The COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying increase in the usage of mobile devices has forced almost every company around the world to analyze their app development. According to Forbes, in Q1 and Q2 of 2020, users spent $50.1 billion in app stores, more than 23% higher than the first half of 2019. In addition, first-time app installs increased 26.1% year over year in 2020. Given that the world is still reeling from the pandemic, we can assume these rates have only increased in 2021. Mobile is on the rise, and will continue to rise.
When developing their apps, businesses must choose the right type of mobile application for their business. This decision usually comes down to Hybrid vs. Native. Most of the most popular apps in the world fall into these two categories. Gmail, App Store, iBooks, and Instagram are examples of hybrid apps, while Whatsapp, Spotify, Pokemon Go, and Waze are examples of native apps.
There is one crucial difference between the two. In layman’s terms, hybrid apps are developed across all platforms, while native apps are developed for a specific operating system. In essence, it is the difference between having a specific mobile app for a specific smartphone operating system (one for iOS and one for Android) or an app that works identically across all operating systems (iOS AND Android).
However, this difference leads to a multitude of pros and cons companies must consider when planning their app development:
When companies create a hybrid mobile app, they write and maintain a single code for multiple operating systems, which leads to less production costs. According to Forrester, companies save approximately 75%-80% compared to native app development.
However, while hybrids may be less expensive at the outset, companies must keep in mind that hybrid development can lead to potentially expensive challenges down the line, especially if the app requires 3D or augmented reality features, custom plug-ins, or the need for high security. When companies develop native apps, these features are much easier and more cost effective to implement.
One of the benefits of native apps is their usability. Because they are native to the platform, they work faster. In addition, the custom platform provides a recognizable “look and feel”, so users quickly learn the natural flow of the application because it is similar to other apps already on their device.
Yet, there is one major usability advantage to hybrid apps. Native apps can only be used when users download them from the app store (Google Play, Apple App Store, etc.), which to many users can seem to be a significant time waste (going to the app store, searching for the specific application, accepting its terms and conditions, and waiting for it to download). Many people do not have the patience for this. If companies wish to acquire many users in a short amount of time, hybrid development could be a better option.
Native and Hybrid applications have different ongoing development needs. Hybrid apps use relatively simple HTML language, so developers do not need to produce a new app every time a new operating system is released. The app’s functionality stays the same even in a new operating system. Yet, as operating systems improve over time, users may become frustrated at the app’s apparent lack of improvement.
In contrast, Native Apps require frequent development upgrades. When developers discover a bug and/or upgrade the app to fit a new operating system, developers must submit the updates to the app store. Then, they must hope users will update their apps. If users download the update, then the app will work even better than before. But if users do not download the update, they may become frustrated by the bug/lag time and delete the app altogether.
There are many pros and cons to hybrid vs. native app development. If you are trying to decide which is best for your company, please schedule a call with us at Solwey, so that we can help you make this difficult decision.