Native vs. Hybrid Apps

You’ve received the green light to proceed with your mobile app development project, and right out the gate, you’re faced with a major decision: should you develop a native or a hybrid app? The wrong choice could seriously limit your app’s success, particularly if you’re crafting a public-facing B2C app.

When contemplating native vs. hybrid apps, it’s vital that you thoroughly evaluate your needs, budget, project timeframe and plans for the future. You could build a single hybrid app, a single native app or two native apps—one for Android and one for iOS. Let’s examine the issues surrounding native vs. hybrid mobile applications.

Cost

The per-app cost tends to be a bit higher for hybrid apps simply because your development team is tasked with ensuring compatibility across multiple operating systems and different devices. This results in greater programming complexity and a longer, more involved testing phase. But you’re creating a hybrid app that will work on iOS and Android devices, so your potential audience is far larger.

For native apps, the per-app development cost is generally less than what you would spend on a hybrid application. But you’ll have a mobile app that is only usable on one operating system, so you’ll need to pay for not one but two native apps in order to achieve a comparable reach.

Time

The timeframe associated with developing a hybrid app is typically longer than what you would see for a native app. This is due to the fact that your development team must ensure compatibility and user-friendliness across a range of devices, at least two operating systems, and multiple versions of each OS.

Native apps generally see a shorter per-app development timeframe, since the application runs exclusively on a single operating system. But the overall timeframe for the project could be nearly double what you would see for a hybrid app if you are developing two separate applications.

Similar to the dilemma you encounter with cost, if you are seeking to equal the reach of a hybrid app, you must develop two native apps: one for iOS and one for Android. It’s rare that a company would develop an iOS app and an Android app in parallel. Instead, it is customary to develop one native app at a time to avoid duplicating any missteps or flaws. This also allows you to gather user feedback before developing the second native app—you’ll build a better app, faster. The total development timeframe may be longer when taking this approach, but the net result is two higher-quality apps made with fewer man-hours than would be required for parallel development.

That said, not everyone needs two native apps. If your audience is primarily Android-based, then a single native Android app may be sufficient, so it’s important to consider your needs in this regard.

Future Resources

Many individuals walk into the mobile app development process believing it’s a one-time build, but this static view of apps is far from the reality. Mobile apps must evolve over time, undergoing updates and expansions in response to user demand, iOS updates and new technology.

For this reason, you’ll need to find a developer who can perform updates and add new features as needed. App updates can be time-sensitive when they’re performed in response to an OS alteration or a security issue, so you want a development firm that’s available to perform revisions in a fairly short timeframe.

Many developers specialize in native or hybrid apps (but not both). So it’s critical that you hire a developer who can maintain your application effectively and for a price within your budget. If money is a concern and you want two native apps, then a single hybrid app may be a better choice.

Most developers recommend establishing an annual maintenance budget of 15 to 20 percent of the app’s total build cost. So if your original build was $100,000, then your annual maintenance budget would be $15,000 to $20,000. Of course, some apps require more or less maintenance, but this is a good starting point.

Hardware and Software

Mobile apps frequently leverage a device’s hardware, such as the camera or GPS mechanism. The same is true of software, as apps may interact with your calendar, browser or a range of other software.

When developing a native app, it’s relatively simple to engineer the application so it leverages the hardware and software typically present on a particular device.

Conversely, this is an area where hybrid app development is more complex, as developers must program an application that will interact with different hardware and software, on different operating system platforms. At best, this portion of the development process may be a bit more complicated and time-consuming. At worst, it may simply not be possible to leverage device hardware/software as you had originally planned to do.

Of course, not every mobile app interacts with third-party software or device hardware, so this won’t be a major consideration for every development project. But if you do plan to leverage device hardware/software, then it’s wise to discuss this issue with your developer before deciding whether to build a hybrid or native app.

Target Audience

It’s critical to consider your target audience and which type of device they’re most likely to utilize. This is true whether you’re building an enterprise app, a B2B app or a B2C app. You don’t want to find yourself in a scenario where a large segment of your target audience cannot use the app because it won’t work on their device. Similarly, it would be impractical to develop an enterprise app for iOS, only to realize later that you need to provide dozens of employees with new Apple devices.

Certain demographics are attracted to specific types of technology. For instance, millennials tend to prefer Apple’s iOS devices, whereas teens and retirees favor the lower price point of Android-powered devices. Many companies invest a lot of money to perform extensive surveys to determine what devices are being used by a particular population segment. And this is a wise move, as it allows for a data-driven decision on which type of app to develop.

This is one area where hybrid apps have the upper edge, as companies are not forced to decide between iOS and Android. Instead, you build a single app that will work on all devices. Although there are some times when a native app can be advantageous. For instance, if you are certain your target audience predominantly uses iOS, then a native iOS app may be a good investment.

A Case Study: Hidrent

The Hidrent mobile app is a wonderful example of an application that was best served by a hybrid development strategy. The team at SevenTablets was tasked with building a platform where off-duty firefighters could connect with homeowners who require help with handyman-type tasks, from putting up holiday lights, to gutter cleaning, installing a new ceiling fan or replacing the battery’s in the home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

In order to maximize its potential, Hidrent had to be accessible to the general public, regardless of their device type and operating system. For this reason, the client opted to go with a hybrid strategy. Homeowners can book jobs with a local off-duty firefighter and submit payment through the app, while contractors can use the app to manage their availability and offerings, accept or decline jobs and view upcoming jobs in a schedule interface.

Related Reading

STAX: A Cost-Saving Framework

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to hybrid vs. native apps. But companies in need of a hybrid app may benefit from a partnership with SevenTablets, where we leverage STAX, an open source app development framework that allows our team to cut your development cost and timeframe by as much as 35% to 40%.

What’s more, our development team can conceive, create and integrate a range of innovative solutions, from predictive analytics engines to natural language processing, augmented reality and virtual reality. So if you’re on the hunt for a cutting-edge mobile app, SevenTablets may have the perfect solution.

SevenTablets is headquartered in Dallas with regional offices in Austin and Houston. In addition to Texas, we work with clients across the United States and beyond. We invite you to contact us today to learn more about our mobile app development services.

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