By Ashok Sharma September 4, 2017

Native Versus Hybrid Apps: Key Points to Help You Decide Which Is Right for You

You might be thinking about developing a mobile application, but don’t know where to start or even which style of app to develop.

Which is best for your business — a native app or a hybrid app? Let’s find out.

Your choice of a native or a hybrid app depends on several factors, including your budget, target audience, and deadline.

The very moment you decide to invest in a mobile app, you’re bombarded with loads of decisions. Do you go with iOS or Android? What are the differences between native and hybrid apps? And which app is most suitable for you and your business?

So, let’s go over the differences between the two types of apps, talk about some of the benefits and drawbacks of each, and determine which one is better for you to use.

What Is a Native Mobile App?

A native mobile app is a smartphone application program that is created for use with one particular platform or device, like iOS, Android, or BlackBerry. Native apps are encoded in a specific programming language, such as Objective-C/Swift for iOS or Java for Android operating systems.

Native mobile apps perform faster and more efficiently than hybrid apps. They also have access to features built into the mobile device, like its camera, address book, GPS, accelerometer, compass, and list of contacts. These types of apps are very well supported by the platform owners with specific libraries and help guides.

Native apps can be expensive to build because they are generally designed to run on a particular operating system or specific device.

Most video games for mobile devices are native mobile apps. The majority of the well-known apps out there like Facebook, Twitter, and Waze are native.

What Is a Hybrid Mobile App?

A hybrid app is created for use on multiple platforms (e.g., Android, iPhone, and Windows smartphones). They are web applications (or web pages) in the native browser, because the same web pages (e.g., HTML, CSS, JavaScript) used in web apps are used in hybrid apps as well. Examples are UIWebView in iOS and WebView in Android (not Safari or Google Chrome).

Hybrid apps are developed using HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript, and then embedded in a native application using platforms like Cordova. The unique benefits of this type of app is that development is faster and simpler, it supports multiple operating systems at a minimal cost, and the app is more flexible to maintain.

You can change platforms anytime you need; Cordova allows you to build your app for more than one platform just by adding the right line of code.

Hybrid apps also provide access to phone hardware (native functions) such as the camera, microphone, geolocation, and Bluetooth, while Cordova also has a large repository of plugins that you can easily access. Check the plugins library of Phonegap here.

The major challenge with hybrid apps is that they still depend on the native browser, which simply means they are not as fast as native apps. Evernote and Khan Academy are perfect examples of hybrid apps.

Key Features of Native and Hybrid Mobile Apps

FeaturesNative Apps Hybrid Apps
Device accessFullFull
PerformanceHigh/FastMedium/Good
Development LanguageObjective-C/Swift for iOS or Java for Android operating systemsHTMLS, CSS, and JavaScript
Development CostExpensiveReasonable
Development TimeHighMedium
MaintenanceHighMedium
SpeedVery FastGood
Cross-platform SupportNoYes
User Interface (UI)GoodGood
UI/User Experience (UX)HighModerate
Advance GraphicsModerateHigh
SecurityHighLow
Code PortabilityLowHigh
ComplexityMore complex to codeLess complex to code
UXBetter UXLess UX than native apps
GraphicsBetter graphicsLesser graphics than native apps
PortabilityHarder to port to other systemsEasier to port to other systems
IntegrationThe camera, address book, geolocation, and other features native to the device can be seamlessly integrated into native appsSome device features may be harder to integrate into hybrid apps
Gesture SupportYesYes

 

Both native and hybrid apps provide ways to meet different needs and purposes of users and developers, and neither type of app can be said to be the perfect solution. These apps have their pros and cons, both for an app developer or as an end user. So you have to decide which one suits you better or which app is ideal for your business needs, including your budget and goals.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Native and Hybrid Apps

Reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of both types of apps can help you choose which one to use for your business. Here are some pros and cons of native and hybrid apps that will help you make your decision.

Pros of Native Apps:

  • Full integration of the device: Native apps work with many of the functionalities offered by mobile devices, for example, the camera, GPS, calendar, microphone, and many more. Native apps give users a fully integrated experience that is easy to use, making it the best UX.
  • Excellent performance: If you are looking for some high-speed application or game, then a native app is the right choice for the developer. Native apps provide great performance because of a simpler, cleaner design to be used on only one operating system.
  • Better look and feel: The trendy look and feel of native apps is eye-catching and inspiring, which allows users to connect easily and quickly to the icons and buttons.
  • Better UX standards: All the native apps follow the specific UX/UI standards for creating Android or iOS apps, which allow users to easily understand the interface and navigation of the apps.
  • Safer and more secure: All the native apps of Android or iOS are accessible only through the app stores. Before all the apps are approved to be featured in the stores, they are fully tested and reviewed by the app store approval team. This process provides a certificate of reliability and assurance.

Cons of Native Apps:

  • Higher development and maintenance expenses: Native apps are quite complex because they have a different codebase for each platform. They require a lot of time and effort to maintain, since separate teams have to work on and support each version.
  • No guarantee that apps will get accepted: Once the apps are created, they must be approved by the play store/app store, which can be a long and tedious process for the app creator. Also, there is a possibility that the app might get rejected.

Pros of Hybrid Apps:

  • Unified development: The principal advantage of hybrid apps arises from the fact that you are saving yourself stress. Instead of building two apps, you are building one app and tweaking it slightly so it works on both platforms. That means hybrid apps offer unified development, which allows the organizations/companies to save a huge amount of money. The developers can create a single hybrid framework and the common codebase can be used flawlessly for different platforms.
  • Deals with one codebase: Hybrid apps are easier to maintain, as you have to manage only one codebase. While developing hybrid apps, you require fewer developers as compared to the native apps, which ensures smooth and efficient productivity.
  • Fastest development speed: Hybrid apps can be developed easily without much effort in a short period of time. They require less maintenance as compared to native apps. Hybrid apps are flexible; they are easier to transform into another platform.
  • Efficient scaling: Hybrid apps are known as cross-platform apps, which are easy to scale on different platforms and on different operating devices. It allows the development team to reuse the code without making many changes in the app.
  • Less expensive for a hybrid app: One of the unique qualities of a hybrid app is that it uses web technology for app content, and this fact makes building a hybrid app much easier. Web technology knowledge outweighs a native app’s coding, providing more leverage for resources so you can save time and money.
  • Hybrid components are interactive: Visual and interactive programs like games and 3D animation are present in hybrid apps, but these programs still work much better on full native apps. Businesses are not likely to have more graphical and platform-specific needs like games or animated apps, which is the main reason why hybrid apps are ideal for business and professional services apps. Fortunately, more innovations are being introduced into hybrid apps on a daily basis and they have been catching up with their native cousins.

Cons of Hybrid Apps:

  • Slow performance: Hybrid apps are a bit slower because they are based on web technology. Hybrid apps use mobile platforms such as Kendo, Onsen, Ionic, and Cordova; these platforms cause apps to take more time to function, depending on the application, which can result in loss of performance. It is one of the biggest flaws of hybrid apps, because if the user does not have a good experience, the likelihood of the app becoming popular decreases.
  • Poor UX: One of the serious disadvantages of a hybrid app is that it never offers a user the full native experience. And in the app domain, a user rarely gives an app a fifth or sixth chance. So the UX has to be flawless. Hybrid apps still have some way to go before they catch up with native apps on the UX front.

Which App Should You Choose?

Usually, hybrid apps attract more developers and clients because of their easy approach, cost savings, and compatibility with more technologies and platforms. All these things are appealing, but if we look at the long term, then hybrid apps can become a pain because they need more time to fix the UX and performance issues that users might report.

However, native apps fully satisfy users in terms of performance and with their seamless use of the platform’s built-in functions. They offer the best-in-class security for a mobile app, i.e., highly user-friendly interface design, best performance, and access to the native application programming interfaces.

Native apps demand a bigger investment at the beginning, but in the long run they allow you to save your time and money by offering a better UX and following the platform and industry standards.

In the end, each organization has their own approach for designing an app, so you are responsible for choosing which path to follow.

Select the Right App to Meet Your Business Needs

To make the right choice, it is important to understand the differences between each option so that you can go in the right direction. Native apps and hybrid apps each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and your ultimate decision depends almost entirely on your business needs.

After considering your options, it's important to work with app developers that can give shape to your idea in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Subcontracting your app development is a good way to build your business without having to employ permanent in-house staff. Working with a professional outsourcing development team will enable you to smoothly navigate the uncharted territory of mobile app development.

By reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of native and hybrid apps, you should feel confident in deciding which type of app is right for your business.

About the author

    Ashok Sharma

    Ashok Sharma is a writer, professional blogger, Digital marketer and social media enthusiast. Ashok currently hold the position of Digital Marketing Manager at GrayCell Technologies. He spends time in developing and executing online marketing strategies for clients of GCT.