The Pros and Cons of Native vs Hybrid App Development

Hybrid-v-Native-App-DevelopmentOne of the first questions you’ll need to answer when deciding to build a mobile app is whether to build a Native or Hybrid app. In this article, we’ll aim to define what both of those terms mean, as well as what is the right choice for you.

Native App Development

Native apps are mobile applications developed specially within the architecture of the smartphone operating system (for example, Java on Android or Objective-C and Swift on iOS). As the app strictly follows the specs of the OS itself (in terms of OS-defined user interaction and interface), it has the strong benefit of better performance, as well as feeling much more aligned with the smartphone’s native identity. As a consequence, the user is much more likely to intuitively know how to use the app and understand its functionality. Another major benefit of native applications is the ability for them to utilize the smartphone’s built-in features (camera, microphone, GPS, etc.). Example of native apps are a smartphone’s default text messaging, camera app or music player — these were all built exactly per the guidelines of the OS it was intended for.

Hybrid App Development

Fundamentally, hybrid applications differ in that they are websites contained in a native wrapper for the OS. They behave and look similar to native apps, but apart from the basic structure of the application (usually only control and navigational components), they are regular websites ported over to be used on a mobile device natively. To detail this further, hybrid apps are web applications developed with HTML5 and JavaScript, then wrapped in a native container. The app loads or queries the majority of the content of the pages as the user navigates in the application (as a comparison, native apps downloads most of their content upon first being installed on the device). Common exmaples of hybrid apps include Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Quite often, at the time a business sets out to build a mobile app, they are either trying to stay on top of their competitors, or they are trying to stake out a previously untapped commercial opportunity. Regardless of the circumstances, the basic approach is to get the application developed and released ASAP. As with most project planning, it is common wisdom that ASAP typically means making compromises and spending little time on careful decision making. A company can have a functioning and successful app with either hybrid or native approaches, but there are some points that should be considered before making a choice between the two.

Native V Hybrid: Which option is best for me?

Firstly, if a business is able and willing to wait six months or more before the app is launched, building a native application is the most prudent choice. Native apps unquestionably deliver the best possible performance, security, and overall user experience.

On the other hand, if the desired launch date is less than six months away, building a hybrid app could be a better option. Hybrid apps can be built using a single source code, applicable to multiple mobile platforms, which significantly cuts down on development costs and time.

To reiterate the importance of this difference, the end user market will expect your app to be great and deliver a successful experience. They are not paying attention to whether your app is Native or Hybrid. All they will expect is for it to work as advertised, in an intuitive and responsive way.

While getting an app released ASAP may get your brand out there, but it is by no means a guarantee of a successful and sought-after app. As the prominence of mobile apps gains over traditional usage via desktop and laptop computers, the significance of speed and user experience only continue to grow with regard to building a successful mobile application.

To summarize, if you are looking for the absolute best possible speed and user experience for your mobile application, go with the Native framework. If short-term deliverability takes precedent over speed and user experience, go with building a Hybrid app.

Picking the Right Type of App for Your Business: Native, Hybrid, or Responsive?

Native, Hybrid, or Responsive?Are you going to have an app developed for your business? If so, you have a lot of decisions to make, beginning with choosing the type of app that’s best suited for your purposes. Picking the right kind of app for your project at the start of development is what will set the final deliverable up for success.

Before you attempt to choose an app type, you should take a few minutes to answer some questions that will help you make the right choice.

Here are some questions you should answer:

  • How quickly do you want your app to be developed?
  • What’s your budget?
  • What is the purpose of the app?
  • What features does your app need in order for it to achieve its purpose?
  • What kind of user experience do you want your app to deliver?
  • Are you going to use a mobile app company or develop your app in-house?

How you answer the questions listed above will have a big influence on the app type you ultimately choose. Not every kind of app is made using the same programming language, for instance. If you’re going to develop an app in-house and your staff isn’t familiar with Objective C, Swift and Java, developing a native app for iOS and Android won’t be an option for you.

Native Applications

In general, you have three kinds of apps to choose from, native, hybrid and responsive. A native app is one that’s made for specific devices using a programming language that’s specific to a platform. Objective C and Swift are used to create native apps for iOS devices and Java is used to develop apps for Android users.

A native app is able to access a device’s features, including its camera, GPS and contact list. Native apps operate directly from the platform they’re made for and they provide a user experience that’s best described as “native.”

Native apps are fast and typically provide a pleasing user experience. Native apps are reliable and they require the least amount of hardware because of the way they’re coded. Native apps still work with no Internet connection and they can send push notifications to encourage users to do certain things.

Because you have to build two separate apps for two different platforms, native apps can be expensive to create, maintain and update. It can also be challenging to provide the exact same user experience on two platforms. This is made even harder because many developers specialize in creating apps for one platform exclusively, which means you may have to involve two developers for the same project.

If you think a native app is the right one for you, it’s vital for you to consider the app store approval process very early on in the development process. If you don’t plan for a smooth, quick launch right from the start of your project, it may drastically affect your time to market on the back end.

Responsive Apps

Also known as web apps, responsive applications are websites that are disguised as apps, so to speak. A responsive app runs in browsers, which means they cannot be downloaded like native apps. To use a responsive app, a user must be connected to the Internet.

Responsive applications cannot access a device’s features, but they are made with the same code across platforms. The programming languages that are typically used to develop responsive apps are HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Developing a responsive app is generally much faster and less expensive than creating a native app.

A response app is a smart choice if you want your desktop website to display in a user-friendly manner on mobile devices and you don’t need added native functionality, like being able to access to someone’s camera or their location information. This kind of application is also a good choice if you want to display content on mobile platforms like iOS and Android fast.

While a shorter development time, a lower price tag and the ability to display content quickly certainly make responsive apps attractive, they do have some significant drawbacks. In addition to not being able to access a device’s features, responsive apps aren’t available in app stores, their icons don’t stay on someone’s home screen unless the person bookmarks them and they don’t necessarily work well with older devices.

Hybrid Applications

As you’d expect, hybrid apps sit between responsive and native applications. Hybrid apps look and feel like a native app and they’re available in app stores. While hybrid app icons remain on a user’s home screen, they operate using a browser that’s embedded in the application. When creating hybrid apps, an app development company will use the same programming languages across platforms.

Hybrid apps are relatively quick to develop because most of their development uses standard technologies, which also makes them affordable to produce. Hybrid apps can access a device’s features and they still work when no Internet connection is available. Compared to native apps, hybrid apps are much easier to update and deploy.

The performance of a hybrid application is greatly influenced by the capabilities of the device that’s employed to use the app. As devices get faster, hybrid apps continue to provide an improved user experience even at the gaming level. While that’s great news, some hybrid apps struggle to provide a native-like user experience because they’re designed for multiple platforms at once and they have to adjust to varying platforms simultaneously.

As it is with native apps, hybrid applications must go through the app store approval process. Keep this in mind if you’re going with a hybrid app and plan accordingly from the very start of your project.

Contact Sunlight Media

If you’re struggling to pick the right kind of app or you’re already prepared to launch a development project but need an app development company, contact Sunlight Media. We’ve been developing websites and apps for small and mid-size businesses for years and we have the expertise necessary to create any kind of app you want for your organization.

Look over some of the development projects our app development company has pulled off successfully and then reach out to us to learn more about our app development services today.

Nick Morera - blog author

Author Bio

While always deeply interested in technology since childhood, Nicholas has been involved in web development in a professional capacity since 2012, as both a front-end developer and project manager.

He is most adept at HTML, CSS & JavaScript, but is interested in the entire spectrum of computer science. Some of his tech interests include full-stack JavaScript development, Unix-based operating systems, open-source web projects, and computer-assisted composition.

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