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Native vs. Hybrid Mobile app Development: What to Build First?

You’ve started your business as a web app.

It’s running well. It nails profits, but mobile seems to be overruling you.

Mobile traffic has already surpassed desktop traffic in 10 countries worldwide. Users spend more time on one app that they do on one website on average. Everyone is full-fledge into mobile app development.

And most importantly, you’ve heard the rumor of how cheap hybrid apps are. Yet some people call them sluggish and limited as well.

Now before we dive into analyzing the nitty-gritty of hybrid vs. mobile app development and pricing, let’s make it clear with the terms first.

Native apps are developed specifically for a mobile operating system, using the respective programming language and tech stack. That is Objective-C or Swift for iOS apps and Java for Android.

These apps are developed using the core platform guidelines when it comes to design and take advantage of the smartphone’s native features e.g. location tracking, access to Camera/Photos or iBeacon technology.

Good native apps cost good money and take awhile to develop.

Read: How much does it cost to develop a mobile app?

Example of a native app:

vox-music-player

Vox music player native app

Hybrid apps are not exactly apps in the first place. Those are web apps built using HTML5 and JavaScript, packaged in a native wrapper. This native container makes the web app look like a mobile app, but all the in-app features are powered by the website.

Unlike native apps, the wrapper loads most of the information as the user navigates the application, meaning hybrid apps don’t work properly in offline mode.

Building hybrid apps takes less time and skills – you grab your web code and translate it to Android/iOS using one of the hybrid app development tools.

Okay, so what is the key difference between native and hybrid apps?

Here’s a simple analogy.

Using a hybrid app can be compared to communicating via Google Translator.

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In general, you understand the majority of words and receive pretty accurate translations. But once you add more complex language and phrases, the output will be not so great.

Hybrid apps are great when it comes to the basic set of features – for instance, a product MVP to run your idea with the selected target audience first.

But if you want your app to offer more in-depth experience, finer features and function as a stand-alone solution – native apps are the go-to route.

Hybrid vs Native App Comparison

native

User Experience: Native app vs. Hybrid app

Here’s the deal – the majority of users ran away and never come back to a sluggish, non-attractive app:

poor-uxWhat is more – a poor mobile app undermines your company’s reputation and alienates some customers for good.

People no longer feel wowed by just some app – their phones are already stashed with a dozen of those.

People want apps that look smart, work smart and make them feel smart about themselves

After all, they are already “done” with their gadget learning curve and got trained on how apps work. They don’t want to waste their brainpower on how this new solution works. That’s exactly why the best mobile apps are built around certain UX design patterns.

And that is why you need to follow respective design guidelines of each mobile platform.

With native apps – that’s out of the question. With hybrid apps – things get a bit more complicated.

While the majority of hybrid app development tools and native wrapper generators do allow you to build a similar navigation and information structure, the overall app functionality will still be truncated.

You may not able to take advantage of the gadget’s native gestures and features such as push messages, location-based tech stack, camera, Touch ID and other cool stuff, which makes your app more interactive.

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Development Lifecycle: Native vs. Hybrid Apps

For startups and the majority of businesses, releasing a mobile app stands for keeping the pace with the competition within your industry.

Hence, most of the times you need for like yesterday.

Hybrid apps are like your 5-min microwave macaroni. You take the pack, put it in the microwave, press some buttons and voila – it’s ready for consumption. I mean it’s ready to get pushed to the users.

Of course, from a tech standpoint, the process is a bit more complicated, but hybrid apps do take less time to develop compared to native apps. Plus, you can immediately release your app for numerous platforms – iOS, Android, Windows Phone. Lastly, faster time-to-market means less budgets spend on developers.

When it comes to releasing app updates, things are rather straightforward as well. Once you push a new feature to your web app, hybrid app users will instantly see the update as long as this update is loaded from the server.

Native apps are like hosting an exquisite dinner party at home. You spend hours in the kitchen, steaming, chopping and mixing all the foods. You inquire in advance what kinds of wine do the guests like? Do they have any food allergies? And try to pre-guess how they will react to your coq au vin jaune that you’ve marinated for a few days.

Obviously, your preparations pay off and everyone is super delighted and impressed. They wonder when they can come to dinner once again and some even propose to chip in some cash for the next party.

Native apps feel more impressive. However, this “wow” factor also has a higher price – both in terms of development costs involved and the time you need to “cook” your amazing experience. Hosting two exquisite dinner parties simultaneously (aka attempting cross-platform app development) will take even more efforts and budgets.

Further on, you’ll need to invest additionally in supporting your product, cross-testing it on multiple devices and troubleshooting post-update issues. And yes, users will need to update their apps manually once you roll out those.

Bottom line:

Performance: Native vs. Hybrid Apps

Native apps just work faster.

As John Long, a web developer at Mozilla, admits:

“DOM makes Javascript run slower. There’s no indication the DOM will ever be fast enough, and if it does happen it’s lightyears away on mobile”.

*DOM – document object model is a programming API for HTML documents, which is used in hybrid app development.

Your hybrid app can’t function without a connection to your web app. That’s why they don’t work in offline mode. Here’s what influences the speed of delivering the information to users in this case:

  • The number of people making calls to your servers simultaneously.
  • The number of requests coming from mobile devices pinging the same servers.

Of course, you can allocate additional servers for hybrid app users, which will somewhat reduce the load and increase the response time. Yet, the programming limitations still remain.

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The Other Benefits of Native vs. Hybrid Mobile Apps

Native apps allow creating better animations and custom transitions, which respond to user gestures. And that is exactly how users are used to interacting with the app.

Native mobile apps are usually deemed more secure. As hybrid apps heavily rely on the connection to web servers, they become more prone to Java Script injections and caching issues.

To wrap it up, here’s a quick list of pros and cons of native apps and the same one for hybrid:

Native Apps Pros:

  • More attractive UX and UI.
  • Faster graphics, fluid animations and transitions.
  • Loads of APIs to take advantage of unique smartphone features – camera, location-tracking, iBeacon etc.
  • Better security.
  • Faster overall performance.

Native Apps Cons:

  • High development costs (good apps cost good money)
  • Cross-platform development takes, even more, budgets. So does porting an iOS app to Android.
  • Longer time-to-market.
  • Devices fragmentation and the need to support older mobile OS.

Hybrid Apps Pros:

  • Take significantly less time to develop and cost less.
  • Require less post-release support and testing.
  • You can simultaneously deploy the app to multiple platforms.
  • In-app content is ready-to-port and just requires a native harness to run it.

Hybrid Apps Cons:

  • You are limited to deploy only basic platform features.
  • The app UX and UI may look alien to some users.
  • They app will work slower and only in online mode.
  • Your app is more prone to security-related issues.
  • Troubleshooting and debugging can be cumbersome if your developers don’t know the native platform.

Now the question is – do you plan to serve microwaved macaroni or an exquisite three-course dinner to your users?

If you are just starting out and feeling the grounds, a hybrid mobile app may be a good way to test your market assumptions and survey early users.

In other cases, investing in a native mobile app will pay off more. And if you need a mobile app development team for the project, do get it in touch will Alty!

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