Nowadays everyone wants to have its own mobile application, and they want to cover as much market share as possible. And so the discussion began, should we target iOS users? Should we target Android? What about Windows Phone? Can we target all of them at the same time?

These are typical questions that raise before starting a new mobile project, and they’re not quite easy to answer, so here we’ll try to give you a few tips, based on our experience, that might help you decide, understanding the strength and weaknesses of each approach.

Hybrid vs. Native: What’s the difference

Each mobile platform provides its own SDK (Software Development Kit) to work with when developing mobile applications, they’re all quite different and specifically tailored to meet each platform needs, building efficient apps using its conventions and standards. However, they are not the only option when it comes to mobile development.

There are well-known and widely-used alternatives, most of them based on HTML5/JavaScript, like PhoneGap or Titanium. We are not going under the hood to explain how they work, but basically they are web applications running inside a chrome-less browser and JavaScript code is ‘translated’ to perform native operations on the device. Their goal is to provide a ‘write once, run everywhere’ approach to mobile development. That surely sounds like the way to go, but there are a few concerns you might want to evaluate before deciding on the development approach for your next mobile application.

What to analyze before making a choice

User experience:

Providing a friendly UI is paramount when it comes to mobile applications. An Android user will expect an Android-like application, following material design guidelines, and the same applies for iOS or Windows Phone users, with their respective design and navigation standards.

This often results in extra work with hybrid frameworks to adapt applications and fit target platforms, otherwise they’ll have a rather ‘generic’ look that probably won’t cause a good impression on the user. With the native approach (and a good designer), friendly UI is a given, with hybrid development it might get complex based on your app’s UI and chosen framework.

Code reusability:

The ability to reuse code is always desirable. Sharing code instead of re-writing it can save a lot of development and testing time.

Higher rates of reused code often means increased team productivity, shorter delivery dates and lower costs. While sharing code is virtually impossible with native development, it’s the natural approach with hybrid development, everything is shared unless you want the application to behave particularly different on a specific platform. This advantage can be extremely valuable for applications with a complex business layer that require thorough testing.

Development time:

The ability to have a single code-base for every platform can drastically reduce development time. Nonetheless, when dealing with platform-specific features, it could be harder (or even not possible) to integrate them using hybrid frameworks. Also, each platform has a huge development community with lots of plug-and-play libraries available to solve common scenarios.

Expertise needed:

Team expertise will certainly be a deciding factor. It’s not easy to dive in and master a new technology, even harder is to have multiple teams of knowledgeable developers for each mobile platform, since programming languages and IDEs (Integrated Development Environment) are completely different.

Overall, both hybrid and native apps provide distinct advantages for development teams. While the “code once, run everywhere” moniker of hybrid development is considerably attractive, native apps have much to offer, particularly when it comes to certain platform-specific features and user experience.

To find out more about the difference between native and hybrid apps, contact Making Sense today.