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Web, Native or Hybrid Apps? Which to choose
Many people who are new to the world of mobile app usually face some challenges understanding most of the terminologies often thrown around. They always want to know the difference, if any exists between Android and iOS. They also push to know the difference between web, native, and hybrid and which one of these is best for them. If this is you, then be rest assured that by the time you are done reading this article, you would have gotten the knowledge you seek.
What is app development?
App development simply means developing applications that run on mobile devices like tablets, mobile phones, and even wearables. Mobile apps run on operating systems, and the two most popular operating systems that people develop apps for are Android and iOS.
Difference between Android and iOS
IOS is the operating system that powers all Apple’s devices like iPad and iPhone. It is built and maintained by Apple. At the moment, iOS only powers Apple devices.
Android, on the other hand is the mobile operating system owned by Google. The operating system powers more than 80% of all mobile devices in the world today. It is open source, meaning that anybody can make a device and use power with the Android operating system. People can also contribute to the source code.
The applications developed for each platforms is unique to that platform, meaning that you can’t run Android applications on iOS nor the other way round. Although you can see some apps like Snapchat running on the two platforms, the versions were actually developed differently – a version of the app was developed for Android and another developed for iOS, even though they perform similar function.
What of web apps?
These are applications that are assessed over a network via a browser. Most times, people ask the difference between web apps and a website. The difference lies clearly in their individual functionalities. A website basically provides information to the user while web apps incorporate so much other complex functionalities. A good example to illustrate this difference is PayPal and Wikipedia. The former is a typical web app while the latter is a website.
Types of mobile apps
By mobile apps here, whether Android or iOS, we are talking of those apps that you can download from their respective app stores. They are of two types – hybrid and native.
Which should you build – web or mobile app?
Mobile apps, both hybrid and native gives people easy access to your system or company. They can easily search and download them from the different app stores and with a simple tap on the app’s icon from their home screen, they access all of the functionalities of the app. Mobile apps sport the following features that give them an advantage over web apps
Push notification makes it such that users will keep visiting your apps all of the time. When using the Facebook mobile app, remember those notifications that the app send you when someone like your picture, those are push notifications.
Another good thing with mobile is that you can share content within the app or even the app itself with the help of some other apps. Although some web apps allow sharing, it is a feature that mobile apps are well known and more adapted for.
Revenue from ads
Although both mobile and web apps can be monetized via adds, the CPM (cost per impression) for ads served on mobile are higher than those for web apps, plus a lot of people now block ads on their browsers to stop unwanted ads from showing up when they are on the web.
Most mobile apps are native and are usually built using platform-specific languages. Native Android apps are developed in Java; iOS in Objective-C or Swift and native Windows phone apps in C#. Any professional developer can easily develop native apps especially with the development tools, standardized SDK (software development kit), and interface elements that companies like Google and Apple offer app developers.
Examples of native apps include Twitter, Pokemon Go, and Waze.
Pros of native mobile apps
1. Fast: when it comes to speed and responsiveness, then native apps stand preferred as they load their functionalities as fast as possible and also provide users with a responsive user experience.
2. Ease of access to wider functionalities: you can easily access other functionalities like microphone, camera, compass, etc. of your mobile phone using native apps. This is not saying that you can’t do these using either hybrid or web apps, but it is way easier with native apps.
3. Push notifications: as explained earlier.
Cons of native apps:
1. Many codebases: since native Android apps won’t run on iOS, or the other way round, you have to develop separate codebases for each of these platforms. Maintaining these codebases can be difficult for the most part.
2. They take longer time to build and can cost more.
Despite the fact that native apps are operating system-specific, there are now platforms that make it possible for you to build cross-platform native apps. Two of such platforms are React Native and Xamarin.
The reason that most people develop hybrid is to test user response to their service. They use it to test if users will truly download and use their native apps if they build one after they have built their web apps.
Pros of hybrid apps
1. One codebase: Unlike native apps, you just have to build one codebase for all the platforms while you just have to tweak the Webview a bit to fit for the different platforms. This means that you can also easily scale it for another platform.
Cons of hybrid apps
1. Performance: The performance of a hybrid app is as good as the Webview that is displaying the user interface and can’t be compared with native apps.
2. Cross-platform is tough: Yes, getting your app to run effectively on the different platforms can be really tough and take a bit of hard work seeing as you would have many tweaking to do.
How to choose?
There is no clear-cut answer as to which one of the above types of apps to choose, your best choice will depend on so many factors like the ones below.
This is how a user feels while using your app. If you take user experience seriously, then you have to develop two native apps to serve the two major mobile operating systems seeing as there are major interface differences between the two.
If you do not have much to spare for the development of your mobile app, then hybrid apps become your best bet seeing as the cost of building hybrid apps that can run on both Android and iOS is generally lower than building a single native app.
Native apps unarguably perform better than hybrid apps so if you are concerned that users could abandon your app due to performance issues, then consider building a native app.
Data processing needs
Most apps today perform heavy functions that require a lot of CPU resources. These kinds of apps are better off as native apps seeing as most of the heavy functionalities could be a problem for a hybrid app to process.
Making your final choice
We have been able to outline the different cons and pros of both web, native and hybrid apps. It is left for you to consider the kind of functionality that you want in your app so as to make the best choice.
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