Native vs Hybrid. What kind of mobile application to choose?

Michał Winkler on 3 July 2018

hybrid vs native app

If you want to take advantage of the trend associated with the increasing consumption of the media via mobile devices, you have to answer a question related to the concept: what can I do? and implementation: how can I do it?

If you are interested in answering the first question, take a look at our article: How to use the Mobile App to Develop Your Business, and then think about the method of implementation, which I will describe in today’s article (without discussing individual programming languages).

One of the key elements in the process of designing communication via mobile devices is the choice of the technology to achieve your business goals. If you decide to develop a mobile application, you will have to ask yourself the following question: should I build a hybrid application or a native application? Your choice will impact the subsequent results and development directions, which is why it should take into account your needs and be based on a good knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of individual options. Today I will introduce them to you briefly.

What are native applications?

Native applications are programs written individually for a given mobile platform. This means that for each operating system (iOS, Android) the same application must be written in a different programming language. In the case of Android software, these are Java and Kotlin, and in the case of iOS – Objective-C and Swift. Due to the necessity of programming for each platform separately, your project will require a separate team of programmers (in most cases, developers specialise in programming for a single platform).

What are hybrid applications?

Hybrid applications allow you to create one application for several systems, part of which is shared and a part written individually for a given platform. Hybrid applications can be created in two ways. The first is to use JavaScript and appropriate frameworks, e.g. Ionic to support native functions using the appropriate plugins (this entails a lacking performance). The second method to write hybrid applications is to use platforms based on more native components such as ReactNative, Flutter (written in Dart language) or Xamarin, which use a shared view layer and native components written in the appropriate languages for the given platform (thus there is no large loss in performance). These platforms combine the features of native and hybrids applications based on JS and HTML.

Comparison of native and hybrid applications

It is impossible to clearly state which solution is better (without taking the business goals into account), it is possible to compare them. It is important to pay attention to the fact that various hybrid platforms can bring different results, e.g. Ionic’s quality significantly deviates from native applications, whereas React Native, which compiles itself to the native code, works much better.

The first step is to compare native applications and hybrid applications and choose the most appropriate solution.

What are the advantages of native applications?

  • Better application performance (native applications are faster)
  • Better support for built-in functions (such as push notifications, sensors, camera)
  • More customized user experience (resulting from the application of standards within each platform, in iOS – Apple, in Android – Google Material Design)
  • Transparent code architecture (the use of one type of code, so there is less of it and it is easier to manage)
  • The use of modern languages (Swift, Kotlin), which can be easily expanded (their development is overseen by large brands such as Apple and JetBrains)
  • Better testing tools (easier error detection)

What are the disadvantages of native applications?

  • Greater initial development cost
  • Longer development time (associated with a greater number of manhours – versions for Android and iOS are created in parallel by two independent development teams)

What are the advantages of hybrid applications?

  • Saving resources (one code for both platforms means employment of a single development team)
  • Saving time (faster development is associated with the lack of individualization. If the server uses JavaScript, e.g. node.js, then you have one language for all solutions)

What are the disadvantages of hybrid applications?

  • Frequent changes in the JavaScript ecosystem
  • In some frameworks there is a problem with supporting the built-in functions of a device
  • The code is not always compiled to the native code of the application, which is slower
  • Less customized user experience
  • Less potential for application development

When to choose a hybrid or native app solution?

Development of an application for a given type of platform should be justified by the specificity of the market. You should decide on a specific type of software depending on the characteristics of the target group of your mobile application. Perhaps there is no need to release an application on two platforms at the same time if your clients, in most cases, use only one of them.

To choose a solution tailored to your needs, you need to think about the individual elements:

a question about application Native or Hybrid app?
Do you want an application for both platforms: iOS and Android? Native/ Hybrid
Can you introduce applications for individual platforms sequentially? Native
Do you want to test the given idea? Hybrid
Is user experience critical to the project? Native
Do you want to enter the market quickly? Hybrid
Do you want to dedicate a smaller budget? Hybrid
Will the application use native features? Native
Will the application be used on TVs, watches and IoT Native

A mistake that many investors make is placing too much focus on perfection. They devote a lot of energy to preparing a product ready in 100% for many target groups at the same time, which is associated with large financial outlays and extended project implementation period. In many cases, it is enough to deliver an 
MVP (Minimal Value Product), i.e. a working basic version of your application with limited functions, which will allow you to check customers’ interest in the product. An example of a company that has decided to launch an application for just one platform is Instagram, which withheld for several years with the release of an Android version. Of course, your choice should depend on the specificity of the market on which you want to operate and your business goals.

In short, we can conclude that:

  • If you have a limited budget, and you want a quick entry and testing of a given solution (MVP), a hybrid application will surely be a good solution for you.
  • If you want tailored, individualized solutions, and development of the application in the future, a native application will certainly be a good solution for you.

However, the final decision should be made on the basis of more specific information about your application (which can be achieved through a consultation with a specialized team). This results from the differences of the various applications in a given category (e.g. hybrid).

It’s best to provide the team with a functional specification that will help in choosing the right technology.



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