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Native or hybrid mobile app. What to choose

Native or hybrid mobile app? What to choose?

Before commissioning a software house to build a mobile app, it is necessary to decide which type will be more suitable for the project. We introduce the features of native and hybrid apps and show the differences between them

Person using a smartphone

What is a native app?

The native app is built for a specific operating system. For iOS, Swift or Objective-C is used, and for Android it is Java. Developer tools offered by Apple or Google are also used.

The advantages of a native app

  • They take full advantage of the functionality of a given device, as they are designed specifically for it. This means support for all options offered by e.g. sensors, microphone, camera or the use of notifications and gestures.
  • They are very efficient because native code is often faster than the combination of JavaScript and HTML that are used in hybrid applications.
  • It is the optimal choice for apps with advanced graphics, including 3D, as it is displayed most efficiently.
  • They work better offline, so you can access their basic functionalities without an Internet connection.
  • They allow developers to achieve better UX because the app interface is adapted to the specific platform. Its appearance corresponds to the habits of the system user, which makes it look more user friendly.

The disadvantages of a native app

  • If we want to create an app that supports both iOS and Android smartphones, we will have to write two different codes. The development is therefore much more expensive as two development teams have to be employed. You will also need to coordinate work between them, which is not always simple. However, if one team is responsible for both versions of the software, development takes longer.
  • The cost of maintaining the app is higher due to its two versions.
  • Sometimes native apps take longer to download, which may discourage some users.
Person pointing at a smartphone screen

What is a hybrid app?

Hybrid apps work much like native apps. However, HTML and Java Script languages with CSS libraries are used to create them (the same as building websites). The web browser mechanism is used for the functionality of the app. It is invisible to the user because the browser does not need to be turned on and the software is displayed in full screen.

The most popular frameworks for building hybrid apps are React Native, Cordova, Ionic, and Xamarin.

The advantages of a hybrid app

  • Developers do not have to create separate codes for each operating system. This reduces development costs and time. Its maintenance is also cheaper than native apps built for both platforms.
  • The code created can be used on the website, which makes its functionality similar to the PWA (Progressive Web App).
  • The appearance of the app is the same on both platforms, resulting in a consistent user experience.
  • They are almost as efficient as native apps.
  • All functions of the device can be used thanks to the use of appropriate plugs

The disadvantages of hybrid apps

  • Their performance is worse when supporting high-quality graphics or 3D (i.e .more advanced games).
  • User experience may be poorer because hybrid apps cannot use the platform's user interface.
  • Developers must synchronize the app with the latest versions of libraries such as Cordova and Ionic.
  • If there is no plug-in available to program a device function, it must be created from scratch, which increases the cost and time of app development. This may occur if it is a completely new feature, e.g. a newly launched smartphone.
  • An internet connection is required for the full functionality of the app.
Multiple application icons on top of a smartphone used by a person

Native of hybrid – which to choose?

When deciding to choose one of these options, first of all, you should set your priorities:

  • low development cost: when we want to create an app that supports both iOS and Android, we should choose a hybrid app. We will avoid creating two development teams.
  • low maintenance cost: here too, a hybrid app will be a better choice.
  • high performance with advanced graphics and 3D: the native app definitely wins.
  • new device functions: the native app will handle them without the need to create your own pugins
  • full offline functionality: 100% in the native app
  • superior user experience: the interface of the native app is identical to the interface of the device, which increases the UX. However, this does not mean that a hybrid app cannot be user-friendly.

As you can see from the list above, the capabilities of the native app are greater than that of the hybrid app. However, it must be remembered that if the aspects in which it has an advantage over the competitor are not priorities, investing in it may turn out to be unprofitable.

In order to reduce the cost and development time, as well as software maintenance expenses, it is worth considering some type of compromise and choosing a hybrid app. However, the project should be carefully planned, determining what is really important.

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