There has been an ongoing debate, with justifiable pros and cons on either side, as to whether mobile app developers should go native or use a hybrid approach that can accommodate the many different mobile platforms they want to target. Research firm Gartner has predicted that more than 50 percent of mobile apps deployed by 2016 will be hybrid. There are several factors to consider when deciding on a native or hybrid approach:
Hybrid apps are quicker to develop. Only a part of native code has to be re-written for different devices. The vast majority of development goes into the Web component, which is used across all devices, reducing the time it takes to build the app and as a result the development cost.
Building a hybrid mobile application requires maintaining a single code base for the different platforms. Whereas, native apps require specific developments for each platform, which inevitably leads to increased cost and duration.
As hybrid applications are based on Web technologies it is much easier to find developers to build and maintain them. In today’s heated and competitive mobile app development market it is difficult to find developers experienced in both iOS and Android platforms. Fortunately, due to the Web’s history, a majority of developers are equipped with strong knowledge of Web technologies.
Hybrid apps are a good choice for certain types of requirements. Productivity apps are the most common applications built using HTML5, followed by utility apps.
Another problem associated with HTML5 is that it lacks in the area where there is a need for animations or special user interface (UI), like custom UIs or spinners that require elements to move around.
The look and feel of the platform is also an important consideration. One of the benefits of hybrid apps is that developers only need to build once, this is also true for the UI, meaning that the app will look the same across all platforms. Some users expect the apps to look like the other apps they already have. There are some common elements and guidelines that are expected from an app on a specific platform, which cannot be met by hybrid apps.
Although this forces developers to maintain different code bases for the native portions, the amount of work is lesser as compared with the extensive development required to maintain a completely different code base for every platform.
The debate regarding the superiority of native mobile app development over a hybrid approach is likely to continue with the staggering growth of mobile application development and deployment. Only time will determine how the continued release of apps on iOS and Android platforms will affect the native vs. hybrid debate.