Building mobile apps for your business is a delicate process that requires a lot of upfront thinking and planning. In a nutshell, this job revolves around making informed high and low-level decisions before and during the development process.
At Share It, we try our hardest to explain to our customers all the factors they need to consider before giving us the “green light'' to “jump in and start writing code”.
As a stakeholder, there are multiple things you need to understand, foresee, plan, and put together to ensure that you’re building a respectable and budget-friendly solution.
One of the hardest, and most important decisions in this part of the process revolves around the selection of the right development method.
For a newbie, this tends to be stressful. Too many factors come into play here. If you don’t have prior experience building apps - you’ll need to heavily rely on your development team / external partner to help you make the right decisions.
Obviously, that’s not the best solution. If you truly want to take control of the execution of your project - as a business owner or a project lead, you need to have a firm grasp of all the factors that influence the development process of your app.
To equip you with the necessary knowledge to confidently build and execute your mobile development strategy from start to finish, we are going to make today’s blog post about hybrid and native approaches to developing apps.
In this article, we will talk about the pros and cons of native apps vs. hybrid apps and try to explain which development method is more suitable for your case.
Let’s jump right in.
First and foremost, one is platform agnostic and the other one is not.
If we dive deeper into technical peculiarities, it is super important to highlight right off the bat that native apps are built with programming languages that are officially supported by the platform.
For Android, those languages are Java and Kotlin.
And for iOS, Objective-C and Swift.
With hybrid apps, the story is a bit different.
In case you didn’t know, these are web-based languages. So, when we zoom out and bluntly analyze hybrid apps, we can technically look at them as websites that are placed into a native app to mimic the visual and technical nature of apps custom built for these platforms.
Contrary to native apps, hybrids have the ability to use cross-platform capabilities and operate on a single code base to function on more than one platform.
Not to be confused, hybrid apps are not the same as cross-platform apps. Yes, they share the same codebase but they are different concepts that we need to explain before we move down to the actual pros and cons.
Both hybrid and native apps live in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. It is super difficult to determine right off the bat what is a hybrid app, what is a cross-platfom app, and how these two concepts actually differ from one another.
Yes, they share a lot of similar traits, but it’s not really smart to think of them as the same thing.
There is one relevant factor that helps us understand the difference between these two concepts:
If you’ve been closely reading our blog, you probably already know this from our articles where we covered frameworks such as Xamarin and Ionic.
Even though we mostly wrote about them from a perspective of how they compare with Flutter, in these articles we also discussed these solutions that give developers the option to harness the power of web and non-web-based tech for building powerful mobile apps.
So, in a nutshell: hybrid and cross-platform apps are similarly built (because developers use the same native elements to create the app), but they provide different user experiences with different UI.
Now that we have covered the fundamental difference between app development approaches, let’s focus on the actual pros and cons that will help you understand when to opt for what options and why:
Let’s start with the pros:
If you’re building a project whose primary objective is to target a big audience across all platforms, this is definitely a strong solution for you. With hybrid apps, you don’t have to think about which platform you should prioritize. This cuts your audience research down to size and enables you to jump right into the market.
Hybrid apps don’t take a lot of time to build. It’s less time-consuming to create a hybrid app compared to a native one. Developers don’t have to create a new codebase for each platform.
Hybrid apps are easy to tweak. Again, the single codebase comes in as a major factor. In order to fix something, your developers don’t have to work on each platform separately.
Hybrid apps are budget-friendly solutions. Due to the single codebase, the hybrid applications run both iOS and Android and they can be implemented for nearly the same period of time that’s required to build one native app for one platform. The development time directly influences the final cost of your product.
And now the cons:
Another major factor is loading speed. Hybrid apps require much more time to load than native ones so they tend to work slower. That’s why the hybrid development model is primarily used for building simple, content-oriented apps that don’t have lots of complex functions.
One trick pony. Because of the way that they’re built, hybrid apps rely on plugins to access the built-in features of a device. The disadvantage of such a method is that those plugins can be out of date or unreliable. Moreover, developers may need to create plugins on their own in case there are no ready-made solutions allowing you to access a certain part of the device’s functionality you need.
Weak UX. Great UX isn’t something you can expect to get out of hybrid apps because of the way they’re being built. Since these apps are meant to provide the same level of performance on both iOS and Android platforms, the interface needs to meet somewhere in the middle. In case you focus too heavily on Android, the experience will be worse for iOS users and vice versa.
Just like we did in the segment above where we discussed the pros and cons of hybrid apps, we’re going to start with the positives regarding building native apps:
With hybrids, that’s a big challenge. Developers can experience a lot of problems during the implementation of offline mode.
Native apps perform a lot faster than hybrid apps because 1.) the code itself that’s written for a single platform; 2.) the programming language that’s natively supported by the platform.
Proper security. Native apps provide reliable data protection. It’s all about mathematics. The full power of hardware should be engaged to process tasks and hybrid applications can’t make the most out of the hardware.
Full functionality. This is a major factor to remember and think about while deciding whether or not to go for a native app. These apps come with full access to databases, hardware features of a device. Moreover, their functionality isn’t limited to plugins or any other third-party tools.
Native apps come with zero limitations. You can create interfaces with zero regards to functionalities on several operating systems at once.
Now let’s talk about the shortcomings of this particular model:
Cost. Building native apps is a complex process that requires the participation of more qualified staff.
Time of development. Building native apps is not a fast and dirty process. It requires far more time to build a native than a hybrid one. If you need apps for both platforms and need them fast, you better think about simultaneous development.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. We hope it helped you understand the differences between native and hybrid apps.
In case we didn’t make it super clear, let’s underline everything again:
Native apps are created specifically for one platform, while hybrid apps can function across multiple platforms and perform pretty well despite being websites at their core. Native apps offer better performance, security, UX, and functionalities because they’re tailor-made to live on a single platform. Everything is built specifically to support ONE SYSTEM, which isn’t really the case with hybrids. Hybrids are fast, dirty, and cost-effective solutions for businesses who need to roll out their product ASAP on multiple platforms at once.
So, depending on your business strategy, the choice becomes a lot simpler.
If you’re unsure what you need and in which direction to drive your mobile app development, we at Share It are at your disposal. Our door is always open and we can hop on a call to discuss your project.
We have a team of experienced mobile developers that can help you with every stage of your mobile app development process (from ideation to execution).
Feel free to reach out to us here!