Should you build a ‘Hybrid App’, and what is it anyway?

When starting a new mobile app development project, one of the decisions to make is whether you’ll build a native, mobile or web app. It’s an important decision and makes a big impact on the rest of the project.

What’s a Hybrid App, and how does it differ from Native or Web?

A ‘native’ app typically means a mobile app built using the native coding language and tools for the platform – for example, building an iOS app using Swift or Objective-C and coding it using XCode on a Mac. For Android, this means writing it in Java or Kotlin. As you may see already, each platform uses a different language and different development tools.

A web app could mean web site that is designed to be viewed on mobile devices / smaller screens, or a ‘responsive’ site (which means it can change it’s layout in response to the screen size), or it could refer to a Progressive Web App (PWA) which is a website that can identify and use hardware features when available (like camera, or GPS).

Hybrid Apps are in between web and native – they typically use web-like development tools and languages, and are packaged and deployed as a native app. It’s essentially a native app that has a web view and shows the web content.

Should you build hybrid or native?

Queue typical IT response – It depends.
Native apps certainly have their place. If it’s incredibly detailed graphics animations or games, then native apps are usually the way to go. In most other cases, a hybrid app is a far more cost-effective way to go.

Here are a couple of the main benefits of building a hybrid app:

  1. Reduced Development Costs: Building a hybrid app is relatively much cheaper than building a native app, and it comes down mostly to the time taken to build. With hybrid apps, the coding is done in one code base using web languages – HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Having a single code base instead of a separate code base per platform comes close to halving the time required for development. There are usually still some per-platform optimizations, but you only need to write the code once.
  2. Simplified Maintenance: this comes with the benefit of having one app and a single code base – there’s less to maintain. Need to fix a bug or tweak a feature, you only need to do it once, not separately for each platform.
  3. Improved user experience: Users wouldn’t be able to tell the difference (or even care) if the app is hybrid or native. They just want a great app experience. Hybrid apps are very highly performant, and offer the same touch gestures and hardware access as native apps.
  4. Faster to market across platforms: You would have saved time by only coding once, and you save time in testing as well. Most testing can be done in a web browser and the testing and fixing process is much faster. Testing on real devices for different platforms is still required, but it’s much faster to get to that point.

Ultimately your users just want a great app and the technology behind the scenes is of little concern to them, but can make a substantial difference to your business. Focusing on the experience and feature set, and using the benefits of hybrid app development, we believe you’ll have a better app in the long run.

Where does GEM fit in?

At GEM we speciailize in hybrid and web apps. Most of our projects are built using Ionic Framework to deliver excellent experiences at greatly reduced cost and timeframes. Get in touch with us if you’d like more info on this or if we can assist you with building your next great mobile or web app.


 

About Stephen Fourie

I've been a professional software developer since 2004, and running GEM since 2010. I've developed software for many different industries including automotive, logistics, finance and entertainment. I'm the GM at GEM Custom Apps where we build custom web and mobile apps for businesses.I love my wife, my dog, cars and gadgets. And coffee! I'm an Ironman 70.3 finisher, beginner skateboarder, xbox gamer and digital nomad :)