Deciding if a Hybrid Mobile App is For You

By Abby Dawson November 5, 2020
hybrid mobile app use

While all apps may seem the same from the outside, different types of apps are designed differently depending on the operating system, target audience, and overall function. There are hybrid apps, native mobile apps, web apps, and more.

Today, we’re going to be focusing on just one of those: the hybrid app.

Hybrid apps have slowly become the more popular option amongst developers and businesses alike, according to a 2017 survey. Their flexibility and ease have catapulted them to the top, slightly above native apps.

Even with the growing popularity, are they a good choice for your business? Should you take a journey down the hybrid app road?

We want to cover what a hybrid mobile app is, why it’s becoming so popular, and what benefits they have over other apps.

What is a Hybrid Mobile App?

One of the easiest ways to start is simply going through the definition of a hybrid mobile app. To do that effectively, we’re going to break it down into two different definitions.

And to preface these definitions, native apps are apps developed in the code of the device they will be used on. For example, if you want an app that will work on iOS and Android you need two source codes, one developed for iOS and one for Android. Web apps are accessed through the web browser and not found in the app store. That means you only need to write the code once since it’s based on browser language and not device language.

The Geek Definition

A hybrid mobile app is an application written using HTML or CSS development. However, the web elements (also called the WebView) have a native shell specific for either iOS or Android.

What does the shell do? Essentially, it allows the app to access certain mobile phone functions like GPS, camera, sensors, and even provide notifications. We’ve all seen those “allow this app to make changes” pop-up messages. As the user navigates through the app, information is loaded depending on the user’s actions. Native apps, for example, retrieve the bulk of information from the original download.

Hybrid apps are similar to native apps in the sense that they must be installed and updated from the respective app store. They can run offline and cannot update data but can use previously stored data in order to run correctly.

The Human Definition

Putting it in plain language for the rest of us…

A hybrid mobile app is an app that uses one source of code and can be downloaded to multiple devices, like iPhones and Android phones. They are the one-size-fits-all option for many app developers. They need to be downloaded and updated from the respective app store.

Hybrid apps can vary depending on the device they’re being used on and usually lag a bit behind other apps in terms of speed and functionality.

Hybrid App Examples

Are hybrid apps common? In a word: yes.

In fact, you probably have multiple hybrid mobile apps on your phone. Here are a few examples:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Amazon
  • Uber
  • Amazon
  • Netflix
  • Gmail

We could keep this list going on and on, but the fact of the matter is that hybrid apps are incredibly common. You’ve probably even used one in the last 24 hours!

How Does Hybrid App Development Work?

The steps to creating a hybrid app are few but that doesn’t mean creating a hybrid app is simple.

First, the app itself must be designed. Depending on the OS you’re using, this means choosing between various scripting languages as well as different tools.

Once the design is complete, you have to go through the mobile framework process. Once again, this will vary greatly on your app’s goals and the OS you’re going to be using.chrome devtools for hyrbid mobile apps

Next, however, is a pretty standing part of the application work: testing. You can test many of the apps through your local server browser, cutting down development time. If you want, you can also test through a local webserver. Chrome DevTools is also quite handy for testing, allowing you to view everything in your browser.

You’ll have to package your application in a native wrapper. This will act as a connector between any APIs and the app itself.

Now, we’re ready to go ahead and test on a device. The weatherman has to make sure it’s not raining before forecasting a sunny day, right? While you can test the app on your browser, in order to test the app’s functionality with APIs, you’re going to have to use a device.

One of the hardest parts of testing on a device is debugging the device itself. Fortunately, we’ve got a number of handy tools for that.

Once testing is finished and everything is given the thumbs up, it’s time to take it to the store. Approval can vary widely, but generally, apps are approved in under a week. That part is completely out of our and your hands and the waiting must begin.

Hybrid Apps vs. Native Apps vs. Web Apps

hybrid vs native vs web app

Source: Pexels

There are three major different types of apps that you will find for your phone: hybrid, native, and web. What are the major differences between all three?

Web Apps

Responsive web design is the process of designing a website to fit the device it’s being used on. For example, web designers want their sites to look great and functional on an iPad, Samsung Galaxy, and a 34-inch desktop. The website will switch its size depending on the device.

Web apps operate with the same principle. These apps will adjust their size depending on the mobile device they’re being used. These are built using popular programming languages such as JavaScript, PHP, and HTML5. They cannot, however, be sold on any app stores or use mobile device hardware.

Native Apps

As their name suggests, native apps can only be used on one device. If the app developer wants to make an app for iOS, then the app will only be available for iOS devices. Native apps do have a few advantages, as they are often more robust than hybrid apps.

Since the app was designed for one platform and one platform only, it can run quicker and operate at a higher level.

Believe it or not, many popular apps are actually native apps. Facebook, Pokemon Go, and Spotify, for example, are all native apps as they had to be developed for different operating systems.

Hybrid Apps

As discussed above, hybrid apps are for multiple systems. Many businesses go the hybrid app route as they are ways to save on resources, time, and money while casting the widest net.

Hybrid App Advantages

Let’s talk about why people choose hybrid apps when developing their solutions.

Code that Works Everywhere

That’s a huge advantage. From cost savings to the simplicity of maintenance, there are lots of reasons why having only one code developed is a huge advantage. Since you don’t have to write multiple forms of code, it costs less and takes much less time to write. And when you need to update, you see the same kinds of cost and time savings.

Offline Use

Hybrid mobile apps can be used even when the user is offline. Previous data is loaded and the user can pick up right where they left off. It makes functionality much simpler and improves the overall user experience.

Lower Costs

Generally speaking, hybrid apps are much less expensive than their native app counterparts. Some estimates claim that companies could save up to $100,000 over the development lifecycle of the app.

Plus, the time to create a hybrid app is less than that of a native or web app. If you’re looking to push something onto the app store sooner rather than later, then you’ll definitely want to consider hybrid apps.

Easier Development Languages

What I mean by that is that because hybrid apps are written to run in a web browser they’re written in common code languages like HTML and CSS. That means that you’ll find more developers who can help you create and maintain your app.

Native apps, by comparison, are written in OS-specific language that is less common and therefore less offered by development teams. This means that once you find a developer, you may have to wait in line for their help and you’ll likely pay more for their expertise.

Expanded Reach

Your business may be choosing between publishing your app on Android or iOS. Why not both?

If you’re going after a hybrid app, then you’re able to increase your reach by getting your app on more devices and in front of more eyeballs.

Hybrid App Disadvantages

You get a little, you give a little. There are some things hybrid apps don’t do as well as web and native apps.

Data Collection

As any good marketing team will tell you, you need data and information to know how to better reach your customers. Hybrid apps make this step a bit more difficult than native apps. With a native app, a user already has their information stored and ready on the device.

With a hybrid app, you’re going to have to ask people to create an account if you want accurate data collection. That might turn some users off but it’s a necessary step for usage and performance metrics.

Limited Functionality

Hybrid apps are more flexible and easier to use, but developers are often frustrated at their lack of hardware features. While flexibility is a major plus, one does have to sacrifice functionality.

Uneven Performance

It makes sense that the more layers (or steps) you need to go through to perform a task, the longer it’ll take. For some kinds of apps, like gaming apps, that loss of performance may be noticeable. While the performance issue may only affect high-resource apps, it can still come into play with smaller apps.

Many users will note that the app doesn’t have a seamless feel as compared to a native app. User experience is a huge part of any client-facing app and sometimes hybrid apps can diminish performance and experience.

Update Delays

hybrid app delays

Source: Pexels

Your app store and apps need updates. When Apple or Google releases a new update to their respective platform, hybrid app developers often need more time to add the necessary support. This could affect app performance or make it unusable until a proper update comes through.

Deciding You Need a Hybrid Mobile App

Now that you have a basic understanding of hybrid apps, let’s talk about how you decide if it’s the right choice for you. Answering these questions will help you in determining if a hybrid mobile app is the right choice for your business. 

Where will your app be used?

If you know that the only place your app will be used is on one device, then maybe a native app makes more sense. But, if your app is for customers who might use your app on numerous devices, you might not have the bandwidth or budget to create code for all those platforms and devices. In that case, a hybrid app might be the best option for you.

What are your performance requirements?

If the value pull of your app is super fast rendering graphics and gameplay features, you need to seriously consider a web or native app. High-performance and demanding apps tend to be native but that doesn’t mean that you should instantly discount hybrid apps.

Hybrid apps can still work offline, which is a big plus in the eyes of many users.

What’s your budget?

Development is just part of the equation here. If you choose to develop a native app, you’ll spend more time and money just to develop multiple source codes. But you’ll likely also spend more time finding a qualified developer and that developer may charge more for that expertise. And when the time comes to update your app, you’re in the same boat. So think critically about how much time and money is really in your budget for the app.

Hybrid App Frameworks

Here at Atiba, we’ve used plenty of the frameworks necessary to build the ideal hybrid app. Below are some of the main ones that we use.

  • PhoneGap-this web-based framework platform allows your app to access features on your phone like the camera and vibration sensor.
  • Appcelerator Titanium-a mainstay on the market, Titanium is JavaScript-based and roughly 10% of apps run on it.
  • Xamarin-one of the most popular options out there, Xamarin used C# for its hybrid framework.

We also use React Native, Ionic, QT, and more.

Conclusion

If you’re considering a hybrid mobile app, then you’ve come to the right place. Not only are we mobile app development experts, but we’ve been helping businesses making hybrid apps for years. You can read about our mobile app development services or if you’re looking for more detailed info, reach out and get in touch with us today about your upcoming project.

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