The Battle Between Native and Hybrid Apps

The Battle Between Native and Hybrid Apps

The mobility world has experienced many battles between different paradigms and philosophies about almost everything. One of those bloody battles is the battle of Native vs. Hybrid. While each has its own fans and supporters, mobility became the reason for developers’ polarity. But does it really have to be this way?

Where did it all begin?

An earlier version of the Native vs. Hybrid battle was the Native vs. Mobile-Web battle. I remember pitching to so many clients on why a native app was not necessarily their best solution, and that they should consider mobile web – but in many cases people just didn’t want to listen. In a survey done by Compuware in 2012, the vast majority of users (85 percent) preferred mobile apps over mobile websites. This was for several reasons, including convenience, speed and ease of use. However, as mobile-sites offered more and more functionality, and turned into a much closer version of the original websites (for example through responsive solutions), native app development failed to keep up the pace due to technology hindrances. For the first time, native apps started losing their uncompromising prestige and mobile web grew tremendously.

In today’s world, however, it’s quite clear that in order to provide their customers with full mobile support, most stakeholders have to provide both a mobile-web solution as well as a downloadable app. The mobile site offers direct access for clients looking for your company on search engines, or that are being redirected to your site after clicking on an ad; the downloadable app offers a close connection to your customers and an easy-to-use interface by embedding added valuable native features such as push notifications, in app purchases, touch ID authentication and more.

So has the battle been resolved?

Yes, No. Well, this battle has given way to yet another… the battle between Native and Hybrid Apps. While it is clear that downloadable apps are important and can have ROI, their development is still highly expensive and lasts too long! To build a great functioning app, that works on all channels and devices and that includes an advanced UI and UX, took organizations too many developer years and millions of dollars! And that’s even not the worst part. The real challenge came when organizations needed to confront the costs and investment of ongoing maintenance. The definition of native development is the capability to develop a dedicated solution per operating system. However, this also creates the need to build and maintain different projects for multiple operating systems and screen sizes, for basically the same business logic.

Then came the what appeared to be the next knight in shining armor of mobile development. Various tools (most well-known is PhoneGap) that offered a “develop once deploy everywhere” capabilities – stagnated the market. Hybrid Development was the next big thing, promising easy to build cross-platform apps, with fast and cheap prototyping and short development life cycle (similar to that of the mobile-web development) all with low maintenance costs. The technology behind it was HTML5 combined with some native functionalities.

But as one-size-fits-all solutions often do, many of the hybrid development platforms proved to have limited capabilities. Omni-channel development using those platforms is far from perfect, and while the platforms proved sufficient for simple requirements, they were impossible to use when more complex needs arose.

So no one wins?

The way I see it at the moment is that everybody wins. Once the limitations and advantages of each paradigm were evaluated and taken into consideration, it became clear that none of them provided a full solution, and that a second-level of hybrid solution was required. Native still has its advantages, and is still a favorite among mobile users, but today’s solutions go even further to combine a pure web interface in a native container (using Cordova for example). By providing the same UI/UX of their mobile-web with great level of performance, organizations manage to keep an omni-channel web-based solution, while adding all the complimenting native features for an upgraded user experience.

Will the new Hybrid paradigm last for long? Will it continue to evolve? Will it be replaced? The answers to these questions depend on many parameters, but we can be certain that mobility will continue to change and that new paradigms will be introduced. As Joel A. Barker said: “The first problems you solve with the new paradigm are the ones that were unsolvable with the old paradigm”.

Stay tuned!