Native or Hybrid: the Two Approaches to Custom App Development

By Ryan Vice | Posted on October 31, 2019


To go, or not to go native, that is the question. In custom app development, it’s a debate with impassioned advocates on either side, each arguing that the benefits of one outweigh the benefits of the other. The truth is, native apps and hybrid apps both have their time and place, and it’s up to you to decide how you want your mobile app to be developed.

Going Native: A native app is developed to perform a specific task in a particular environment or platform. It’s built using specific technology and coding language for a given platform. For instance, Android apps using Java or iOS apps using Swift. Because each app is built to the unique specifications of a platform, if you want to have your app available in several different app stores, you’ll have to build a different version for each of them.

Going Hybrid: Hybrid apps can be built for any platform from a single code base. Just like native apps, they can be acquired through a platform’s app store. They aren’t built the same way, though. Hybrid apps use web technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript and run through webView, essentially allowing you to display web pages inside of your app. You may have less native capabilities with your hybrid app, but native plugins can help on that front.

Each custom app development approach has its own strengths. As software engineers, all we can do is give you the facts and our recommendations. Creating a custom app is a complex and often tedious process; do yourself a favor and do your homework now.

The Strengths of a Native Approach

Since native apps require a separate code base for each iteration of it created for a new platform, development and maintenance typically requires more time and effort, but this approach comes with plenty of benefits.

Runs smoother: On a native app, there are fewer layers between the app’s code and the hardware. You won’t need to deal with the complexity of native plugins to access the platform’s features or other dependencies on open source libraries as you need to with a hybrid app.

Runs faster: Native code will run faster in its intended environment or platform. For this reason, graphical applications, HD games and intensive animation applications will run better as a native app.

Better UX: Each platform has its own style guidelines regarding UX. It’s essentially impossible to create a user experience that successfully caters to all users as a hybrid app needs to do. UX designers don’t need to make any compromises when designing for a native app, and as a result, the UX is usually much better.

Security: Native apps are able to access built-in security features specific to a platform. The fact that they don’t need to rely on webView also makes them the more secure option as certain APIs make hybrid apps more prone to injection attacks.

Access of Accessories: Native apps can interact with all of the features of a device’s operating system such as the microphone, contacts list, camera, etc. without the use of native plugins or complex development.

The Strengths of a Hybrid Approach

A hybrid app’s single code base is its biggest asset in custom app development. By not needing to create several different applications, you’ll see the benefits of going hybrid early on in the development process.

Faster Development: Hybrid apps are usually much easier to create than a native application. Your development team only needs to build one code base, and it can be deployed anywhere. The only thing that could slow down hybrid custom app development would be introducing complex customization. The more you need to customize the app for it to work on your chosen platforms, the more money and development is required.

Cheaper development: One code base means just one development team. Usually, native apps require several teams, each specializing in a specific kind of custom app development. Not only is your team smaller for hybrid apps, but it also takes less time in general.

Low Maintenance: When your app has been developed and available to users, you’ll still need to perform regular maintenance and product updates. With a hybrid app, this is much easier to accomplish. You can implement new features across the board just once by working with one code base. Native apps require you to replicate a feature for each code base, making it difficult to release an update everywhere at the same time.

Vice Software’s Model: One React, Many Platforms

Vice Software takes a unique approach to the eternal debate of hybrid vs. native apps. Native applications obviously come with more benefits, but when time, cost and manpower are critical to the development, a hybrid app is clearly the preferred method to take. Well, in order to maintain our high standards and deliver you the application you’ve dreamed of, we utilize modern open-source toolkits that allow us to share code across platforms with a single code base. Our favorite is React Native.

With React, our team can create platform-specific versions of components, but we only need one team to maintain the code of multiple platforms. Vice Software creates truly native apps with React Native complete with native-platform UI and an uncompromised user experience for users. With our approach, we build your application just once, and then we are able to seamlessly deploy native versions to other platforms of your choice including iPhone, Android and more.

Throughout development, we remain in close contact with stakeholders to ensure your application is coming together just as you envisioned. With a dedicated Slack channel and bi-weekly demos, course corrections are a breeze and you’re never left in the dark. By only building what you ask for, we are able to more quickly introduce your users to the application, and build on your MVP (minimal viable product) from there with the help of user feedback.

The path of custom app development can be a rocky one, but if you’re working with the right team of developers, you can cut down on the number of detours and obstacles on your route. To get started on a project with Vice Software, all you need to do is share a bit about your ideas, and we’ll get you a quote right away!

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