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A hybrid mobile application can be downloaded and installed on multiple mobile platforms like Android and iOS devices. Developers use the same code for all operating systems to create hybrid apps. Let’s understand the concept of these apps in more detail and how they are different from other types of apps.

What Are Hybrid Apps?

Hybrid apps meaning can be defined as a software app that combines the elements of both native and web applications. Therefore, like a native app, these applications can work on specific platforms like Android or iOS as well as web apps that can be accessed on the internet via a browser.

Hybrid apps are essentially web apps that have a native app shell. Once a user downloads the app from an app store and installs it locally, the shell connects to whatever capability the mobile platform provides through a browser that is embedded in the app. The browser and its plugins run on the backend and are invisible to the user. 

These apps are popular as a developer only has to write code for a single app that can accommodate multiple platforms. In other words, developers don’t have to work on separate codes for Android and iOS.

What are the Features of a Hybrid App?

The features of a hybrid mobile app include:

  • The ability to function whether the device is connected or not
  • Integration with web-based services
  • Integration with the mobile device’s file system
  • An embedded browser to improve its access to online content

How Do Hybrid Apps Work?

Hybrid mobile applications work similarly to web applications. However, hybrid apps can be downloaded to your smartphone device like native apps. These apps are built with popular frontend technologies and languages like HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS which provide cross-platform functionality. 

The hybrid apps run code inside a container. The device’s browser engine renders HTML, JavaScript, and native APIs to access device-specific hardware. Although these apps typically share similar navigation elements to those of web apps, their functionalities impact whether the app can work offline or not. 

What are the Differences Among Native, Web, Cross-Platform, and Hybrid Apps?

To understand the key differences between hybrid apps and the other types of apps, let’s understand their meaning:

  • Native Apps:

A native app is built specifically for a particular mobile platform like Android or iOS. These apps acquire the potential features and benefits of the operating system along with the device. This includes the device hardware like GPS, camera, and microphone. 

These apps provide enhanced mobile app user experience (UX) and high-level performance. However, native app development and maintenance are quite costly. 

  • Web Apps:

Web apps are apps that can be accessed through a web browser and are written in HTML5 and JavaScript. These apps are designed to look like mobile apps; however, you do not have to download them from an app store. Unlike native apps, these apps run on multiple browsers such as Chrome and Safari.

Many developers prefer web apps as they can exist outside an app store and cater to both mobile and desktop users. These apps use a common code to function across multiple platforms. Therefore, developers only need to create or fix a single hybrid application in Android and iOS.

  • Cross-Platform Apps:

Cross-platform apps are built using a single set of code that can be deployed on multiple mobile platforms. These apps share similar characteristics to hybrid apps in terms of code shareability as developers write code for the app once and reuse it on different platforms.

Developers can create these cost-effective apps in any language they are most familiar with. Therefore, if you write your code in JavaScript, the code can use the native software development kit at run to render the UI elements. 

Differences Among Web App vs Cross-Platform App vs Native App vs Hybrid App

Now that you know the definition of the different types of apps, let’s dive into understanding more differences that set these apps apart:

Hybrid Apps Native Apps Web Apps Cross-Platform Apps
Development Language HTML, CSS, JavaScript Platform-specific languages like Java for Android and Swift for iOS HTML, CSS, JavaScript Platform-specific language or cross-platform framework like Flutter or React Native
Deployment App stores and web App stores Web App stores and web
Performance Medium to high Highest Medium to high Medium to high but better than hybrid apps
Compatibility Hybrid apps can be used on multiple platforms and they tend to have a lower level of performance as compared to native apps Native apps are built for specific platforms and provide users with the best performance level on that platform Web apps can be accessed on any device with a web browser Cross-platform apps can be used on multiple platforms. However, these apps may not have the same performance level as a native app on that platform
Device Access Full (with plugins) Full Limited Full (with plugins)
User Experience Not as seamless as a native app, but can be improved with careful design and development Performs comparatively better on the specific platforms they were designed to function Limited by the capabilities of the web browser and the device used Has the potential to perform better when improved with careful design and development
Maintenance Requires less maintenance  Requires ongoing maintenance Requires less maintenance  Maintenance depends on the specific app and how it was built
Cost Hybrid apps are built once for multiple usage, therefore it are less expensive as compared to native apps More expensive than hybrid or web apps as it requires separate development for each platform Usually less expensive to develop than native or hybrid apps Cost-effective as the code only needs to be written once
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Factors to Consider When Choosing App Type

So you want to create an app for your business? Here are the following factors you need to consider before choosing the type of app:

  • Target Audience 

First and foremost, you need to understand who you are building your app for, and who is its target audience. If your app is aimed towards consumers, then native or hybrid apps make a better fit. However, if the app is built for internal usage by a specific organization, then web apps would be ideal. 

  • Platform

List down the platforms you want your app to be available on. Keep in mind that native apps can function on specific platforms they are built for, like Android and iOS. Web-based apps on the other hand can be accessed through a web browser. 

If you are looking for flexible options, then you can decide between hybrid and cross-platform apps depending on your budget and requirements. 

  • Functionality 

A critical factor when deciding the type of app you want depends on your app’s functionality. Decide on the features you want your app to have. For instance, if you want device-specific features, you can opt for native apps, however, if you want offline functionality or wide audience reach, you can choose hybrid mobile apps.  

  • Development Resources

Another factor you need to consider is what kind of resources you have available to develop the app. If you want to build native apps, then you require specialized skills and a large developer team as compared to web apps. 

If you want to create hybrid or cross-platform apps, you need intermediate levels of development resources. Therefore, choose according to your budget and team capability when developing a new app. 

  • Maintenance

Understanding the level of maintenance your app requires can help you identify your app type. Native apps usually need to be updated for every platform and they require continuous maintenance. 

On the contrary, web apps can be updated in a single place and the changes will be reflected on all devices. When it comes to hybrid and cross-platform apps, they require intermediate levels of maintenance.

  • Cost

A critical factor you need to consider is identifying what type of app is in alignment with your budget. Native apps are usually on the expensive side and require specialized skills as they need to be developed for multiple platforms. 

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On the other hand, hybrid and cross-platform apps are flexible. However, they require intermediate development costs which are less than native apps but more than web apps.

What are the Benefits and Limitations of Hybrid Mobile Applications

Benefits of Hybrid Apps:

  • Greater Audience Reach

One of the biggest benefits of a hybrid app is that you can write the code for an app once and deploy it across multiple mobile platforms. Businesses with limited budgets often roll out apps to one platform before they launch on a second platform. 

This limits the reach of the app as users have to wait for it to be hosted on their operating system before they can download and install it. However, a hybrid app can be run on both Android and iOS which significantly widens the audience base. 

  • High Scalability 

When you deploy an app in the app store, it takes time for validation. The delay and difference in launching features on different platforms can cause inconvenience for users. 

For instance, in the Apple App Store, it generally takes between 1 to 7 days for an app validation. It also depends on whether it is a first submission or an update. With hybrid apps, you can update an app frequently as it is not necessary to resubmit new versions if the modifications haven’t touched the native code. Therefore, you can easily scale these apps and release new features on all platforms simultaneously. 

  • Access to All Device Features

Hybrid apps are similar to native apps in their ability to access device features. As they are being built on one single base you can add functionality and have multiple versions of the app benefit from it. 

Moreover, in hybrid apps, some native code is used to allow the wider functionality of the device. Therefore, this enhances the app performance and elevates user experience as compared to web apps.

  • Easy Maintenance

With hybrid apps, you can publish one patch and bug fix to repair issues across different platforms and devices. This is not possible for native apps as you need to fix bugs for different platforms like Android and iOS and cannot be done at once. 

  • Lower Cost

As the codes are written once for hybrid apps, this substantially reduces the development cost and time as compared to native apps. This is because it requires a significant amount of development time as its codes are required to be written separately for Android and iOS. This increases the billable hours for the developers which is low for hybrid apps. 

Limitations of Hybrid Apps:

  • Slow Performance

Although hybrid apps take less time for development, they are overall slow as compared to native apps. The reason is native apps are built within Google or Apple’s coding languages. However, a hybrid app loads in a browser-like component known as WebView. It is only as good as the WebView responsible for displaying the UI and running the JavaCode script. 

  • Inconsistent UI/UX Issues

The design of hybrid apps doesn’t provide users with a native feel. The user interface isn’t as seamless and it also faces restrictions. For example, you would face issues if you want to implement 3D design as WebView doesn’t allow the exploitation of the device’s full potential. 

Moreover, the greater flexibility of hybrid mobile application development makes it easier to mess up if the developer isn’t aware of what they are doing. If developers do not use progressive web designs, it can also lead to inconsistent UX due to poor internet connectivity.

  • Complexity in Testing Process

Hybrid apps share a lot of code between different platforms. However, some of that code can be native. This can create additional issues and complexities in your test suite as per your app. 

When Can Hybrid Apps Be Used?

If you are still not sure if you want to develop hybrid apps, let’s understand if hybrid apps are the right choice for you. Here are a few circumstances where hybrid mobile app development can be effective. 

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When you:

  • Want Multiple Platform Compatibility

You should go for hybrid apps if you want an app to function on multiple devices. Because of its single codebase, it functions on both Android and iOS platforms independently and does not require extensive development.

  • Don’t Need Advanced Native Features

Hybrid apps are sufficient if you do not need native apps with advanced features. Additionally, it is often difficult to integrate basic features that require constant iteration like split testing, notifying, or tweaking. However, WebView makes the process of hybrid app development more agile and simple. 

  • Don’t Have Specialized Coding Knowledge 

These apps are comparatively better for developers who do not want to use complex programming languages for app development. This also simplifies the process of hiring a hybrid app developer as compared to a native app developer.

  • Don’t Want to Build Out APIs

In case you have a restricted budget but still want the elements of native apps, hybrid apps are your ideal choice. Plus, these apps eliminate the need to build out APIs, making it a significant advantage. 

Producing an API to support a native app can lead to huge expenditure which can sometimes be greater than the app itself. Therefore, you can save time and money with hybrid apps. 

Along with the above factors, you can also consider hybrid apps if you have time limitations and want to launch your app as soon as possible. These apps require less development time as compared to native apps and can help you launch within the deadline. 

You should also opt for hybrid apps if you have a limited budget and to market is crucial for you. Additionally, if you are targeting both mobile and web users, hybrid apps should be your go-to choice.

Common Instances of Hybrid Applications.

Many well-known brands across the world have opted for hybrid apps because of their feasibility, cost-effectiveness, as well as wider audience reach. Let’s look at some of the hybrid apps launched by reputed companies:

  • Gmail: Gmail is one of the most used email applications. The large-scale tech stack used by this hybrid app is proprietary and it also uses WebViews. It also utilizes HTML to deliver a seamless cross-platform experience to all its users. 
  • Instagram: This social media platform was originally built as a native app. After it was acquired by Meta and made a part of the Facebook ecosystem, the developers focused on making the app more accessible and scalable. This led the developers to use React Native, a hybrid app framework that now allows users to maintain both offline data and rich media. 
  • Uber: Uber offers its users a user-friendly and easily navigable app. This app is built using one codebase where users can see the same functionality, and design, and access the same features irrespective of the device they use.
  • Amazon App Store: The Amazon shopping app provides a lucrative experience to its users. This app is written in HTML5 and uses web technologies to render its user-friendly interface and native code. Because of this, this hybrid app can access device features, such as push notifications and the camera. 
  • Twitter: This social media platform was also a native app at first. Since it faced numerous performance issues and bugs because of the heavy traffic inflow, Twitter switched to a hybrid framework which helped in eliminating its previous setbacks. 

Conclusion

Thus, hybrid apps work both on Android and iOS devices, making them cost-effective and easy to maintain. These apps require only one codebase and provide access to all device features. It delivers seamless app performance and also provides a hassle-free user experience. So, if you want to create an app for your business, hybrid apps provide you with the best results as they help you target both mobile and web users.