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App Development
7 minutes read

Hybrid App Development: What You Need to Know

by Jose Gomez
App Development
7 minutes read

Hybrid app development has been growing in popularity for several years. With new smart devices being launched at an increasingly faster pace, the need for cross-platform software and responsive web design is in high demand. Now, more than ever before, applications need to be built in a flexible way so that users can enjoy the same dynamic features whether they are on their desktop, laptop, mobile phone, or tablet. That’s where hybrid apps come in. 

Hybrid apps are mobile applications that include elements from both native mobile apps and web apps to create a truly unique User Experience (UX). Where many native apps and web apps can fail to translate content depending on the device that the user is on, hybrid apps can be installed easily on a mobile or tablet, while still providing access to web-based content.

In this post, we discuss the features and capabilities of hybrid apps and whether hybrid app development is the right choice for your business.

Understanding Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps are perfect for businesses who would like to market their products and services to a wide audience base. These types of applications bridge the gap between native and web apps in the sense that they allow users to access the best of both worlds. Although both native apps and web apps have their own unique benefits, having to choose between one or the other can lead businesses to miss out on several opportunities to reach a larger market as well as lead users to perceive only a fragment of the full experience that the application is capable of providing.

Native vs Hybrid Apps

When a business opts to build a native mobile app, they are essentially developing an application that is specific to either the iOS or Android platform (or in the case of cross-platform app development, both). Because native apps are designed and built with a particular operating system in mind, coupled with the fact that these apps are running on the users’ devices, the User Experience tends to be much better than that of using a web or browser-reliant application. That being said, native apps may lack key elements that web applications can provide, and vice versa. A hybrid app can fill this void and eliminate this false dilemma.

Web vs Hybrid Apps

With a web app, also known as a cloud app, content is accessed and processed through the Internet instead of through an installed application, like a native app. However, web apps possess a larger bandwidth for pages, content, and more complex design elements (think animations, GIFs, CGI, and other advanced web components). While native apps can offer rich User Experiences, they may still end up with the equivalent of a watered-down version of the web-based application.

When businesses want to design an app that allows users the convenience of a native app while still allowing users to access web content without having to switch between an app and their browsers, hybrid applications offer the perfect solution. With a hybrid app, businesses no longer have to choose between building a native app or a web app. Instead, they can incorporate a spectrum of innovative features from both of these types of applications.

How Are Hybrid Apps Built and Accessed By Users? 

Like native apps, hybrid apps must be installed from the specific app store that pertains to the user’s device. Any updates to these apps can also be attained via the user’s respective app store. In this sense, it’s easy to mistake a hybrid app for a native app. However, the main differences pertain to the way hybrid apps are built. 

In order to incorporate elements from both native apps and web apps, the hybrid app development process requires the use of a container tool like Docker, and sometimes other components like WebView

What Are Containers? 

Containers hold files, software libraries, programming languages, and other dependencies, creating a consistent, sandboxed environment that is isolated from other applications and that can be manipulated and updated without affecting other operating system’s components. 

What Is a WebView?

A WebView is a component that enables web browser content to be displayed directly from within an application. It doesn’t actually feature any of the components of the full web app, but instead, offers a “sneak peek” of what is on the site. 

In a nutshell, a hybrid app will be coded using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, but the various web browser elements (the WebView) will be encapsulated within a native container for iOS and Android devices. Hybrid apps, essentially, will provide access to the inherent features associated with native apps, such as access to the device’s camera and photo library, location, notifications, and more.  

Hybrid App Development Tools

When it comes to hybrid app development, developers have several tools at their disposal to facilitate the management of these special applications. One such development tool is Kubernetes, a Google container orchestration software that automates different services and processes as well as helps streamline DevOps processes. Kubernetes is an excellent tool for hybrid app development because it allows the application’s software and hardware to be kept separate, meaning developers can access, modify, and deploy the app via physical servers and through cloud services

Advantages of Hybrid App Development

Besides offering the best of both native and web apps, hybrid apps offer a variety of additional benefits to both users and developers. Below are some of the reasons why hybrid app development is a popular choice for businesses that are thinking about building a new application. 

  • Developers can save time and DevOps costs since they just need to create the code for the web component of the hybrid app once and then deploy it across all platforms.
  • Similarly, the mobile code is written only once, unlike native app development, which requires iOS and Android codes to be built individually.
  • Unlike native iOS apps, hybrid apps do not need to be resubmitted to the Apple App Store every time there is a new version of the app if the native code is not altered, which would otherwise take up to a week for approval. Because they can save time, it is much easier for developers to make and deploy updates to hybrid apps.  

Disadvantages of Hybrid Apps

It’s important to understand that while hybrid apps offer several benefits and may be the right choice for the type of application you would like to build, they do have certain limitations. These are a few of them: 

  • Due to the fact that hybrid apps are not native to either iOS or Android, they will lack the uniform look and feel of a native User Interface (UI). While this may not be a problem necessarily, it may diminish the User Experience for some people. 
  • Additionally, hybrid apps are not inherently able to access the full range of features of each platform. To do so, developers will have to spend additional time creating specialized code or plugins. This can prolong the build and increase overall development costs.  
  • Because a WebView only provides a snapshot of a webpage, users will not be able to access the true features of the website. Certain complex elements will not be available to the user. 
  • Since hybrid apps are dependent on browser speed, users may experience a lag when using the app if they don’t have a strong connection. 

Build a Hybrid App Today

If you are thinking about building a hybrid application, it’s important to partner with a developer experienced in both native and web apps and who understands the complexities of integrating elements of each in order to design a hybrid app. 

Koombea’s developers have successfully designed and built custom hybrid applications and can help you do the same. Contact us today to speak with one of our team members and discuss the details of your hybrid app development project.  

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