• Technology
  • by Krzysztof Sowa
  • 01/07/2019

Native app vs. hybrid app – which one should you choose?

So, you have an idea for a mobile app and are now researching your options. Sooner or later, you’re bound to stumble upon the native app vs. hybrid app dilemma. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but it’s critical that you assess the two approaches carefully before making the final decision. This is a technology choice that can make or break your app.

Concise Software Native app vs. hybrid app – which one should you choose

Here’s everything you need to know about native app vs. hybrid app – and a handful of practical tips to help you choose the best option for your business.

Critical differences between native app vs. hybrid app

Native applications are developed to perform a specific task on a particular mobile platform. Developers build native apps using tools (SDK) that work only for certain frameworks, hardware, or operating systems. For example, a native app for Android is built with Kotlin using Android SDK. For creating an iOS app, developers mostly use Swift with iOS SDK.

Hybrid apps, on the other hand, are built with web technologies like JavaScript, React, Dart, HTML, and CSS. A hybrid app can access all the native platform features with special plugins and offers similar performance to a native app. But it runs in WebView which displays web pages using the same engine of a browser. 

Read also: Why you should invest in a mobile app for business?

The biggest difference between native app vs. hybrid app is this: if you want to build a native app for both Android and iOS, you need to develop two code bases. Hybrid apps can be theoretically developed for any platform from a single code base – but most of the time, you’ll also have to write some native code as well. 

A word about frameworks for hybrid app development

The most popular technology on the market is React Native, an open-source mobile development framework created by Facebook. It allows developers to use the JavaScript library React for building iOS and Android applications. 

Other cross-platform app development frameworks you should know are: Flutter, Ionic, Xamarin, Framework 7, Onsen UI.

Native app vs. hybrid app:

Now that you know what native and hybrid apps are about let’s have a look at their pros and cons to help you understand which technology is a better match for your project.

Hybrid apps – pros and cons 

Pros 

  • Single code base – this is the greatest advantage of hybrid app development. One code base for both platforms means that developers can write the code once and run it anywhere. They don’t need to build and maintain a separate code base for Android and iOS apps. 
  • One development team – a single code base means that the same development team can deliver the app for any platform, including website. That’s because all you need for building hybrid apps are web development technologies. 
  • Flexibility – hybrid apps based on web technologies can be run on browsers like websites or as Progressive Web Apps (PWA).
  • Consistency – hybrid apps can deliver a consistent user experience across all the different platforms a user may access. 

Cons

  • Low performance for graphics-intensive apps – for most applications, the hybrid approach can deliver a similar performance to native apps. But HD games and other performance-centric apps just work better on native.
  • Native plugins – while hybrid apps can access practically all the native device features, they’re dependent on plugins. And new device features might not always be readily available as plugins. Developers can build their own plugins, of course – but that adds complexity and cost to the development process. 

Dependency on libraries and frameworks – hybrid apps require developers to make sure that these technologies are in sync with the latest platform version changes and releases.

Native apps – pros and cons 

Pros 

  • Top performance – native apps are a great fit for HD games or other graphics-intensive mobile apps. That’s because the native code is faster than JavaScript or HTML. Very few users give a second chance to apps that suffer from performance issues – and 96% of them consider app performance an important factor. 
  • Simplicity – native SDKs allow developers to access device features like the camera or GPS without forcing them to deal with complexities brought by native plugins. As a result, the development process is faster and more streamlined since no performance issues can ever crop up from faulty plugins. 
  • Stability – native apps aren’t dependent on open-source platforms and libraries like Ionic or Cordova.

Cons 

  • Longer development time if building for Android and iOS – building a native app for iOS and Android takes a lot of time because developers will have to create a different code base for each of them. Separate development effort increases the development time. Also, each platform code will have its release cycle and updates, adding to the development cost.
  • Updates can be tricky – because of different code bases, developers will be building and releasing updates separately. Doing that at the same time can be challenging.
  • High requirements – developing and maintaining a native application on each platform requires two different skill sets, which again adds to the costs of app development.  

When to go native and when to pick hybrid? 

As you can see, both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages.

Hybrid apps are an appealing option because of the incredibly fast time to market, single code base, cross-compatible web technologies, and initially lower development costs. 

However, most smartphones won’t be able to deliver a seamless hybrid app. Performance-driven and UI problems often make companies spend more time and money on fixing issues and tweaking the app.

Here’s when a hybrid app is a good option:

If you don’t have much time to develop an app and want to test a limited market for its viability, then hybrid is a good pick. Once you validate your idea, you can move to native and bring it to the world. Hybrid development is faster and cheaper, so a lot less risky for building an MVP.

Hybrid apps are more likely to deliver a less-than-ideal user experience and sub-par performance. If you’re looking to create an MVP, hybrid is a good approach. 

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But it’s not a good idea to choose it if you’d like to captivate your user base with an application that performs excellently on their platform of choice and provides a great user experience. 

That job is better left to native development. Despite the initial higher investment, most businesses will be better off choosing native instead of hybrid – it’s just a smarter choice when you consider it from a long-term perspective.

Native app vs. hybrid app – key takeaway

Whatever approach you take to mobile development, be aware of the resulting trade-offs and issues you might see down the line if you pick hybrid over native. All in all, your decision should be based on the priorities and goals of your company. 

Are you looking for a team of experienced native mobile developers? Contact our consultants; we have an excellent track record in providing companies across industries with robust mobile applications.

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Krzysztof Sowa

Technical Project Manager in Concise Software with a developer background, especially in mobile apps (Google Certified Associate Android Developer) and automotive systems. Scrum lover, certificated Professional Scrum Master I & AgilePM, who loves sharing their knowledge with IT communities (e.g. GDG). Husband, father and passionate photographer @ The Owls Photography.

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