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native vs hybrid app development

Native vs Hybrid App Development

by Svitla Team

June 18, 2019
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What is native app development?

Native app development is the creation of applications for a single platform or device, such as Android or iOS. A native app is specifically developed for a specific mobile platform in its native programming language and software development kit (SDK):

  • iOS: Swift or Objective-C programming language with the XCode, which is the Integrated Development Environment for both Mac and iOS apps. Take a look at this guide to start developing iOS apps.
  • Android: Java or Kotlin programming language with Android Studio. It is possible to develop with C or C++ by using the Android Native Development Kit (NDK), which means the code won’t run on the Java Virtual Machine but it will run natively on the device

For each mobile platform, developers must adhere to the unique typography, graphic style, visual effects, data entry, and user behavior specified.

What is hybrid app development?

Unlike native app development practice, hybrid app development uses the cross-platform method, meaning it creates a single source code that is capable of running on multiple platforms such as Android and iOS.

In essence, a hybrid app is the conjunction of a native app with a web app and it is written with web technologies such as HTML5, CSS, C#, or JavaScript, which is directly in contrast with native apps which are built using a specific language for each platform.

Android and iOS as a basis for native app development

In 2019, the forecast for mobile phone users is a staggering 4.68 billion. With this impressive figure, both Android and iOS are all-in in the game of app development and they have the experience to back up their stake in the field.

Even though it feels like both Android and iOS have been around for a long time, they actually have a relatively short time in the market. 

In 2005, before the word smartphone became a regular concept encountered on a day-to-day basis, the company Android was purchased by the tech giant Google. In November 2007, Google revealed its plans to compete in the market for smartphones through the launch of the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), which included big-name companies such as HTC, Motorola, Qualcomm, T-Mobile, and more. The first version of the Android operating system was released in September 2008 and while this first version didn’t have a specific name, version 1.5 began the tradition of naming each update of the Android operating system after a dessert. Version 1.5 was named Cupcake and it was released along with the first Samsung Galaxy phone and the HTC Hero. In that same year, Google Play, which was formerly known as Android Market, came into existence as the official app store for the Android operating system. 
Nowadays, Google Play also serves as a digital media store that offers books, music, movies, and more. Android is gearing up to release the newest version, Android 10 Q,  which will include new enhancements and features as well as support for foldable phones with flexible displays. 

As for iOS, Apple launched its proprietary operating system, which was formerly known as iPhone OS, back in June 2007,  along with the very first iPhone. The operating system supports many of Apple's mobile devices such as the iPad and the iPod Touch. Ever since its birth, the operating system has undergone numerous updates and revamps that have played a major role in the reinvention of the way smartphones are used. In its first version, the operating system acted as a beacon of innovation that introduced what is now one of the most significant gadgets of all time, the iPhone. In July 2008, for its second version, the iOS introduced the App Store: a centralized store to download paid and free apps that were exclusive to the iOS ecosystem. With each update of the operating system, Apple engaged customers through innovative features that continued to evolve and change the smartphone landscape. From the introduction of their own mapping service, FaceTime, and Siri, iOS has repeatedly pushed the barriers of smart devices. 

Both iOS and Android operating systems for native and hybrid applications have specific Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), namely AndroidStudio and XCode.

As mentioned earlier, native Android apps can be developed using Java, Kotlin, or C++ programming languages with AndroidStudio, the official IDE for Android, which provides tools to build apps for all types of Android devices. In addition to Google’s in-house tools, there are numerous 3rd party options that can be used for Android development.

For iOS, native apps can be developed using Objective-C or Swift along with XCode, the official IDE for iOS development. The iOS is a closed source code operating system which runs exclusively on Apple hardware, which is why developers require a Mac device to develop native apps for this specific platform. The iOS ecosystem also includes numerous 3rd party developer tools options which are subjected to the strict and rigorous guidelines required to comply with the App Store’s high standards.

Advantages of hybrid app development and native app development

Hybrid app development

By definition, a hybrid is something that is built by combining two elements and, for hybrid app development, this means that apps are built as web applications wrapped into a native application. This fact resonates with one of the key advantages of hybrid app development: a faster development process that works perfectly in situations that call for apps that must be developed quickly for two platforms (iOS and Android).

Another significant advantage of hybrid app development is that it works ideally for prototyping applications, especially in instances where there is a pre-existing, in-house app that needs to be revamped to run on both iOS and Android.

Given the nature of hybrid apps, they are installed on a device, much like a native app, but run in a browser-like container that enables the app to access key features that enrich the app's user experience.  Examples that make the app more engaging are the camera, GPS, accelerometer, navigation maps, and other sensors that help deliver a better quality app.

Last but not least, hybrid app development is a great choice for budget-oriented projects that require apps to be developed in a cost-effective fashion. Given their nature, hybrid apps are developed once for all platforms, which minimizes the need to hire developers who specialize in different platforms. It’s also important to note that hybrid frameworks are easier and quicker to learn in comparison to native platforms as most developers are already familiar with the use of JavaScript or C# and don’t need to learn new programming languages like Swift or Kotlin.

Native app development

Native app development offers a smooth performance as coding and the use of programming languages is specific and unique to the platform of choice. Because native apps are made especially for a platform, their performance is stable and reliable. In addition to smooth performance, applications are high-speed due to being developed and optimized for a specific operating system. 

Another key advantage of native app development is the overall superior user experience that is tailor-made for a specific platform.  Because unique functionalities and features are set in place, the app is embedded with a look and feel that is optimized to deliver the best results.

To complement this well-rounded list of advantages, native app development offers a higher degree of data protection and security. Typically, native app development aligns to the stringent rules and guidelines set in place for each platform, ensuring full performance of resources along with higher standards to safeguard data and the entire app.

Popular frameworks for hybrid app development

As hybrid apps gain momentum in the mobile app landscape, it’s important to be in the know about the latest and most popular frameworks used by mobile developers to assist them in their development tasks. As of the first quarter of 2019, the Ionic framework is used by more than 260k users. In 2018, the StackOverflow Community placed React and Xamarin in the top 10 of the most popular frameworks. According to a survey of approximately 69,000 users, React is three times more popular than Xamarin. These numbers are just a sample of some of the key frameworks for hybrid app development.  The following is a brief description of the most well-known among them. 

  • Flutter: Launched by Google, Flutter is an open-source SDK that is widely used for cross-platform app development and is written in the Dart language.
  • Xamarin: One of the favorite choices for cross-platform applications that relies on the C# programming language and .NET codebase framework.
  • Ionic: By far, one of the most widely used frameworks, Ionic is an open-source, free tool that helps build native-based apps with the use of HTML, CSS3, and JavaScript programming languages. It is built on top of Angular as part of the Apache Cordova toolkit.
  • React Native: Popular cross-platform framework is open-source and offers extensive support to IDEs and other development tools.
  • Framework7: Framework7 is an open-source solution with no external dependency on tools such as Angular or React, which makes it a prime choice for agile processes.
  • Adobe PhoneGap: Original and most popular distribution of Apache Cordova that uses HTML, CSS3, and JavaScript to create apps. It supports native plugins which expands the functionalities that developers can include in applications.
  • NativeScript: Framework designed to create a single code base for iOS and Android to build apps with TypeScript of JavaScript by using the Angular platform.
  • Onsen UI: Based on HTML5, the Onsen UI framework offers an extensive selection of components to create and design multi-platform applications. It is also part of the Apache Cordova ecosystem.

How to find effective solutions: native or hybrid?

As of May 2019, the worldwide market share for mobile operating systems is ruled by Android with a 75.27% share,  followed by iOS with a 22.74% share. These numbers show that app development is increasingly becoming one of the strongest activities in the technology industry, where the strongest competitors, Android and iOS, strive to offer great apps.

Native app development offers the ability to build a superior user experience where each feature and functionality is carefully designed to behave, respond and operate for a specific operating system. Native apps for iOS and Android have system-specific features that are unique to each operating system which is why Apple and Google recommend the use of platform-standard navigation controls so that users are familiar with how this look and feel for each platform and they intuitively know how to operate the app. Some of the key differences between platforms in terms of native development refer to navigation patterns, custom views for standard controls, button styles, action and activity views, and typography, to name a few.

With native development, there are no limitations when it comes to building the app’s interface since every function and feature can be implemented, unlike hybrid app development which needs to accommodate the needs of multiple platforms at once.

One of the key clinchers for native app development is the high speed and performance it provides since the app is optimized for either iOS or Android. Developers take full advantage of a device’s processing speed, affecting the performance in terms of quick feature integration, fast code, and swift implementation of functionalities. Additionally, there’s the case of data protection which is easier to achieve in native development where developers can secure the full efficiency of all resources.

In essence, native app development yields a more stable and reliable app that is capable of supporting millions of users without hindering performance.

Moving on to hybrid development, it’s been proven that it offers a significant advantage because of its shorter development lifecycle. With hybrid app development, developers build code once that works across multiple platforms, saving time and money as the development only occurs once and it doesn’t require a large number of developers to create the app. 

Along with the fact that the code is built once, the embedded logic of the application works in the same way for all platforms. With a straightforward, unified, and debugged logic, developers reduce the chance of duplicating efforts by addressing issues for a specific platform; instead, they tackle any unusual matter across all platforms at once.

Another plus of developing hybrid apps is the cost-efficiency due to the wide range of ready-made components, modules, frameworks, and tools available. Hybrid app development is a great solution to develop fully-functioning app prototypes that help examine and revamp an app’s performance which brings a fully-functioning app to the market in a shorter period of time and with real user feedback.

Testing and support of native and hybrid applications

Native apps and hybrid apps are essentially different and the approach to testing for each one can be different as well. Their development practices use different underlying technologies, which means that each comes with their unique set of challenges when it comes to testing.

Native apps offer a rich experience to users and thus present a degree of complexity for testers who need to ensure that the tests apply to the physical devices that support the application. As native apps use most of the underlying features and capabilities of the targeted operating system, test cases must cover each one and test them on a real device. Other than that, the testing strategy and challenges are relatively similar for native and hybrid development.

Hybrid apps, in essence, can be rendered and accessed in multiple devices and environments,  but require unique test cases for automation as well as unique manual testing for each of the platforms they run in. Automation testing is supported by hybrid frameworks and native platforms as well, while unit testing and test-driven development can also be used in hybrid frameworks 

Hybrid apps are comprised of features of native apps, which poses unique challenges in the testing stage:

  • Notifications: This aspect must be thoroughly tested to ensure notifications work and are delivered appropriately based on the platform the end user is leveraging.
  • Navigation: Testing must validate the intuitiveness of the navigation to provide an effortless user experience across all platforms.
  • Data syncing: Hybrid apps store and pull information from local files and servers, but it is sometimes challenging to sync across multiple platforms. The testing team must ensure that for each function, the app is retrieving the correct information.
  • Integration: Integration with external apps must be supported across multiple platforms to ensure successful user experience.

Conclusion

Both native app development and hybrid app development offer great capabilities - they fulfill different needs and thus need to be carefully selected with the functional and business requirements of the application in mind. Because they have unique advantages and drawbacks, the choice is directly dependent on the type of application that is needed. 
At Svitla Systems, we have teams of highly-skilled developers that are outstandingly competent in both native app development and hybrid app development - our specialists analyze your project requirements and provide expert advice on what technology is better for your unique needs for either native or hybrid development. With the right team in place, your projects are a swift and productive experience that provides you with the best solution for your application’s needs.

Want to learn more? Be sure to contact us and we will be happy to provide you with the necessary information to kickstart the journey towards an exceptional app development project.

by Svitla Team
June 18, 2019

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