Hybrid Apps vs Native Apps: A Comprehensive Guide
By Bobby Gill on December 10, 2012 / 1 Comment
About 4 seconds after you decide you are going to build an app, you will face the classic Appster dilemma:
To build a native app or to build a mobile web app?
(If you think ‘native’ has anything to do with indigenous peoples of North America, you should read this article first)
If you go the native route, you benefit from building a ‘real’ app that lives and breathes right on the phone and has access to it’s GPS, camera, and file system. But native apps can only run on the platform you built it for, so if you wanted to migrate your native iPhone app to Android, you will need to start from scratch!
If you are beset by the choice, let me introduce you to the ‘hybrid app’.
A native app written in HTML?! How can that be?
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
With all of this being said, the question remains: which is better, native apps or hybrid apps? There isn’t a simple yes or no answer to this question – it depends on the organization and the goals you are trying to achieve. However, there are a few points you can consider to help you decide which is right for your business.
Hybrid vs. Native Apps
With native apps, you need to develop the app for each platform. When you go with a hybrid framework, you have one codebase that works across multiple platforms. Since you are only developing one app for every platform, it is going to reduce the development costs. If your organization is working on a tight budget and you need to reach users on both iOS and Android right from the start, this can make hybrid apps a more attractive option.
Time to Market
With one development process, hybrid apps can get to market faster than native apps. You could cut the time to market for a native app by having two teams working in parallel on apps for the different platforms. However, that isn’t going to reduce the number of working hours that go into development. If you need to get apps out for both iOS and Android in a short deadline, a hybrid app might be the better option.
Native apps are built for the platform and hybrid apps use middleware to adapt code for different platforms. Since native apps are built for the ecosystem, they tend to perform better. Hybrid apps can have issues with being laggy or glitchy. Users will notice the performance issues and it might cause some dissatisfaction. If you are looking to deliver the best user experience possible, a native app is the way to go.
While hybrid apps do have the ability to connect with many of the phone services and features, they don’t always interact with them as well or as efficiently as native apps. Developers may even need to use or build specific plugins in order to offer some features that would be natural for a native app. Hybrid apps also still rely on an internet connection for many of their functions. Without a connection, the user might experience limited functionality with a hybrid app.
Hybrid apps are usually easier to maintain. With one codebase for all platforms, you make the updates once and they are there for the user no matter what device they are using. With a native app, each version needs to be updated individually. This makes the maintenance of hybrid apps simpler and more cost-effective. With that said, you might need to spend more time updating and tweaking a hybrid app. Otherwise, you will get more complaints about performance and functionality.
The Bottom Line
Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages. In general, you will always be able to build a better overall app by choosing native. Hybrid apps have their place, however. They are more cost-effective, they can be on the market faster, and the unified codebase will make them simpler to maintain.
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