Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hybrid vs Native mobile apps

This is an interesting question.
Few years ago, now late Steve Jobs proclaimed that HTML5 is the future of web development. Ok this needs to be viewed in a broader context, at that point in time Apple was waging a war against Flash and HTML 5 was a unlucky winner.
Steve Jobs quote:
They are lazy, Jobs says. They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it. They don’t do anything with the approaches that Apple is taking, like Carbon. Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy, he says. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.
Everything happening at that time finally led to a rise of hybrid mobile applications, or applications made from HTML5 and javascript but wrapped inside a native iOS or Android mobile application. Few years later we are living in a world where hybrid apps are slowly taking over native apps. At this point there are probably more living web developers then there are iOS/Android developers combined and a lot of them are trying to test their luck by creating a hybrid mobile app.
But is everything as it seams?

Hybrid apps:

  1. Quicker development, especially if you’re a a longtime web developer.
  2. 1 language can be used on every available platform. This, of course, requires a Phonegap wrapper. You don’t need to learn Objective C, Java, or C# to do any development. You need only to understand the basics of the Phonegap implementation. You will need to play with above-mentioned languages a bit but you don’t need to understand them.
  3. Phonegap can offer some native capabilities like iOS native tab bar or Android native tab bar and so much more.
  4. Lower budget costs and a huge community of supporters and developers.
  5. A hybrid app offers many of the advantages of both approaches access to the most common device APIs, and broad device coverage while not requiring the specialized skills, bigger budgets and longer time to market that are more typical of fully native apps. 
  1. You will piss blood after some time, literally and metaphorically.
  2. Mobile phones (even today’s tablets) are not fast enough to smoothly run a hybrid app, mobile JavaScript capabilities are bed at best. Android platform is a nightmare, page transitions don’t work smoothly not to mention lacking CSS/CSS3 implementation. If you think native Android 2.X and 4.X have differences take a look a Android 2.X bad JavaScript / CSS implementation. iOS fares better but still has a lacking CSS3 implementation thou much better page transitions. To make this short native apps will always have a better user experience and general feeling.
  3. You will spend much more time fixing the app then building it. Creating an app for each and every platform is a pain in the neck. Browsers on different platforms do not uniformly support all the latest HTML features and APIs, which can make developing and testing a challenge.
  4. If you don’t have a good designer, don’t even try to build an app; looks are everything.
  5. If you don’t know what are you doing there’s a good chance your app will not get permission for Apple app store. Even Google Play Store will ban your app if they discover a 3rd party Phonegap PayPal plugin.

Native apps:

  1. A native mobile app can produce the best user experience — fast and fluid, can give you the best access to device features, and can be discovered in the app stores.
  2. Without a doubt, native apps have full access to the underlying mobile platform. Native apps are usually very fast and polished, making them great for high performance apps or games. This is more then enough.
  1. Bigger budget, you will need at least a person/s with Java and Objective C knowledge, even C# if you want a Windows mobile app. Yes you can learn it yourself but don’t live under the illusion you will do so in a short time. If you have never done any development, choose Objective C (iOS is still a better platform). In other cases choose Java. Java has a syntax similar to other available languages, so it is easy to jump from C# to Java and vice-versa. Objective C is a world of it own. It has a rather uncommon syntax.
  2. It might take you a longer period of time to develop all of them and time is money. This depends on the complexity of the apps.