The protagonists of the epochal change brought about by mobile devices are undoubtedly apps: but is it better to create a native app or a hybrid one? Let's see it together.
First of all, we have to explain what a hybrid app and a native app mean, and also introduce a third concept, which is the web app.
Given that we are in the mobile realm, we can have different types of applications:
- Native app: are applications created specifically for a certain mobile operating system, written in the language of the platform on which they will run and installable on the device. For example, in the case of the iOS operating system, a native app will be written in Objective-C or Swift language and downloadable from the App Store, while for Android it will be written in Java and downloadable from the Google Play Store;
- Web app: are browser-accessible applications that cannot be installed on a device, written in a cross-platform language such as HTML; these applications are not available in stores. If you try, for instance, to access Twitter from a mobile browser, you will see that the page that opens to you will have an interface very similar to the native Twitter app, but cannot be installed on the device;
The world of developers is divided on which is the best way to go, based on different characteristics typical of each type. In this article, I won't tell you what we think is the best approach, but I will list the pros and cons of commissioning one or the other type of app.
Let us start with native apps: these are the ones that interface with the mobile operating system in the most complete way. Since they are developed for that specific platform, they can fully interface with that platform's API, thus interacting completely with the hardware and software (or at least with the hardware and software parts made accessible by the platform manager). It follows that they will be able to exploit the most important functions of the device by integrating and enhancing them: we are talking about access to the camera, geolocation, pinch-to-zoom functions and many others.
Undoubtedly, this approach provides a sensational user experience, but it also has drawbacks: if you want to make the software available on multiple platforms, you will have to find someone who can programme in different languages. In addition, the development time will be very long since, although the end result is more or less the same on all platforms, the app will have to be written in different languages.
Native apps designed by us
- Club 41, mobile app developed to connect members of the association that boasts of having branches all over Italy. The mobile app in question allows members to consult the various dedicated directories, read published articles and register for various events.
- Dravet Diary, mobile app created for the recording of epileptic seizures related to Dravet syndrome, with the aim of creating a virtual medical record where the history of seizures, therapy and an area dedicated to document archiving can be collected.
As for web apps, they have the disadvantage of not being able to interface with the operating system's APIs and thus not being able to access the device's hardware and software. They are not installed on the device but on a web server, so they are only accessible online in 'responsive' mode. Their great advantage is that they do not particularly or not at all affect the RAM memory and calculation capacity of the device in use: in essence, if I have a smartphone with a mediocre processor and another with a powerful processor, the web app will run with the same performance on both. The difference here is a faster or slower Internet connection.
This approach is perfect for applications for which it is not strictly necessary to access the 'physical' functions of the device, and if you want to limit the time to market, it is probably right for you.
Hybrid apps, on the other hand, can be said to gather the positive aspects of the first two: very reduced time-to-market (I only have to programme once and then the code will be encapsulated, through certain operations, in the specific 'shells' consisting of the sources of each platform) and integration with the software and hardware functions of the device.
A hybrid app will never be as smooth and optimised as a native one, and will still require more development time than a web app. However, it might be the solution for you if you are looking for something that can be brought to market immediately at a relatively low price, or if the programmer you turn to does not know all the programming languages of mobile platforms.
Having said that, we at DevInterface simply believe that there is no one approach better than another. Our primary goal is to create an excellent product, and the approach we choose among the three will be defined according to your needs. For this reason, we would like to emphasise how important apps are nowadays even in the corporate sector.