One of the biggest decisions you will be faced with when you chose to venture into mobile app development is whether to go native or hybrid. On one hand, you want to maximize user experience but on the other, waiting for months (or even years) before getting approval is not something any developer looks forward to. With hybrid apps, your budget is not as steep but at the cost of poor user experience. All this leads to the question every mobile app developer is asking. Are native apps worth it or should you just settle for hybrid? Most importantly, is there a middle ground? We tackle all these issues today in the hope of helping you decide between the two.
What are the native apps?
In simple terms, native apps are smartphone applications basically developed for a mobile operating system. It is developed to be “native” to certain platforms: android, apple, and decreasingly blackberry and windows phone.
Native apps are common in mobile computing as these are designed to perform on a specific mobile phone platform. The app is directly (permanently sometimes) installed on the device and can be downloaded from an app store which is usually public but can also be private. Different versions of the app have to be created for different platforms in order to function properly.
As said earlier, Native apps are built for a specific platform. This allows them to coordinate with the features as well as other apps installed in the platform. This allows them to take advantage of devices like camera, email accounts and global positioning system (GPS). Moreover, native mobile apps are coded in a programming language, such as Java for android operating systems or objective C for IOS.
What are the advantages of using native apps?
The obvious advantage of native apps over hybrid apps is their ability to maximize user experience. But this is not all that native app bring to the table. Here are some of the advantages of native apps.
- To start with, native apps maximize the user’s experience. They perform and look better since they are developed and designed specifically for a certain platform. Furthermore, it makes the work of its developers easier especially those provided with the SDK and other tools to create the app.
- Secondly, Native applications have access to features of the phone including camera, gestures, GPS, and notifications. This further maximizes user experience and improves the performance of the apps.
- One of the priorities of mobile app developers is provision of high quality services. Native apps deliver this. This does not mean that other apps such as hybrid app or web app cannot provide a better mobile user experience; it simply means that the visuals and the graphics will not be exactly the same as those in native apps. This makes native apps more responsive and faster than hybrid apps.
- Native apps are best for offline functioning. Mobile users like apps that can perform both online and offline. Most if not all native apps are better at this than Hybrid ones. You can argue that In-browser caching is available in HTML5, but it is still very limited compared to what you expect when you go native.
- Furthermore, native apps enjoy full support from the specific marketplaces and application stores. Consumers can easily find and download applications of their choice from the stores.
- Lastly, it assures its user’s security and safety of the app since these apps have to get the approval of the application store they are intended for. It is very rare to find a native app with a virus or other security issues.
Unfortunately, although native apps have their advantages, they also have limitations. Let us briefly assess this.
Disadvantages of native Apps
- Getting the app approval at the application store can be long and tedious for the developer and does not always result in success. Moreover, there is no assurance that the app becomes popular with the end users. Frustrating right?
- Native apps are more expensive in maintenance as well as developing when compared to the hybrid app. It gets more expensive in the case of developers who like their app to correspond with multiple mobile app devices and platforms.
- Its cost of maintenance and application updating is higher for native apps, most especially if the app supports many mobile platforms.
- Lastly, end users of several mobile devices may be making use of different versions of the native app, thus making it difficult for the developer to keep on offering support.
What are hybrid apps?
Just like any other app on your phone, hybrid apps can be found in app stores. With them, you can be able to play games, engage your family and friends through social media, track your health, take photos, just to mention but a few. Hybrid applications are part web apps, part native apps and because of that, many customers wrongly call them “web apps” since they can be installed on the device and run using a web browser. Its application features include:-
- Functions with or without network connection.
- Integrates with a mobile device’s file system.
- Integrates with mobile web-based services.
- It has an embedded browser to improve accessibility to dynamic online contents.
What are the advantages of using hybrid apps?
Since Native apps bring so much to the table in terms of quality and user experience, many developers end up ignoring hybrid apps. Hybrid apps too, have some perks that come with them as we are going to discuss below.
- First, hybrid apps have fewer development costs. It is arguably cheap to develop hybrid apps, as these need skills that build upon the experiences of the previous web. Many developers have discovered that that going fully native is very expensive, as it demands more specialized skills.
- Secondly, it assures platform independence. While different browsers do support different versions of HTML5, platform independence is very vital, and this is portrayed by hybrid apps. It, therefore, offers a better chance of achieving it with hybrid apps than with native apps. Furthermore, at least parts of the code can be used again when creating hybrid apps.
- Maintenance of a hybrid app is simpler and easier as compared to a native app which is complicated not only for the users but also for the developers. This is most specifically if they have to deal with many versions of the same information on several platforms. Changes have to be made in a new version and placed in the mobile app store. Hybrid apps are simple just like maintaining a web page and can be done as frequently as needed.
- You will also find that hybrid apps provide a way for developers to re-use their skills in web development. Developers do not like the getting locked in proprietary platforms. This includes SDKs provided by platform vendors and the programming languages.
When to use native and when to use hybrid apps?
While there are compelling and distinct benefits of native or hybrid apps, the decision on when to use either should be a strategic one, taking into consideration the end user experience, product roadmap, overall business objectives. There are five questions the end user has to ask before deciding on the app to use:-
- To start with, he must ask himself which features of either of the apps he really needs. For example, does the app require access to native features such as Camera SMS, phone contacts, hardware device buttons, Push notifications, map etc.?
- How fast do you need to get this out to market? This requires an end user to make a decision on whether to use a mobile app that is either faster or easier to use. In case the end user is advisable to use a hybrid type which is simple and faster than the native one.
- What budget do you have? The financial factor is also an important aspect to consider before deciding when to use a mobile app. The end user should, therefore, use hybrid apps in case he is limited in finances since it is cheaper.
- How often is your update cycle? What are the levels of functionality do the end user want to add in his updates? This question will motivate a consumer to make a decision on his app choice.
- How vital is user experience with the mobile app.? If he is in a competitive marketplace, he should prioritize the user experience. In this case, I would recommend him to choose a native app.
Native VS Hybrid – Which is easy to develop?
In case you are confused whether to build a native mobile app or a hybrid mobile app, this piece of information is going to help you make a decision on which one is easier to develop. In this regard, the developer must consider how fast he wants to take it to the market. The time he wishes to take it to the market is dependent on various things like the number of resources and number of features he has. More resources basically mean that the budget will go up. If a developer wants to launch the mobile app faster to the market with limited resources, it would be wise for him to go with hybrid app approach, which will go a long way in helping him to launch the app on multiple platforms in a short time.
If he has already a hybrid component that he has worked on, it would be wise to continue building the same platform. So a lot depends on the existing investment in technology and resources.
Native apps and hybrid apps may seem a bit similar in their function but are based on completely different formation and infrastructure; both of them have their benefits and limitations.
Developers have realized that the fastest way to win clients using mobile apps is by optimizing on their efficiency to the user and providing affordable apps. Hybrid apps are better at doing this since they are easier, faster and cheaper to develop. This does not mean that there is no future for native apps. Far from it. If anything, developers have taken up the challenge and are providing excellent native apps. This is due to the readily available resources for native coding in recent time compared to in the past. It will be really interesting to see some new Native apps taking over wouldn’t it?
Finally, when all is said and done, the fact remains that, developers and users need both hybrid and native apps hence the difficulty in picking the perfect choice between the two. It is up to developers to weigh the pros and cons of each and decide what to go with.