The mobile app industry is thriving. That's not a surprise to anyone. With over 2.7 billion smartphone users all over the world, it's a natural progression to have an application market that is thriving. This is when the penetration of gadgets like tabs and mobiles is still rising. This is one train which isn't slowing down anytime soon.
In this rapidly growing industry, an important question that is faced by all developers and businesses is whether their app should be a native or hybrid application. There are various factors that drive this answer and below we will be highlighting the all-important distinction that exists between these two and what to keep in mind while figuring out the next step in the development of your mobile application.
How it all started!
Before delving deep into the world of mobile application one needs to understand the broad classification that exists in the application world the important one being web apps, the apps that started it all.
These applications have the distinct advantage of running across platforms without being reworked for every individual platform, this makes their development costs a lot lower than what you would have while developing mobile applications.
So if a web application can run across platforms why does one even need to develop a mobile application? The answer to this would be the issues that arise due to the UI design primarily. A mobile phone is a highly personalized device and features like push notifications and offline mode, have become essential in a users day-to-day functioning. The unavailability of these apps through the App Store also poses a challenge in the engagement of audiences and lowering the potential reach of the app.
It was the year 2007 when the first iPhone was launched, fast forward to today and it is very difficult to imagine a life without a smartphone and the other synonyms things that go along with it, namely applications. Every smartphone apart from providing the basic functionality also acts as a personal assistant loaded to the brim with applications that in some way or form fulfill one or more of our needs or wants.
A mobile application needs to be, at all times reliable and responsive. This is the basic expectation of the user, the consumer of your product.
Mobile Apps classified into two further types Native and Hybrid. This is where a choice regarding the development of your application has to be made. Before starting to build an application you need to think about certain considerations for both type of applications as both have certain pros and cons attached to them.
An application that is written specifically to the platform they are being developed for is called native applications. That implies that for each one of your operating systems i.e. iOS, Android and Windows the app is separately created, designed and coded.
These apps are complex as they take into account the software language, development tools, user interface elements, and software development kits for each OS separately. But in terms of scalability and sustainability these apps are trusted more than the hybrid apps.
These apps are released and distributed through an App Store which has its own drawbacks attached.
Applications that are a combination of web and native apps are called hybrid applications. This app is developed as a single app to function across various operating systems. They can, in other words, be described as websites packaged in a native package. The app looks and feels like a native app but is essentially fueled by multiple webpages.
They in comparison are simpler to create and can be coded and executed within a shorter frame of time.
Now that you know what these applications are we will see exactly what sets one above the other in terms of functionality and beyond.
Hybrid apps run in a web view in contrast to native apps, which run on the devices OS.
Native plugins are required by a hybrid app to access features of the platform like camera etc, whereas native apps enjoy free access to these.
Hybrid apps need to be built just once whereas native apps have to be coded separately for every OS.
Advantages & Limitations of Each App
As illustrated above there are certain advantages and limitations associated with each kind of app. Now let's take deep dive into the same.
Advantages of a Native App
Due to the variation in coding across devices and the language specific to every OS the application achieves a smoother performance on every device.
As every application is individually optimized for the OS a better output would be generated in terms of speed and performance tests. The individual development also takes into consideration the utilization of memory and battery, which too contributes towards higher speeds.
Mobile applications are a product which runs on a continuous feedback loop from the customer. Native apps provide an experience that is much better in terms of scrolling, gesture recognition and effects & animation which make it much more appealing to the customers.
In native apps, the full efficiency of the hardware is employed which is the only way to protect data.
Faster access to inbuilt device utilities is available to native apps i.e. camera, GPS, microphone, etc. which makes it easier to leverage all that the hardware has to offer in the application.
Because of the number of choices available to us in terms of smartphones in the market, native app development ensures that the app is structured to suit every layout and screen size.
Disadvantages of a Native App
It takes a lot longer to ideate, execute and create for various platforms instead of just coding once and uploading it.
Every OS has a different language to be coded and developed in. In the process of building a native app, multiple development teams are needed for various platforms thus increasing the cost of development of the app.
Advantages of Hybrid App
Decreased Cost of Development
In case you have monetary constraints a hybrid app is better as it needs to be coded just once for all platforms.
As the apps are incorporated in a native shell which makes the content updating much easier. So they are a low maintenance venture.
Shorter Development Time
A hybrid app has a much shorter incubation period which makes the incubation period much shorter. This makes it easier to launch an app in the market with tighter deadlines.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Apps
This is where Hybrid apps fail. The extra layer of code between the source code and target mobile application can result in loss of performance as it varies from application to application.
The extra layer of code also makes debugging a tedious affair. Developers have to ensure that the framework stays in sync with the targeted operating system without introducing any new bugs in the app.
In comparison to native apps, the user experience is highly erratic for hybrid apps. Focusing on one particular OS negatively impacts the other.
Access to Device Hardware
Depends on the OS
Platform Specific Language
Not as Fast
UI & UX
Advantages of Hybrid App
The first impression is the last impression when it comes to the highly dynamic world of mobile app development as its the consumer who will decide the fate of your app in the long run. To ensure that they download the app and it stays on the mobile one needs to ensure seamless user experience. Even though the initial investment in the development of a native app seems a lot more than that of a hybrid app, in the long run, it pays off. The amount that you would spend on fixing the glitches that arise with the sub-par experience that a hybrid app provides will take the tally up to similar amounts.
You might be saving money in the time to get to the market and depending on the complexity of the app maintaining once source code might seem like a very appealing option.
Additionally, even with the growing 4G penetration the days of a seamless hybrid app are far away. Native apps have an upper hand when it comes to the added functions specific to the OS on which it is built and best in class security for your data
All the background needed to decide between the two has been outlined in the above passages and cross-platform integration is essential but if your customers don't like it, what's the point?
In the initial years of app development, it was all about how fast one could market their app but at that point, the user interface was not a stark differentiation in the app wars whereas now customer experience reigns supreme. That is the bottom line.