If you’ve thought about the possibility of having a mobile application built for your business, you’ve likely come across the three different types of apps you can have; web, native, and hybrid.

Though the main focus of today’s post is centered around native and hybrid apps, I wanted to briefly mention what web apps are. 

Web applications are simplified, condensed versions of their full website counterparts. They don’t require storage space on the user’s phone and can be developed relatively easily and in a cost-effective manner. However, they do often present an array of complications, usually relating to their speed and the overall user experience, which is why we would recommend either native or hybrid apps.

What’s the difference between a native app and a hybrid app?

A native app is the most popular type of app, and is an app specifically designed for the platform it will be launched on – typically iOS or Android.

Native applications perform well, usually have a great user experience, come with a range of support tools from the app stores they will be sold on, and they require approval from the  OS that it’s being designed for which means they have to meet minimum requirements when it comes to security, overall quality and compatibility with devices.

A hybrid app is like a native app, however, they work on many different platforms. Basically, a hybrid app is the combination of a web and a native app. They don’t require a web browser to run like traditional web apps. They can just be installed onto a phone like a native app and, another major benefit of hybrids are that they only require one codebase. This means there’s no need to develop two separate mobile applications, which saves both time and money.

The main issue with hybrid apps, however, is that when compared to native apps, their overall performance seems to fall short. Speed is a common issue and hybrid apps tend to load slower than their native counterparts, and there can be issues when it comes to UX because of the design. 

Examples of native apps vs. hybrid apps

Based on the above information, it seems like native apps are the clear winner then.

Well, not necessarily. Just because there are some cons to having a hybrid app (like there are with native ones too) it doesn’t mean that hybrid apps are completely inferior and don’t perform as intended.

Many large companies have successfully built hybrid apps that are used by millions of people daily. In fact, as long as it’s built to a high standard, a non-tech person would likely not notice whether their app is hybrid or native. UBER is a prime example of a hybrid app. A more widely used one is Gmail. It’s used on millions of devices across the globe and functions, for the most part, pretty much error-free.

Examples of native apps include the likes of Airbnb, Instagram, and Skype.

How are native apps and hybrid apps built?

Because native applications are built specifically for one platform, they are written in different languages to hybrid applications. Different platforms also use different languages. For example, Native iOS apps are built using Objective-C and, more recently, Swift. The primary programming language of Android apps is Java, but more recently, they are promoting the use of Kotlin which is interoperable with Java.

Hybrid apps are usually programmed using web languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript which is designed to work across all platforms and is usually within the skillset of most developers. 

Why Should You Go with Native Apps?

Native apps can really offer the best and most advanced technology as opposed to having to be somewhat dumbed down in order to be able to be used across multiple platforms. 

Full device integration

Since the software of native apps is designed specifically for use with the device in question, it can seamlessly integrate things like camera functions, calendar tasks, GPS, etc. This creates a more comprehensive, more immersive experience. 

Offline Functionality

Unlike hybrid apps which are troublesome to get working offline, native apps can work offline. This is a major advantage. 

Superior performance

Because native apps are built for their operating system, they perform significantly better. 

Superior Appearance, UI

With the software specifically designed for its operating system, a better and more attractive user interface can be used. 

Superior UX

Since native apps are developed for a specific platform, they adhere to UX guidelines that make platform apps similar. This results in a familiarity that makes overall usage easier–another advantage for native apps. 

Better Security

Native apps are safer to use and have better security. They can be downloaded from the devices app store, which is the safest way to install a new app. This also means that they are rigorously tested and have official user reviews. Typically, all apps featured on a platform like the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store must be officially approved first, meaning they are all legit. 

When You Shouldn’t Go with Native Apps

Budget

Native apps typically involve a greater initial cost since they have different codebases depending on their platform. This requires more time and maintenance, meaning a designated support team for each version of the app (eg. one team for Apple and one for Android). So if you have a limited budget, you may not have a choice but to go for a hybrid app. 

App Store Issues

If you’re having any complications or issues in going with a native app that switching to a hybrid app could potentially fix, then this is a good idea. Getting approval through the app store is absolutely essential. 

Why Should You Go with Hybrid Apps?

  • They typically require a lower initial investment and often involve less maintenance.
  • Developers can simply use HTML, Javascript, or CSS to create them.
  • They require less time to complete since you only need to develop them using one code base.
  • You can simply test your app if you want a faster launch time.

When You Shouldn’t Go with Hybrid Apps

  • Since hybrid apps usually run slower than native apps, the better option is native apps if performance is a top priority.
  • UX of hybrid apps is less smooth and can even be problematic.
  • Hybrid apps require the use of Wrappers, a third party platform.
  • Hybrid apps are typically more restrictive in terms of interactivity and functionality.
  • With hybrid apps, you have less access to native operating system sensors.

API Access 

Another great thing about native apps is that their development process grants you access to the APIs and other features on their platform. 

Creating an additional layer of mapping on top of the app functionality which requires significant core API access is not necessary. 

React Native doesn’t provide support for all of the APIs supported with native app development.

Native apps allow the most common APIs to access other APIs, unlike hybrid apps. Native app to native app interaction is a useful advantage. 

Native apps offer simple access to other native apps, even providing the ability to integrate them. 

When it comes to React Native, they don’t offer support for it, so it must be written as a native module or with third-party libraries.

Third-Party Libraries

React Native has far less developers to choose from than with standard native apps, which also means it has fewer libraries. So, to take advantage of third-party libraries for developing native apps, those features must be written in a native app module. 

The Verdict: Native Apps or Hybrid Apps?

Native apps and hybrid apps both have their benefits, since hybrid apps are written in simple languages such as HTML and JavaScript, they’re easier to create and less experienced developers will be able to create them, meaning they’re usually a more cost-effective option for businesses with a lower budget.

However, native apps allow for much better functionality, user experience and perform far better overall as they’re created specifically for users of a certain platform.

Although the concept of a hybrid app is a great idea, it’s sometimes hard to create one application that fully caters to both Android and iOS users, and, user experience isn’t something to be hasty with when it comes to deciding whether to build a native or hybrid app. 

In a study carried out by Toptal, it was found that 90% of users stopped using an app that performed poorly, therefore it pays to have something that users navigate easily, using features they are used to on the phone they use every day. If there’s the slightest design flaw that irks your users, your business can risk losing leads and customers.

By choosing a native app, you may have to invest more initially, but the chances of success from a performance and design perspective are far higher.