Over 50% of Internet users today, depend on their smartphones more than anything else. Unlike other electronic and digital assistants, smartphones are universally integral devices; everything can be found on them. The availability of cost-effective options has led to an increase in dependency on smartphones, thus leaving developers confused when it comes to the native vs hybrid apps development debate.
Much of this smartphone addiction can be attributed to the ease of functionality and accessibility offered via these devices. In the early 2000s, many companies were working on their respective desktop websites. However, the first half of the 2010s saw an alarming shift from desktop websites to mobile apps, thus making the entire interface more personalized and precise.
For 6 out of 10 smartphone users, the urge to check their smartphone does not arise from the technology that powers it, but from the user experience, it offers.
Contrary to the debate between native and hybrid app framework and the platforms that run them, what matters most to the users is their experience.
Before There Was Technology, There Was Design
An average user does not care much for the technology or platforms that power their smartphone. They are happily alienated when it comes to the debate between native and hybrid app development.
Given the literacy levels in the developing economies of Asia, many are not in a position to understand what goes into the curating their smartphone experience. In the West, most users are concerned with what they can do with their smartphone instead of what goes into the making of one. Why else would Apple manage to appeal to its conventional user base each year by merely increasing the screen size with little enhancement in functionality?
Apple and the companies looking to replicate its success have always focused on standing firm on the user experience before promising anything else. The basic user experience is ensured by the operating system in place, with iOS for Apple and Android for almost everyone else.
With these operating systems, Native mobile app developers built mediums for enterprises. While some create dedicated apps for each platform, aka native mobile apps; there are many native mobile app developers looking to minimize the entire effort by creating a single app that works on both platforms through hybrid mobile app development.
The processors or ICs in place are useless if they cannot facilitate the ideal user experience. Thus, even with the best hardware in play, there is a need for a seamless operating system that can host an array of utility apps. While significant progress has been made on operating systems with Android hosting a greater number of users, the native and hybrid mobile app development process hasn’t been far behind.
Eventually, it all comes down to design. Simply put, the look and feel of an app matter more than the hardware supporting it, thus making the debate between native and hybrid mobile app development pointless at the end of the user.
The minimum hardware requirements for apps are easily met, leaving the app developers to worry only about the look and feel (UI/UX design of the app) and this is what makes the native app vs hybrid apps framework debate a tough one.
The Case for Native App Development
Any application developed specifically for a particular smartphone operating system is defined as a native application.
In the case of smartphone applications, they are developed using Objective-C or Swift for iOS and most commonly with Java for Android. Given the user base of iOS and Android across the world, most enterprises prefer having applications on these platforms alone. There are still a few platforms that appeal to Windows and Blackberry users.
Native mobile app development goes a long way in enhancing and personalizing the user experience. They are developed based on the device’s operating system, employing technical, UI/UX principles, and make the entire process more interactive, personal, and engaging for the user.
For instance, if your app has the swipe gesture or any other relevant gestures, they will be in sync with the device. Offering the user a unified experience when using the app makes it integral to its success.
The benefits of opting for a native mobile app include assurance of performance, precision, and perfection. As a developer, there is no concern about any bugs or lags that might arise due to an unforeseen incompatibility with the operating system. Also, consistency is guaranteed as the functioning of the application is in sync with the other primary applications hosted by the OS.
Given the emergence of on-demand services, like mobile gaming apps like Pokémon-Go, and others based on geotagging and geo-analytics, there is a need for apps to inculcate the built-in functionalities of the hardware.
Location-based services, contact synchronization, and the use of beacons make it imperative for applications to be able to easily use GPS and the camera. Imagine trying to upload an image to Instagram directly from your camera and there is a delay preventing it from happening instantly, or, what if you are unable to geo-sync your news updates according to your current time zone?
Not only does native mobile app development ensure that OS preferences (GPS, camera, address books, etc.) are integrated within the application framework, but they are also instrumental in offering a personalized digital experience.
Conventionally, the native app development process has been preferred for gaming apps and the ones that require high device performance.
Bridging the Gap with Hybrid App Framework
Basically, they operate and function as a native mobile app, but the similarity is limited to the framework of the application that includes the basic controls, navigational elements, and other fundamental features.
Having a hybrid app framework in place is profitable for business groups, enterprises, and startups that are looking to reach out to a greater number of people in a lesser amount of time.
Native apps require time for development, while hybrids can be hosted quickly and with greater ease. The plug-ins involved ensuring that the hardware and OS compatibilities do not form a hindrance to the functioning of the app.
One of the major benefits of opting for hybrid mobile app development is that the enterprise can have a single code for multiple platforms.
Upon the addition of a few relevant lines of code, the app can be hosted on other platforms. The programming language is not complex like native apps, and therefore drastically cuts the time taken to develop an app.
Quite like native mobile apps, hybrid app frameworks have been able to garner an audience for themselves across the world. In an age where startups are launching and closing down on a daily basis – almost all of them being app-based – it only makes sense to use a hybrid app. It offers easy access to app stores, lower cost of development and the freedom to reach out to potential clients without being constrained by the OS used.
Hybrid apps are able to use the device hardware for functionalities like geo-tagging, geo-synchronization, camera, address book, and so on, but the experience is not the same as with native apps.
The Ongoing Native Vs Hybrid Apps Development Debate
Among developers, enterprises, and tech-experts, the choice between native and hybrid apps has been a difficult one.
Apparently, there is no right or wrong in this case.
It eventually boils down to the expectations one has from their own app, the business aspirations, and the expectations of the target market.
Let us discuss the example of news applications.
On national and state levels, multiple news apps exist, each catering to a different audience. Some offer digital subscriptions, creating a need to personalize the entire app interface according to the subscription.
For any news app, it would make sense to use the native app development process, as there is an underlying need for consistent user experience. As a media enterprise, you do not want your users to struggle with the reading interface of your application, so having a native app pays off even if it takes longer to develop.
However, what if you are a startup? What if you are bound by multiple financial and logistical constraints when it comes to developing your app?
To get through all the blockages, it would be beneficial to build a hybrid app to cater to business requirements. To overcome the possible performance lag, it is always advisable to focus on the key aspects of app development.
Generally, the trend has been for enterprises to start with a hybrid app, and once the break-even number for customer acquisition has been reached, they switch over to a native app.
For a hyperlocal service looking to make a place for itself in a highly competitive market, having a native app development process could be a financial liability. Given the insecurity of hyperlocal services, it pays off to start with a hybrid app framework.
The enterprise along with the related developers must create a final product that stands firm on UX/UI design. The success of any application depends upon the UX/UI in play, and if one feels that they cannot justify it through a hybrid app, they need to prepare themselves for the native app process.
Alternatives to Native Apps
An average user will not install more than three applications a month and are generally not interested in searching through app stores for new applications. Typically, when a user sets up their device, they install their go-to apps right away or even import them from their previous device.
Does this mean that native app development is pointless? Across the world, experts are now switching to progressive web apps, another app development process that focuses on creating apps that offer a better experience than native apps. Available to users on the web, progressive web apps work like any other app but save the developer the trouble of creating a different code for iOS and Android.
Unlike native apps, progressive apps do not take an eternity to install on your device. Given how users move away from the app installation process after each click, and an average native app installation process consists of 6-8 clicks, the probability of losing users is high.
With progressive web apps, users can simply tap on the option to download the app while surfing the web, and the web app will work just like a native app, without the enterprise or developer having to worry about losing users or investing heavily in the app development process.
This saves the business the trouble of maintaining the app on two different app stores, Google and Apple, subsequently, saving the money as well.
Another difficulty associated with native mobile app development is the level of expertise needed. Developers are required to have a strong understanding of Objective-C, Swift, and other languages used in the development process.
For most enterprises, hiring these developers is a tedious exercise and an expensive one at that.
Close to 60% of the apps on the Google Play store have never been downloaded, and 80% of the downloaded apps fail to retain a consistent regular user base and end up as one of the many unused icons on the users’ mobile screen.
Across the US, the numbers are even weaker with more than 50% of its users who do not download a single app after installing their routine ones. While apps like The New York Times, Uber, and Airbnb constitute over 80% of the user base, there is a scarcity in revenue from the small and micro enterprises, given 90% of the revenue is earned through 1% of the applications.
When it comes to learning through applications, enterprises backing these apps earn more from the subscriptions within these applications.
When Hybrid App Frameworks do not Fit the Bill
For those who have used the native Uber app on both Android and iOS, they are very distinctly different user experiences.
For the Android users, Uber had a conventional two-dimensional UI in play, compatible with almost every hardware device using an Android OS. Given how Uber strives for global dominance, it made sense for them to invest in a UX/UI design for Android that did not risk the performance.
If one is to use their iOS application, it’s a whole new ballgame, with a three-dimensional UI in play. The interface isn’t only engaging, it makes the entire process of procuring a ride more fun.
Uber, much like Instagram in the early 2010s, went for a completely different app for its iOS users. While this does give the iOS users a better Uber experience, it also saves the trouble of them having to boil down their development process to meet the needs of Android users, who may own devices that do not harbor the capabilities of an iOS device.
Opting for hybrid app framework is a great idea for young enterprises, but when it comes to the bigger players in the market like Deliveroo, Uber, or The New York Times, there is a need for an experience that focuses on personalization and performance.
Uber, in its recent spat with Apple – where they bypassed some rules set by the Apple for their App store – was concerned with potentially losing millions of users had Apple kicked them out. Having a hybrid app can leave you worried about fulfilling multiple requirements on different app stores.
The native app development process is not going anywhere, even with the declining user base, as it has been successful in garnering revenues over a period now. Alternatively, in the marketing of apps, there will always be the major players, so they are in no position to avoid learning the process of hybrid app development.
Native vs Hybrid: Which is the Winner when it Comes to Security?
Unlike hybrid mobile apps, native apps can use the inbuilt security features of the operating system. Hybrid frameworks have to deal with web views, thus leaving them vulnerable to injection attacks when an API is being used. Native apps’ security can be breached by insecure local data storage, poor implementation of the SSL, and data leakage.
It is essential for the code of a hybrid app to be written in the impeccable form in order for it to be able to fight off any external threats to its data.
Regardless of the app development process, an enterprise is required to have the essential security measures in place even if they require external assistance. Given the dependency of users on their smartphone apps, the emphasis must be on data security.
Imagine if Airbnb or any other application thriving on user data suffered a massive data breach like Yahoo or Sony?
Security of an application is not about preventing code tampering alone, but also ensuring there is no information breach because it could permanently damage the credibility of a company.
Looking Ahead of the Native Vs Hybrid Mobile App Debate
Ultimately, its UX/UI design dictates the fate of any app. Users will not concern themselves with the technicalities of the native or hybrid app development process, and therefore, for enterprises confused between the two options, it makes sense to take into account the audience, budget, and any other concerns.
So, What Should You Go for – Native or Hybrid?
Let’s take it to step by step.
- Hardware – the ones looking for unrestricted access to the core device or operating system, it is recommended to create a native app, since the hybrids may not be able to attain the complete inculcation of features.
- Time is money. If you are looking to get ahead in the competition with a presence on multiple platforms, hybrid app development is for you. Native development requires much more time, technical expertise, and can take a toll on the resources of your enterprise.
- Money is…well, everything! Native mobile apps come with an intimidating budget. Developers will be required to hone their technical skills, different teams shall be required to cater to different platforms, and that will come at a cost. Go hybrid all the way, if finances are on your mind.
- Updates – how often are you looking to update your application? A hyperlocal service might be looking to do it every week, but that is not the case for a gaming app. Thus, if you are not looking to frequently update your application go for native, otherwise hybrid app framework should suffice.
- Experience – there is no dearth of experts making claims about native apps having the upper hand when it comes to user experience. However, if done right, hybrid apps can give them a run for their money. If you are looking to score big with user experience, go for a native mobile app.
Clearly, there is no end to the hybrid vs. native apps debate, and now with the gradual emergence of web apps, developers have a lot to choose from.
What you must remember here is that at the core of any and every development process is a need to create a design unparalleled in its functioning, and impeccable in its use.
Always keep in mind that users aren’t looking to get involved in the debate between native and hybrid mobile app development; they are only looking for the optimal experience.