Most of the businesses usually go online according to the following scenario – the company launch a website which is later adapted for mobile devices. After that, if there is an increase in traffic, the company works on releasing an app to secure its position among mobile device owners.

Comparing an app and mobile website seems redundant, as an application is obviously superior. It has a wider range of features and a responsive interface that is much more user-friendly on a tablet or a phone. Besides, an application can be easily used offline.

No modern business, regardless of what it is primarily focused on, can afford to close their eyes on the amount of time people spend with their mobile gadgets.

We want to shed light on native mobile app development and hybrid mobile app development – two distinct approaches in app development. Both of them have some specifics that influence the end product very much. We want to highlight major pros and cons, strike at the stereotypes that surround the app development process. So, here is native vs. hybrid app development approaches.

Native approach

The apps that you see from the first day of using your device are native – they are your default browser, address book, calendar, mail client, alarm clock and many other basic programs.

When the app developers use a programming language that is standard for the specific platform like Java for Android or Swift and Objective-C for iOS, the app is considered to be native. Native apps have access to all features and services of the phone like microphone, camera, geolocation, calendar, media files accelerometer and so on. In other words, native apps have the perfect fit for the device and feel there as “at home”.

Cross-platform approach

On the other hand are mobile websites that do not have to be online and that is closer to mobile applications than web pages from the standpoint of design. This is a rough idea of what cross-platform apps are.

Developers use formatting and styles (JavaScript, CSS, and HTML) for cross-platform mobile development, similarly to mobile websites. After all, most Internet content consists of HTML pages, that’s why this is really practical approach. Such applications are written for multiple platforms simultaneously. They fit the majority of devices, as browser engine facilitate their work.

Hybrid apps

Some developers consider the cross-platform approach to be the future in which resources and time spent on application development will be completely optimized. But when we are looking for the way to solve a specific task, the most effective one is employing native approach while making the menus and other interface elements that require high performance and responsiveness and using the cross-platform capabilities of HTML to shape the app’s content. It gives an opportunity to spend the least amount of budget, time and resources. Such apps are known as “hybrid” and for their development, only the amount of native code determines which approach suits better.

It is better to use hybrid approach when the customer requires a clear-cut newsfeed that contains nothing but images and text. But if in the future the customer wants the app to process graphics or sound, or to store a big amount of data, the task becomes more difficult. In that case, it is better to write native code for each platform. The application that was once fully cross-platform now becomes hybrid.

Comparison of approaches

The market of application development offers is growing. App sales statistics show that year after year gadget users switch from default to alternative services. For example, Evernote is preferred to the standard note editor, the default mail client is substituted with the Mailbox app, and the built-in task manager is replaced with Wunderlist.

It is important for the customer to know the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches and don’t have unreasonably high expectations when consider using any of them. For proper comparison and comparative analysis of both approaches, it will be appropriate to use a range of criteria.

The Dependency of the platform

It may seem that a cross-platform application is equally at home on all platforms. This is to some extent correct, but an additional fragment of code might still have to be written for each platform. In case of native applications, perfect performance is almost guaranteed, but the problem is that each platform requires its own version.

UI Design

Guidelines are very valuable instructions that the companies that create platforms provide for application developers. They help them to fit their features and design into the standards of platform design. Guidelines are the psychological base of the user’s comfort. They ensure that the interface elements are conveniently arranged and look familiar. Native apps are developed in the language environment that has necessary tools to create an interface that would be familiar to the user. However, web technology is different, because making a cross-platform app look like a native app takes a lot of time and effort. Various cross-platform frameworks help to imitate the native interface, but effects, animation speed, responsiveness and overall design will differ, which leads us to our next topic.

User experience

The first thing that every user expects from an application is responsiveness. Each of the user’s action must bring out a response, animation and page scrolling has to be perfect, and nothing should freeze up. Cross-platforms apps fail in that; to put it bluntly, their biggest disadvantage is that they tend to lag.

The user is also used that every interface icon and element is supposed to have an own position and look on the app’s screen. But these standards vary on different platforms, so it brings extra problem for cross-platform application development. As a result, the creator has to settle for one of the trade-offs: either some users will have to adapt, and design stays the same for both platforms, or making different designs for each platform. In the second trade-off, you are basically having two apps made by using one cross-platform language.

Limitations

A native app that is written for a particular platform feels completely natural for it. It enjoys full access to the device’s features and services. But when designing a cross-platform application, the developer has to understand that he only has the framework capabilities, which are usually very limited. Even in the best scenario, it will only have partial access to the platform’s features. But at the same time, full integration is not always necessary, and it depends on the task the application is supposed to perform.

Security

HTTPS is the basic secure data transfer protocol for all browsers. But if you require a higher level of encryption, the developer will have to come up with a proper solution. The trick is that trustworthy data security can only be in native development, as high-quality security requires maximum efficiency and extensive calculations.

Support and Maintenance

Full maintenance of native apps for two platforms at once usually takes twice as much resources, because iOS and Android specialists are needed. But cross-platform app maintenance is easier as it can be supported by a single developer.

Cost analysis

Native development is usually more expensive and takes up more resources compared to cross-platform development. But you should always keep in mind that prices and timescales are governed by the task complexity and the final quality of the solution.

Here is a rough calculation of mobile application development cost in case of both cross-platform and native approach in the form of a table.

Platform

AVG

Freelancer, $

Man

months

Hours

Total,

$

iOS/Android

25

2

320

8000

Hybrid App

25

1.5

240

6000

As professional app development company, we want to admit that when we were comparing the native and hybrid approaches according to several criteria, you need to pay huge attention to the level of difficulty that the app solves. Be aware that using a ready-made solution or a specific template can be a cheap way to make an application as long as this solution’s capabilities or template are enough for your specific task. But there is a catch, and it lies in app’s structural specifics.

By all means, we recommend going for native development if:

  • The application has to work offline;
  • Your app needs full access to the phone’s services and resources;
  • Your application should have maximum efficiency when using the device’s hardware.
  • You want your application to have high responsiveness;

You should choose cross-platform development if:

  • Your application needs a stable Internet connection to download content;
  • You do not intend your application to carry out calculations and have complex animation;
  • You do not mind lower responsiveness;
  • You already have a running website, and you want to turn it into an app with minimal expenses.
  • You want to enter the market quickly to test your idea.

Our experts always recommend making a final decision taking into account individual circumstances. If you found yourself interested in making native, cross-platform or hybrid application, we are ready to help!