Native App vs Hybrid App: What’s the Difference & Why It Matters?
Smartphones in the modern era have become an instrument of great utility as they offer multiple benefits such as instant communication through e-mails and social networking, web surfing, entertainment, GPS and various other productivity apps.
While deciding on developing a mobile application, a dilemma that arises quite often is whether to create a native app or a hybrid app.
Mobile applications have become a kingpin of innovation for a decade now. With an expanding market of smartphones, many organizations are adopting ways to incorporate mobile apps in their workflow, to boost their market outreach.
A common challenge faced by companies on deciding on the type of app to be built is whether to build a native app or a hybrid app and which one would be the best for the company based on its functionalities.
Answers to these questions depend on the following factors:
• The objective of building the app.
• Features to be included in the app.
• The budget allocated to develop the app.
• The speed of development of the app.
• Whether to opt for in-house development.
Here, we would help you understand the characteristics of a hybrid and a native app and the differences between them, along with their pros and cons, to help you decide on the best approach to be adopted for mobile application development.
Before we understand what are hybrid apps, let us find out what is native and web apps.
What is a Native Mobile Application?
A native mobile application refers to application software that is developed to work on a specific platform or device. Since it is created to operate on a specific mobile device and its operating system, it has the prowess to use device-specific hardware and software.
Native apps give enhanced performance and leverage the latest technology, like Image processing, in contrast to mobile cloud apps or web apps, that are designed to be universal across various systems.
Mainly, there are two mobile operating system platforms, Apple’s iOS, and Google’s Android. Native applications are designed in a code that is primarily used for the mobile device and its operating system. For instance, developers code Android-native apps using Java, whereas, they code iOS apps using Swift or Objective-C.
Native mobile apps have a quick execution and a high degree of accuracy. Apart from being faster, it also enables the users to get access to all the native user interface (UI) controls and layouts.
However, an application written for iOS using Swift will not function on Android, and vice versa. This implies that you have to develop specifically for each platform, which would require a larger budget and a bigger team size, in case you wish to launch your application on both, iOS and Android.
Following are the characteristics of a Native Application:
The primary characteristics of native applications are as follows:
• Native apps are highly reliable.
• Native apps are simple, have faster performance and offer a better user experience.
• Native applications support both, online and offline operations.
• Features of native apps can be utilized in the best way.
Advantages of Native Applications
• It offers a wide range of functionalities since it leverages the potential of the primary mobile device.
• It gives quick and responsive software performance.
• It comes with the push notification functionality.
• Native apps offer a user interface (UI) that better matches the user experiences of the OS.
• The quality of the Native apps can be assured through the ratings in the App Stores.
Disadvantages of Native Applications
• Native apps involve multiple code bases, since each device would be having its version of the app, i.e., the coding would be different in the case of Android, and different in case of iOS.
• It involves a higher cost, as more developers would be required to build and handle a code base for each platform.
• A lot of time is spent on multiple fabrications for different platforms in every feature update.
Introduction to Hybrid Applications
Thus, it works just like a web app and is installed on a device like a native app.
Hybrid apps, with the help of internal application program interfaces (APIs), retain complete access to the mobile device’s features. Native apps can operate offline since they are downloaded, but hybrid apps don’t come with this functionality.
A hybrid app usually has functionality similar to a web app as it is primarily based on a web app. Web applications are designed for various platforms and are not installed on the device, but are accessible over the Internet through a web browser.
Hybrid apps are generally referred with mobile computing, which is a technology that enables transmission of data, voice, and video through a computer or any other wireless-enabled device, without having to be connected to a tangible link. It majorly involves mobile communication, along with mobile hardware and software.
Most of the applications available can be classified as hybrid apps.
Following are the characteristics of a Hybrid Application:
• Hybrid applications can function, irrespective of the fact that the device has an internet connection or not.
• Hybrid apps can integrate with the device’s file system and use features of the operating system.
• Hybrid apps involve integration with web-based services.
• Another essential feature of hybrid apps includes an embedded browser that helps to enhance access to dynamic online content.
• Hybrid apps can be developed at a faster pace and involve lesser development and maintenance costs. Thus, it saves time and money.
• Hybrid apps are comprehensible and can be managed effortlessly.
• Hybrid apps have a cross-platform user interface (UI).
• A major benefit of hybrid apps is the single code base for multiple platforms, which makes it way easier to manage.
Advantages of Hybrid Applications
• They can work across various platforms, i.e., they can operate on both, Android & iOS since they have a single code base. Also, the consistent user interface (UI) enables it to function on most of the devices.
• The development and maintenance (which includes updations and making changes) of hybrid applications is faster since developers have to create only one codebase.
• The single code base in the hybrid apps makes them cost-effective since it requires lesser time to develop and does not require more developers as in the case of Native apps.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Applications
• Since Hybrid apps have a foundation similar to that of Web apps, they need an uninterrupted network connection to work to their full potential.
• Owing to their architecture, hybrid mobile apps rely on plugins to access the inbuilt features of the mobile device.
• Hybrid applications don’t offer a user experience as great as native apps do since the interface for both, the Android and the iOS are compromised on. In case too much focus is given on Android, the user experience for iOS users will be compromised on, and vice versa.
• The contradiction in the case of developing a Hybrid app is, Native app developers are required to create a Hybrid application because the development of a Hybrid app does not fix a range of functional issues that are fundamental for Native app development.
A lot of businesses face a conventional challenge of which application should be developed, native or hybrid, to offer a great experience to their customers, and which application would be the best for serving the purpose for their business.
The solutions to these queries are based on the following factors:
• The objective of developing the application.
• The budget allocated to develop the application.
• The features required in the application.
• Does the business want to opt for in-house development, or want to outsource the development of the application?
• The speed at which the application has to be developed.
• Who are the target customers of the business?
• How will the users access the application?
• Should the application be available in the App Stores?
• Will the application need to be updated frequently?
• What level of complexity of the functionalities does the business wish to develop?
• Will the device’s native functionalities be used by the application?
• What kind of user experience does the business wish to offer?
• What mobile application development resources does the business have?
To make an effective decision, let’s have a look at the differences between a native and hybrid app, to understand which option is a suitable one, based on your business purpose:
Hybrid v/s Native App
Based on Time and Cost of Development
Hybrid apps take lesser time to be developed and are cost-effective, as compared to native apps. Also, hybrid apps are easier to maintain, as they have a single code base, whereas, native apps have multiple code bases since they cater specifically to each platform.
Based on User Experience
Native apps offer the best user experience since they are designed especially for a particular app store. Native apps take into account the screen size and the hardware capabilities, whereas, with hybrid apps, it is not possible to offer a great user experience with just one code base for all platforms.
Based on the utilities that the app offers (Paid or Free app)
For businesses that wish to launch a paid app on the App Store, native apps are recommended, since they have the best user interface (UI), whereas, free apps can be developed as hybrid apps.
Based on the platforms on which your app would operate on
Whether your app will be distributed through App Stores
If a business plans to circulate its app through an App Store, it’ll have to create a mobile app rather than a mobile-optimized (RWD) web application, which would be accessible from the device’s web browser.
Whether any native device features will be used
If you wish to make use of the mobile device’s features like the camera or the GPS, you’ll have to opt for a native or hybrid mobile app, since a web app cannot access the device’s features with ease.
Whether the required developers are available
As discussed above, native and hybrid apps have their benefits and drawbacks. Deciding on what kind of an app to opt for depends largely on the demands of the organization. After looking into the requirements of the business, it is recommended to discuss the same with application developers, who would be giving shape to your ideas in the best manner possible.
Application development can also be outsourced instead of having a permanent in-house setup, since collaborating with an outsourcing team would make your mobile app development an effortless job.