Whether to build a pure native or hybrid app is one of the first big questions to be answered before any mobile app development project can begin. This is a brief introduction to the pluses and minuses of the two approaches. Which best fits the needs of your next project –native, wrapped or JS-based?
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Native mobile applications are developed on the unique codebase of the operating system the app will work on–Android or iOS. If you are building two native apps, one for Android devices and one for iOS devices, you work with different SDKs and programming languages in parallel –Java for Android and Objective-C or Swift for iOS.
Native apps traditionally had an edge on hybrid equivalents when it came to performance. However, if the app being built doesn’t need to access and work closely with a device’s hardware, the difference is negligible when modern hybrid frameworks like React Native or Flutter are used. However, a native app will still usually be the better option if the app does need to work with the hardware of the devices it will run on.
Native apps can also work more smoothly and reliably when functionality is more complex and resource demands high. The downside to native apps is usually higher costs and time-consuming development, especially if both Android and iOS versions are to be developed.
There are also tools and frameworks that can be used to develop an app in a different programing language than that native to the platform. Upon packaging, code is converted into native platform code. This approach simplifies app development for both Android and iOS and also means a single core app can be configured for both operating systems.
The most popular technologies for developing hybrid apps are Flutter and React Native followed by Ionic. These technologies allow for almost the same level of performance as native apps in many circumstances (less so if the app interacts closely with the device’s hardware) and provide tools for testing and tracking app operations.
The tool choice isn’t quite as diverse as it is for Android and iOS native mobile development. Limited access to open-source libraries is among the shortcomings of wrappers but the most popular open-source options like the three mentioned are quickly catching up.
The fact both Android and iOS operating systems allow for the insertion of a browser into applications also offers a third potential approach to developing mobile apps – WebView. WebView apps are essentially adaptive web pages rendered within an application.
The Apache Cordova framework was created for this approach. The open-source framework provides a set of tools and plug-ins that allow easy packaging and development of such apps. It also offers a rich choice of interfaces for communication between WebView sessions and platforms, which allows these apps to use hardware features like the camera, though performance cannot be expected to match native alternatives when working with the device’s hardware. But again, a cross-platform app can be developed for Android and iOS on just one codebase, optimising development costs.
A weakness of JS WebView apps is they are often restricted to a generic interface have limited access to the device’s hardware. Interactions with mobile hardware are possible only via plug-ins. JS apps can be a good choice for content-serving websites for which a smoother mobile experience than provided by simply a responsive web page is a strategic requirement.
Check out our case study for Viabuy, an e-payments platform we built a hybrid app for using React Native. By adding K&C custom plug-ins to RN standard features, we’ve got an app UI and operations that are totally native. Just take a look: the K&C team managed to create a custom Android plug-in for the fingerprint feature, which worked perfectly on almost every device available on the market. And we’re ready to use our experience to go even further.
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