Native vs. Hybrid Mobile App Development: What’s the Difference?
When users want to play a game, buy a product, find a location on the map, or do any number of other tasks, they use their desktop or laptop computer or their mobile phone without giving much consideration to the applications that are running the process – as long as their experience is seamless. The best way to enhance the overall effect the user realizes is for the product owner to understand the various types of mobile app development and the advantages each brings to our ever-evolving connected world.
An Explanation of Terms
Because technical language regarding apps can quickly become confusing, let’s define some terms right at the beginning.
- An app or application is a small piece of software that is designed to accomplish a particular purpose. Examples include games, budgeting software, and offerings from retailers that enable customers to pay for products and collect loyalty points whenever they make purchases. Apps can be referred to as mobile, smartphone, iPhone, Android, web and online.
- A progressive web app or mobile web app is a mobile-optimized website that has the look and feel of a smartphone app. The user gets to this app using their standard web browser, and thus there is no need to install anything extra on the mobile device. These apps are low-cost, easy to develop, and offer an intuitive user experience.
- A native app is created specifically to be used on a certain platform such as Apple’s iOS, Android, Blackberry, or Windows. Because it is platform-based, a native app must be created using the platform’s own language: Objective-C or Swift for iOS, Kotlin or Java for Android, and C# for Windows Phone. Each of these platforms has its own unique set of guidelines, graphic styles, typography, data entry procedures, and visual effects.
Advantages of Native Mobile App Development
Native mobile apps have some distinct advantages because of the nature of their construction. Because they are tailored exactly to match one particular platform, they must be built using the tools and language that are optimal for it. The end result is an app that fits the platform like a glove and runs smoothly, with relatively few bugs and the potential for easy updating.
Speed is also enhanced with this structure because the app has been optimized for its platform. Moreover, both the memory and battery of the hardware on which the app runs are key focuses for developers, meaning that the end result is as efficient and intuitive as possible for the user. When the time comes to make updates, the native features of the app makes the process infinitely easier.
In general, the entire end user feel is better with native mobile apps, versus hybrid mobile apps which are more of a “one size fits all” experience. Everything, including scrolling, effects, animations, gesture recognition, and appealing elements are enhanced with platform-specific programs such as these. With native apps, the user has automatic access to the phone’s built-in microphone, camera, GPS and calendar.
Finally, native apps boast the most robust security features of any type of mobile phone app. That’s because the resources of the hardware are used to their maximum efficiency.
Disadvantages of Native Mobile App Development
Each platform has numerous requirements and specifications involved in developing apps that are targeted just for them. For that reason, it’s no wonder that native apps take more time to create, test and implement.
This complexity also brings about higher costs with native vs. hybrid mobile app development. Developers usually specialize in one platform over all others, which means that companies wishing to have native apps on iOS and Android, for example, will usually need to put two entirely separate development teams together to get the entire job done. Whenever a change or upgrade needs to happen, each team will do it on its own time and budget, again raising the cost profile.
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Advantages of Hybrid Mobile App Development
By definition, a hybrid app works on all platforms. Therefore, a different program is not required for each. As a result, both cost and development time for this type of mobile app can be markedly reduced. Many companies already have people on board who are experts in general web development, which makes starting hybrid app development easier and more cost-effective, versus native apps which are more specialized and complex.
Just as with native apps, the hybrid mobile app user gets different options to access built-in features of the device, including the microphone, GPS, calendar, and camera. Maintenance is also relatively easy because of the way hybrids are constructed within their native shells. When the time comes to update or upgrade, the procedure is relatively easy for a seasoned software engineer.
These days, app developers are engaged in a cutthroat competition to get new offerings onto a hungry market. For that reason, every second you spend developing the app counts. When your highest priority is to get a cutting-edge app to market on multiple platforms, hybrid mobile app development is the way to go.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Mobile App Development
Remember that hybrid shell we talked about that surrounds the source code and makes it possible for hybrid apps, unlike native apps, to be compatible with different platforms at once? The downside is that it is this very same shell that puts an extra layer between the code and the mobile platform and can result in compromised performance.
Debugging can also be more challenging. That’s because any inconsistencies in the app can “fight with” the hybrid shell, leading to slow-downs and all-out breakdown of performance.
Finally, maintaining a consistent focus across all platforms can prove difficult for most developers. In the majority of cases, apps tend to function better on a particular one no matter how much work a developer lavishes on the project. If it excels on the iPhone, for instance, it might limp a bit on Androids. At least at this point in the evolution of the technology, that situation has not been effectively resolved in this type of mobile app.
In recent years, hybrid mobile app development has become an increasingly popular way to release software across smartphone platforms. Even so, each type of mobile app project has different timelines, priorities, costs, and goals. For these reasons, it always makes sense to review the different types of mobile apps carefully before developing upon a particular one. After all, in this day and age of design thinking and human-centered design, it is the happiness of the end user that is your most important objective.