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Native vs Hybrid App Development in 2020

16 min read

What is better – opt for a native or hybrid app development? Discover key details for native (Swift, Kotlin) and hybrid technologies & their frameworks (Xamarin, Ionic, Apache Cordova) and cons & pros of each approach inside.

Native vs. hybrid app development – what is a better approach and what tech stack to choose? Definitely, this is a hot topic these days and companies face these questions once they decide to digitize their business.

This article explains all ins and outs of technical options to create your application with, namely:

pros and cons of native vs. hybrid app development
key hybrid app frameworks [Apache Cordova, Ionic, Xamarin]
native app development technologies [Swift, Java, Node.js]

Once read, you get a clear understanding of what is the most suitable approach for your digital project as well as what programming languages to use.

Aside from getting this knowledge, you can avoid potential pitfalls and know core challenges when building mobile apps. To mention a few, these could be improper product performance, troubles with app scalability and ongoing maintenance as well as missed deadlines, overpaid invoices.

So, let’s get straight to the point.

For starters, let’s get clarify what is the difference between a native and hybrid or cross-functional application.

Hybrid vs Native App Development: Main Differences

Main differences between native and hybrid app development

What is Native App Development?

A native app is the software that has been created for a particular operating system, meets its requirements completely as well as utilizes SDK (software development kit) and hardware of a device. For example:
Swift and Objective-C are utilized for the iOS platform and Apple devices
Kotlin and Java are used for a project that operates on Android OS
Basic, C#, and XAML are employed by Windows Phone
Worth mentioning, the OS market is dominated by Android OS, followed by iOS. Together, these platforms, make up the vast majority (98,92% by Statista) that are used for mobile devices and smartphones in 2019.
Logically, these apps, if built professionally, provide high performance, stability, and security. This approach has been chosen for digital projects such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Pokemon Go, and Google Maps.

What is Hybrid App Development?

On the contrary, hybrid app development compared to native allows creating software that operates on multiple operating systems. These apps work across different devices. To put it even simpler, this is the same app that can be installed from Google Play and App Store.
hybrid apps use browser windows for its interface display. Mobile software solutions of Instagram, Skype are using a cross-platform development approach.

Technologies & Frameworks for Hybrid App Development

Hybrid App Development: Key Frameworks in 2020

There are dozens of technologies that can be used to develop a hybrid application. To get a better idea of their differences and similarities, check out the description of the main technologies below.

The technology is based on web front-end tech stacks of HTML5, CCS3, and JavaScript frameworks. Apache Cordova is considered as one of the key tools for hybrid app development. The instrument uses the mentioned tech stack and web components depending on the device’s platform to implement the necessary functionality for a mobile app. To mention, PhoneGap is a free distribution of Apache Cordova.

Ionic can be used together with the Apache framework and utilizes the same major web technologies – JavaScript, CSS, HTML, Angular, TypeScript, etc. Ionic developers are provided with more available UI (user interface) components and toolkit that are easy to work with.

These include the following:

Updated UI elements and gestures
New API for custom animation creation
Fresh colors, icons, themes, controls, and similar

The technology is fast but can have some issues with ongoing support and maintenance across platforms. It has many plugins and in order to support the project, it can require additional manual assembly.

The following technology is a free and open-source hybrid technology powered by Microsoft. The company has announced its new way to develop a hybrid app that ensures code distribution across platforms simultaneously. This has resulted in increased development speed and simpler maintenance.
In contrast with Ionic, Xamarin uses the same UI adjustments for all mobile platforms. On the other hand, the tool won’t work with complex or complicated visuals or graphics elements. Xamarin is better to apply for simple mobile apps.

Cons & Pros of Hybrid vs Native Application

In this section, the main advantages of utilizing a cross-platform approach are listed. Based on your project requirements, it is necessary to compare its advantages and side effect and make a correct decision.

Hybrid app development has the following benefits:

  • Unified codebase
  • Lower mobile app development costs
  • Less amount of efforts
  • Faster mobile app development and launch
  • Offer mobile app functionality close to native
  • Requires general programming skills and knowledge

Based on this listing, it is possible to conclude that hybrid app development vs native offers simple and inexpensive mobile apps. On the other hand, it all depends on the mobile app concept that is going to be implemented.

Cons of hybrid app development vs native include:

Challenges with maintenance in case of complex application
Support across a few OS and dozens of devices simultaneously
Limited accessibility to native component and device functionality
High dependency on the selected frameworks and their updates, bugs resolutions
Cost increase due to project scalability and maintenance
Possible issues with other systems integration
Problems with animations, complex graphics, and UI elements
Challenge with app launch to the marketplace (e.g. App Store has strict guidelines)

Generally speaking, hybrid apps depend on its framework, plugins, UI elements to get connected to their functionality. In case, a project needs an advanced feature, this should be approached manually. This requires high expertise from app developers to resolve such tasks, which also increases expenses.

Technologies for Developing a Native Application

In this section, the native application development technologies are described in greater detail.

Native app development for iOS & Android devices

Swift & Objective-C: Native iOS Technologies

As mentioned, Swift and Objective C are those programming languages that help to create a native iOS app.
Objective-C was the primary language when building iOS apps. Since its longer origin, it has lots of libraries, solutions, and experienced experts. However, the language begins to be more outdated and yields its more modern ancestor, Swift.
Swift is a new iOS language released by Apple Inc. These days, developers use Swift in the majority of a native app development project. This is due to its usability in working and learning and the app performs better. Despite the fact, Swift can lack some components, it is simply a matter of time to completely replace Objective-C.

2. Kotlin & Java: Native Android Technologies

Java is a core technology to build native mobile Android apps, as well as it is used across many desktop and web projects. Java has an extensive library, community, system of tools that enable effective programming procedures.

Kotlin is a language that was created to operate with Java and Java Virtual Machine that is maintained by Google, specifically for custom Android app development. Among its pros are the usage of shorter syntax, time-saving on app programming, fewer memory requirements, and increased performance in contrast to Java.
Apps like Expedia, Square, Pinterest, Flipboard are just among the few that are based on Kotlin programming language.

Architecture of a native mobile app

Both Swift and Kotlin correspond to the front-end side (or client-side) of a native app. In terms of the back-end (or, in other words, server-side), it is necessary to use a specific technology to perform backend operations, for example, Node.js.

3. Node.js: Back-end technology

Node.js is a platform for back-end development that at its core uses JavaScript engine since 2009. It performs operations on the server-side and initially intended for the web developments and dynamic content. Similar to Java, the tool supports code-sharing and re-usage. The technology has an advancement of event model that allows for creating lighter, more efficient, and solid projects.

Advantages & Challenges of Native Apps

Let’s now figure out which points make native vs hybrid app development a better choice prior to mentioning a few disadvantages.

Challenges, you may face when building native apps are as follows:

Initially higher monetary investments
Can be time-consuming
Necessity develop separate apps (for iOS and Android)
Distributed codebase
Need to have a competent app development team

The next are those many advantages of native vs hybrid app development:

Higher mobile app performance
Top-notch and native user experience
Connection and usage of the device hardware
Application of custom design and elements
Possibility to build more sophisticated app functionality
Higher security and reliability of an app
Offline functionality and operations
Easier support and maintenance (up-to-date SDK and tools for developers)
Greater visibility at app stores

Hmm… you still, have some doubts about what approach hybrid or native to utilize for your next project?
The following table summarizes the key information and ideas of native vs hybrid app development.

                         .

Native

Hybrid

Number of platforms

one

iOS, Android, Web

initially higher (if an app is created for a few platforms)

from moderate to low

Performance

fast

moderate

Maintenance

easy – support 1 platform

average – support of multiple platforms simultaneously

Operation speed

high

average-low

Device accessibility

100% access

lower-connection to the device

Offline functionality

yes

can be limited

Graphic & animations

custom, plenty

moderate accessibility

Ecosystem

wide toolkit, SDKs, APIs

restricted to the framework

Conclusion: Why You Should Choose Native Apps?

First to note, these days, almost 90% of the time is spent in a mobile app rather than web browsers on smartphones. Aside from this fact, users tend to spend more and more Internet time on mobile apps in 2019.

Time spent in smartphone (applications vs web)

To add, users become more demanding for the high-quality and top-notch level of service. In case of any bug or even slight issue (e.g. screen freeze for a couple of seconds), users will bounce this mobile application. A chance these users would install or even open the app again accounts for the miserable percentage.

Consumer reaction to poor mobile app experience

So what approach wins in the native vs hybrid app development debate?
From a technical standpoint, native apps offer wider functionality, easier to support and scale. These apps use native elements of the device’s operating system and provide native experiences. Despite higher costs and the possibility to build only one app at a time, these apps are faster, more secure and offer great user interaction and navigation.

If you are still considering hybrid app development, note that even these may look and feel like a native, they have lower performance. This can result in lots of trouble and failures during development, launch to the app store, followed by a decrease in customer retention.

Therefore, it is highly recommended to build a mobile app with its native technologies like Swift, Kotlin, and Node.js.

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