Native vs Hybrid vs Web Apps: The Apt Choice For Your Startup?
Posted by Varun Bhagat on February 17th, 2021
One of the key components in developing a mobile application strategy is the choice of how and where the mobile application being developed will run. There are three development approaches native, web, or hybrid of the first two. The tradeoffs between each can be measured in terms of functionality, performance, user experience, and overall costs.
Many organizations taking their first steps to implement a mobile strategy are facing an important decision that will influence the results of this initiative. The process of choosing a development approach for a mobile application namely native, web, or hybrid, entails many parameters, such as budget, project timeframe, target audience, and app functionality to name a few.
Each approach carries inherent benefits and limitations and finding the one that best addresses an organization’s needs could be a challenging task.
Let’s have a look at the detailed description of the approaches:
1. Native Apps
Native apps have binary executable files that are downloaded directly to the device and stored locally. The installation process can be initiated by the user or in some cases by the IT department of the organization.
The most popular way to download a native app is by visiting an app store, such as Apple App Store, Android Marketplace, or BlackBerrys App World. Also, other methods exist and are sometimes provided by the mobile vendor.
Once the app has been installed on the device, the user launches it like any other service the device offers. Upon initialization, the native app interfaces directly with the mobile operating system, without any intermediary or container.
The native app is free to access all of the APIs that are made available by the OS vendor and, in many cases, has unique features and functions that are typical of that specific mobile OS.
2. Web Apps
One of the most prominent advantages of a web development app is its multiplatform support and low cost of development. Most mobile vendors utilize the same rendering engine in their browsers, WebKit—an open-source project led mainly by Google and Apple that provides the most comprehensive HTML5.
Unlike native apps, which are independent executables that interface directly with the OS, web apps run within the browser. The browser is in itself a native app that has direct access to the OS APIs, but only a limited number of these APIs are exposed to the web apps that run inside it.
While native apps have full access to the device, many features are only partially available to web apps or not available at all. Although this is expected to change in the future with advancements in HTML, these capabilities are not available for today’s mobile users.
3. Hybrid Apps
The hybrid approach combines native development with web technology. Using this approach, developers write significant portions of their application in cross-platform web technologies, while maintaining direct access to native APIs when required.
The native portion of the application uses the operating system APIs to create an embedded HTML rendering engine that serves as a bridge between the browser and the device APIs.
This bridge enables the hybrid app to take full advantage of all the features that modern devices have to offer.
Comparison of the 3 Approaches:
#1. Native Mobile Applications
• Functionality: Native apps have direct access to all a mobile device’s features including ones that are unique to the platform. These include graphics hardware, motion, location, proximity, visual and audio sensors. Mobile devices may also possess unique security devices, touchscreen functions, and peripheral interfaces only available via native libraries.
• Performance: Since they run directly on the platform without intermediary containers or abstraction layers, native applications run with the highest performance possible. Native IDEs offer the best runtime optimizations as well.
• User Experience: The ability to directly access UI components of specific platforms means that apps can seamlessly blend with the operating environment. Given that native UI layout and functionality also match the platform, this eliminates disruption to the user experience.
Software development environments differ between manufacturers and OS vendors. Thus, each native app must be written in specific programming languages to specific APIs with SDKs and tools for that particular platform.
Furthermore, device capabilities may differ between manufacturer models that affect how a native app functions. All of this uniqueness means that to cover every device in a fragmented mobile market requires double or treble the effort in development and maintenance as compared to a one-size-fits-all approach.
If the enterprise strategy is to focus solely on one platform, then these additional efforts do not accrue. Alternatively, the purchase of a 3rd-party cross-platform, native development SDK can approximate write-once-run-everywhere capability for native apps but at an increased initial cost.
#2. Mobile Web Applications
Web-based apps overall have the lowest costs among the three approaches, which helps explain their growing popularity within enterprise mobile strategies. Initial costs are reduced because open standards and open source tools can be used to create the apps.
More importantly, once the code is written, the app can run on any platform with the correct HTML rendering engine regardless of the native OS. Since WebKit is a de facto rendering engine standard, this means in a practical sense that write-one-run-everywhere is 99 percent achievable with web-based mobile apps.
• Functionality: Although libraries for web-based apps are able to access many mobile device hardware capabilities, this is done via abstraction layers that must necessarily take an LCD approach to these capabilities. However, web-based apps are improving in this regard.
• Performance: Because web-based mobile apps must code through abstraction layers and execute a step removed from the actual hardware and OS, their performance can never approach that of a native app. Furthermore, many web-based apps are spread between the client and server, so their performance is often impacted by network latency as well.
#3. Hybrid Mobile Applications
• Functionality: Depending on how a hybrid mobile app is partitioned, there is no reason that it cannot approach the functionality in terms of platform feature access and on-platform device access that native apps enjoy.
• Performance: A hybrid app can match the performance of native apps for the portion of the app that runs natively, especially in offline mode.
• User Experience: Just as for performance and functionality, the ability to create a fully functional, seamless UI/UX depends on how these characteristics are partitioned between the native and web-based portions of the app. In hybrid apps, getting the UI/UX right is the main motivation for creating the native part of the app in the first place, so usually, the UX is nearly identical to native apps.
• Costs: Costs are more or less midway between those for native and web-based apps. Where the actual costs lie depends on the balance between native and web-based development efforts and the effort to merge the two. If the balance is heaviest on the native side, then costs increase if the enterprise strategy is to run across multiple hardware/OS platforms. Weighting development toward the web-based portion of the app reduces the duplication of effort on the native side linearly while taking more advantage of the scalability and easier app maintenance.
Though the native portion enjoys high performance, the web-based portion of a hybrid mobile app suffers from the same deficiencies as any web-based application. The degree to which this reduced performance affects the app overall mainly depends on how much of the app’s web-based logic executes on the device, how much is on a server component, and the network latency between the two.
So after reading the whole blog, we can somehow make a decision which mobile app development is much better. While going for mobile app development, we have to take into consideration the various facts which I discussed.
But still, I can come up to the conclusion that Hybrid apps are still better if we see the performance of the apps.
About the AuthorVarun Bhagat
Joined: July 15th, 2020
Articles Posted: 3
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