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Hybrid Vs Native: How to Consider the App Development Process

The native app vs hybrid app debate has been going on for some time now. Although there are differences between these two types of mobile applications, the average app user probably won’t notice them. Both have somehow similar features when it comes to the User Experience (UX).

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Nonetheless, the competition between the native vs hybrid alternatives puts app developers in the dilemma of choosing which type of mobile app they want to develop. In terms of the app development process, these two types of apps differ in important ways.

Ideally, companies may want a native app. However, this is not always the case, and sometimes a hybrid app is a perfect solution. Whatever the right solution for your company’s mobile application needs are, knowing the differences between these two alternatives is important.

Although a web app might also be a solution for your company, for the purpose of this guide, we will restrict ourselves to analyzing hybrid and native mobile applications.

What Are Native and Hybrid Apps?

Native and hybrid apps are different types of mobile apps. Mobile applications are those that are developed mainly for mobile devices like phones and tablets.

Native mobile apps, as the name suggests, are developed to run natively on a device. That is, they are executed directly with the device’s processing or computing power. Traditionally, they are only developed for one platform, which means that a native mobile app developed for the iOS mobile operating system won’t work on Google’s Android mobile devices, and vice versa. A native app is coded in the platform’s native programming language. This allows native apps to access a device’s specific features. For the case of iOS, the native programming languages are Objective-C and Swift. Android apps are coded in Java or Kotlin.

Hybrid apps, on the other hand, work with multiple platforms using mostly web technologies. A hybrid app is basically a web app that has native app features, like push notifications. Hybrid apps have two components: a backend code that is written in either CSS, HTML, or JavaScript, and the shell that can be downloaded directly into the device. These types of mobile apps are developed through third-party frameworks.

The Difference Between Hybrid and Cross-platform Apps

A hybrid app is different from a cross-platform app. Cross-platform apps are different from pure hybrid apps in the sense that the latter uses a mixture of web and mobile features. In pure hybrid apps, the user interface is loaded through a web browser. Cross-platform apps, on the other hand, are coded with an intermediate language such as React Native, which means that this code will work across different operating systems.

Hybrid Vs Native: Choosing the Right One

Developing a hybrid app seems to be the answer to the developer’s dilemma when it comes to choosing a mobile app alternative. Developers only have to build one app and it will work with all platforms. However, there are various other factors that app developers need to consider before diving into the mobile app development process. This mostly depends upon the type of business and its requirements.

Hybrid Apps vs Native Apps

A hybrid app is often confused with a native app because the first can be downloaded from an app store just like the other. To sort out the confusion, we will analyze both types of apps against each other on various factors so you can decide the best choice for you.

The main difference between a hybrid app and a native app are:

  • Development costs
  • User Experience
  • Security
  • Functionality
  • Maintenance
  • App store approval rate

Development Cost

Cost is one crucial factor that determines the feasibility of a project. There is a significant difference between the costs of a hybrid app vs a native app, being a hybrid app usually cheaper than developing two native apps. Most importantly, when developing a native app, a company might not want to lose its current customers who use a different platform. Hence, you might want to develop an app for all platforms, even if this repeated effort also means extra cost. With a hybrid app, you have to develop only once. It also means that, in terms of time to market, you can deploy a hybrid app faster than a native app.

There is no fixed price for developing an app. The cost of developing an app ultimately depends on various factors such as its functionality. There are data-driven apps, gaming apps, custom utility apps, etc. You can develop a basic app such as a calculator for a few thousand dollars only. If you need more functions and extraordinary designs, then you will have to shell out more money.

User Experience

While cost is definitely important, it is not the only factor when it comes to deciding what type of app the end-users want and what your business actually needs. Always remember that users are not concerned about what happens behind the scenes, what matters to them is how smoothly the app works once they download. Hence, User Experience is a crucial factor that can make or break the app’s success.

Although there is no significant difference in terms of the User Experience, it is the biggest tradeoff for app developers when it comes to hybrid apps. They need to maintain a balance between Android and iOS since both operating systems’ style guidelines are vastly different. If your app development team leans towards iOS, then the User Experience for Android users might risk getting worse. No matter how brilliant your design is, it is difficult for development teams to cater to both equally.

Security

The security of an app is as useful for the business as it is for the customers. Nobody wants cybercriminals to have a feast at other people’s expense. Cyberattacks brought down Yahoo, and the tech giant was compelled to accept a $300 million discount from its acquirer. Hence, security is of the utmost significance.

Native applications are generally considered to be safer than hybrid apps. This is because native apps have access to the built-in security features that are platform-specific. Since hybrid apps depend upon webviews, it makes them prone to potential vulnerabilities, especially if the code is poorly written. A hybrid app will be vulnerable to any attack that is related to HTML or JavaScript, but also to attacks on backend API. Some common hybrid app attacks include JavaScript injection, weak SSL implementation, and caching problems.

This does not mean that native apps are ironclad and cannot be messed with. Attacks with native apps are common for any platform, but the software development tools and techniques differ. An Android app can store sensitive data in the phone’s storage, which can be easily hacked. iOS faces similar issues if the phone is jailbroken.

Functionality

Apart from cost and security, there are other functionality factors such as speed, updates, and features. Native apps have better functionality because they have full access to all smartphone features such as cameras, location, and databases. This makes it easier for the app to connect hardware features and different databases without any need for extra tools or plugins.

Hybrid apps, on the other hand, are limited because they are used on multiple platforms. Hybrid apps are also slower when compared to native apps. Since they are essentially a website that is mimicking a native app’s behavior, they always need to be connected to the internet for all features to work. Also, it takes time for all the features to upload.

Maintenance

As part of the hybrid vs native debate, there is an important difference in maintenance as well. When it comes to updates or bug fixes, hybrid apps are a better option from the perspective of customers as well as developers.  There is only one platform that developers have to work with, and customers don’t have to go and download the latest version manually from the store in case there is a bug. Bugs are very common and it is very easy to fix them in hybrid apps. If any issue happens in a page that is loaded from the server, all developers need to do is fix that and users will have the fixed version once they load the app. Whatever the app choice is, having a strong Quality Assurance protocol is essential.

Approval Rate

Regardless of what type of app you choose, your ultimate goal is to get it published in the store. Native apps have a higher chance of getting accepted quickly since they use native platform resources. Statistically, half of the apps are reviewed by Apple within 24 hours and about 90% in 48 hours. When an app submission is incomplete, this time might be prolonged until all the required information is completed. Google has adopted a more lenient strategy in publishing apps. However, this does not mean that app development should not be done correctly.

Hybrid Vs Native: Consider the App Development Process

After evaluating both types of apps based on the aforementioned factors, you may have concluded that native apps score better on most of those factors, so it would be better to opt for native apps only. However, this is not necessarily the case.

The availability of high-speed internet has impacted how apps are built. In particular, it is important to consider how 5G will impact mobile app development.

Native Apps Vs Hybrid Apps: What Do You Choose?

There is no absolute right or wrong answer when it comes to what type of app you should develop. The choice may vary according to your requirements.

There is no right protocol when deciding the type of app. A good starting point is deciding who your target audience is and what your business goals are. For example, if your app is mostly about content, then hybrid would be the right choice for you. Consider the industry also matters. If you are a financial institution, it would be better to opt for a native app because of better security features.

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