You may have heard the terms "native" and "hybrid" when people talk about mobile applications. In this article, I'll explain the main differences and help you decide if your app idea should be native or hybrid.
What's the difference between a native application and a hybrid application?
A native iPhone application is created with a computer program made by Apple. This native application is written in a coding language made by Apple, and this application can only run on smartphones made by Apple.
Similarly, a native Android application is created on a computer program made specifically for creating Android applications. This application is written in a coding language approved by Google, and it can only run on Android smartphones.
The coding language for iPhone apps is called Swift, while the coding language for Android applications is called Kotlin. This means, if you make a native application, you have two sets of code: one for iPhone and one for Android. Every time you add a new feature, you have to make changes to both. Every time you need to fix a problem in the code, you have to make changes to both.
A hybrid application, on the other hand, is one set of code that can work on both iPhones and Android devices. With only one set of code, you can have an app on both platforms. Whenever there is a bug or you want to add a feature, you only have to change this one set of code.
Which one is better? Native or Hybrid?
The answer to this question depends on the features and complexity of your app. If you want to make an app that is a digital version of the board game Scrabble, you should probably make that a hybrid application because it will be quicker and cheaper in relation to the app's complexity. If, however, you want to use augmented reality and the smartphone's camera to show what your living room would look like with a new couch, you should probably build a native application.
As a general rule, if you want to use tools integrated into the hardware of the smartphone (like the GPS location, camera, or gyroscope which detects motion), you should probably build a native application. Native applications have easier access to the hardware than hybrid apps, and will lead to higher quality in the long run.
Another rule of thumb is if you need your application to function normally when the user loses internet connection. Native applications can use the storage on the phone to keep the app usable when there is no connection. Hybrid applications, however, often do not do so well when the user is offline.
In summary, a native iPhone application runs only on iPhones, and a native Android application runs only on Android devices. A hybrid application uses one set of code to run on both iPhones and Android devices. There is no clear answer to which one is better. Your choice depends on the complexity and the features in your app.
If you want to learn more, reach out to us at Accessible Mobile Apps and we can discuss which is the best choice for your idea.