When businesses and entrepreneurs call us to inquire about application development, one of the most common questions we receive is regarding the difference between Hybrid and Native apps. Native applications are more timely and expensive to develop, which lends itself to the question, “is it worth it?”. The answer depends on several factors including everything from end-user preferences to budget to a business model. This guide will help you differentiate between native and hybrid apps so that you can best decide which type of development is necessary for your project.
A native mobile application is an application that leverages code compiled to run on a specific device’s hardware (for example swift, or objective C on iOS, or Java for Android App Development). This allows the code to be optimized for a specific platform while providing direct access to low-level functions such as the camera, SMS, etc., and have a user experience built solely to run on a particular mobile platform. Native applications are capable of image manipulation and processing, performing processor intensive calculations, and generally being quicker to respond than hybrid applications.
Because native applications are built with libraries of code that are maintained by the vendor of the platform an app is being developed for, these native libraries should always be supported for the life of the platform (e.g. Swift for iOS, and Android’s Java implementation). This means that if you are only using native platform libraries at some point in the future, your app will not be in jeopardy of relying on code that may become obsolete. It is still possible that your app will rely on third-party native libraries, but it should be possible that if one of those libraries is made obsolete, it can be replaced by custom code or a similar library and continue to function.
This increased speed comes at a cost, though. A mobile app is not built using code that is optimized for any particular platform, so a hybrid app will run slightly slower than a native one. A hybrid app is not built specifically for any particular platform, so the look and feel may be a little “off” when compared to a native application. Many hybrid frameworks provide styling to emulate the native look, but it won’t always be a perfect match.
Hybrid applications have come a long way over the years to the point recently where they can compete directly with native applications in both features and functionality. It used to be that there was a noticeable difference between native and hybrid, where a hybrid application would have very limited functionality and performance compared to native.
If you need an app to be produced inexpensively and quickly and don’t need high performance, it may be best to go the hybrid route. If you need an app that requires a fluid high-performance UI, advanced graphical features, or low-level system integration and are willing to pay for the price and time premium, then a native app is probably more suitable for your needs.