Mobile Development

Native vs Hybrid apps – Which are better?

Marlena Walburg
Marlena Walburg

The answer to the question of how to gain interest and attract potential customers to your brand seems to be trivial at a time when we are almost all glued to our smartphones. Creating a mobile application seems to be a must-have. While this is one of the available options, the decision to develop a dedicated application may be beneficial for your business. Once you have decided on the first step and you want your software, you should think about all the technical and business nuances.

Being aware of the benefits of using mobile devices, try to think about how to use all these advantages to your advantage. Why is it important? First of all, because some of the characteristics of your application you require will determine the approach you choose. There are several options, we will discuss 2 of them today, native and hybrid. So if you’re wondering which path to choose, you’ve come to the right place. You will learn about the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches, when a native application may be a better choice and when a hybrid application, and you will also be inspired by example applications of both of these two types.

What’s the difference between Hybrid vs Native apps?

The main difference between hybrid and native applications is the platforms they will run on, and therefore the development process. Native applications are created for a specific operating system, such as iOS or Android, and to develop them, you need to write separate code for each platform. Therefore, developers will create such applications in languages ​​dedicated to specific platforms, such as Java or Kotlin for Android or Swift for iOS. Hybrid applications are built to work on any operating system and use the same code base for this. These are technically websites packed into containers that emulate the behaviour that gives the feeling of using a regular application. For hybrid applications, developers can use several web technologies such as HTML or Javascript frameworks. 

Due to their nature and structure, hybrid applications are cheaper, easier and less time-consuming to develop and require less maintenance. You don’t need to have two separate teams working on two different Android and iOS apps. It’s also easier to manage one mobile app than two at the same time. One codebase gives you great flexibility and allows you to quickly add new features to your application that will automatically be visible on each platform. Native applications, however, offer better performance and security. They are famous for providing a better user experience and have a much bigger advantage in this case. Allowing access to the operating system and device features such as camera, microphone and GPS gives greater responsiveness and more exciting use of the application. While the performance of hybrid applications is constantly improving, they still would never run faster than native applications.

Hybrid App Development

The hybrid approach is a combination of both native and web solutions, hence its name. The core of the application is written using web technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Instead of displaying the application in the browser, it is launched from within the native application and its built-in browser. This is why the code is embedded in the native container. For this, solutions such as Apache Cordova or Ionic’s Capacitor are used, which create a native shell application, i.e. the Webview component of the platform where it loads the web application. Besides, both Cordova and Capacitor have a plug-in system that allows the application to have full access to the functions of the mobile device. Thanks to this, in the hybrid approach, the limitations of a network-only application are easy to circumvent, which makes the application compatible with native applications in its functions.

Hybrid App Development Pros

We have already mentioned the advantages of the hybrid approach, but let’s discuss them in more detail now:

  • Only one codebase – the hybrid application works on all platforms without the need to develop separate applications for Android, iOs, etc. One codebase is functional for all platforms and allows for greater error prevention and code cleanliness, and thus easier maintenance of the application;
  • Easier to develop and test – without the need to build applications for each platform separately, the team has less work to do, which is also less complicated. Code is only created once, and tests are faster and easier to execute;
  • Easier to maintain – For hybrid applications, all required changes and updates are made simultaneously for both platforms. This provides convenience for developers because many problems can be fixed on the server-side, and thus the user receives updates automatically, regardless of the platform he uses;
  • Lower costs – by developing one universal version of the mobile application for users on different platforms, you can cut costs significantly. It also means the need to hire only one development team, which also has a positive effect on the budget;
  • Faster time to market – taking into account the above, i.e. only one code base, one development team and the speed of development, we can introduce a hybrid application to the market much faster and for each platform, which is a very big plus for any business.

Hybrid Applications Cons

  • Permanent internet connection required – hybrid applications are partly internet applications, therefore they need an uninterrupted network connection to function fully and correctly;
  • Weaker user experience – hybrid applications do not provide users with such a good experience as native applications. Due to differences in interfaces on different platforms, it can be hard to get a universal design satisfying both Android and iOS users;
  • Limited access to the built-in functions of devices – the construction of hybrid applications shows that access to certain smartphone functions, such as a camera or GPS, can only be obtained by installing appropriate plugins.

Popular Hybrid Apps

  • Gmail – the most famous representative of hybrid applications. The first version of the Gmail application was written as a hybrid application using HTML, which made it highly usable. As Gmail developed its application strategy, it has combined the native and HTML elements in the application to provide greater efficiency and smooth operation.
  • Twitter – an application that proves that even hybrid applications can be efficient. Twitter is continually generating huge traffic, yet it has no performance issues.
  • Evernote – Evernote is at the forefront of hybrid application examples. An elegant design and solid good performance distinguish it from other applications of this type. It provides a completely smooth and native experience, making it the most loved productivity app.

Native App Development

Developing native mobile applications is about creating applications for specific platforms, such as Android or iOS. Users can access such applications by downloading and installing them on their mobile devices from dedicated application stores such as the App Store or Google Play. As native applications are created for a specific operating system, you need to create separate codebases for each platform. Therefore, as mentioned in the differences section, such applications will be coded in languages ​​dedicated to specific platforms like Java or Kotlin for Android and Swift for iOS. Companies choosing a native approach must take into account the need to build two applications at the same time. So you can see that the development time for such software is longer and more demanding. However, the native application offers more complex integrations with the device and access to its built-in functions, resulting in a great user experience.

Native applications advantages:

  • Better performance – native applications perform better in performance tests compared to hybrid applications since they are built with a specific platform in mind and optimized for it;
  • Security – the security level of native applications is much higher. They do not work directly in the browser and do not require a permanent connection to the Internet, so the risk of user data leakage or other threats is much lower;
  • Functionality – native applications provide access to the device’s functions without any plugins or additional tools, which increases its possibilities and attractiveness;
  • Great user experience – high performance, adaptation to the platform and its characteristics, as well as offering rich functions makes native applications provide a great user experience. 

Native apps approach disadvantages:

  • Multiple codebases – with the native approach, each platform will have its version of the application, which requires a separate development team for each of them;
  • Higher price – native application development is more expensive as more developers are needed to build and maintain the codebase for each platform;
  • Longer development and maintenance time – more time is spent developing applications for different platforms, and later also on each feature update.

Popular Native Apps

  • Lyft – a platform operating via a mobile application, offering transport services, vehicle rental, and food delivery. It is the second most popular application of this type right after Uber.
  • Pokemon Go – augmented reality (AR) mobile game for iOS and Android devices. It uses mobile devices with GPS to locate, capture, train, and battle virtual creatures, called Pokémon, which appear as if they are in the player’s real-world location. It was one of the most used and profitable mobile apps in 2016, having been downloaded more than 500 million times worldwide by the end of the year.
  • Angry Birds – a well-known series of games launched in December 2009 in which players use a slingshot to shoot birds at pigs on different constructors. The first game was released in December 2009 for the iOS platform. Since then, over 12 million copies of the game have been sold in the App Store, which influenced the decision to also develop an Android version of Angry Birds games.

Which Approach Is Better For App Development?

Knowing the pros and cons of creating native and hybrid applications, it is easy to conclude that both are dedicated to specific, particular needs. Of course, there are some features common to both types of applications. Every good app should have user and impression orientation, simplicity of operation and navigation, accessibility, and the ability to gain commitment. Therefore, when developing a mobile application, one should not forget about functionalities that will be useful for users. They should dictate in some way what your application should be. 

If you plan to create a simple application that works online on all platforms, cheaper to develop and maintain and does not require such wide access to the built-in functions of the device, then choose a hybrid application. It is a great choice if your application is to be content-oriented. Get it to market faster, and in the future, you can always rebuild it to a native application when you have a bigger budget. Managing it and introducing updates and minor changes will be quick and will not adversely affect the comfort of using the application.

If you want good performance and a top-notch user experience and have a sufficient budget, choose the native approach. Users will appreciate the great operation of the application, security and offline mode. This way you will get reliable software, optimized primarily for the platform you choose, so it will always run smoothly.

Summary

Do you already know what solution to choose for your project? We hope we have cleared up our doubts on this matter. Regardless of which approach interests you, ultimately, the most important thing is how you solve users’ problems and respond to their needs. Don’t forget to first define the target group and what particular obstacle you want to conquer with your software. Thanks to this, it will certainly be easier to decide on a specific solution. If you still have a hard time making a decision, trust experienced developers from BinarApps that can help you choose the best option, and complete your vision.

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