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September 2021

The Difference between Native & Hybrid Apps – from a development perspective

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The Difference between Native & Hybrid Apps – from a development perspective

Businesses, Education organisations, charities and all other public facing organisations are often faced with the challenge of maintaining client communication and brand presence.  That is why in a Digital world mobile phone applications have become the go to technology to assist in developing brand and increasing exposure.  With over 3.2 billion smartphone users, it’s no surprise Applications are an efficient and effective route to market. 

Did you know, 88% of time spent on mobile phones is actually spent on Apps? 21% of millennials open an App over fifty times a day!  These figures have been increasing year on year and they aren’t looking to slow down any time soon.

It is for these reasons more and more organisations are looking to increase their exposure via mobile (or even Tablet) applications which are available to clients on their most used devices.  These applications can often be used offline and used as a communication channel to provide notifications for new products, sales or purely information and news. 

What type of technology is best used to develop applications?

If you are looking for an App to assist communication or improve business efficiency you probably have found there are many different options available to you. 

In computing, programming and software development you may have heard of the term “native”.  Native software is software that has been designed and built to operate on a specific operating system, if software running on a computer natively this means that it is operating without any additional software layers. This is therefore software that is operating at an optimised level for the application it is running and the device it is running on.  Whilst we are now talking about computers and operating systems, you will be well aware that those digital boxes that we carry around on a daily basis are actually micro powerful computers and their software operating systems are no different. 

Apple 

iPhone or Apple phones are the most popular devices across the world.  Apple introduced the hugely popular and successful iPhone in June 2007. If you were fortunate enough to be one of the first adopters of an iPhone the operating system would have been iOS 1 – this software is now obsolete and not supported by Apple and was superseded in 2010 by iOS 2.  

Any native applications built to optimise the use on Apple devices are built within the iOS software – this is a native app for iOS.

Android

Android is Open source software, officially known as the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and licensed under the Apache license.  It was officially released a year later than the initial iOS software, in September 2008. As an Open source project they are many contributors to the software, the largest contributor by far is Google.  This software is written in different languages, predominantly Java for the UI, C for the core and different technologies with the OS family Unix-like, a modified version of Linux kernel. 

The largest phone manufacturer which has adopted Android as their software of choice is Samsung, but whilst iOS is restricted to Apple devices there are multiple phone manufacturers such as Huawei, LG and even Amazon utilising the Open Source software. 

Which software is used the most?

This may surprise you – Android has over 70% of market share with iOS just over 20%, see OS market share. However successful Apple sales have been and continue to be and strong brand loyalty, the iOS software is closed and can only be used on Apple devices.  Android being Open source has been adopted by multi phone and tablet manufacturers and worldwide is used in many different technologies and systems, being Open Source it is available to all. 

So how should we develop our application? 

If you want to capture all potential users for your application you may need to look at developing the application in both iOS and also Android. Whilst you are able to share costs of planning, wireframing and design across both software platforms, development costs double to be able to promote your application to both Apple and Android users.  This can be and has proven to be very restrictive to SMEs entering the application arena and looking to capture mobile usage. 

Hybrid App Technology

With the different software and users shared across different platforms, technology has advanced to provide the ability to develop one application that works across both iOS and Android devices.  Hybrid mobile applications are installed on a mobile or tablet device in the same way Apps are stored on either iOS or Android devices, possessing different elements from native applications or applications developed specifically for a technology. 

Benefits of Hybrid 

Frameworks have been developed which allows developers to develop a single application that works on multiple frameworks. Two of the most popular and well used frameworks are Ionic Framework and also React Native (which was developed by Facebook).  This brings strong advantages to users that want an application for both Apple and Android and allows businesses to control costs better. 

Another benefit of Hybrid applications is that developers are able to update the apps as frequently as required, without having to submit the new release (this is only applicable if the updates do not affect the native code). 

With the likes of Ionic the community has developed all types of plug-ins which allows developers to interact with the platform’s hardware – but whilst this can be a huge cost saving benefit – plug-ins need to be maintained and updated (they may even require adapting to suit the requirements).

We find the largest benefit of hybrid technology is the time you can bring a prototype to market.  The speed of development by utilising these frameworks can save months of development, and for most, this turns into true cost saving. 

Limitations of utilising Hybrid

As mentioned in the benefits of Hybrid technology – utilising plug-ins can also have a negative effect on the product.  We find that some native plug-ins are not as stable, in some instances like in all software development, different software can clash against each other.  Utilising multiple plug-ins or becoming over reliant on these, can increase the risk of conflict.

By John Dugdale September 2021

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