5 Things You Should Know Before Developing A Hybrid App

hybrid app

The debate over whether you should go in for developing with a native mobile app development or hybrid app development rages on.

Before we get started on this topic, here’s what hybrid apps and native apps are all about:

Native apps: These are built for a specific operating system, using a programming language such as, Java, Objective-C, Swift, etc. A native app developed for iOS won’t work on Android devices, and vice-versa. These apps take longer to develop and cost more.

This is an example of a native app:

Native vs hybrid apps

Hybrid apps:  Technically, a hybrid app consists of a HTML5 web app within a native ‘wrapper.’ This is a mobile app written using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, and then compiled into native iOS, Android or other mobile platform using wrapper technologies such as PhoneGap or Cordova.

The more recent technologies include React Native and Flutter from Facebook and Google. These apps can be easily deployed across multiple platforms and is usually the cheaper and faster solution to build a mobile app. Hire a React Native development company to help you build a hybrid app.

This is an example of a hybrid app:

hybrid app examples

There are several factors that make hybrid app development seem attractive to some entrepreneurs.

The most persuasive being the low cost of development (developers estimate 30-90% cost savings over native apps), followed by time consumption and the convenience to run on any platform and device. App builder vs custom development is another topic of discussion that’s heating up in the mobile app development for entrepreneurs space.

Then why would anyone bother building a native app? Here are 5 situations where you’d choose a hybrid app over a native one.

#1 If you’re okay with an ‘okay’ user experience

Marko Lehtimaki, CEO and founder of AppGyver, wrote a guest post for Venture Beat, where he said:

“Hybrid apps are normally considered a compromise in terms of the user experience. It takes a great deal of extra work on the part of HTML5 developers to try to produce platform-consistent user interface behaviour, which typically falls short of that of the native UI.”

Here’s another expert talking about the look and feel of hybrid apps. James Long, a Senior Web Developer at Mozilla developer at Mozilla, insists that the mobile web will never compete with native app development.

In his blog post, he highlighted some radical statements about the mobile web.

The web isn’t close to competing with higher-end native apps. You may think the UX is getting close, but there’s always more jank. Let’s not even talk technical; even if it is getting close, when companies want to develop a beautiful, ground-breaking app, they choose native. I’ve talked to enough developers to see that we aren’t close to changing this yet.

In a report named, ‘Web, Hybrid, And Native Mobile Apps All Have Their Place’, Forrester insists that we will go back to the future; that “[n]ative apps [dominated] client server days, but Web apps took over” and “History will repeat itself in mobile.”

Also, other research has shown that developer interest in HTML5 has slid, with the general consensus that HTML5 is best for a small subset of apps (such as internal line of business).

Maybe, that’s the reason 80% of mobile interaction is done via native apps.

#2 If you don’t care much about users

In an article on Mashable, iOS engineer Eric Miller compared native and hybrid apps in the most apt way. He said,

“Native applications have the benefit of familiarity. Developers already know how to code for iOS and Android software development kits and can expect how they’ll function. Users are also already acquainted with these apps. They know the feel, flow and navigation and everything about the applications they already use on their native devices, and trying to reproduce that using hybrid is a little bit tricky.”

“Hybrid apps always rely on a third party framework to keep up with rapidly changing iOS and Android platforms.”

Here’s the full video:

Another thing which can make you feel left out is that native development utilizes platform-provided SDKs that provide access to all available APIs.

This level of access allows developers to take advantage of latest frameworks provided by app stores to ensure that their apps include the latest and relevant features. For example, many native apps will get advantage of improved SDKs and operating system announced at this year’s WWDC.

#3 If you don’t want to build interactive and rich media apps

Have you seen any popular gaming app built using hybrid platform?

Probably not.

Reason being, hybrid apps are not the right choice for animation or graphic-intensive apps such as interactive games or rich-media.

BI Intelligence interviewed Michael King, director of enterprise strategy at Appcelerator and he described what he calls the ‘slope of interactivity.’

“The higher up the slope you go, the more interactive the app. Your requirements for a native functionality grow as you move farther up the slope. Something like Netflix video consumption isn’t very interactive — apps like that are a great place to use HTML5.”

#4 If speed is not your priority

Let’s set some context here.

A few months back, parcel and postage comparison website Interparcel conducted a study of 2,000 Britons for finding the patience levels of people.

Here are some interesting findings:

cross-platform apps

Yes, 10 seconds is all it takes for a person to close that slow link and move on.

Our smartphones and networks have become much faster today. In fact, GeekBench shows that the latest iPhone is ten times faster than a 2009-era 3GS.

Here’s a video which compares the speed of all the iPhones ever made and it is clear that the latest iPhone is the fastest.

Okay, so why are we discussing all this?

Because hybrid apps are known to be slower than native apps. It is not an opinion, but a fact.

In 2012 Mark Zuckerberg declared that Facebook’s biggest mistake had been betting on the mobile web and not going native.

Prior to 2012, Facebook users just had one complaint for the HTML5 based app, i.e. speed. The app was plagued with slowdowns, instability, and other issues. In fact, the experience was so slow that some people called the app a ‘patience testing experience’.

Soon after the native app went live, a note written on Facebook Engineering page, stated:

“One of the biggest advantages we’ve gained from building on native iOS has been the ability to make the app fast. Now, when you scroll through your news feed on the new Facebook for iOS, you’ll notice that it feels much faster than before.”

advantages of native app

In the above mentioned guest post, Marko Lehtimaki addressed this problem, In iOS the wrapped browser runs up to 3x slower than Mobile Safari due to security restrictions. In short, the user experience offered by hybrid apps typically falls well short of that for native app equivalents. There’s no sense in building a hybrid app if it’s going to receive a one-star rating in the app store.”

Hybrid apps are slow compared to native apps and this is because hybrid apps add another layer between the user and the app.

On the other hand, native apps have advanced UI interactions and fastest performance.

#5 If you are okay with restrictions

When Linkedin switched from a hybrid app to a native app, Kiran Prasad, LinkedIn’s senior director for mobile engineering, said the following for hybrid apps:

“There are a few things that are critically missing. One is tooling support — having a debugger that actually works, performance tools that tell you where the memory is running out.

If you look at Android and iOS, there are two very large corporations that are focused on building tools to give a lot of detailed information when things go wrong in production. On the mobile web side, getting those desktop tools to work for mobile devices is really difficult.”

When Should You Go For Development Of A Hybrid App?

While native apps do offer a better overall user experience, hybrid apps come with their own advantages as well.

The biggest benefit that hybrid apps offer is that unlike native apps, you don’t have two separate sets of code written for the Android and iOS platforms. The shared code can be deployed across both Apple as well as Android devices thus saving valuable time and efforts while essentially halving the cost of app development.

The question arises, when do you choose to build a hybrid app over a native app?

You should definitely prefer a hybrid mobile app over a native app if you are in any of the situations mentioned below.

1. When testing a hypothesis 

In the initial stages of app development when you don’t have the validation of your app idea, are running tight on resources and need to get your product out in the market to obtain user feedback and validation, hybrid apps should be your go-to choice. It is more cost-effective to develop a hybrid app over native apps. The development and deployment of hybrid apps also takes place at a much faster rate as compared to native apps.

The resource intensiveness of hybrid app development makes it the ideal choice for startups and small businesses who are just starting out with mobile app development. Once you have established yourself in the market with the app idea validated, you can always hire additional resources and make the switch to a native app. A number if successful apps in the app stores today started out as hybrid apps and then took the native route.

2. When developing an enterprise application for internal users

If you are looking to develop a mobile application for internal use within your company, a hybrid app turns out to be a better choice than a native one. Unless all the employees within the company use either iOS or Android devices, you would need two separate applications to be programmed for each platform which would just double the amount of resources necessary for app development.

Since the intended users of the app is going to be the internal employees, the app doesn’t need any additional frills. It just needs to basic functionalities to work well which can be well achieved by developing a hybrid app rather that a native one.

The benefits of hybrid apps are clear — write once and deploy everywhere — but there are still certain restrictions which come along.

  1. Native apps have the advantage of being available even offline. Whereas, much of a hybrid app’s functionality is Internet-dependent because of the extensive use of web code. The portions of the program written in native code are able to be accessed offline.
  2. Like native apps, hybrids aren’t found by search engine crawlers, meaning you’ll have to establish a landing page to take advantage of search optimization.
  3. Native apps have more access to a device’s features (such as camera, GPS, contacts, etc.) and can use these features more effectively.
  4. Native apps can take advantage of in app purchasing, and hybrid apps cannot.

Deciding on the right architecture for your app is like a million-dollar decision. However, there is no right or wrong way of doing this and it truly depends on your needs. List out your priorities and requirements, do a market survey, build a prototype, weigh the pros and cons of each type and then take an informed decision. Don’t base your decision purely on the cost of development.

Which Technology To Choose For Building A Hybrid App

When it comes to choosing a framework to build a hybrid application, there are tons of options available at your disposal. From React Native that is ruling over hybrid app development in 2019 to the new kid on the block, Flutter, the choices are many. There is Ionic, Xamarin, Apache Cordova, Adobe PhoneGap, Mobile angular UI and so on. Which one should you pick?

During our 9 years of experience of developing apps at the mobile app development company Arkenea, we have tried our hand at a number of different technologies. Our developers have continued to work on hybrid frameworks as they continued to evolve. Some platforms managed to deliver on the promises they made while others woefully failed. Through our experience in building and scaling cross platform applications, React Native has stood out to be the best of the lot, closely followed by Flutter.

A detailed analysis of Flutter vs React Native would help you shortlist the framework you want to base your next mobile application on. In case you are looking for an mobile app development company to partner with you on your quest of developing a hybrid app, feel free to ask us for a quote!

Build A Hybrid Mobile App

At Arkenea, we have more than 9 years of experience in helping our clients build successful hybrid mobile apps (on React Native and Flutter). Many of our clients have cross several million downloads, they’ve been featured on the App Stores in over 50 countries, featured in TechCrunch and even raised millions in venture funding.

For example, we helped build an iPad app that’s a surgical workflow platform for a startup who raised $1 million in venture funding just with their first pilot.

That’s a testimony to the quality of apps we build. Clients like you hire app development company Arkenea to achieve their business goals.

If you’re looking to build an app, get in touch with us by clicking on the contact us link on the top right of this page, to learn more about what’s the best approach for your specific product idea, how much time would it take to build and launch the first iteration and what would it cost.

Image credit: Sixrevisions, roammobility

Nidhi Shah
 

Nidhi is the head of content marketing at Arkenea, a mobile app consultancy building experience rich apps for startups and businesses.

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