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Why Hybrid Mobile App Development is the way to go

by: Taylor Korensky

The debate over hybrid mobile development and native mobile development has been in existence for a while now, but recent updates, progressions, and evolutions in the hybrid world & community have created a major shift in the industry.

Then vs. Now

Even just a year ago, experts were typically more pro-native over hybrid because there was the belief that with hybrid development, there was the likelihood of technical “problems” down the road that could cause an extra (sometimes unforeseen) amount of time spent on the project due to things like user complaints about UI or performance-based issues once the app was launched. There was also voiced belief that native development offers the best security and performance, with the added benefit of having access to all native APIs—which more or less meant native projects might have a higher ticket price in the beginning, but saved time and money in the long run.

But in 2018, the outlook has changed and experts believe hybrid platforms, specifically the Ionic framework, have helped the hybrid platform win over native app development. Trying to choose between the hybrid app development and native app development processes can definitely be a tough choice. But experts are now voicing the benefits of hybrid app development more than ever. I’ve talked with all 3 hybrid mobile app developers on our team to compile the benefits of choosing hybrid mobile app development over native. Refer to the glossary for descriptions/definitions of certain technologies discussed in this article.

The Benefits

1. Hybrid development is cheaper and takes less time.

  • When it comes to native development, the languages are more difficult to learn which means you will need more experienced developers, which also means the project will be more expensive.
  • It’s faster because unlike native apps, there is a single code base. By using just one source of code, you can save time and money to get an app out there in users’ hands in just a matter of months.
  • Depending on how complex the app is, maintaining one code source is extremely appealing because it allows for new features to be easily developed and deployed.
  • It also takes less time to adapt features to different platforms whereas, in native development, you don’t have to program for all possible devices dimensions—hybrid frameworks like Ionic do it automatically!
  • Hybrid apps can also have the same consistent user experience across platforms, regardless of the user moving between different devices or even different browsers.

2. Hybrid code is more universal and not platform specific so it can be easier to maintain, as well as hand-off to clients.

  • Hybrid development eases complexity by keeping it down to a single code-base for multiple target platforms like iOS and Android.
  • In the end, you have an app for multiple platforms and just 1 code base. And as developers, the moment you have the same app on your iOS and Android devices without dealing with any real platform struggles or obstacles, is an amazing thing.

In the images below you’ll see Ionic TypeScript and HTML (5 Mins start to finish) vs. iOS Swift and XCode’s Interface Builder (15-30 Mins) to compare the differences between the two that both create the same result.

As you can see, there is very little code to create the exact same thing as native iOS whereas iOS takes up an entire page of code. To clarify/emphasize—this is a very simple list. The code and files get more complicated for iOS the more custom you try and go, but with hybrid all you do is type more HTML.

Benefits Continued

3. The designs of most hybrid platforms automatically configure to the specific requirements of the iOS and Android platforms for you.

  • To put it simply, hybrid development essentially creates apps that run in a browser, then outputs them so that they run as native apps on mobile operating systems.
  • Some people think that hybrids can be too constrained in terms of developing custom features but hybrid app development can actually cover up to 90% of standard features of native apps.

4. If built right, updates to the app can be done without the formal update process which improves user experience.

  • Changes in hybrid apps are actually quicker to deliver to end users because they don’t require them to download the updates.
  • For example, when using Ionic Pro—a paid service provided in the Ionic platform—developers can push hot code updates to Android apps (although iOS is unsupported). This means that an Android app can be updated over the internet in real time rather than having to prompt the user to download the new version from the app store.
  • Also, a well-developed hybrid has no visual or functional difference to users, so who really cares how it’s built when it’s nice and easy to use?

5. Many hybrid apps can be easily “ported” to the web as a PWA or website.

  • Because hybrid development is based on web technologies, the same app can be run on a browser like any other website, and can also be run as a Progressive Web App.

6. Due to factors like price and the length of a project timeline, those who choose native over hybrid usually end up choosing to develop solely for iOS.

  • But in reality, they’re missing out on about 85% of the market.
  • In 2017, it was reported that 85% of smartphone users were Android and only 14.7% were iOS.

7. Hybrid app development has many different frameworks & platforms to choose from including, Ionic, Vue, React Native, Xamarin, Flutter, and so on.

  • Essentially you can pick the platform that works best for you and many are free and open source.
  • However, the coolest thing about choosing Ionic over any other hybrid framework is that it combines two awesome frameworks: Cordova and Angular. If you aren’t familiar with the two, Cordova is a free hybrid framework that provides developers with all the native opportunities and resources they need, and Angular is probably the most stable and promising free web framework.
  • How does this work? Well, Ionic uses Cordova to access native device functions and combines Angular with HTML and CSS.

8. Firebase can also be used in PWAs and Hybrid apps (as well as Native apps).

  • Firebase is a Google product that is designed to support mobile and progressive web developers take care of the things that normally are complicated and costly.
  • It’s a scalable cloud database tool that provides real-time data connections to mobile apps and supports many things in one place; whereas, traditionally, developers need to create on their own or access many tools to accomplish.
  • A few of Firebase’s strongest features are the realtime database, familiar and flexible JSON data types, account authentication using services like Facebook and Google, push notifications, file storage and more.
  • The best part from a development perspective is that Firebase has SDK (software development kits) for many of the major languages like, Javascript, iOS, Android, Node.js, Python, etc. This means you can use the code you are familiar with in each platform to connect to your Firebase app.

9. Hybrid is not actually as “new” as everyone thinks.

  • Cordova came out 6–8 years ago, and has been consistently updated and improved by a whole community of like-minded developers.
  • Ionic came out in 2015 and has gone through a major evolution, and some experts will argue that the Ionic Framework is the hybrid platform that is actually providing tough competition and giving native development a run for its money.

9. Did you know Instagram is a hybrid app?

10. Additionally, Larger corporations like Target and Starbucks are beginning to adopt hybrid apps and progressive web apps (PWAs)

  • This is because of the benefits of hyrbid development like time and cost-effectiveness.
  • More specifically, “technical powerhouses” like Google are starting to come back to certain hybrid or PWA platforms which is proof enough that the industry is moving towards hybrid development.

The battle between hybrid apps and native apps is neverending, and like anything, they both have their pros and cons. But as popular frameworks like Ionic keep evolving and improving, and people continue to realize the benefits, the shift will continue to move towards hybrid.

Glossary

Native App

A native app is written in a programming language that is specific to the platform they’re being developed for. This also means separate code is required for each platform. Developers use platform-specific APIs and other tools to enable different kinds of functionality within the app.

Hybrid App

A hybrid app is a mobile application that contains a web view (essentially an isolated web browser) to run a web application inside of a native app. More or less, it uses a native “wrapper” that is able to communicate with the native device platform which means hybrid web applications can run on mobile devices and have access to the device’s internal features (i.e. GPS, camera, etc.)

Progressive Web App

A PWA is basically a “mobile-optimized” website that offers an app-like experience. You can think of it as a mixture of a mobile app and web app because it uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like experience to its users. They are typically deployed to servers, accessible through unique URLs, and can be indexed by search engines.

Taylor Korensky is appsky’s Founder & CEO

Taylor started appsky (formerly Appsky Labs) in November 2016 with a passion and drive to improve the local community through affordable software. With a degree in IT Innovation from UNO and 5+ years of mobile app development experience, Taylor is the core propellent of appsky’s vision & knack for innovation.

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