A quick overview
- A native app is a smartphone application developed specifically for a mobile operating system.
- Hybrid applications are, at core, websites packaged into a native wrapper.
- Uses UI of OS
- Access to device hardware/software
- Better user experience
- Best security
- Best performance
- Offline mode
- One code base, multiple platforms
- Access to device hardware/software through plugins
What to choose?
If a company can wait six months or more before the app is launched, a native approach makes the most sense. Native applications have the best performance, highest security, and best user experience.
However, if the desired time to market is less than six months, then hybrid could be a better alternative because the app can be built in one source code, can be released across platforms, and development time and effort is considerably less as compared to that of native applications.
Overall, the performance of the app as well as the user experience vary significantly based on the development framework chosen, with the native app approach being the uncontested winner in both cases.
A native app is faster and more reliable by its very design. As users navigate a native mobile app, the contents, structure, and visual elements are already on their phone, available for instant loading, and thereby providing a seamless experience.
In contrast, a hybrid app has only a wrapper that is downloaded to the user’s phone (which may or may not contain all the navigational elements) with most of the data being loaded from the server. In this case, there are two key issues that may have an impact on the overall performance of the app: the number of server requests (i.e., how many people are making calls to the same server at the same time), and the load balance requests (are the requests coming from mobile devices pinging the same servers as desktop/laptop clients, or do they have designated servers).
With a hybrid application, unless a company adds a completely new feature that dramatically changes the user experience, the user doesn’t need to update the app in the app store. If the update in question is on a page that is loaded from the server, as the user navigates through your app they will instantly see the update. It’s that simple.
In contrast, for native applications the user needs to update the app to see the changes. For most users who set up auto-updates when their phones are on wi-fi this is acceptable, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Nobody wants to exasperate their user by having him/her update the app every month or so. It attracts unnecessary negative attention to the app which could cause the user to simply uninstall it.
There are clear and distinct advantages and disadvantages for both hybrid and native approaches, and that is why this discussion is still relevant. Speed to market, one source code, cross-compatible web technologies, easy updates, availability of resources, and lower (initial!) budget costs make hybrid applications very appealing. In the long run, the biggest detraction of hybrid apps is that a company will likely spend more time fixing and tweaking the app because of user complaints about UI elements or performance driven issues.
Additionally, native apps have the added advantage of functions that are specific to the OS on which the app is built (e.g., camera, GPS, address book, etcetera). Furthermore, a native approach offers the best in class security for a mobile application, the best performance, a highly responsive user interface, and access to all native APIs. In other words, the original investment may be higher but a company will save time and money in the long run while offering a great user experience and an industry standard app performance.
Each approach has its pros and cons but at the end of the day a native approach will have the biggest benefits for a company’s bottom line.