Why Native Apps Are Better Than Hybrids?

Apps are everywhere

How do you typically start your day? In the past, people enjoyed reading a freshly printed newspaper over breakfast to stay informed about current events, peruse advertisements, and even have a laugh at some amusing stories. However, with the arrival of the high-tech future, newspapers have been replaced by smartphones and tablets, and humorous columns have transformed into standalone applications.

Nowadays, we use various apps to check the weather, exchange rates, news updates, avoid traffic, track the activities of our favorite celebrities, browse upcoming events in our calendars, and much more. Applications have become an essential part of our daily lives, and it's not uncommon for people to dive into developing them without considering the various options available. Some may not realize that there are native, hybrid, and web apps, or they may not understand the differences between them or which type would best fit their project's concept.

Hybrid vs native: the developer's view

Today we will talk about native and hybrid apps with Denis Altukhov, an Android developer at Anadea.

Hello, Denis!

Tell us, as a professional, what is the difference between native and hybrid apps?
Well, native apps are created for a particular platform, whether it is Android, iOS or Windows. These applications are written in native languages - Java in case of Android and Objective C in case of iOS. They are downloaded exclusively from official app stores.

Like PlayMarket?
Yes, for us it is PlayMarket and for Apple it is AppStore. The installation and distribution is done through these stores. It runs as a separate app and has its own windows. A non-native one, written in JavaScript, is basically an application that works in a browser and has a markup for mobile.

Essentially, it is a web application, isn't it?
Yes. And the advantage is that it is cross-platform straight away - you write for all platforms at once, Windows, Android and iPhone or anything else will open them. But it is associated with the restriction that you will not be able to reach out many technical functions requested by the client. For example, he wants active work with the camera - you can't do it in a non-native app. You can't create the design using the guides that exist for iOS and Android either.

Is it possible that a hybrid app may look inconsistent in different browsers?
It can float but globally everything will look the same. However, for example, if a person got accustomed to using Android, he will expect to see some standard Android stuff. And when the layout of a browser based app differs from what you expect, it is, to be honest, annoying.

All large scale apps are native. Why?
The absence of any restrictions is the main reason. You can fetch any functionality provided by the operating system. Such an app is more flexible and works much better with the battery thanks to the correct architecture of the native language. The OS itself looks at your app and sets up correct work with the battery, screen and so on. It would be much more difficult to, for instance, implement functionality associated with maps in a hybrid app without using native tools from Google and Apple.

Have you come across hybrid apps in your practice?
Yes, I have. For example, a year ago there was a project which, by the way, worked with maps - written in JavaScript. It was difficult to start it in a special studio and the project itself was very lame. I hardly managed to somehow launch it only on an iPhone emulator!

Oh my God!
All this was for just being able to see something. And even then, it was quite hard to understand what was happening there. Finally, the client came to a decision to develop two native applications for iOS and Android instead of one hybrid app.

In other words, he simply wasted his time, didn't he?
Yes. But he can't be blamed for that - hybrid apps are both cheaper and faster to develop. And the choice of developers is much wider - in this case you don't necessarily need someone specializing in mobile platforms, you can turn to a frontender who is familiar with JavaScript well. It's enough to know the syntax of the language to execute the order, but without deep understanding of the platform he may miss a lot and the level of the app will be low.

Is that exactly why non-native apps are rather often of low quality?
Yes, they crash or work incorrectly because someone came from outside. One more challenging aspect of hybrids is managing notifications. Maybe, these services somehow work there but, for example, we are currently working on a social app for exchanging photos and there the notifications are built absolutely differently in iOS and Android. It's a weighty difference. How will the notifications in web-applications look on three declared platforms (iOS, Android, Windows), where each has its own individual peculiarities... who knows?

And what about safety?
Hybrid apps fall behind here as well. You can download an apk-file only from one place - from the store. Besides, before publishing the app you have the possibility to encrypt everything with standard tools, hide the implementation and so on. In addition to the encrypting, there is such a thing as proguard - it splits links, erases names. There is nothing like that in a non-native app, which means that anyone can parse it, steal your code, download it from some other places.

So, does this mean that hybrid apps are still really really far from natives?
Certainly. They make sense if you are developing something very plain, general, if the budget is not very big and you are running out of time. Something that doesn't require all capacities of the device, when it doesn't depend on the hard­ware. In case you need all the functionality, native Google and Apple operating systems have a bunch of built-in methods and ways of working with camera, maps, bluetooth and others. And of course it will be better and of higher quality than a reinvented bicycle from some third-party developers.

I absolutely agree with you. Thank you for finding time to talk to me!
You are always welcome.

Bottom line

Let's sum up main points of native vs hybrid app development:

  • If you require a high speed performance and your app will directly use the hardware of the device (camera, RAM, video chip, bluetooth, wi-fi, screen and so on) - develop a native app;
  • If you are interested in a high safety level - develop a native app;
  • If you are working on a really wide scale project - develop a native app;
  • And if you need something very simple and all the points mentioned above are not required in your project - then you can make a hybrid app.