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Native vs hybrid mobile app – which is better?

As the influence of mobile apps continues to grow, it isn’t only big businesses who are splashing the cash on app development.

But why are more and more businesses choosing to invest in apps?

This isn’t a fad that business owners are jumping on in the fear of missing out (which used to be the case 10 or more years ago). Creating an app is essential to achieving sustainable growth in today’s economy.

When nearly everyone on the planet has a mobile phone in their pocket, is there any better way to communicate with customers than through an app?

Your app is a direct line to your customer base.

Whether it’s through push notifications, loyalty schemes or exclusive discount offers, an app allows your company to connect with customers on a more intimate level, deliver greater value, and boost your bottom line.

So – when choosing to create an app, should you go with a native or hybrid mobile app? What’s the difference?

Simply put, the principal difference is that hybrid apps are developed to work across all platforms, whereas native apps are developed for specific operating systems like iOS or Android.

Allow us to compare the two.

Your app’s success hinges on user experience

Before we get into the details, you need to understand one thing: where apps are concerned, user experience is make or break.

With 2.87 million apps available for download on the Google Play Store alone, choice is in no short supply. Your market competitors are lurking in the shadows, ready to capitalise on your shortcomings if your user experience isn’t up to par.

If you deliver a bad user experience, users will quickly turn off and replace your app at the click of a button. Because users are so reliant on the responsiveness of their mobile phones (whether that’s making a bank transfer or turning on the heating before they get home), they expect the same service from the apps they download.

But which development approach will deliver on the best user experience?

Performance was once a stick used to beat hybrid apps with, but this is no longer the case.

It’s a common misconception that hybrid apps don’t perform as well as native apps, but in reality this disparity is only felt when using graphic-heavy 3D or AR games. As mobile devices have become more sophisticated, hybrid apps have caught up with native apps and their performance is pretty much on an even keel.

Whatever choice your business chooses to take, it’s vital to know the benefits of each approach and the trade-offs you’ll have to make.

Ask yourself: do you want a minimum viable product (hybrid)? Or an all-singing, all-dancing app (native)?

The answer to those questions will begin to uncover what sort of app you should opt for.

Going native

Native apps are written using development languages and tools that are specific to each platform – Objective-C or Swift for iOS, and Java for Android.

On the one hand, this does mean that if you want to reach both audiences, you’re forced to create two separate versions of the same app.

This typically involves employing two specialist teams with very different skill sets to work on each version, which translates to double the money spent and a much longer time to market. But it also means there’s a higher cost associated with maintenance and improvements, as new features need to be made for each codebase.

On the other hand though, the upside to this approach is that once the apps are built, your users will benefit from a marginally better experience and performance with graphics and games when compared to a hybrid alternative.

Because each app is tailored to a specific operating system, it means that they have direct access to features and default UI components that users will be familiar with.

While these apps can be harder to customise (and most apps require some element of customisation), the load time, general speed and familiarity to the users are undeniable benefits of this approach.

Going hybrid

Although native apps are tailored to individual operating systems and provide functionalities that are exclusive to each, this isn’t to say that hybrid apps don’t have their uses or place as a valuable business tool.

On the contrary, we at 6B have seen hybrid apps make huge strides in recent years and we anticipate them becoming the favoured approach for developers and businesses.

Unlike native apps, hybrid apps adopt a “write once, use everywhere” approach, combining the best that web apps and native apps have to offer in a cross-platform codebase.

In business terms, this equates to a smaller initial outlay, a quicker time to market, and less money spent on maintenance and updates, which all apps invariably need.

Another feature which has sought to even the playing field between native and hybrid apps is the ability to use native plugins. But what does this actually mean? Essentially, it means your app can access device features like the camera, file storage or security features like fingerprint recognition within a single build.

It’s the great equaliser, giving your hybrid solution similar functionality to any native app.

From a developer perspective, a hybrid approach is quicker, cheaper and offers practically the same functionality as the more time-consuming and financially-draining native alternative.

Is it any wonder that digital titans of the world like Netflix and Instagram favour this approach too?

With deep pockets and money to burn, the benefits amount to far more than a mere cost saving exercise for these household names.

Which one should you choose?

This is a decision that requires careful consideration and shouldn’t be taken lightly, as your app will be central to your business’ digital strategy going forward.

Before nailing your colours to the mast of either native or hybrid, you must first define what your priorities and objectives are from creating an app.

  • Do you want to reach as many people as possible?
  • What action do you want users to take?
  • How quickly do you need to get the app to market?

The old saying goes, “you get what you pay for” – but in the case of native versus hybrid, is this still relevant?

We know that the native approach is more expensive to build and maintain, it requires more specialist developers, and we know it takes longer to get to market, but is this an indication of superior quality?

We don’t think so.

Where native apps used to dominate the market and justify investment, hybrid apps now offer virtually the same functionality and performance without the price tag or wait time. In today’s application-crazy world, the hybrid approach has evolved into what we expect to be the approach of choice among leading developers.

In the same way that you don’t have to fork out more than £20 for a good quality wine these days at a supermarket, hybrid apps offer an economical alternative that doesn’t skimp on quality or performance.

Is your business struggling to decide between a native and hybrid app?

Why not talk to our mobile app development experts at 6B. We can guide you through the entire process and help you land on the most suitable approach to help your business achieve its immediate and long-term goals.

Speak to us today so we can help your business redefine its digital strategy with an app that’s built for the modern user!

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