Article

Tamara Rorrison
Tamara Rorrison 30 June 2015
Categories Mobile

Hybrid Apps Are Here To Stay

Native Apps, Web Apps & Hybrid Apps: Understanding the difference, and their pro's and con's

The internet is overflowing with debates about the faults and merits of native and web apps.

Some favour the former and others the latter.


While these apps are built on significantly different forms of technology, most people don’t know the difference between them.

 

Ultimately, both kinds of technologies have their advantages and their disadvantages but it seems like Hybrid may well become the norm – at least in the enterprise; Gartner predicts by 2016 more than 50% of apps deployed will be hybrid.


But what is a hybrid app?



 

Native, Web & Hybrid Apps: Understanding The Difference
 

Hybrid apps are quite literally built on a combination of native and web technologies. So in order to understand what this means, let’s start with a definition of the difference between native and web apps.


Native Apps

Native apps are apps built using programming languages such as Objective-C (iOS) and Java (Android).

These apps can be downloaded from app stores and installed on mobile devices where they can be accessed via an icon on home screens.

Because they reside within the device itself, native apps are very good at accessing data provided by some of the functionalities in mobile devices, such as GPS information, accelerometer data, contacts, etc.

Native apps can also access push notifications, enabling the app to notify the user about content or other types of updates, essential for many apps.


Although web apps also have access to some of this functionality, native apps have deeper integration and give developers more ways to build the features desired.

Native apps constantly working in the background whether the app is open or not; continuing to process data and receive updates even when you’re not using it.

Native apps are more suitable for working offline.
 

Web Apps

Web apps, on the other hand, are developed using web technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. They exist entirely within browsers such as Safari and Chrome and are essentially mobile websites. Therefore it’s not possible to download them from an app store, although many mobile devices allow you to “bookmark” them as an app icon on your home screen.

 

Web apps can be designed and optimised to appear as native apps, with some devices remove the top bar of the browser.

On the other hand, web apps lack a lot of the benefits that native apps provide; they only work online and they don’t have access to as many phone features as native apps. Features such as push notifications are currently inaccessible via web apps.

 

However, they do have access to some essential features such as GPS, camera and phone calling, sufficient features for many apps.


The reason companies may opt for web apps over native apps is their perceived easier and cheaper develop cost. Most developers being familiar with web than with native app technologies.
 

Web apps are also readily scalable to a variety of operating systems and devices because mobile operating systems interpret web technology in the same manner, the same code can be reused across different operating systems.

 

Native apps, on the other hand, need to be built from scratch, taking more time and resources.
 

Hybrid apps

Hybrid apps combine the power of native and web apps to reap the benefits of both.
 

At their core, hybrid apps are web apps wrapped in a native shell. Meaning that while the basic infrastructure of hybrid apps is native, the content is web-based. So hybrid apps are like a native app with a browser embedded within it.
 

By combining both technologies, hybrid apps can take advantage of all the features of native apps – accessing data from other apps, offline working, ability to be downloaded from an app store – while the actual content relies on HTML being rendered in a browser.




 

Advantages Of Hybrid Apps
 

Access To Device Data

Hybrid apps, like native apps, are able to access data that devices pick up via functionality such as GPS and camera, but also push notifications and address book information. Being able to connect with this functionality gives hybrid apps much more freedom on what they can do.


Offline Working

Because of the native infrastructure, hybrid apps can work offline. While offline data can not be updated, but users are still able to load the app and access previously loaded data. Plus, data created while offline can be stored on the device and sent to servers as soon as the user connects to the internet.


More Resources

Using web technology for app content makes hybrid app development much easier. The knowledge of web technology far outstrips that of native coding, so there are many more resources and people available to deliver it. The resources and costs needed to code using web technologies are considerably lower than those for native apps.

Easy Scaling

Hybrid apps are much easier to scale to a variety of platforms and operating systems because web technology is almost 100% similar across different platforms and operating systems.  Code can be simply reused with no need to rebuild the whole app from scratch.

 

Challenges of hybrid apps

Despite the advantages of hybrid apps, some challenges still remain.


Slower Performance
Because of its content being based on web technology, hybrid apps can be slower to load than native apps. However, there are ways to manage this with optimised framework so that apps perform at their best.

Glitches
A common concern with hybrid and web apps is the way they render or load content which can be “glitchy” by loading different elements of the app at different times (like websites do). In contrast to the smoother and more polished native app user experience. However, there are many resources and solutions available to fix glitches.

Visual And Interactive Components
Although visual and interactive components such as games and 3D animation are available in hybrid apps, they still perform better on fully native apps. However, performance on hybrid apps is improving everyday and getting closer to the native apps.

Native vs. Web Components
A challenge for hybrid app developers - making the decision of which component of the app should be native and which web-based. Obviously this depends on each app and its use, something the development team will need to decide on.


In Conclusion

Web apps and native apps may seem very similar, but they are based on completely different infrastructure, both of which have their benefits and their drawbacks.
 

Hybrid apps are now allowing developers to take advantage of the benefits of both kinds of apps. Although hybrid apps still pose some challenges, developers are increasingly coming up with solutions to overcome them.

 

The great advantages of hybrid apps make them a cost-effective ways of building optimal mobile apps, the differences in performance compared to native apps is not significant enough to warrant the extra cost and efforts.

As more developers acquire native coding skills and more resources for native coding appear online, will there be a shift towards creating more native mobile apps.

Original Article

Find out more on the future of Technology at our DLUK - Trends Briefing on the 24th September 2015  

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