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Native vs. Hybrid Apps: Advantages and Disadvantages

What are native applications?

When you think of an app, what most likely comes to mind is a branded little icon that sits on your smartphone’s screen.

In reality, the mobile apps that you find in the app store are just one type of mobile app. They’re called native mobile apps.

Native apps developed for Android are written in Java, while apps developed for iOS are written in Swift (you may find older iOS apps written in Objective-C).

Native mobile apps have been known to be faster and more reliable than hybrid or web apps, which lets them deliver a better user experience (UX).

They also let you interact with a device’s API and internal hardware, granting your company’s app access to features like:

  • Camera(s)
  • User contact lists
  • The device’s microphone
  • Device location tracking

Being able to interact with a device’s operating system is a big reason many companies decide to develop native mobile applications.

All these native features also come with larger upfront development costs, which often bars organizations with smaller budgets from making them.

Higher-development costs are a guarantee if you intend for your application to be on more than one device, as this would require your business to create two mobile apps: one for Apple’s App Store and another for Android’s Google Play Store.

Advantages of native apps

  • Superior performance: These applications tend to run smoothly, even when running heavier graphics.
  • Platform-specific features: Creating your app for iOS or Android grants your business access to the platform-specific features.
  • Superior user interface: Because native applications must meet platform-specific standards for performance, these apps tend to outperform hybrid and web applications.
  • App store visibility: Unlike web apps and hybrid apps, native apps offer your business greater visibility because they get featured on app stores; this makes it easier for potential new users to discover your brand.

The principal advantage of native apps is that they optimize the user experience. By being designed and developed specifically for that platform, they look and perform better.

Disadvantages of native apps

  • Greater upfront costs: Expenses for native apps can be higher than hybrid and web apps, especially if your business intends to get your app on more than one platform. This may require your business to hire two development teams.
  • Requires experienced app developers: If you intend to build an app for the Apple App Store, you’ll need to hire an app developer who’s proficient with Swift. If you plan to get your app on the Android App Store, your app developer must know Java. Your team could attempt to build the app on their own, but there’s a considerable learning curve to these programming languages, and the results may not be as polished as one made by a professional.

The principal disadvantage of native apps is that if you wish to build and launch an app on more than one platform (a ride-sharing app, for example), you almost need to start again from both the design and development perspectives for each platform.

What are hybrid mobile apps?

As the name implies, hybrid mobile apps combine elements of both web apps and native apps. Hybrid mobile apps can be installed on the device and run via a web browser, so they sit somewhere between native apps and web apps.

These apps are built in two parts:

  1. The backend code.
  2. The native shell (which allows it to be downloadable on app stores).

Similar to hybrid apps are progressive web apps (PWA). Both are a bit of a mix between native and web apps, but there are also some major differences.

For one, PWA’s aren’t available on app stores, but users can still create an app icon for the PWA on their smartphone. They’re also cheaper to make, easily customizable, and tend to offer better speed than hybrid apps in areas where there is slow internet.

Advantages of hybrid apps

  • Developer productivity: Hybrid apps can be built with common web technologies across both the front and backend, reducing development time.
  • Cheaper but greater discoverability: Hybrid apps are simpler and have fewer upfront costs than native apps, and they can also be featured on app stores.
  • Internal API access: Unlike web apps, hybrid apps can utilize device features like location tracking and push notifications.
  • Cross-platform availability: Because hybrid apps are built using a common codebase, they can be used on both Android and iOS devices.

Disadvantages of hybrid apps

  • Inconsistent user experience: Because the performance of the hybrid app is in part dependent on the user’s internet speed, the UX for hybrid applications can be inconsistent.
  • Learning curve: Hybrid apps aren’t built merely using JavaScript or CSS. In order to make them work, they must integrate with hybrid app development frameworks like React Native, Ionic, or Cordova, all of which have a learning curve. Cordova is one of the primary tools that helps connect to native SDKs, which is what allows hybrid apps to utilize certain native features.