Developing Native and Hybrid Apps 101
Many a time, we have come across chief business managers and executives who have had a tough time deciding on the kind of approach to adopt while developing a mobile application. That is, whether to go for a native application or a hybrid application. In order to help them make better and more informed decisions, we had put together the major features of both and some factors to consider while choosing a method of development on one of our previous articles – NATIVE Vs. HYBRID: Things to Know Before Building Your Next Mobile Application.
Here we discuss some important points on the development aspect of native as well as hybrid applications.
It is often much easier to develop a hybrid application than a native application and there are several reasons for that. Hybrid apps can also be developed a lot faster than native applications for the same reasons. These are the main development aspects of native and hybrid apps:
Programming languages used
In the case of native apps, there are specific languages used for specific Operating Systems or platforms. That is, Java is the language used for programming an Android app, Objective-C or Swift are the languages used for iOS apps and C# is the language for Windows Operating system. All of these have their own standard Software Development Kits (SDKs), which provide the necessary tools and interface elements for development. Native apps have full access to device capabilities like the camera, the contacts, the accelerometer etc. Hence, they perform better.
In the case of hybrid apps, the languages used depend on the type of hybrid technology that is used for development. Some of the most widely used hybrid technologies that are used today are PhoneGap, Flex, Corona, and Xamarin, although the latest and most popular ones are PhoneGap and Xamarin. The programming languages used for these technologies are as follows:
Flex – Actionscript for Flash
Corona – Lua
Xamarin – C#
The application is developed using these technologies, coded in their respective languages and is then hosted inside a native application’s web view. This enables them to have access to device-specific features like the camera and contacts.
In the case of native apps, the code has to be written from scratch. That is, each time an application is developed for a particular platform, the code for its programming has to be written from the beginning. For example, if a native mobile application has to be developed for both iOS and Android platforms, the coding has to be done wholly and separately for each platform. That is why, it requires more time and effort. Separate development teams have to be employed for both platforms and separate SDKs will have to be used with separate interface elements like text boxes and buttons, all of which add to the cost of the application.
On the other hand, in the case of hybrid apps, coding is a lot easier. Most of the code written to program an application to work in a particular platform can be reused for the same application to work in another platform. For example, if a hybrid mobile application has to be developed for iOS and Android platforms, most of the coding done for that application to work in iOS can be used as such while programming it for Android as well. It basically means that the coding need not be done from scratch, unlike native apps. It is for this reason that hybrid apps take much lesser time and effort. Since a single development team can be employed for the application, the cost also is fairly lesser when compared to native apps. Along with the programming code, plug-ins also need to be coded in the respective native language for hybrid apps, in order to enable hardware capabilities access.
User Interface (UI) Frameworks
In the case of native apps, just like programming languages, the UI frameworks used for the development of each application vary with the kind of platform. UI frameworks basically provide the user interface elements like buttons, radio buttons, checkboxes and textboxes and also contribute to the visual aspects of the app. They are responsible for the look and feel of the app. For example, IONIC is a UI framework that is used to build the interface of mobile applications mostly native. It is used with Cordova when developing applications and uses the language AngularJS. Similarly, Android apps use the framework bootstrap.
In case of hybrid apps, Intel XDK provides UI elements and allows you to build apps on any platform.
Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)
IDEs provide the facilities required for mobile app development. Most IDEs consist of a source code editor, building and automation tools and a debugger. They differ with the platform in case of native apps as follows:
iOS – XCode
Android – Eclipse
Windows – Visual Studio
In case of hybrid apps, the IDE used is part of the technologies that are used like PhoneGap and Xamarin.
Dependencies arise only in the case of hybrid apps since they make use of plug-ins coded using native language depending on the kind of platform. Plug-ins have to be coded in order to enable access to the device’s hardware capabilities as mentioned before. That way, they need code to program the app as well as for its plug-ins. In the case of native apps there are no such dependencies as they are coded entirely using their respective language according to the platform. Since they already have access to device capabilities, they do not need plug-ins.
These were the differences in the development aspect of native and hybrid apps. Even though native apps take a longer time and effort for development, they are better in terms of performance when compared to hybrid apps. Since native apps can use device features without the use of plug-ins, they are more accurate and much faster than hybrid apps.