What is hybrid app development

Published on: 27 Oct 2020

By Vinod Subbaiah

When businesses are looking to create a mobile app, hybrid application development is one of the several well-known app development options to consider. It is increasingly becoming a preferred choice due to its extensive list of capabilities and benefits.

In these fast progressing times, it’s only natural to look for adaptive solutions that are easy to build, maintain, and scale. 

A hybrid application combines elements of a web and native application. It is developed using web& Javascript based technologies and frameworks, namely HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS and ReactJS. It is further wrapped in a native shell, like Apache Cordova or Ionic Capacitor that enables the incorporation of platform-specific features. 

If you’re looking for a mix between functionality, cost-efficiency, and a native feel for user experience, hybrid applications are the way to go. 

What are the benefits of hybrid app development?

Besides its multi-platform nature, and a highly valued advantage, hybrid application performs fast and well on all OSs and devices. With present day processor speeds, they also deliver a native app-like experience while enabling you to save considerably on development costs. So how are these attributes of hybrid app development making a difference in a business’s success?

  • Cross-platform capabilities. Compared to native application, building a hybrid app requires developing a single code base to be deployed on multiple operating systems, whether it is iOS, Android, or Windows. Instead of channeling your effort on developing separate apps for each platform, you create a hybrid app that is compatible with all of them, which significantly increases your customer reach and speeds up your time-to-market. With hybrid apps, just like native apps, you can secure a place in an app store/play store quickly as long as the app meets the guidelines.
  • Well-known web technologies. It won’t be hard to find highly skilled software engineers proficient in web technologies like JavaScript, CSS, or HTML5. Hybrid applications are web apps at their core, so using these well-known technologies means that you can find developers to build hybrid mobile apps in a short duration, and that in turn will expedite the development process. However, you still might need a couple of native developers on your team to cover all your bases and ensure that the application runs smoothly.
  • Lower costs. By using a single code base, the development time frame for a hybrid application is significantly reduced. The app can be deployed on iOS and Android simultaneously, without the duplicative effort of building separate apps for each platform. With one team working on a single application, you can reduce costs, and launch your applications much faster, giving you the chance to build a competitive edge against your competitors.
  • Easy to update and maintain. One of the biggest advantages of hybrid apps is that they are easier to maintain than the native ones. When an update occurs, you don’t need to make the change for each platform individually; it covers all operating systems at once. Besides, the user will have access to the new version of the app instantly on all devices at the same time. 

What are the limitations of hybrid apps?

Although there are several benefits to building apps using hybrid frameworks, being aware of their limitations will help you make an informed decision and prepare an action plan for your app development.

  • Relying on 3rd party integrations. Being a web application at its core, a hybrid application requires integration with 3rd party systems, in order to access a native platform’s built-in features. 
  • Necessity of a middle layer. In a native application, the developer can easily access the user’s calendar, media, or the Touch ID feature to build a more engaging customer experience. On the other hand, a hybrid app requires a middle layer that would enable it to build these capabilities and fully access the device’s features. You can usually accomplish this with specific plugins combined with custom development if an existing plugin does not cover the desired functionality. 
  • High customization costs. The User Interface of a hybrid app has a couple of limitations, as it cannot fully take advantage of the native platform’s capabilities. Achieving a native app’s feel might involve extra customization that could add to your development effort, and therefore your costs. Offering an equally compelling and smooth experience on all platforms could mean a certain amount tweaks to find a balance and ensure consistency.
  • Slow performance for specific apps. Hybrid applications are known to be highly-performant with a couple of exceptions. In gaming apps or applications that use complex graphic elements, a hybrid app might take longer to load all its content. So, if you plan to launch an application that is content-oriented rather than graphics-oriented, the hybrid app will, without a doubt, meet your performance expectations.
  • More complex QA testing. Though not quite a limitation, the QA testing process for a hybrid application differs from a web or native application. The hybrid app’s cross-platform capabilities call for testing the app on all the operating systems and devices it is deployed on and usually takes a bit longer. Although a specific feature might be held in common, it’s recommended to have it tested on each platform individually to ensure a seamless customer experience. Moreover, your team will also need to test every block of native code to safeguard the performance of platform-specific capabilities.

Hybrid app development is undeniably one of the fastest and more powerful ways to build an application that can reach a customer base that transcends any device preference barriers.

By leveraging both a web and a native application’s best capabilities, the hybrid application enables your business to unlock the power of a customer-centric tool that also creates the opportunity for building a tangible competitive advantage for long-term financial growth.

Vinod Subbaiah