users updating their apps as well. If they don’t, they will continue experiencing glitches and may eventually choose to abandon the app altogether.  

Examples  

Here’s a list of some popular native apps.  

  • Facebook  
  • Twitter  
  • Spotify  
  • Instagram  
  • SoundCloud  

What are Hybrid Apps?  

Let’s turn our attention to hybrid apps now.  

The primary problem with native apps is that you must code twice if you wish to make an application operational for Android and iOS devices. Doing this entails higher costs. Hence developers came up with hybrid tools.  

Hybrid apps, as the name implies, combine the functionalities of both native apps and web apps. Hybrid applications consist of two layers. The first layer relates to the user interface and is coded using web technologies like CSS, HTML5, and JavaScript. The second layer is made up of a container for the web code known as WebView. It also has a series of JavaScript hooks that enable the web code to manage device components.   

This second layer is executed in native code. Hybrid platforms (Ionic, PhoneGap, etc.) offer developers a comprehensive solution so they can avoid native coding altogether. This enables a single codebase to power apps for different platforms like iOS and Android.  

Let’s look at the pros and cons of hybrid apps.  

Pros  

  • Low Cost – The foremost benefit of developing hybrid apps is that they cost you less than native apps. Since the time needed to create a hybrid app is short, its costs are also low.   
  • Maintenance – Hybrid apps use HTML, which is easy to use for developers. Moreover, hybrid applications do not require any versioning. It does not require developing a new app whenever an operating system is updated or changed. This naturally converts into lower maintenance costs.  
  • Scalability – Scalability is an integral part of hybrid applications. Developers aim to build apps that function smoothly on various platforms. You can make the required changes to the code without developing an entirely new app for a platform because the web technology used in hybrid applications is usually the same.   
  • Development Period – Another crucial advantage of using hybrid apps is that they require less development time since you only have to write code once.   
  • Updates – Developers release new app updates regularly to overcome the problem of bugs. But unlike native apps, hybrid app updates do not require approval from the app store; these updates are shown to the users instantly. Thus, hybrid app users enjoy the latest app version at all times.  
  • Offline Availability – Hybrid apps, just like native apps, also offer offline availability. Thus, if you lose your internet connection, you can still continue using your hybrid app.  
  • Cross-platform Support – By default, hybrid apps are designed to work on multiple platforms. A single codebase enables mobile apps to work on various platforms; you don’t need to write code again for a separate operating system.   

Cons  

  • Performance – In terms of performance, hybrid apps lag behind their native and web counterparts. This is because hybrid apps, as explained earlier, comprise two layers, thus separating the operating system from the source code. But performance is hardly affected if your app size is small.  
  • Functionality – Some of the native app features are absent in hybrid apps because the latter is based on a single codebase. Thus, users cannot enjoy the same level of app functionality as they do with native or web apps.  
  • User Experience – The user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) of hybrid apps are perhaps not as incredible as that of native apps. A single codebase cannot make a hybrid app provide UX par excellence since each operating system functions differently.   
  • Glitches and Bugs – Fixing bugs in a hybrid app is tricky since it is developed to work on multiple platforms. Thus, the developing team needs to be extra careful to ensure no new bugs come up when updating the app. Moreover, content loading is usually slow on a hybrid app.   

Examples  

Here’s a list of leading hybrid apps.  

  • Basecamp  
  • Evernote  
  • Instagram  
  • Gmail  
  • Uber  
  • Discord  

Which type of app to go for?  

Native apps and hybrid apps have their advantages and disadvantages. Which type of app you should develop depends entirely on your target audience. Native apps are more suitable where an app requires greater control over the device components, like Bluetooth, camera, GPS, etc.  

Similarly, it is better to develop gaming apps using the native app development model. That’s because any lag or glitch in a gaming app would make it annoying for the users, thus rendering it useless. Moreover, it is better to build a native app if you want to enable monetization through in-app purchases. This necessarily requires app integration with app store functionality.  

On the other hand, hybrid apps are more suitable when you want to offer simple interactions and interfaces to your users. Budget constraints and reducing time to market also make hybrid apps a more viable option. Moreover, it is better to develop a hybrid application if you foresee making frequent changes and updates to the applicable content. You can easily change the WebView content without needing to update or reinstall the app.  

Conclusion  

Both types of apps are in vogue these days. Each type has its own benefits. If you’re a small company looking to build an enterprise application, you should go for the hybrid approach since it costs less. But if you’re a large company that wants to offer an excellent user experience to your employees/customers, opt for the native approach.  

We hope you can now make an informed decision concerning app development.  

If you need further assistance with app development, contact us at info@xavor.com. We would love to build an innovative application for you, native or hybrid!  

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Muhammad Abbas

Muhammad Abbas is an anthropologist at heart and a Marketing Specialist by profession. He has worked with leading marketing agencies over the years. While he considers himself a history buff, his interests also extend to topics like politics, economics, social justice, climate change, and tech.