When should you use hybrid mobile apps and when should you go native? Learn about the difference and which is best for your mobile app development.
If you’re coming from a web or hybrid development background, you may also find Nic Raboy’s guide for Upgrading Hybrid Apps to Native with NativeScript helpful, as it compares and contrasts web and native user interface implementations.
When we talk about leveraging mobile app development tooling and services such as those provided with Telerik Platform by Progress, your choices become much more succinct:
When you use the Telerik Platform, you don't need a Mac nor do you need to manage proprietary SDKs. You gain access to best-of-breed simulation, debugging, and mobile services like push notifications, LiveSync, app store publishing, and much more.
What Exactly Is a Hybrid Mobile App?
A hybrid mobile app looks, feels, and acts like a native app (most of the time... see below). It can also interact with native device functions like geolocation, camera, contacts, and so on. Any gaps in accessing native features can usually be filled with a variety of Cordova plugins.
Sounds pretty good, right? Let's look at some more detailed strengths and weaknesses of hybrid:
- Fully cross-platform: You write code once and then build it for iOS, Android, and/or Windows Phone
- Code reuse: You can take most of an existing web app code and transform it into a mobile app
- Reduced development time and cost: Because of the above strengths, you can deliver a finished mobile app relatively quickly
- Established ecosystem: Cordova is a mature open-source framework and Kendo UI includes a well known (and open source) mobile framework
- Perceived performance issues: Since your hybrid app runs in a WebView, you are limited to the performance of that WebView on the device (Android especially has known its share of troubles)
- Differences in behavior across devices: Because WebViews differ from platform to platform (and even from version to version), you might need to apply additional tweaks and optimize your code to ensure that your app runs as expected on all devices
- Performance issues with heavy graphics and transitions: WebViews definitely have issues when processing demanding graphics and transitions (typical of games and other UI-heavy apps)
- Additional development required for platform-specific UI or features: To tap into unique platform features, you usually need to write additional code or use a plugin—in some cases, you might even need to create the plugin yourself
- Slow adoption of new platform versions: When a new mobile platform version becomes available, you need to wait up to a few months before Cordova introduces verified support for the new version and its features
And What Exactly Is a Native Mobile App?
A native mobile app is an app that runs natively on your device with truly native UI elements. Unlike a hybrid app, a native app does not sacrifice performance because, well, it's running natively on the device! There is no WebView getting in the way on native. A native app also has full access to every API available on each platform it runs on (so there isn't necessarily the need to use plugins to fill any gaps, though they can help).
When we talk about native, we think the best and easiest way for you to go native is by using our free and open source framework called NativeScript.
Again, sounds good right? Let's again look at some more detailed strengths and weaknesses of native:
- Cross-platform: Like with hybrid, apps you create with NativeScript run on both iOS and Android with one codebase
- Native UI and performance across all platforms and devices: Because your apps use native components, they look and run natively everywhere
- Leverage existing native libraries: NativeScript provides out-of-the-box support for native libraries, including CocoaPods
- Day zero support for new mobile features: When a new mobile OS version becomes available, NativeScript immediately provides support for the new version and its features
- Steeper learning curve: While hybrid lets you use HTML, NativeScript forces you to use more native app concepts like native UI elements. Sorry, no more divs, but the NativeScript layout engine is pretty easy to understand
When Would I use Hybrid vs Native?
THIS is the key question, isn't it? If you know that you want to develop a mobile app AND you know now that you have choices AND you also know that the Telerik Platform supports both methods, what do you do? Here are some common issues we hear people talking about when choosing between hybrid and native development:
Performance is critical for me—my customers will drop my app if it doesn't feel right! If performance is key (and it usually is), then going native with NativeScript is a great way to start.
I want to future-proof my app. I can't wait for someone else to write a plugin or update a framework. Staying up to date with the latest mobile platforms is critical, which is why NativeScript provides zero day support for all new OS releases and API updates.
I need to create a Windows Phone version of my app! As of today, Windows Phone is only supported with hybrid (although the NativeScript team is working on it).
Set up a free trial for the Telerik Platform today. Once you start your trial, we provide you with an instantly-available development experience with numerous step-by-step quick start tutorials for both hybrid and native. Best of luck with your app development!