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February 21, 2024

Choosing Wisely: A Guide to Native, Web, and Hybrid Apps

Mobile app development is a driving force in the ever-changing world of technology. This quickly changing ecology requires understanding app-type differences. Native, hybrid, and web apps are examined in this guide to their benefits. We learn how to create user-friendly mobile apps by exploring the terrain. This blog assists developers, businesses, and tech enthusiasts in making informed decisions to ensure that each app is effective and personalized to its target audience.

Native Apps: The Power of Platform-Specific Development

When envisioning an app, you likely visualize a distinct icon on your smartphone’s screen. Native mobile apps, found in app stores, are one category of apps. For Android, these apps are coded in Java, while iOS apps use Swift (older ones may use Objective-C).

Compared to hybrid or web apps, native mobile apps are generally faster and more reliable, enhancing the user experience (UX). They enable interaction with a device’s API and internal hardware, providing access to features such as cameras, contact lists, microphones, and location tracking. Developing native apps allows businesses to interact seamlessly with a device’s operating system, a key reason for choosing this approach. 

Advantages of native apps:

  • Superior Performance: Native apps run smoothly, even with demanding graphics.
  • Platform-Specific Features: Developing for iOS or Android grants access to unique platform features.
  • Superior User Interface: Meeting platform-specific standards, native apps outperform hybrids and web apps.
  • App Store Visibility: Featured on app stores, native apps enjoy greater visibility, facilitating brand discovery.

The primary advantage of native apps lies in optimizing the user experience—designed and developed specifically for the platform, and they exhibit superior performance and aesthetics.

Native App Examples

Many widely used apps, including Lyft, Pokemon Go, Twitter, and numerous others, are entirely native.

Distinguishing between apps built with pure native code in Swift, Objective C, and Java and those relying on hybrid solutions or cross-platform SDKs has become more challenging. This is due to the advancements in hybrid app development frameworks.

Hybrid Apps: Bridging the Gap Between Native and Web

Hybrid mobile apps seamlessly blend features from the web and native applications. They can be installed on devices and run in a web browser, positioning themselves between the functionalities of native and web apps. Comprising backend code and a downloadable native shell, hybrid apps offer a versatile solution for app development.

Progressive web apps (PWAs), akin to hybrids, mix elements of native and web apps. Unlike hybrids, PWAs lack app store availability, but users can create icons for easy access. PWAs are cost-effective, customizable, and often exhibit faster performance, particularly in areas with slow internet connections.

Advantages of Hybrid Apps:

  • Single-codebase hybrid apps simplify code management. No need to create Android and iOS apps, unlike native apps. Instead, developers may create one app that works on both operating systems.
  • Hybrid app development is time and money-saving. The time and effort needed to construct the app are drastically reduced by managing a single codebase. Compared to native app developers, hybrid developers are cheaper.
  • It’s easy to scale hybrid apps. Once created for one platform, it can readily reach another.
  • Hybrid apps have GPS and camera access like native apps.
  • No internet is needed. Hybrid apps don’t need a continual internet connection.

Examples of Hybrid Apps

Hybrid app technology has reached impressive heights, enabling the development of sophisticated mobile applications that seamlessly rival native counterparts. Explore the following examples to witness the capabilities of hybrid apps firsthand:

  • Untappd (built with Ionic)
  • Giro D’Italia official app (built with Onsen UI)
  • Offcourse Golf (built with Onsen UI)
  • Tripline (built with Framework 7)

Web Apps: Versatility in Mobile Browsing

A web application is essentially a website designed to emulate the look and feel of a mobile application. In contrast to native applications, web apps can operate on various internet browsers such as Chrome or Safari, and they are typically coded using JavaScript or HTML/CSS.

Web apps offer a lower entry barrier compared to native apps, attributed to their relative simplicity, making them more cost-effective and easier to develop. Despite limitations like not being featured on Apple and Android app stores, leading to potentially lower organic visibility, web apps excel in accessibility.

Advantages of web apps:

  • Develop web apps for less. Cross-platform development using code saves time and money.
  • Web apps are easier to maintain. A unified code base across platforms simplifies maintenance.
  • Web apps don’t need app store approval. Developers are not required to submit apps for approval in any app store. Instead, they can be issued anytime and in any format without marketplace clearance.
  • Web apps also eliminate manual updating. Users don’t need to download or install updates because the web app immediately displays the current version.

Examples of Web Apps

Instagram functions are powerful, too. You can use IGTV for longer films, Instagram Reels for shorter ones, texting, Stories for everyday happenings, creative tools, etc.

Other popular web apps include Amazon, Facebook, Trello, Microsoft 365, etc. 

Differences Between Native, Web, and Hybrid Apps

Comparison Factor

  • Native App
  • Web App
  • Hybrid App

Definition

  • Runs on a single operating system
  • Includes all browser-supported applications
  • Runs on multiple platforms and has cross-platform compatibility

Tech Stack

  • Java, Swift, Objective-C, React Native, Python
  • JavaScript, HTML, CSS
  • Flutter, Xamarin, Ionic, Swift, Cordova

Cost of Development

  • High. Each platform requires skilled developers leading to higher costs for development.
  • The lowest among all options. The skill set required is much less than native apps.
  • Depending on the complexity of the project, the cost can vary. Still lower than native development.

App Performance

  • Best performance out of all types of mobile apps. Utilizes device features optimally, leading to faster response, graphics, and memory usage.
  • In case of network issues, performance can be significantly affected. Depends on a solid internet connection.
  • Performance is intermediate to other types of mobile apps—native and mobile web apps.

Codebase Maintenance

  • Difficult to maintain in case of multiple codebases. Changes and fixes must be tested and implemented in the other, which is cumbersome.
  • Code is reusable for all platforms as it is only browser-dependent.
  • Similar to a web app. A single codebase is easier to develop, test, and maintain.

Device Utilization

  • Native apps can fully utilize all device capabilities without any restrictions.
  • Web apps can use only a select few device features. For instance, location.
  • Hybrid apps can use a few features like the camera, location, etc., but you may need plugins for the same.

Common Use Cases

  • Apps that prioritize user experience, like game apps.
  • Any app that is simple and does not depend on device features.
  • Apps that require some high-level mobile device features and are not high-performance-based.

How to Choose the Right App Development Platform?

Application Development Time

Time matters in mobile development. Features are deployed at different speeds depending on application complexity.

Large companies with many mobile app development teams may easily release app features.

However, a small-to-mid-sized organization, under time pressure, cannot implement native app functionalities. This makes web apps your best alternative. If time is limited, build a single, working codebase.

This is the easiest approach to release a robust, secure, and bug-free app for customers.

App Performance Improves User Experience

Performance is another important consideration when creating a mobile app. Have you used a buggy, poorly built mobile app? The app is definitely not worth using again.

Imagine making a game. App performance is paramount. A native platform app is your best option in this situation. No other mobile app offers as much control as native.

User experience can be made or broken by app performance. If your app idea requires it, consider a mobile app that prioritizes performance over other features.

App Development Cost

The cost of development is one of the most important factors. Early app design considerations include cost. Native app development is more expensive. Your best option is a hybrid app or PWA unless you can afford it.

Hybrid apps are great for apps that need more device functionalities. React Native is used by Facebook, Netflix, and others because of its performance.

This method is cost-effective for building an app from scratch on a budget.

Choosing the Right Approach

Plan strategically

Start mobile app development by creating a strategy to show how a mobile app may help your organization. Consider how customers, employees, and partners will benefit. Since each app has different goals, the development strategy must address mobility-related issues. Understanding your mobile development “why” requires a well-defined plan. These steps are taken in this phase:

  • Setting the app’s goal
  • App audience identification
  • Researching competitors
  • Setting app objectives

Planning and analysis

At this stage, the app idea becomes a reality. The identification of use cases and precise functional requirements starts with analysis and planning. After identifying app needs, a product roadmap prioritizes features into delivery milestones. The initial launch requires designing a minimum viable product (MVP) to address time, resources, and expenses. App development abilities for iOS, Android, and cross-platform development using React Native and Flutter are also identified.

In this period, key factors include:

  • Uniquely naming an app.
  • Checking app store name uniqueness

UI/UX Design 

App design provides intuitive, professional user experiences. User adoption and happiness determine mobile app success. Thus, UI/UX design seeks to produce interesting, intuitive, and user-friendly experiences. 

You can use Mobile App Builder to design a fully responsive, engaging, and seamless mobile app. This allows you to shorten the development time and reduce the cost involved. A person with less technical expertise can also build their DIY app with the help of a mobile app builder. 

App Testing

Stability, usability, and security require thorough QA testing. Create complete app testing test cases. Test cases, like use cases, direct your team through testing, logging results, and tracking fixes. QA should be involved in Analysis and Design. Review test-driven development and test automation pros and downsides.

Deployment & Support

To release your mobile app:

  1. Submit it to the appropriate app store (Apple App Store for iOS, Google Play for Android).
  2. Obtain a developer account with the respective stores before launch.
  3. Use a distinct name and bundle identifier for the production version to separate it from the QA version.
  4. Prepare metadata for app store submission, including title, description, keywords, icons, screenshots, banner graphics, and promotional videos. If a user login is required, provide a test user account during submission.

Apps undergo a review process, typically taking a few days.

Conclusion

Diversity dominates mobile app development. From native apps’ high performance to hybrid solutions’ versatility and web apps’ accessibility, the alternatives are vast. Meeting user expectations requires choosing the correct app type. If you want seamless integration, broad platform reach, or optimal performance, know your audience. Undoubtedly, mobile app builders simplify this complex procedure. These tools streamline app development and speed up development, making app creation easier for developers and enriching the mobile app market.

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