When looking to develop a new app, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is whether you use a hybrid or native app approach.
Here, we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about the differences between the two, as well as the pluses and the minuses to each approach.
What’s the difference between the two?
It’s important to note upfront that both approaches are completely valid. It’s simply down to which solution works best for your project.
With that in mind…
Native apps are written for a specific platform using the programming language that’s native for that platform. So, if you were developing a native app for iOS, you’d use Swift or objective-C. If you were developing for Android, you’d use Java, and so on.
That might sound complex, but in simple terms, it means developing the app in your own chosen language, before adapting it so it can fit any device, such as iPhones, Google phones and so on.
A number of very well-known apps are hybrid apps, including Basecamp, Instagram and Uber. Interestingly, Apple’s app store app is a hybrid itself!
Both types of app – as long as they’re developed by a skilled team – will usually be more or less indistinguishable from each other. The background development is where the difference is.
Now, let’s go through some of the main pluses and minuses for each style of development:
We’ve written before about the importance of user experience in app development: it takes a user just a minute or so to install an app, and even less time to uninstall it. In other words, if users don’t like using your app, you can expect it to be forgotten very quickly!
The tricky aspect of developing a hybrid app is that it must adapt to UI specifics across a number of platforms simultaneously. Now, this can be overcome by any experienced development team if you want a hybrid approach (as Instagram prove!) but it does take more work and usually more time.
If your aim is to create your app fast without sacrificing user interface quality, then native app development will often be a speedier option.
The general theory is that because native apps communicate directly with device hardware and download all the static when the app is installed, it should perform better than a hybrid app, which must use the internet to load their content from the servers.
A lot of the time, this is true. In a notable example, Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s app speed increase substantially when they migrated to a native app.
However, this is by no means a cut and dry situation. Performance depends on many different factors: the speed of the device’s connection or its operating system, as well as what the purpose of the app is.
It’s also worth noting that because of the general increase in performance of operating systems, devices and the skill of developers, any gap between hybrid and native apps in performance terms is definitely decreasing over time.
Now, earlier we mentioned that if you’re developing an app for one device or operating system, hybrid is the way to go. That’s certainly true.
BUT, what if you want to develop an app for multiple operating systems, as is common? As in, you want your app to be available on all of the main app stores across iOS, Android and so on?
In this sense, hybrid apps are the far better option, and will allow you to get to market much quicker. By having a single code base in place, you can adapt your app to suit different devices and operating systems with less work.
You’ll essentially have to build a separate native app for each platform, which obviously takes far longer.
Cost of development
Many development teams specialize in a single platform (such as Android or iOS). As such, to create a native app for multiple platforms it’s possible you’ll have to hire an additional team to work alongside your in-house developers.
Hybrid apps, meanwhile, can be developed by one team and then adapted, which is often a more cost-effective solution if you’re running on a budget. (It’s also worth noting that many app solutions are simply quicker and cheaper to create in languages like JS or HTML).
The key to developing multiple native apps if you don’t have an in-house development team is definitely to work with a specialist agency who are capable of working across multiple platforms.
Typically, hybrid apps are much more effective at scaling on different platforms and different operating system.
By being able to use what’s essentially the same code over and over again, your development team can work faster when big changes are needed in a short timeframe.
Native app acceptance
It’s worth adding that native apps will have to be accepted by the team behind the respective app stores. Apple, Google and so on all have their own strict approval process, and it’s not impossible for the app to get refused.
This can be a reasonably tedious process, especially if it’s not something you’ve done before! The key to avoiding this if you want to take the hybrid approach is to make sure that you work with developers who have a proven record of having apps accepted.
As a general rule, it’s much easier to tap into a devices’ hardware features – such as the microphone, compass, camera and so on – if you run a native app.
This makes sense, of course: the native iOS is usually made with the device in mind (especially in the case of something like the iPhone) so it makes sense that accessing the hardware within the code is easier.
This isn’t to say it can’t be done on a hybrid device, of course. (As we mentioned, Instagram is a hybrid app!), just that it’s usually easier on native.
If devices are going to play a key part in your apps, whether it’s through users uploading photos or them scanning barcodes in, or recording their voice, then native development could well be the best option for you.
Another thing you need to take into account is how much maintenance you’ll need to do to your app once it’s been uploaded and accepted by the operating system and the relevant app stores.
Modifying and maintenance to native apps has to be done by modifying code in every single build, as opposed to the hybrid code, which can be modified at the source.
It’s worth remembering that if you choose to run native apps, you’re likely to enjoy a bigger share of ad revenue. Mobile apps tend to get a higher click rates, with web apps being more susceptible to ad blockers.
General speaking, if you’re planning on ad revenue being a decent portion of your app’s profits, native app development is often a good option.
Of course, if your app is designed for e-commerce or lead generation and you aren’t planning to run ads, this doesn’t need to impact your decision.
Get in touch today
If you’re interested in finding out more about whether hybrid or native app development will suit your project, get in touch with Iconic Solutions today.
Our team specializes in designing apps for a range of industries, and we’d love to help you.