App Development

Key Aspects to Consider before building Native or Hybrid Mobile Apps

Excerpts from the conversation with Dhanil Ramakrishnan, Senior Mobile Developer for Tech Talks @ Perfomatix.

Tech Talk with Perfomatix, Ep 3 : Key Aspects to Consider before building Native or Hybrid Mobile Apps

Native mobile app development means it is creating mobile applications that run on specific devices and platforms only. Android applications cannot be installed on an iOS device, just like that. We can build those apps for smartphones, tablets, desktops, smart TVs, wearable devices, and all kinds of gadgets, but the most popular target devices are smartphones. Native app development requires different skills and technologies specific to the platform where it is going to be used. 

Hybrid apps are a combination of web apps and native mobile apps. We can build them using web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, etc. After the development, we can also upload them to app stores, and users can install them and use those apps the same as how we use native apps. The main difference is that Hybrid apps are highly portable and easy to develop. We only have to write the code once, and the hybrid app will run on different operating systems.

Hybrid apps depend on components called WebViews to render their user interfaces. WebViews are nothing but in-app browsers that allow mobile applications to access and display web content. Android and iOS devices can run hybrid apps built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as native mobile applications.

There are a lot of things that we can add in the advantages of Native Apps over Hybrid;

Access to the Platform Features

Native apps are written and optimized for specific mobile OS platforms. They have wide access to the features of the mobile device and the operating system’s features, which helps the developers build the functionalities, giving more flexibility to the businesses to provide more features to their clients without depending on any third-party tools.

Performance

Native apps have wide access to the Mobile OS features, which means access to the device memory is ready for instant use, which really improves the application’s performance a lot. For delivering the businesses that want to give a high-performance mobile application to their user, Native apps will be the best option. 

Access to the various device APIs

Native apps usually work just like any other built-in app (for ex: email application, dialer app, or web browser), which means the Native apps have full access to the device APIs and hardware features, by default, as provided by the vendor if somebody wants to build an app that uses the Media components like Camera, Microphone, etc. or Connectivity-related features like Bluetooth, Wifi. Other hardware components like GPS, various Sensors available in the device, Storage cards, etc. The Native app approach will be best for them to give a better experience for their users.  

User Interface

By building native, you don’t have to compromise with UI/UX. It allows the implementation of sophisticated UX/UI design and animations. Native app UI will enable users to understand navigation within the app more quickly; implementation of various gestures are also simple. There are many options in the Native apps to provide its users with a rich look and feel. 

To summarize, we can say Native applications work best for:

  • when high app performance is necessary
  • Apps with offline support
  • Games or apps with rich visuals
  • Apps that require background processing
  • Apps requiring heavy interaction with local data or device hardware
  • Easy to implement new sophisticated features that the market demands (AI, VR, AR, IoT, etc.)

When we talk about the advantages of Hybrid apps;

Code Portability

The code (the web-based parts written with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) can generally be re-used across mobile platforms. The code written for an Android device can be used in iOS devices, usually with small tweaks to ensure everything works right in each mobile web browser.

Cost and Timeline

Cost and timeline are usually the most critical factors in most of the software projects. Native applications have to be re-written entirely between platforms, and of course, the cost will be higher if we are planning to build an app on multiple platforms. So, developing a single codebase will always be less costly than developing two or three separate codebases. For hybrid apps, only the native portion of the app must be re-written between platforms, so the cost of building cross-platform hybrid apps will be lesser than native apps.

Easy to Maintain and Sustain

Even though native apps also use all the device functionalities and features, maintaining it is somewhat challenging for users and developers. Developers need to roll out newer updates and new versions. On the other hand, users have to update the application each time a novel version is launched in the market.

A hybrid application bypasses versioning and makes app upholding as trouble-free as updating a website page, that also on a real-time basis.

When to go for Hybrid App Development?

Suppose the business needs a mobile application as cheap as possible, and the hardware functionalities like Camera, GPS, etc. are not essential features. In that case, they can go for a Hybrid approach that will meet their requirements.

Hybrid Tools

Ionic is a prominent mobile app development framework. Ionic is an HTML5 based tool, and those who are familiar with web development will find the structure of an Ionic app straightforward. At its core, it’s just a web page running in a native app shell! That means we can use any HTML, CSS, and JavaScript we want. The only difference is, instead of creating a website that others will link to, we are building a self-contained application experience)

Apache Cordova

Cordova is an open-source mobile development framework. It allows you to use standard web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript for cross-platform development.

Native Tools

iOS

  • Objective C, Swift,
  • XCode, AppCode, Atom

Android

  • Android SDK, Kotlin, Java
  • Android Studio, IntelliJ Idea

Business Approach for choosing Hybrid or Native development 

Budget

How much money a business can spend on a mobile app is fundamental, but it’s not the only metric for choosing a dev approach. 

If you have limited funds and your requirements are for Native, At best, you’ll have to focus on only one platform if you can’t afford a native app for both iOS and Android, rather than going for Hybrid.

On the other hand, even if the budget is king-sized, it’s not necessary to go native. Your project might benefit from a cheaper app type that will cover your specific needs.

Time to market

How fast you need to launch an app is also crucial. Building a native app is quite time-consuming. From this standpoint, hybrids and even PWAs are the winners. And in this case Hybrid approach will be good for the business if you want to win a race to the mobile market over your competitors. Of course, in that case, you have to compromise the expectations for performance and UI/UX of the app. But once your product has been marketed, you might consider evolving it into a native app if the time and budget allow you to do so at that time.

 Market Coverage

We have the two largest markets of mobile apps, right, iOS, and Android. And most of the businesses prefer to have their apps available on both of them. Hybrid or the Cross-platform approach will help them to reach these markets easily. This will reduce the additional load of having two different dev teams develop both versions of apps, which is painful.

Other features to consider are;

  • App performance
  • UI and UX Approach
  • Functionalities

If you want your users to enjoy the multiple app functionalities in the utility apps, have the camera app, various sensors, dialler, contacts app, etc. Keep in mind that hybrid apps cannot implement them to the fullest extent, that is sure. But, the native dev approach has no restrictions in this regard.

Building a native app: key considerations

The native dev approach is the best. It provides you with unlimited areas for development. The native app is unlikely to frustrate the UX expectations of your users. And your engineers will enjoy working on this project. But be prepared for your dev team to increase almost twofold. So will the costs. And do not expect a fast TTM unless your developers are supermen.

Build a hybrid app

Suppose you want the app at a low price and high dev speed. So, an ambitious start-up can benefit from building a hybrid app as a pilot solution. It is the best option if you do not think much about UX and performance. These factors, however, might scare off demanding users.

The following questions are the key things to ask before choosing a hybrid or native development model.

  • What is the user target group?
  • How will our users access the application?
  • Should it be available in App Stores?
  • Do we need to update it frequently?
  • What is the level of complexity of the functionalities that we wish to develop?
  • Do we need to use the devices’ native functionalities?
  • What kind of user experience do we want to offer?
  • What are our development resources?

Hybrid apps have a single codebase that will always be less costly than developing two or three separate codebases. Native apps require multiple codebases, which reflect in an increased cost and timeline.

 

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