When delving into app development, native vs hybrid app comparison is a consideration you’re likely to face at some point. Which type of app should you build and what are the native vs hybrid apps pros and cons?
To answer the question, we’re going to break it down into bite-sized chunks and give you a realistic side-to-side comparison of native and hybrid mobile apps, listing out the pros and cons of each.
What Are Mobile Applications?
Mobile applications are software that’s designed and optimized to be running on mobile phones and smart devices. Depending on which approach the developers decide to take when building them, mobile apps are divided into the following two categories: native and hybrid.
Below, we will give you a native vs hybrid app comparison that outlines their respective strengths and weaknesses:
- Hybrid Applications
- Portability (deploy to multiple operating systems from a single source code)
- Low maintenance
- Performance (can experience slowdowns)
- Functionality depends on having access to a working internet connection
Examples of Hybrid Applications
- Evernote: a note-taking app
- Feedly: a news aggregator app
- SworkIt: an app for personalized workouts
One of the key takeaways of a native vs hybrid app comparison is that the former type of apps offer superior performance compared to the latter. However, they also tend to be much more expensive to develop due to the project requiring the code to be written from scratch for each of the targeted platforms.
As you can tell, rapid development and cost-effectiveness are some of the main selling points when it comes to hybrid apps. You only need to code it once – after that, an installable file can be compiled for every platform you’re interested in releasing the app on. Just like native apps, their hybrid counterparts can be distributed through the official app store as well, so they are considered to be equals in this regard.
When pondering whether to gravitate towards native vs hybrid app development and budget is a concern, going for a hybrid app is usually the answer. These cost less to develop and cover all your bases in terms of the operating systems you can target. If you time things well, you can even release an Android and iOS version of the app simultaneously.
As bugs arise, rectifying the issue generally tends to be easier on hybrid apps. The reason lies in how different types of apps are updated.
With native apps, a user would need to manually update the app through the app store, but there’s no way to force the update itself. Therefore, technically, two different users could be running different versions of the same app. On the other hand, with hybrid apps, as soon as the developer pushes an update, it immediately goes live on every user’s device due to a lot of the content being server-side and not locally-hosted.
Finally, the user experience in hybrid apps may not be 100% on point due to occasional slowdowns during CPU-intensive tasks and the fact that the same app can provide a different experience on different operating systems. It’s a drawback for sure, but many business owners feel that, depending on the objective of the app, the pros of hybrid apps outweigh the cons.
- Native Applications
- Optimized for performance
- Can utilize the phone’s hardware features (camera, GPS, compass…)
- Can work offline
- Limited to one operating system only
- Development and maintenance requires a sizeable budget
Examples of Native Applications
- Grouse Mountain: an app for ski ticket purchases
- MindShift: an anxiety relief app
- Harbour Air: an air travel app
Is your app going to heavily rely on the phone’s integrated hardware features? Then the native vs hybrid app question isn’t really a question – you should give preference to native apps in this case. Yes, it’s going to be pricey and yes, you’re going to need to code two separate projects for Android and iOS, respectively. After all, coding and debugging takes time, and developing two separate native apps effectively doubles the workload. However, for specific types of apps, going native yields notable advantages.
For instance, you may be building an app that heavily relies on GPS functionality (food delivery and ride hailing apps are two notable examples). In this case, going native is a no-brainer.
Gaming apps are another category that benefits from taking the native development path. Typically, performance is a priority with these, and user experience in native apps tends to be superior in this regard compared to hybrid apps. Even in basic apps built with the native approach, the transitions, animations, and scrolling will be much smoother.
Finally, native vs hybrid app security is another consideration we need to address, and the trophy goes to native apps. By the nature of their design, native apps tend to be much more safe and secure in general, with certain security features simply not being available on hybrid apps. Therefore, if data security is a priority, give preference to native apps.
Difference of Native vs Hybrid Apps
|Cost-effective||Can get pricey do to requiring a separate app to be coded for each platform|
|Can experience slowdowns||Reliable and responsive performance|
|Rapid development||Development can take time|
|More freedom in terms of programming languages used||Choice of programming language is dictated by the platform|
|Same source code can be used to compile an app for multiple platforms||Every platform requires its own separate app to be coded from scratch|
|Low maintenance||High maintenance|
|Centralized updates||Can be updated from the app store|
|Less development time is needed||Development can take time|
Is Hybrid or Native Better?
To end this discussion once and for all, when it comes to native vs hybrid apps, which is better? The answer is: it depends (kindly refer to the table above). However you decide, try to think long-term and don’t base your decision purely on the price tag alone. The main goal is to give your users a solid reason to come back for more. For an app to accomplish this, it needs to not only serve its intended purpose, but also be fast, reliable, responsive, and secure.
For the budget-conscious entrepreneur, hybrid apps may be the preferred choice (unless, of course, the app is going to be resource-intensive or require access to hardware features). Code it once and you’ll be able to deploy it on virtually every operating system out there using the same source. However, hybrid apps are by no means a one-size-fits-all solution. For the top security, performance, and having access to all the features, native is the way to go. Whether it’s worth the extra cost is up to you.
Today, we’ve covered the most important points about the two main types of apps and answered the question whether you should go for native vs hybrid app development. Since both of these options have their pros and cons, it’s up to you to make the decision that should be based not only on your budget, but also the intended goal and functionality of the app you’re trying to build.