The growing usage of business applications these days is directly proportional to the increasing dependency on mobile phones of the users worldwide.

These alluring app designs have marked their importance today and almost become an essential part to everyone’s daily lives. Apps are gaining more traction compared to the websites and therefore, it is needless to say that they serve as a versatile asset to businesses’ exponential growth.

Starbucks – Gaining Traction through a Mobile Application

Starbucks, the global coffeehouse chain, is a prime example of a company that has significantly enhanced its business operations and customer engagement by launching a mobile application. Launched in 2011, Starbucks came up with one of the largest mobile app payment programs through its app, reporting the traction of more than 26 million mobile transactions within its first year of launch. This indicates significant user adoption of the mobile payment functionality.

Mobile applications can be built in two different types: Native Apps and Hybrid or Cross-Platform Apps.

Every mobile device user wants a simplified user experience. Most customers uninstall applications that do not provide them with the desired expertise and value.

While a native application can easily integrate with the features of the specific platform – iOS or Android, the Hybrid option is more suitable if you wish to quickly develop an application and test market it on all platforms.

Understanding the key differences between these approaches is essential for making an informed decision that aligns with your project requirements, business goals, and technical requirements.

Here, we will study the characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of native and hybrid apps, providing you with the insights needed to determine which option will work best for your next mobile project. Let’s begin with understanding these platforms one by one.

Understanding Native App

A Native app is a performance driven mobile application developed specifically for a particular operating system (OS) using the platform’s preferred coding language, allowing for smooth performance, offline functionality, and access to all the device’s features.

With a Native app, the user can learn to use it quickly, as the features and usability are in sync with the device they are already using.

The developer of the Native app writes separate code for each platform using the designated programming language. For instance, native apps for:

  • iOS are built using Swift or Objective-C and Xcode, while
  • Android is developed using Java or Kotlin and Android Studio.

These apps are designed to fully leverage the hardware and software capabilities of the devices they run on, offering superior performance, responsiveness, and a seamless user experience.

Native apps can directly access device-specific features such as the camera, GPS, and push notifications, providing robust functionality and high security.

However, their development can be more time-consuming and costly since separate versions must be created for each platform.

Some Examples of Companies using Native Apps

 

  • Skype
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • Pokemon Go
  • Uber

Advantages and Disadvantages of Native App

Let us now provide a clear comparison of the key advantages and disadvantages of native app development.

Pros and Cons of Native Apps

ProsCons
Optimised for specific platforms, providing fast and responsive user experiencesRequires separate codebases for each platform, increasing development expenses.
Follows platform-specific design guidelines, resulting in a more intuitive and familiar interface.Developing separate apps for different platforms takes more time.
Can fully utilise device capabilities such as camera, GPS, and sensors.Maintaining and updating multiple codebases can be challenging.
Can leverage the built-in security features of the OS and add additional layers of protection.Native apps can take up more storage space on the device.
Can work without an internet connection, providing more robust offline capabilities.Changes and updates require approval from app stores, which can delay deployment.

Development Environment of Native App

The development environment for native apps is tailored to the specific operating systems (Android and iOS) they are designed for, offering dedicated tools and programming languages to fully leverage each platform’s capabilities. Let us understand some development environments of native apps below:

  • Android

    Android development requires the usage of Java and Kotlin. Kotlin is a prevalent language due to its concise syntax and modern features.

    The Integrated Development Environment(IDE) for Android development is Android Studio. It’s a free, open-source IDE built on JetBrains’ IntelliJ IDEA platform and comes bundled with the Android SDK (Software Development Kit).

  • iOS

    Swift is a powerful and expressive language explicitly designed for iOS and macOS development. Objective-C, an older language, is still supported but not as actively developed.

    Apple offers Xcode as the official IDE for iOS development. Xcode is a free IDE that provides a comprehensive set of tools for building iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and TVOS apps.

Requirements to Build a Native App: Technical Skills

 

  • Your mobile app developer needs a strong understanding of the programming language specific to your target platform.
  • Require familiarity with the platform’s SDK (Android SDK or iOS SDK) to leverage device features and functionalities.
  • Need to have an expertise in core mobile development concepts like activity lifecycle (Android) or view controllers (iOS). 

Understanding Hybrid App

A Hybrid app bridges the gap between native apps and web apps. It is a modern software application that uses techniques to combine elements of both native and web applications, allowing it to be installed on a device like a native app while running through a web browser component.

Built using standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, Hybrid apps are wrapped in a native container that enables them to access device features like the camera, GPS, and push notifications through plugins or frameworks like Apache Cordova or Ionic.

A Hybrid application developer uses a single code base, ensuring that you can quickly develop a cross-platform app and test market it.

Hybrid apps are most suitable for developing a minimum viable product with a few features and understanding the market response.

While hybrid apps offer greater flexibility and lower maintenance compared to purely native apps, they may not always match the user experience and performance capabilities of native applications due to their reliance on web technologies.

Some Examples of Companies using Hybrid Apps

 

  • Gmail
  • NerdWallet
  • Baskin Robbins
  • Evernote
  • Amazon

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hybrid App

Let us see the comparison table below to understand the key advantages and disadvantages of native app development.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid App

ProsCons
Optimised for specific platforms, providing fast and responsive user experiences.Requires separate codebases for each platform, increasing development expenses.
Follows platform-specific design guidelines, resulting in a more intuitive and familiar interface.Developing separate apps for different platforms takes more time.
Can fully utilise device capabilities such as camera, GPS, and sensors.Maintaining and updating multiple codebases can be challenging.
Can leverage the built-in security features of the OS and add additional layers of protection.Native apps can take up more storage space on the device.
Can work without an internet connection, providing more robust offline capabilities.Changes and updates require approval from app stores, which can delay deployment.

Development Environment of Hybrid App

The development environment for hybrid apps leverages a combination of web technologies and specialised frameworks to create applications that can run seamlessly across multiple OS and platforms. It uses programming languages like:

  • HTML5: Structures the app’s content and layout.
  • CSS3: Styles the app’s visual appearance.
  • JavaScript: Provides interactivity and functionality.

Below are the Framework and Library used in the hybrid app development environment:

  • Apache Cordova: A framework that provides a container to run web applications as native apps and access device features through plugins.
  • Ionic: Built on top of Cordova, Ionic offers additional tools and UI components for building high-quality hybrid apps with a native-like experience.
  • React Native: Although it uses JavaScript, React Native enables developers to write components that map directly to native UI elements, providing a more native-like performance.
  • Flutter: Google’s UI toolkit uses the Dart language to allow developers to create natively compiled desktop, web and mobile applications from a single codebase.

Requirements to Build a Hybrid App: Technical Skills

 

  • A strong understanding of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript is fundamental for building the core structure, styling, and interactivity.
  • Knowledge of a hybrid app framework like Ionic or React Native and expertise in its functionalities and APIs are beneficial.
  • The developer’s ability to identify and fix bugs in web code and potentially in plugins is crucial for a smooth development process.

Native vs. Hybrid Apps: A Feature Breakdown

Native and Hybrid apps differ primarily in their development approaches, performance, and user experience. Native apps are performance centric, built specifically for a particular platform, using platform-specific languages like Java or Kotlin for Android and Swift or Objective-C for iOS.

On the contrary, Hybrid apps are developed using web technologies such as CSS, HTML and JavaScript. They are then deployed across multiple platforms after wrapping in a native container.

Let us see the distinction between these two approaches in the table below:

Distinction Between Native and Hybrid Apps

FeatureNative AppHybrid App
Development ApproachBuilt with platform-specific languages (Java/Kotlin for Android, Swift for iOS)Built with web technologies (HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript) wrapped in a native container
Platform CompatibilityRequires separate development for each platform (Android, iOS)Single codebase can potentially work across platforms
PerformanceGenerally offers smoother performance and faster responsivenessPerformance might be slower due to the webview layer
Device IntegrationFull access to all device features (camera, GPS, etc.)Access to some device features through plugins (limitations may apply)
Offline FunctionalityCan work offline for some features (data caching)Limited offline functionality (depends on cached data)
Development CostGenerally higher due to separate codebases and platform-specific expertisePotentially lower due to a single codebase and use of web development skills
Development TimeCan be longer due to separate development for each platformMay be faster due to single codebase development
Learning CurveRequires knowledge of platform-specific languages and toolsLeverages familiar web technologies (steeper learning curve for frameworks)
Look and FeelProvides a native look and feel that seamlessly integrates with the platformMay have a slightly less native look and feel depending on the framework
CustomisationHighly customisable due to direct access to native featuresCustomisation flexibility might be limited

Native or Hybrid: Choosing the Right Approach

Several critical considerations should guide your decision when choosing between native and hybrid app development. Each approach has its own set of advantages and trade-offs, and understanding these factors will help you select the best option for your project’s requirements.

Let us see the key considerations below:

  • Complexity

    If your app requires complex functionalities, heavy graphics, or real-time interactions, a native app might be better suited to deliver a smooth and responsive user experience. Hybrid apps might struggle with these demands.

  • Device Integration

    Does your app heavily rely on device features like camera, GPS, microphone, or offline functionality? Native apps offer full and unrestricted access, while hybrid apps might have limitations or require additional plugins that could impact performance.

  • Budget

    Native app development generally costs more due to separate codebases and platform-specific expertise. However, hybrid apps can be more cost-effective due to their single codebase and use of web development skills.
    [Also read: How Much Does it Cost to Build a Mobile App]

  • Development Time

    Building a native app for each platform takes longer than developing a hybrid app with a single codebase. However, factor in the potential time needed for debugging and optimising performance in hybrid apps.

  • Platform Specificity

    Do you need a highly customised app experience specific to Android or iOS? Native development allows for leveraging platform-specific UI elements and functionalities, while hybrid apps might have a more generic look and feel across platforms.

  • Long-Term Support

    Consider the ongoing maintenance required for updates, bug fixes, and adapting to platform or framework changes. Both native and hybrid apps require maintenance, but managing multiple codebases for native apps can be more complex.

Conclusion

As a business, you must understand your product’s priorities, project goals and constraints.

Native apps deliver exceptional performance and user experience by leveraging platform-specific features, making them suitable for high-performance applications. Hybrid apps, however, offer a faster and more cost-effective development process with the advantage of cross-platform compatibility.

If you are uncertain about which approach to take, hiring a professional mobile app development agency can provide the expertise needed to evaluate your requirements and recommend the best solution.

An experienced agency can synergise your mobile app development journey, ensuring that your app meets your business success path and objectives and provides an optimal user experience through native or hybrid development.