Native vs Hybrid Mobile Development

iPhone 3D app image

Reading this article, there’s likely no need to explain the importance of a mobile app in todays economy. That decision has probably been made. Well… we’ll touch on it a bit anyway.

Mobile devices are the center of modern commerce and entertainment, and desktop computers are fading into tools for professionals - such as mobile developers. During the evolution of mobile consumption, it has been shown that users are more inclined to tap the app. Meaning, tapping one’s favorite browser and navigating to a destination has largely been replaced by the destination’s app. It is a focussed, refined, and reliable means to do what needs to get done - including fun stuff.

As such, a mobile app is critical for properly meeting the needs and expectations of the consumer.

But, the options…

After straying from the point of the article, it’s time to get back to a topic that has become a very popular source of debate. In reality, it would take a sizable book to do the topic justice, as use-cases should be considered. We can only imaging the number of use-cases that we could describe.

To spill the beans (SPOILER ALERT), we are strong supporters of native iOS and Android development; however, we are keenly interested in the progress of Facebook’s React Native.

Why hybrid?

The overwhelming reason why companies choose to develop a hybrid mobile app is cost. Initially, it is cheaper. A functional app can be developed pretty quickly, which will result in a lower price. This is due to the tools and materials used in production.

Hybrid apps are built as websites and are clothed in a native app wrapper so they can be run on iOS and Android devices. They are built using HTML5, JavaScript, and the like, just like a website. Just as a website can be viewed on an iOS or Android phone, a hybrid app can be used on either device after the wrapper is applied.

This is the reason that hybrid apps are cheaper at the start. Both iOS and Android can be developed at the same time, as essentially a single app.

But it isn’t so simple…

By existing as a website, a hybrid app doesn’t have the ability to tap into all of the native operating system’s goodies! There are a seemingly endless amount of amazing features that can be accessed by native developers, and they are inaccessible. There are, however, plugins that can be used to create many features. The issue here, though, is reliability and the risk that the plugin might not exist. It might need to be developed specifically for the app under consideration - expense.

Back to the cost factor: maintaining a hybrid app is generally more expensive than that of a mobile app. This is true for a couple of reasons. Trying to keep a hybrid app modern is tough. Every year, operating systems change. New devices with crazy aspect ratios are released. The app must adapt.

The second significant cost is the changing needs of an evolving business.

If updating an app is on the table, the business is probably succeeding. Advancing further will likely require a more refined path to the consumer, something that is a truly perfect user experience. Yes, this is often when the hybrid app gets scrapped for native iOS and Android solutions.

User Experience

That perfect user experience that we just mentioned is pretty important. Really, that is the only real important factor in the mobile app. Native iOS and Android apps feel like they belong on their respective device. All user interactions are immediate, intuitive, and natural. The app won’t get in the way of the users’ experience, and that’s a good thing. For example, when we think of Amazon, we don’t think of their app’s functionality or UX, we think of Amazon.

Hybrid apps are slower. At a minimum, a hybrid app uses an entire extra layer that is not needed on a native iOS or Android app. This is the translator or wrapper. All of that takes resources and results in performance degradation.

Aside from the drawbacks, there are times when a hybrid app could be a good solution. These would be for very quick MVPs for investors and simple apps that will be used within a single company. Otherwise, native iOS and Android apps will be the best option.

Before wrapping things up, no pun intended, Facebook’s React Native is proving to be a legitimate contender in the field. It is being used by some major production apps, and seems to avoid many of the performance issues of other options. React Native does require specific code for iOS and Android, but there are shared elements, which can reduce development time. It is gaining quite a following, and we’re taking notice.

In summation, the best app can be made using native development on iOS and Android, meaning Swift or Objective-C for iOS and Java for Android. This is where the app can be developed without limitations. The greatest product can be built. The app can perfectly connect the consumer and the product.

We are always available to discuss your mobile development needs, and we’re happy to discuss this topic further!