Going Hybrid or Cross-Platform? How to Choose the Right Mobile App Approach

You have a great app idea that you want to bring to both iOS and Android users. But should you build native apps specific to each mobile platform, or take a different approach? Two options are creating a hybrid mobile app or a cross-platform mobile app. There definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula, so selecting the app development approach that best supports your business’s objectives and helps drive its greatest value requires first understanding the ins and outs of each development method and how they differ from each other. Here's an easy-to-understand guide to the hybrid vs. cross-platform debate.

What are Native Apps?

First let’s define the key terms. A native app is developed specifically for a given mobile operating system, like iOS or Android. Developers build native apps from scratch using tools and programming languages customized for each platform.

For example, native iOS apps are coded in Swift or Objective-C. Native Android apps use Java or Kotlin. Native apps have a very smooth, responsive, and personalized user experience and can access all built-in phone features like the camera or GPS. The native approach is usually used for building highly complex mobile apps that include heavy data processing (product inventory apps), complex animations and graphics (gaming apps), and targeted functionality like Bluetooth peripherals or Touch ID.

However, native app development requires heavy maintenance, time and expertise with multiple programming languages and SDKs. Also, the same app logic needs to be implemented separately for each target platform. This is where partnering with experienced mobile app developers in Kuwait can help streamline the process.

Click here to learn more about native apps.

Introducing Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps aim to be the best of both worlds. They are a combination of native and web applications, built using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. They allow code reuse across platforms, reducing time and costs compared to native development.

Hybrid apps use “bridging frameworks” like Apache Cordova or Ionic’s Capacitor to package the web code into a native wrapper. This creates an app that can be distributed on app stores and installed locally on devices.

The web code accesses device APIs via the bridging framework. So unlike a regular web app, hybrid apps can tap into some native capabilities like cameras, GPS, touch ID/face ID, notifications, device accelerometer, and get access to device contacts/calendar.

There are some downsides to the hybrid approach as well. For one, the user experience and navigation pattern may not be as smooth as a pure native app. Inconsistencies in user interfaces (UI) across systems may also be a challenge. These apps may exhibit choppy animations or transitions compared to well-optimized native apps and performance can degrade over time as the app codebase grows.

Still, hybrid apps provide a reasonably good mobile user experience while avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel for each platform. This is why many app development companies in Kuwait leverage hybrid approaches for certain projects.

When Should You Develop a Hybrid App?

  • When you have an existing web app and wish to reach mobile users in a quick and cost-effective way
  • Need quick time-to-market over maximizing performance
  • For minimal viable product testing so that you can get market validation cost-efficiently before investing in a full native app.
  • For apps with simple functionality like line-of-business, catalog, content or form-based apps.
  • When the budget is tight and resources are limited, and you want to build an app for both Android and iOS.
  • For prototyping and demoing an app on multiple platforms while keeping costs down.
  • For rapid iteration of features across platforms.
  • When custom UI is not a priority and you would rather focus on backend app functionality.

What About Cross-Platform Apps?

Cross-platform app approaches are relatively newer to the scene. As in hybrid apps, the goal is to share as much code as possible across mobile operating systems. But instead of using web languages, cross-platform apps use a single native framework like React Native, Flutter, or Xamarin to write the shared code.

The developer writes app logic in languages like JavaScript or C# using these frameworks. The framework then handles compiling the code into native binaries for each target platform.

So user experience, performance, and functionality with cross-platform apps can be comparable to fully native ones. At the same time, these frameworks allow developers to reuse around 90% of their code across different mobile OSes. This makes cross-platform a popular choice for mobile application development in Kuwait.

Comparing Hybrid and Cross-Platform Approaches

Hybrid and cross-platform apps are often mistaken as the same thing. However, the only similarity between them is that they allow code sharing and reusing.

To summarize their key differences:

  • Hybrid apps use web languages like HTML and JavaScript, while cross-platform apps use languages like React and C# that compiles into native code.
  • Hybrid apps have a web app embedded in a native shell, while cross-platform apps are fully native end-to-end.
  • Hybrid apps can sometimes suffer performance glitches, while cross-platform apps typically match native performance.
  • Hybrid apps only have limited access to native phone features, while cross-platform apps can directly access the full range of device capabilities.

When Should You Develop a Cross-platform App?

  • If you are building a new mobile-first app from scratch.
  • When you require complex native device integrations like games, data visualization, video editing, etc.
  • When you can invest more upfront for better user experience and long-term performance.

In summary, hybrid and cross-platform approaches each have their own pros and cons compared to fully native development.

  • Native development delivers polished, customized UX and full access to device capabilities. Ideal when experience and capabilities are critical.
  • Hybrid apps allow for cross-platform development at low cost, but may compromise on user experience and performance. Best for simple apps or converting existing web apps.
  • Cross-platform apps provide closer to native performance and UX while maximizing code reuse. Better suited for complex, high performance apps.

Evaluating priorities across budget, timelines, capabilities needed, and target user experience is important in deciding the right approach. Partnering with an experienced mobile app development company in Kuwait, like Design Master, can further guide you in making smart choices for your business. Contact us to get started today!

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