Native vs Hybrid Apps: Key Points Helping You Decide The Best Way Forward

March 14, 2019


Thinking of developing a mobile application, but confused on how to go about it? Where to start from? Which technology to use for development?

Selecting between native or a hybrid app should depend on several factors including your budget, targeted audience and deadline, etc.

You need to know the difference between iOS and Android and the nature of native, hybrid and web apps. And very importantly, you also need to find out which app is the most suitable for you.

What is a native mobile app?

A native mobile application is an application created for use with a particular platform or device like for iOS, Android, Blackberry and so on. Native apps are encoded in a particular programming language such as Objective C for iOS and Java for Android operating systems. Native mobile apps are fast and more efficient in terms of performance. They also have access to the built-in features of the handset, like its camera, address book, GPS, accelerometer, compass and the list of contacts.

One unique factor about native apps is that users can use some apps without an active internet connection.

A large number of games for mobile devices are native apps. Well-known apps out there like Facebook and Twitter are native.

What is a hybrid mobile app?

Hybrid apps are created for use on multiple platforms (Android, iPhone and Windows Phone). They are those web applications (or web pages) that you can run in a native browser.

These apps are developed using HTML5, CSS and Javascript and then embedded in a native application using platforms like Cordova. Their development is faster and simpler. They are more flexible to maintain. You can change platforms anytime you need.

Cordova is an open source tool that allows you to build hybrid applications which can run on more than one platform. Also, Hybrid apps have access to phone hardware (native functions) such as the camera, microphone, location and Bluetooth. Cordova has a large repository of plugins that can ease your hybrid app development.

The major challenge with hybrid apps is that they still depend on the native browser, which simply means they are not as fast as native apps.

Key differences between native and hybrid mobile apps

Features Native Apps Hybrid Apps
Device access Full Full
Performance High/Fast Medium/Good
Development Language Objective C for iOS or Java for Android operating systems HTML, CSS and JavaScript
Development Cost Expensive Reasonable
Development Time High Medium
Offline mode Supported Not Supported
Maintenance High Medium
Speed Very Fast Good
Cross-Platform Support No Yes
User Interface Good Good
UI/UX High Moderate
Advance Graphics Moderate High
Security High Low
Code Portability Low High
Complexity More complex to code Less complex to code
User experience Better user experience Less user experience than native apps
Graphics Better graphics Lesser graphics than native apps
Portability Harder to port to other systems Easier to port to other systems
Integration The camera, address book, geolocation, and other features native to the device can be seamlessly integrated into native apps Some device features may be harder to integrate into hybrid apps
Internet Connection Not Required Always Required
Gesture Support Yes Yes

Advantages and disadvantages of native and hybrid apps

Both native and hybrid apps meet different needs and purpose of users and developers, but none of them can be said to be the perfect solution. Both have their pros and cons — both for an app developer and as an end user. So, you need to decide which of suits you better and which is ideal for your business.

Pros of native apps:

  • Full integration of the device

Native apps come with many functionalities offered by mobile devices. For instance, camera, GPS, calendar and microphone. These apps help the users to build a user experience which is enjoyable and provides great exposure.

  • Work without an active internet connection

These apps also work without an Internet connection. However, it depends on the nature of the apps.

  • Excellent performance

If you are developing a high-speed app or game, then the native app should be your pick. Native apps get designed or developed for specific operating systems and hence provide great performance.

  • Better look and feel

Trendy look and feel of native apps are eye-catching and inspiring — allowing users to connect easily and quickly.

  • Better UX

Native apps follow specific UX/UI standards for creating Android or iOS applications, which lets the users easily understand the interface and navigation.

  • Secure and safe

All the native apps on Android or iOS are only accessible through the app stores. All the apps need to get approval to be featured in the stores, hence they are fully tested and reviewed by the app store approval team. This provides a certificate of reliability and assurance.

Cons of native apps:

  • High development and maintenance cost

Native apps are quite complex because they have a different codebase for each platform. It requires lot of time and effort to maintain them as separate teams have to work and support each version.

  • No guarantee that apps will get accepted

Once the applications are created, they required to get approval from the play store/app store. It is a long and tedious process. Also, there is a possibility that the application might be rejected and not added to the App store databases.

Pros of hybrid apps:

  • Unified development

The principle advantage of hybrid apps is that you are saving the stress of building multiple apps; you are building one app and tweaking it slightly. It allows you to save money. Developers can develop a single hybrid framework, and the common codebase can be used for different platforms.

  • Only one codebase to deal with

Hybrid apps are easier to maintain as you have to manage only one codebase. You require fewer developers as compared to the native apps.

  • Faster development speed

Hybrid apps can be developed quickly, without much efforts and in a short period of time. These apps also require less maintenance as compared to native apps and are flexible; they are easier to be utilised in another platform.

  • Efficient scaling

Hybrid apps are known as cross-platform applications which are easy to scale on different platforms and different operating devices. It allows the development team to reuse the code without making many changes in the application.

Cons of hybrid apps:

  • Slow performance

Hybrid apps are a bit slower as they are based on the web technologies along with utilising mobile platforms such as Kendo, Onsen, Ionic and Cordova. All these platforms take considerable time, which results in loss of performance. It is also one of the biggest flaws as the user does not get an impressive experience.

  • Poor UX

One of the serious disadvantages of a hybrid app is that it never offers the user full native experience. The user rarely gives the apps a fifth or sixth chance. So, the UX the best and flawless. Hybrid apps still have a long way to go before they catch up with their native cousins on the UX front.

Which one should you choose?

To make the right choice, it is important to understand the differences between native and hybrid apps. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses. Your ultimate decision should depend almost entirely on your business needs.

Usually, Hybrid apps attract more people because of their easy development approach, cost saving and compatibility with multiple technologies and platforms. All these things are very appealing, but looking at a longer-term performance, hybrid apps can become a pain. They would need more time to fix the UX and performance issues.

Whereas, if we look at the native apps, these apps fully satisfy the users in terms of performance and seamless use of the platform’s in-built functions. These apps offer the best in class security for a mobile application, better UI design, better performance and access to the native APIs. However, the cost of development is high. But if we look at the long run, you save your time and money by offering a better user experience and following the platform and industry standards.

Have you finalised what you want to start with or you need help in selecting the best fit for your business? Contact us.

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