Hybrid vs. Native Mobile App

Mobile app growth has slowed over the past few years, but apps themselves certainly aren’t dying. Instead, mobile apps are evolving, and developers are trying to figure out exactly what customers want now.

When it comes to mobile apps, there’s a huge debate between hybrid and native apps.

  • Which approach is better?
  • What are the advantages of each?
  • How do I choose which type of app to develop?

At Worthwhile, we frequently have conversations on this topic. People want to know which type of mobile app is superior. So what’s the answer?

It depends.

The real question is which type of app is better for your situation.

The Advantages of Hybrid Apps

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Hybrid apps are essentially web-based resources that are disguised as native apps. They are cross-platform, which means they can be developed and distributed to multiple app stores without the need to create two different versions to appease system requirements for different devices. Usually, developers use a technology such as Cordova, Xamarin, and Appcelerator to deliver hybrid apps to multiple platforms at once.

The advantages of choosing a hybrid app include the following:

  1. Cost. The primary advantage of a hybrid app is the lowered initial development cost. You don’t have to create multiple versions of the same app for Android and iOS, which can help you come in under budget.
  2. Bigger market. When you develop a hybrid app, you can disseminate the app both of the major app stores. This obviously gives you access to millions of additional customers that you may not have otherwise been able to reach with a native app.

The Advantages of Native Apps

On the other hand, native apps are developed specifically for a mobile operating system – for example, iOS (used on Apple devices) or Android (the Google-created platform used on multiple brands of smartphones and tablets). If you want your app to be available in both app stores, then you need to develop a separate native app for each operating system. The advantages of choosing a native app include:

  1. Better UX. Because native apps are designed with a specific operating system in mind, they tend to produce better interfaces that are intuitive and seamless.
  2. Superior function. Native apps are better able to tap into the device’s functionalities–such as camera, GPS, and microphone. Furthermore, depending on the purpose of the app, users can access the app without internet access.

The Four Questions You Must Ask

Use these four questions to answer the question of hybrid vs. native mobile apps for your specific situation.

1.  How Much Time Do You Have?

One of the first things you have to think about is time to market. Are you trying to quickly build an app in order to (a) be the first one to develop this type of app, or (b) catch up with the competition? If so, a hybrid app can much quicker to develop. On the other hand, if you have time to create a polished product–say five or six months–then a native app makes more sense.

2.  Do You Have a Significant Budget?

How much money do you have to spend on app development? If you’re trying to maneuver under the constraints of a tight budget, then a hybrid app may leave you breathing a little easier. But if you have a significant budget and timeline, then it’s usually wiser to develop separate native apps in order to give end users a much better user experience.

3.  Do You Foresee Future Updates and Changes?

In order to keep your mobile app useful and functional in the coming months and years, do you foresee a lot of updated versions being released? If so, then a hybrid app is preferred. With a hybrid app, all updates are automatically refreshed online, which means the user doesn’t have to do anything. With a native app, the user either has to have automatic updates on, or manually update the app themselves.

4.  Are You Depending on Device Functions?

As previously mentioned, native apps are better able to tap into a user’s device functions. So, if your app plans on using two or more device functions–such as the camera, near-field communication (NFC), the accelerometer, GPS, etc.–then you’re better off going the native route. On the other hand, if your app doesn’t need device functions to operate, the hybrid route may be adequate.

Putting it All Together

When choosing between a hybrid or native app, there is no universally correct answer. At Worthwhile we have developed both types for clients and have seen great results in both use cases. The key is to consider your situation, analyze the pros and cons, and ask yourself the four questions laid out in this article.

Do that, and you should be able to make the right choice quickly and correctly. That will get your project off on the right foot.

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