“Which is a better approach for mobile app development? Native or Hybrid?”
If William Shakespeare was born today, the question would have been “To Hybrid or to native”. Anyone who thought of developing a mobile app at any point of time faced this dilemma - Native or hybrid app?
This article talks about the difference in approach for native and hybrid app development and hybrid vs native apps pros and cons. This article also points out which one is the best approach for mobile application development.
What we will cover in this article?
1. Some mobile app Statistics
2. Native mobile app development
3. Hybrid mobile app development
4. Cross-platform apps
5. What approach to choose?
Mobile app Statistics
1. Acc. to Comscore, mobile users spent 87 % of their time in apps compared to some 13 percent on the web.
2. Acc. to Statista, the number of mobile app downloads each year has been steadily increasing. That number is projected to grow to 205 billion this year, and 258 billion in 2022—a 45 percent increase over five years.
3. Acc. to Smallbizdaily, the mobile app market is set for a 385% growth rate through 2021.
4. Acc. to Smallbizdaily, the average smartphone user in the United States looks at their mobile device 47 times a day.
Why did we need to jot these down? To show you the importance of mobile apps for any business in any sector. Your mobile app can make or break your business. Perhaps the single most important question businesses looking to develop mobile apps is the mobile app development approach they’ll embrace.
There are three categories of mobile apps - Web app, Hybrid app, and Native app. Web apps are websites that took the mobile-first approach and is designed to be viewed and interacted on a smartphone. We have a detailed article on Web apps vs Mobile apps, so, we’ll concentrate on the other two kinds - native app and hybrid app.
Before taking any decision, we aim to help you weigh the pros and cons of both the approaches w.r.t different decision parameters. This will, in turn, help you make a better decision.
Native mobile app development
A native app is a software program designed exclusively for a particular mobile operating system ( in simple words, apps are built separately for each operating platform). They are written in languages that the respective platforms understand like Swift and Objective-C for iOS apps and Java for Android apps.
Pokemon-Go, Facebook are examples of native apps.
Native developers require SDK (Software Development Kit) which is a bundle of software to create programs for a specific programming language. They also need an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) which provides a user interface that integrates all the necessary components needed in programming.
Native apps are built in a way that they can take full advantage of the features of the operating system. But they have some disadvantages w.r.t development time and constant maintenance too. Let’s in-depth study the pros and cons of native mobile app development.
Pros of Native apps :
1. Performance : Native apps are a class apart when it comes to performance. They are fast and responsive as they are created and optimized for a specific platform. This also makes these apps much more efficient.
2. UX : These apps result in better user experience and have better scrolling, gesture recognition, effects and animations, etc.
3. Security : Native apps are more secure and reliable.
4. Access the Full Feature Set of Devices : As these apps are platform specific, operating systems’ features like GPS, camera, microphone, etc can be seamlessly integrated into native apps.
5. Offline use : Offline mode is available for most of the apps.
6. Less dependent : Dependencies on open source libraries and platforms are lesser than hybrid frameworks
Fantastic, right! Let’s now look at the Cons.
Cons of Native apps :
1. High app development time : One has to create 3 different apps for iOS, Windows and Android which means the development process will be slower.
2. High costs : Increase in development time is positively correlated to an increase in costs. Also, each platform code has its own updates and releases, adding to the cost.
3. Complex coding : These are complex to code and the code portability is also low.
Hybrid mobile app development
Uber is an example of a hybrid app.
Hybrid apps are basically web apps and native apps combined. These apps have a back end code wrapped in a native container that is downloadable and loads the code using a webView. Let’s in-depth study the pros and cons of hybrid mobile app development.
Pros of hybrid apps:
1. One codebase for all platforms : The code needs to be written for one platform and tweaked to make it run on all other platforms. There is no need to design, develop, and maintain separate versions of the app to run on separate platforms.
2. Low development time : As there is only one codebase, development time decreases significantly.
3. Low app development cost : As development time decreases and coding is also not that complex, the cost of developing hybrid apps also reduces.
Cons of hybrid apps :
1. Performance : Hybrid loads in webView which is good but hasn’t reached the native performance yet, especially when it comes to gaming. But, again, if a hybrid app is exceptionally well built, it should give a flawless performance.
2. UI/UX : There is still a lag in UI/UX when it comes to hybrid apps.
3. Dependencies : Hybrid apps are highly dependant on different libraries and frameworks
There is yet another option: Cross-platform Native apps
With the objective of limiting performance and UI/UX related issues in hybrid apps, Cross-platform app development became important in the mobile app development community. They combine the best of both worlds (i.e Hybrid and Native). Cross-platform apps are deployed on multiple platforms using a single codebase. These are some notable frameworks from this Genre :
React Native is an open source mobile development framework for cross-platform mobile development. React Native, in simple terms, help you develop full-blown applications that run and look exactly like Native without even a single line of platform-specific code. See the pros and cons of react native here.
Xamarin is an open-source framework that aims at solving the problem of disjointed native technology stacks. It uses C# for coding and works seamlessly on an array of platforms.
Flutter is an open source cross-platform framework for creating native interfaces for Android as well as iOS. The language it is written in is Dart. Flutter offers faster development time with hot reloading and the code takes a very short time to be written.
Cross-platform apps basically take the “write once, run anywhere” approach and have their own advantages too.
 Reduced time for development
 Reduction in development costs
 Easy and fast deployment
 Simpler coding process
 Availability of Better Plugins, etc
If we talk about the cons of cross-platform apps, the performance is way better than hybrid apps but may still lag a bit behind the Native Apps. Also as these are relatively new technology so community support or readymade modules are relatively less.
Coming back to the main question of the article,
Native vs. Hybrid v cross-platform: Which Mobile development approach to choose?
What to choose should solely be dependant on your business objectives. Consider these factors :
 User Experience
 Smoothness and Efficiency
 Scalability and Flexibility
 Integration with Phone Functions
 Cost and time to market
We have consolidated a table that highlights what native and hybrid apps can and cannot do for your reference. We have purposely left cross-platform apps out of this table because they are somewhere in between Native and Hybrid. We might write another article solely to guide our readers to choose between Native or Cross-platform apps.
Native vs hybrid app comparison :
|Features||Native app||Hybrid app|
Java or Kotlin (Android
|Performance||Faster and reliable||
Slower than Native
|Time of market||Slower||Fast|
|Speed||Fast||Slower than Native apps|
|User Experience||Rich and attractive||Never a fully native experience|
|Security||Secure||Less secure than native|
|Complexity||Complex coding||Write once, deploy everywhere kinda coding|
|Device feature integration||Seamless||Inadequate|
|Access to native APIs||High||Moderate|
|Frameworks||API provided by OS||React native
If your mobile app comprises of a lot of custom features and needs to be highly performance based and reliable, you are better off investing in a native solution. Say, interactive games - it makes a whole lot of sense to develop these in native. Also, Native has a higher ability to integrate with third-party SDKs as the no. of SDKs available are more for native development than for hybrid.
If you mobile app comprises of a lot of custom features, then Hybrid is the way to go. Also, if you are running A/B tests to understand if the app will be in demand, then hybrid app development is perfect for the purpose.
Also, while a hybrid app or a cross-platform app may have lower upfront costs, they are more prone to bugs as the issues stem from both native systems and hybrid systems. Finding, solving and maintaining them will end up costing you some more bucks.
Finally, if you don’t want to manage different codebases for each platform, choose to develop cross-platform apps where developers need to build the codebase once, and then run the app on any platform.
Summing up :
User experience is a critical differentiator when it comes to the mobile app development approach. Compile your features in a document and take it to the company you hired or you are about to hire. Ask them to give you an Analysis of what the approach should be and why they think that approach is the best. At the end of the day what matters is superb user experience, optimal performance, security, and speed. Hopefully, this article will help you choose the right approach or at least push you in the right direction. Still not sure what to build? Talk to us over a FREE consultation.