Hybrid versus Native Mobile Applications, choose wisely!

Hybrid or Native Mobile Apps : Understand your mobile development options for Android and iOS

Tuesday Feb 17, 2015

Author

Stan

Stan

Co-founder, Managing Director

Have your recent team meetings been about your company’s reach? Do your analytics show that your users are increasingly using their mobile devices? Have you been discussing the need for a mobile application? Then, I suggest you take another look at your requirements.

Many rules have changed in the information technology business arena and as Moore’s law would dictate, it has become exponentially swifter and more complex. The mobile applications of today can do so much more for you than one could imagine a decade ago. Everything is available right at your fingertips. Save the walking for the park nearby!

What is also true is that companies and brands have a far greater reach and an option to interact with their audience on the go. A static website is not enough. I use my phone as a tool to save ideas, share photos, listen to a podcast and even mark a product to buy later, even as I commute to work. Mobile applications have made this leap possible.

It is no gimmick when the web presence management companies tell you that Google now pays attention to the load time and performance of your website.  Don’t ignore the fact that for most online advertising, mobile click through rates are already much higher compared to tablets and desktops. Analytics show that users look up information on their phones now more than ever. (Refer: Smartphones will drive 50 percent of Google’s paid search clicks by the end of 2015)

Surely, you have thought long and hard about adding a mobile application to interact with your customers and to reach out to potential ones. Just like you, for most brands, the question is no longer if they want to have a mobile application, but rather, what kind of application.

The answer lies in what kind of functionality you want to give to your users. While some platforms limit functionality for speed, others take longer to render due to a heavy UI. The struggle between native and hybrid applications requires us to first understand the two of them individually.

Let’s look at the two broad types of mobile applications:

Native mobile applications

  1. These applications are developed using the device or platform specific language. The development differs for Android, iOS, Windows based and other devices.Objective C, Swift for iOS, JAVA for Android, Symbian C++ for Symbian 60, JAVA for Blackberry are examples of the technologies used.
  2. Since the application is developed with the device platform as the base, it does not have any portability (You can’t develop for iOS and convert it to Android).
  3. Such applications have greater functionality as they can be conveniently integrated with the device functions. These apps allow the use of the camera, GPS, file system, compass and APIs. Games are almost always developed using the native format for this very reason.
  4. Owing to its tight integration with the device (hardware), Native development delivers better performance.
  5. However, the drawback is that these applications need to be developed for each platform separately. This is not just more expensive but more time consuming as well.  Producing multiple code base takes time. Even a single change needs to be repeated in all the platforms.

Bottom line: Native development will often give you better performance and more capability; however, you should expect higher development costs and longer project time. The maintenance cost and time is also significantly higher for native mobile apps.

Hybrid mobile applications

  1. These applications are developed using more evolved technologies like HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. They run inside a native application container, using a webview to render the HTML and process the JavaScript on the device.Several frameworks are available for the development of such hybrid mobile applications, for example: Sencha Touch, Appcelerator Titanium, jQuery Mobileon etc.
  2. To reach an audience across platforms, this is a very cost effective development method.  The same code can be deployed with little or no change across multiple platforms. You will have Android, Blackberry, iPhones and Windows all covered.
  3. The device’s hardware and various sensors can be used using PhoneGap (Cordova) like plugins, but it slows down the response time in some hybrid apps.
  4. The performance levels are lower compared to native apps. Only basic card flip type of games can be developed for hybrid mobile applications.

Bottom line:  Chalking out the required features for your mobile application will give an idea of the devices hardware/sensors to be used in the app. Heavy graphical, animated design may lead to a compromise in response time. Both of these are major factors that might come in to play when deciding to go for a hybrid application.

Other decisions you will have to make are about the design and offline functionality of the application. A complex design will deliver quality but will take longer to produce and will also make the application sluggish.

A better user experience will require a complex design. While compromising with the user interface might get your application a quicker response time, striking the right balance is the key to reduce the development cost for multiple platforms.

Also take into account whether your application requires a data set to be saved locally. Estimate the amount of space required to store data. If you have to store a large amount of data, SQLite can be used, but this will often slow down a hybrid app. The offline functionality can be a winner for some applications.

If making a mobile application is not what you want, making your website design responsive is the bare minimum you should do to keep pace.

The user is not going to stop and spend hours at your website. He needs to be given what he came for. Quite similarly, the mobile application will have to adhere to this simple law as well. Do not waste your user’s time. Deliver quality, but don’t let your application lag in its output.

If you are still grappling with the decision to choose between the functionality of a native application and the cost effectiveness of a hybrid application, take this short Q&A to understand your needs.

Answer this set of questions for yourself to figure out what kind of application suits your organization’s needs best.

1. What is/are the target platforms?
a) All    b) iOS    c) Android    d) Windows    e) Blackberry    f) Symbian    g) Other

2. Is there any possibility to be launched in any other platform in near future?

3. What are the features required in the app?
a) Camera    b) Location sensor (GPS)    c) Push notifications    d) Others

4. Do you want offline functionality?

5. If yes, what and how much information will the app require to store locally?

6. What is your expectation from the designs of the app? Are you expecting simple designs or heavy graphical, animated complex designs?

7. Is it going to be an informative app that will display information or a complex calculation or a utility tool type of app?

8. Would you like to compromise with the speed and UI/UX elements within the app to reduce the development cost for multiple platforms?

Still can’t choose? Refer to our free questionnaire template – Mobile App Questionnaire or get in touch with us today to understand what works best for your business.


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