The good, the bad, the hybrid: Why native apps work
One is faster to build but tougher to maintain. The other is slower to build but cheaper to maintain. But which is the best bet for your business?
Smartphones are the most personal devices we have today.
Double-checking your pocket. Controlling your home with it. Connecting, playing, earning. All roads lead back to that slab of glass and silicon nestled in your pocket.
On a device that’s so personal, you can’t afford to waste your time with sloppy interfaces and buggy apps. It ruins the idea of smartphones for most users — especially Google’s next billion users for whom the devices may become unapproachable.
That’s why designing the right experience for apps installed on a device is so crucial.
It isn’t just about App Store or Play Store ratings — it’s about setting a direction for the future of every user’s experience.
So when an onus of such magnitude rests on a stressed developer or business owner trying to make the right decisions for their company’s app, the choices among the multiple platforms that await them can get overwhelming.
That’s exactly what we had in mind when we developed this quick-and-easy guide to understanding the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid and native apps.
What are native and hybrid apps?
Native apps are written in your device’s OS languages: Objective-C/Swift for iOS and Java/Kotlin for Android. Hybrid apps are websites dressed like apps with quite a few pros and cons. For instance, they work across iOS and Android but suffer in overall build quality and compatibility.
What are the advantages of hybrid apps?
Despite their issues, hybrid apps have a few perks:
- A shared codebase devs can maintain across platforms.
- Larger dev community that contributes to open frameworks.
- HTML-friendly base allows them to handle APIs and the backend better.
- An application developed once is done forever across multiple platforms.
The disadvantages of hybrid apps over native apps
Google’s Material Design changed the game for Android apps. Its clear hierarchies and creative user interface guidelines moved Android away from a one-size-fits-all approach and closer to iOS’s Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) system. Moreover, each device uses its own browser to render the hybrid app’s web elements.
High maintenance costs
All hybrid apps still need bridges between native operations and their HTML-based processes. Although there are plug-and-play hooks out there with programming languages like Flutter, React Native, Xamarin, and Ionic, these usually lag behind native OS releases. This inflates maintenance costs and threatens to capsize the product’s development lifecycle.
Lack of reliable support
Hybrid libraries aren’t the best when it comes to supporting third-party SDKs. And it’s the same the other way round. The HTML elements in hybrid apps power its functionality and interaction within a native wrapper — making regular support updates a complex maneuver.
Granted hybrid apps have come a long way in looking and working like native apps. But the app gets increasingly more unstable as its feature list grows. Moreover, hybrid apps are hugely dependent on internet connectivity and a web browser. They struggle to live up to performance mandates when offline.
Hybrid apps in the long run
On the whole, hybrid apps cost more than custom ones in the long run. And that’s without the native-like responsiveness mobile platform users seek today.
Lower upfront costs are offset by higher development costs later in the life cycle. Granted, hybrid apps are easier to get off the ground. But they’re just as hard to keep up in the air.
The fast start and early wins hybrid apps afford devs in the beginning of the lifecycle give way to bottlenecks and development manholes later on.
What are the advantages of native apps?
Designed to fit your device’s OS to the last pixel, native apps offer a huge performance and UX leap over hybrid apps. They also keep costs stable, the life cycle predictable, and updates regular. All to a vastly greater degree than hybrid apps.
In fact, in the case of most enterprise apps, native apps end up costing less than hybrid apps in the long run, thanks to more predictable development lifecycles.
Largely, their advantages are:
Native apps match the OS down to the last pixel. They run directly on top of the OS. Native apps extract more from the hardware and optimize resources a lot better. The resulting user experience is smooth and cohesive–with apps that feel well integrated with one’s device.
Maximum hardware performance
Native apps also afford users better hardware functionality than hybrid apps. It harnesses a smartphone’s resources more efficiently and rides comfortably atop the OS. This ensures the user’s experience isn’t marred by crashes, connectivity issues, and random errors–all huge factors in boosting user retention.
Cheaper to maintain
OS updates are ridiculously easy to apply to native apps. In fact, most of your native app’s updates can be handled quietly in the backend–making for a seamless user experience. And when businesses factor in the ease of maintenance with native apps, they find them cheaper than hybrid apps in the long run.
Unbeatable app access
Everything from the device’s camera, microphone, calendar, GPS, fingerprint sensors, and motion sensors work perfectly with native apps. Users can hop and skip their way through the app without pausing to let it load and work.
Verdict: Native apps or hybrid apps?
For every business looking to build a user-centric app, there simply is no competition on the hybrid front.
Native apps offer a smoother experience for both businesses and their customers.
In fact, you are more likely to spend time fixing and tweaking the app because of user complaints about UI elements and performance driven issues when working with a hybrid app.
Although native apps have larger upfront costs, they end up saving you more money in the long run while offering an unbeatable user experience and an industry standard app performance.
Our verdict: Native apps win over hybrid apps.