As the number of mobile app users continuously grows, mobile solutions become a must for any business. Before starting the development, entrepreneurs must select between getting a native app or a hybrid app. The problem they may face here is not enough accurate information or misconceptions regarding the role of native and hybrid technologies. In this article, we compare these technologies by five criteria that influence the development process and app quality. We also provide examples of well-known native and hybrid apps to show how companies use these solutions in their business activities.

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Native and Hybrid Approaches to Mobile Development

Developers create native applications with the technologies made exclusively for one mobile operating system. Among their essentialadvantages are impeccable user experience, high security, and no platform-specific restrictions for software engineers during the development. The native technologies are Swift or Objective-C for the iOS platform and Kotlin or Java for Android.

Hybrid development appeared as a budget-friendly alternative to the native approach. It allows creating one app to cover both iOS and Android platforms at the same time with the help of such popular hybrid frameworks as React Native and Flutter. This methodis based on such web technologies as HTML, CSS, JavaScript “covered” in native components so that an app could perform almost like a native one. However, this approach to mobile software development is characterized by significant restrictions that result in several drawbacks described further in this article.

Comparative Table of Native and Hybrid Development

When downloading apps from the App Store or Google Play Market, average users don’t even know what “native” or “hybrid” is and, let’s face the truth, don’t care about it. They need the result – namely, a useful and responsive app either for the iOS or Android platforms. However, the way to provide this result matters for business, and understanding the difference between native and hybrid apps will help to choose the most successful solution. There are five criteria that uncover the main reasons to select one or another type of development with the detailed description below.

Comparative Table of Native and Hybrid Apps

1. App Complexity

A decision to go native or hybrid depends on the purpose and complexity of the app. If a product needs the integration of advanced technologies, 3D graphics, animations, or extensive usage of memory and processing powers, native development is a must. It is also a choice for some B2C apps such as social media, video and audio hosting systems, entertaining apps, etc. that support numerous multimedia files. On the whole, when business owners count on attracting people with high-quality user experience and speed, they select native technologies.

Choosing hybrid development is reasonable when an entrepreneur wants to create an app for internal use in their company or any other B2B apps. Hybrid technologies work well for statistical data management apps, BI tools, task managers, reminders, location trackers, and similar no-high-load apps. Still, they do not fit apps with advanced multimedia support because multiple multimedia requests may cause delays in the user interface.

Dynamic mobile games must run natively because they require speed, use the device processing unit, 3D graphics, and advanced animations. Nevertheless, building simplistic 2D games with hybrid technologies is also possible. As an example, the “Number Duel” game was built with Flutter for Android OS.

2. App Performance

Entrepreneurs should go native if their product must ensure complex functionalities and user interactions. Native apps work directly with a mobile OS and are usually compatible with the latest versions of the respective OS. Since hybrid apps use a native wrapper for the technologies that are “foreign” to the device operating system, their performance might be inferior to that of native solutions.

Hybrid apps have limitations for accessing device features (such as camera, microphone, storage, etc.) and do not work offline. On the other hand, a hybrid application can look and feel as good as a native app, as long as its architecture is designed mindfully. So, the result depends on whether the specialist that uses hybrid technologies is skilled enough to build a neat architecture for the application.

3. Time of Development

If an application must cover both Android and iOS mobile platform, building it with hybrid technologies would be faster because a developer will work with one codebase. Within this approach, the built-in toolkits of various hybrid frameworks might not be enough to implement some complex functions. In this case, developers use third-party modules or libraries; however, the needed tools might not exist or supported anymore. Some features might require using native code, which increases the time of development.

Within the native approach, complex features are easier to implement because a developer has all the necessary tools that are fully compatible with the target mobile OS. Moreover, the creators of mobile operating systems offer free-to-use software development kits and integrated development environments to all developers of native applications. The examples of such officially supported IDEs are XCode for iOS and Android Studio for Android. In addition, there are multiple third-party tools, both free and paid. Such a variety of options offers numerous opportunities to save client’s time and money, ensure compatibility and security, and provide other advantages. Based on the requirements for an app, business owners can find out the estimated time to create it directly from the software development team during negotiations.

4. Cost of Development

Several factors influence the price of native and hybrid apps: the number of specialists, cost of technologies, cost of maintenance, and number of platforms covered. Hybrid applications are more cost-friendly compared to the native ones, and here’s why:

  • The number of specialists. You’ll need only one developer who works with web technologies instead of two developers skilled at two different platform-specific languages;
  • The cost of technologies. The number of specialists who use web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript is bigger. Consequently, finding a JS developer is easier and less expensive.
  • The number of platforms covered. Within hybrid development, building one codebase for covering both iOS and Android is less expensive than using two separate technologies as required for native development;
  • The cost of development and support. Respectively, the cost of developing and supporting one codebase instead of two as in native development is lower.

Besides the mobile platform and programming technologies for app development, the factors included in the total cost of development are:

  • the size of a development team;
  • the experience of specialists;
  • the complexity of features;
  • the price for additional services, including business analysis, project management, design, quality testing, etc., if required.

Entrepreneurs can find out the exact price for app development and maintenance directly from a development team at the first stages of negotiations. The team estimates their effort and time to accomplish the project based on all client’s requirements.

5. Data Security

Our smartphones are a treasure trove of data that hackers can reach with app-centric attacks, so security must be a priority from the very start of development. Native applications are usually seen as more secure because they rely on numerous layers of protection provided by the mobile operating system. In order to additionally increase security of native apps, developers may decide to use only official toolkits provided by Apple and Google which offer enough possibilities to avoid the use of third-party tools.

Working with hybrid frameworks, specialists highly depend on third-party modules that might or might not damage the app’s architecture. The native wrapper adds security to hybrid solutions. However, as web technologies must be adjusted for all iOS and Android-based mobile device modifications, there’s the need to ensure protection and optimize the app for these modifications and all existing mobile browser versions. At this point, you must entrust security to an experienced mobile developer.

Developing an MVP

At the MVP stage, many startups decide to cover one mobile platform to test the app idea or make a “semi-product” for investors. They may choose to go native to ensure highly responsive UI and UX for the application and scale it up later for only one specific platform. At the same time, they have an option to get a hybrid app that would cover just one platform at the very start. Then, one codebase can be used later to scale up for both iOS and Android at presumably the same cost of the native solution for one mobile OS.

Examples of Native and Hybrid Apps

One of the most reasonable ways to feel the difference between these technologies is to understand how other companies use them. For this purpose, we made a short list of apps installed in millions of devices. Three of them are built with native mobile technologies, and the remained apps are created with such hybrid frameworks as React Native and Flutter. The examples of native apps are:

  • Slack. Mobile applications for the Slack corporate messaging system rely on native languages and official SDKs for iOS and Android. Users get all the functionalities of Slack web and desktop apps, including instant messaging, chat groups and channels creating, content sharing, and reactions on their phones.
  • PayPal. Besides providing users with the ability to make and monitor transactions, manage accounts and balance, and send money around the world, PayPal native apps incorporate encryption technologies to prevent fraud.
  • Pokemon GO. With the implemented 3D graphics, AR, and geolocation features, this game brought interactivity on the new level by providing users with the ability to catch “monsters” in real time and place. Native technologies were the only solution to make such complex system available on smartphones.

The three examples of hybrid applications are:

  • Facebook. Earlier, Facebook was a solely native application, but the app developers saw the problem with native technologies in the low speed of feature changing and updating.For this reason, the Facebook team created React Native. Now, the framework is used in most Facebook products such as Messenger, Instagram, Boomerang, and others.
  • Google Ads. For this app, Google used its recent innovation – Flutter to create a neat user interface with Material Design components and present various data from users’ digital ad campaigns in a convenient format.
  • Tesla. Tesla created a mobile application for remote car control with React Native. The app has a simplistic dark interface design and includes such features as climate control, charging control, charging progress monitoring, vehicle location tracking, smart car summon, etc.

These examples show that many companies use both approaches to develop and maintain their products efficiently. Native and hybrid approaches are equally trusted, so there’s no reason to think that one technology is superior over another for all cases.

Conclusion

The battle between native and hybrid development has no loser or winner because both approaches fit different purposes. Native development would be a choice for building apps that use intensive processing powers of a mobile device. They allow integration of advanced features such as augmented reality, 3D graphics, or animations and ensure smooth user experience. Meanwhile, hybrid technologies will be suitable for simple apps that don’t use smartphone capabilities extensively or handle numerous multimedia requests.

Although the quality of a native app is undeniable, hybrid solutions can be as smart as native ones if their architecture is designed mindfully. Whichever approach you choose, be sure of the proficiency of the team working on your product. The specialists at our company are skilled at both native technologies and hybrid frameworks such as React Native and Flutter. If you need a solution for your app idea, contact us to get the desired result.

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