Hybrid App Development Guide for 2021

If you want to develop a mobile app, and you want to do it now, you should consider hybrid app development. The hybrid approach to mobile app development is becoming more and more common, and this is largely due to hybrid development technologies getting better and better at doing their job. 

While at one point, native app development could easily claim the title as the be-all and end-all of mobile development techniques, now this is up for dispute. Hybrid mobile app development has the same right as any other approach to enter the ring and claim its prize. 

But you might be wondering: what is hybrid app development? Diametrically opposed to native app development, it is the more convenient, yet riskier way to get things done if creating a mobile app is your goal. 

If you want to know whether hybrid app development will suit your mobile app business plan, stay tuned. You’ll learn why some of the most popular tech companies routinely opt for hybrid app development over native development.  

What Is Hybrid App Development?

Hybrid app development refers to mobile app development that borrows certain elements from native and web technologies. 

To understand exactly what hybrid app development is, you might need a brief preview of what native app development is. 

In native app development, software developers rely on native languages to create platform-specific mobile apps. 

For instance, Android developers have professional familiarity with Java and Kotlin, the official languages for Android development. Thus, if Android developers make Android apps using these languages, then they are taking part in native app development. 

To that same end, iOS uses Objective C and Swift as its official languages. Therefore, iOS developers who want to create native mobile apps for iPhones utilize those platform-specific languages. 

In hybrid app development, a developer might code some bits and pieces of an app natively, but they also may use JavaScript, CSS, and HTML to create a hybrid mobile web app that presents itself as a traditional mobile app via WebView components.

 

 

 

 

A hybrid mobile web app presents itself as a traditional mobile app via WebView components.

A WebView is a container of sorts that is able to display web content from what might look to the average user as a mere native mobile app. Most professional developers will also program native elements into their hybrid app to access the device’s hardware features if necessary. 

Hybrid app development is not to be confused with cross-platform app development. 

Although sometimes these concepts appear in conversation interchangeably, cross-platform development describes a more native approach where developers write their codebase in JavaScript and use bridging technology to encourage code shareability across platforms. 

What Are the Main Benefits of Hybrid App Development?

Overall, utilizing hybrid app development rather than native app development can offer a lot more convenience than otherwise. 

Here are the major benefits of hybrid app development: 

Cost

One of the most obvious benefits of hybrid app development is cost. When tech companies choose to go native for mobile app development, to guarantee accessibility, they must build multiple distinct apps for the different platforms they intend to release their app on. 

In most cases, this will at least double the cost of development, especially if these companies need to seek out specialized development teams relevant to the platform-specific technologies that they must use.

Hybrid app development by definition promises a high degree of code shareability. Developers only write one set of code so costs for initial development and maintenance remain low, or at least within reason. 

Efficiency

Using only one codebase is — needless to say — efficient. Code shareability from platform to platform inspires a more agile software development process where code is easier to build and manage. 

Time-To-Market (TTM)

Similarly, greater efficiency results in speed. The entirety of the software development process is far shorter when developers use hybrid app development versus native app development. 

Once you finish building your app, you can release it on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store simultaneously. 

You’ll have ample time to market your app and turn a profit quickly. Just as well, you can start gathering feedback on your app and making adjustments accordingly. 

Scalability

It is easier to scale hybrid apps as they rely on a single codebase. Going bigger and better with your hybrid app does not have to be complicated. 

For example, version updates look to just the one codebase and the same goes for integrations with other apps. A singular codebase means more reliable compatibility when scaling up.

Main Benefits of Hybrid Apps: Cost Reduction; Efficiency; Fast Time-To-Market; Scalability

What Are the Disadvantages of Hybrid App Development?

So far, hybrid app development probably seems pretty great. But everything is not as it seems. Pay close attention to the disadvantages of hybrid app development.

User Interface (UI)

Hybrid apps will never have the same sleekness and shine as native apps. Native apps simply look better. You can blame their aesthetic prowess on their close relationship to the native hardware they run on. 

Performance

For the same reason, user experience will also suffer. User navigation won’t be as fast when WebViews come into play. Transitions between pages will lose speed as well. 

While the difference may seem negligible, users often leave web pages within the first 10-20 seconds of visiting the page. Thus, performance issues can make or break the success of your app. 

Testability

Testing presents yet another factor to worry about. Since most hybrid apps include some native code, each test case must have numerous test scripts. The testing will also have to address differences to the graphical UI in a nuanced way. 

Interactivity

There are little to no popular gaming apps that owe their existence to hybrid app development. And that’s for good reason. 

Animation and graphics-intensive mobile applications do not mix well with hybrid development. WebViews plainly cannot support interactive and rich media apps. High interactivity is lost with hybrid app development.

What Are the Most Popular Hybrid App Development Tools?

There are several diverse technologies to use for hybrid app development. But by far, one of the most popular tools for hybrid app development is Ionic and its corresponding technologies. 

Ionic

Ionic itself is a framework and/or software development kit (SDK) based on HTML5. HTML5 is the latest version of HyperText Markup Language (HTML); the original HTML technology renders and structures text on webpages. 

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML’s partner in crime, manages the aesthetic elements of a web page such as fonts and colors.

HTML5 works with JavaScript and CSS to describe web pages. HTML5 in particular comes with the additional benefit of handling images and videos, not solely text.

Other features of Ionic include:

  • AngularJS, a JavaScript framework
  • Apache Cordova plugins
  • Ionic command-line interface (CLI)
  • Ionic View

Apache Cordova

Apache Cordova, often truncated to just ‘Cordova’, is an open-source mobile development framework. With the help of Ionic, Cordova wraps your web application into a native container using WebViews. 

Ionic provides platform-specific UI components for your mobile applications and Cordova ties that together with the other functionalities and solutions you need to create a native-like mobile application. 

Visual Studio

Visual Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) for code editing. For Ionic, Visual Studio is a canvas of sorts. Its primary use is to be the backdrop for creating and debugging Ionic apps. 

How Much Does Hybrid Development Cost?

Pinpointing the exact cost of hybrid development is not easy. Every app — no matter if it’s a hybrid, cross-platform, or native — shows large variations across the board when it comes to pricing. 

Some independent developers can create an app by themselves. And if such an app is simple in nature, then costs could be as low as $5000

On the other hand, costs can be as high as $500,000. This likely goes for larger, more complex apps where tech companies are willing to pay the price for native app development for the sake of performance. And they’re also willing to invest in a highly qualified team of software developers

One way to evaluate the cost of development is by calculating the total development time times the hourly rate of the developers involved. 

For instance, if you’re using Ionic, note that an Ionic developer in the United States makes about $52 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter data. By this standard, one month of development would equate to $8320

Keep in mind that development can take anywhere from three months to a year, depending on the complexity of your app. 

To see a reduction in development costs, you can consider outsourcing your software development team nearshore or offshore. 

South America is a popular location for outsourcing information technology (IT) and software development needs given its close proximity to the United States, hence time zones and language barriers are not sizable issues. 

7 Examples of Hybrid Apps

Despite the performance capabilities of hybrid apps, hybrid app development continues to be a frequent choice for some of the most well-known apps in app stores today.  

1. Uber

Uber is one of a few ride-sharing apps taking the world by storm by offering far cheaper rates than your average taxi service. 

The app features an easily navigable interface which plays a big role in getting people to and from daily destinations, requiring little more from the end-user than some clicks and a couple minutes of waiting. 

Uber uses a variety of technologies. While most of the business logic relies on JavaScript, Java and Objective-C are also present in Uber’s tech stack

2. Instagram

Instagram is a social media platform for sharing photos and videos. Mark Zuckerberg, who owns both Instagram and Facebook, admitted that his biggest mistake was using HTML5 for mobile app development instead of native. 

But Zuckerberg’s solution, React Native, does not exactly fit under the native umbrella either. Instead, React Native uses JavaScript but by some impressive means, can manage to generate native UI elements. 

There is heightened controversy on whether Instagram is cross-platform or hybrid in nature. Some even suggest it’s native. 

3. Twitter

Twitter is yet another social media application. However, Twitter centers short bursts of text — no longer than 140 characters — in turn for photos and videos.

Twitter has two mobile applications — Twitter and Twitter Lite. The former is native while the latter is hybrid. Twitter Lite is specifically a Progressive Web App (PWA)

In some ways, PWAs are distinct from hybrid and cross-platform apps as they only take advantage of web technologies.

4. Gmail

A long-standing Google service, Gmail is a free email service. The mobile app for Gmail uses HTML and runs with WebView technology. 

5. Evernote

Evernote is a note-taking app that can be useful for the busiest individuals around. This is thanks to its versatile feature set that extends the likes of formatting tools, media attachments, and multi-device sync. 

The architecture of Evernote is definitively complex, but it’s definitely hybrid. 

6. Amazon App Store

The Amazon App Store is like any other app store — it features games and apps of all kinds. Although the Amazon App Store is only available for Android, the mobile app makes use of HTML5 to furnish its hybrid app development. 

7. Apple App Store

Apple’s App Store should need no introduction. It is the store iOS users go to when they want to buy and install apps. 

Ironically, the app store itself is not native, but hybrid. There are some native elements but ultimately the Apple App Store sticks to hybrid app development.

Some Examples of Hybrid Apps: Uber; Instagram; Gmail; Twitter; Evernote

Conclusion

Hybrid app development isn’t for everyone. You saw yourself that hybrid app development comes with its own set of disadvantages, a lower capacity for high performance being the most significant setback. 

Still, hybrid app development comes with many advantages. It can save you time and money. Knowing that some of the most popular apps today exist because of hybrid app development also adds some brownie points to hybrid app development’s case. 

Want to learn more about mobile app development? You’re right where you need to be. Check out some in-depth resources on mobile development on Trio’s blog. 

 

 

 

 

Cordenne Brewster

Content Writer

About

A tech enthusiast whose ardor is best expressed through the written word.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Hybrid app development refers to mobile app development that borrows certain elements from native and web technologies.

The main benefits of hybrid app development are reduced costs, efficiency, quick time-to-market, and scalability.

The disadvantages of hybrid app development are a less-than-optimal user interface, slower performance, decreased testability, and diminished interactivity.