One 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
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 or Hybrid? Build Your Mobile App
Whether it’s a website or mobile app development, the fundamental difference between hybrid and native comes down to their development approach. But native approach makes more sense if you want to develop specifically for a smartphone platform. And that means you will have to create separate app versions with two programming languages.
Unlike a hybrid app, native doesn’t use a single codebase to package and run an app on Android or iOS devices. But most users don’t realize the fact that they’re already using native and as well as hybrid apps on their smartphone.
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?
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?
- Are there particular features your app needs 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.
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.”
Furthermore, 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.
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.
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.
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.
User Experience is the Main Differentiator between Native and Hybrid Approach
Whether it’s hybrid or native development, user experience determines the success of an app. You may not realize it, but software development in the digital age revolves around user experience. Companies now study the psychological behavior of mobile users in order to understand their changing preferences.
After users figure out the mechanics of their devices, users don’t want to dive into app-specific features. Instead, users prefer to use their smartphone and believe that installed apps will be interactive and navigate to an optimal level.
Think of it as user perception and expectation that your app has to live up to consistently. So, make sure the app’s interactions, gestures, visual cues, and controls are flawlessly integrated with your dedicated platform. You need to understand the content and context to render the best user experience. Optimal user experience comes down to a trade-off between hybrid and native options.
When you roll out a hybrid app, it serves as an agnostic platform where UI should be simple and effective. Ultimately, the last thing you want to do is maintain two separate code bases. Even if you build hybrid apps easily and in a short time, the trade-off parameter is the UX.
Often, the most flawless hybrid app cannot ensure a balanced or optimal user experience. It could be the difference in style guidelines or design perspective. So, compare tactical and strategic factors before you decide to compromise the user experience of an app.
Native Vs. Hybrid: App Performance is the Key
As far as the performance goes, native applications have a significant advantage over hybrid apps. In fact, even supporters of hybrid apps concur that the performance of native apps is heightened. In addition, a native app is much more reliable, faster, robust, and well-designed.
A native app makes it easier for users to navigate an app’s structure, visual elements, and contents in an instant. Not to mention native apps are easy to load and offer a seamless user experience. Despite the internet speed, users can run a native app and load the content from their smartphone seamlessly.
But a hybrid app is more of a wrapper that users download to their smartphone. Plus, the downloaded content may not be navigational at all because the data is loaded straight from the main server. Usually, there is more than one major issue that can impact an app’s collective performance.
For instance, the total number of server prompt requests and balance load requests can create performance issues. But most experts point out the fact that the document object model (DOM) may not be fast and robust enough for mobile apps. Just like experts, users concur that consideration of an app’s performance is the key factor.
How App Upgrades Can Impact Your Hybrid and Native Strategies
The internal dynamics of hybrid and native matter the most. But it’s the speed at which you speed up the production that can leave an impact on user experience.
When it comes to a hybrid app, the user doesn’t have to update from the app store. Instead, a user navigates the app on the web to spot the update. On the other hand, native apps require users to update an app in order to see new changes.
Most users have automated app updates on their smartphones through a Wi-Fi connection. However, this approach is not practical for all users. In fact, more and more users don’t want to draw unnecessary attention. In exasperated circumstances, users even uninstall the app. Whether you opt for a hybrid or native approach, just don’t forget that hybrid development mode doesn’t support automatic updates.
When Exactly Hybrid Approach Makes Sense?
If you don’t want to compromise on the timeframe and build an app within a dedicated budget, then hybrid app development makes complete sense. For example, if you have just 3-4 months to develop a new app and aim to test the limits of your app in the market, then opt for a hybrid. Remember that you can, in fact, move to native after initial tests and save more money, time, and effort in the long run.
Common Misconceptions about Native and Hybrid Applications.
The most common misconception among decisions makers is the preconceived assumption that their new app has to be available on iOS and Android. In most cases, there is a good chance to not develop an app for both platforms.
Another misconception is native costs twice as hybrid app development. Realistically, hybrid is around 30% less expensive than native. Furthermore, the hybrid doesn’t take more time to build as opposed to native. In terms of app development, hybrid takes relatively more time than native.
Contrary to naïve misconception, the performance of hybrid apps is not redundant as compared to native apps. Predominantly, hybrid apps can perform on the same level as native apps. Another misconception that circles around hybrid apps is that they’re unsafe. But just like native apps, hybrid apps can also be highly secure.
You Can Build Your App for Native and Hybrid Platforms
As long as you’re not creating an AR experience or graphics-heavy visual game, you can opt for hybrid app development for mobile apps. It is a cost-effective approach and allows you to maximize your users through one codebase. Simultaneously, you can improve user experience and boost functionality. Remember that hybrid apps are websites that are packaged in a native format.
On the other hand, native app development revolves around a mature ecosystem that prioritizes the user experience and technical guidelines of the OS. Native app development is ideal most of the time and offers faster performance. Native app development ultimately allows you to be consistent through app interactions on the device.
Have you developed a native or hybrid app in the past? Feel free to post comments on your experience and what you learned along the way.
Angelo has been involved in the creative IT world for over 20 years. He built his first website back in 1998 using Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop. He expanded his knowledge and expertise by learning a wider range of programming skills, such as HTML/CSS, Flash ActionScript and XML.
Angelo completed formal training with the CIW (Certified Internet Webmasters) program in Sydney Australia, learning the core fundamentals of computer networking and how it relates to the infrastructure of the world wide web.
Apart from running Sunlight Media, Angelo enjoys writing informative content related to web & app development, digital marketing and other tech related topics.