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Native vs. Hybrid vs. PWA: the pros and cons

In a world full of technologies, it is great to know that there are many ways to build and deliver mobile applications using different methods. Wondering what could be the best option for app development, considering all the changes it may suffer? Then, it's time to save this article in the favorites tab.

This blog post will look at Native, Hybrid, and PWA app development pros and cons, making a difference comparison between them and helping decide what could be the best choice.

So, what kind of app needs to be developed?

First of all, users' preferences and needs should be targeted, considering some aspects like:

  • Operating system: make sure which one do they use the most. Is it iOS or Android? Or both? Understanding what kind of app needs to be developed will prevent time and resources waist;

  • Time and budget: each technology have different time and budget requirements, so it is essential to estimate the projects' needs wisely;

  • Type of app: depending on the type of app to be developed, choosing the right technology is crucial since they will need different coding practices.

In short, several things need to be considered before start developing. So, what are the real differences between Native, Hybrid, and PWA apps? Let's check it.

Native app development (Objective-C / Swift & Java / Kotlin)

Native apps are written in code languages specific to the particular operating system that they are developed for. First, it was Java for Android and Objective-C for iOS but, due to the fast-paced software development we faced since the last few decades, these technologies have been replaced by Kotlin (Android) and Swift (iOS).

Being tailor-made to specific operating systems, these applications can fully benefit from their native features and easily integrate with the entire ecosystem. However, it has its disadvantages, so they must be scanned first to understand if they fit the needs. Let's check:

The Pros:

  • Fast performance due to simpler code and ecosystem's support (maintenance and development stability);
  • Higher security (protected by many different layers of an operating system which makes them difficult to exploit);
  • Longer release cycles (more secure, well-tested, and reliable software);
  • Robust functioning in an offline environment;
  • Better UX/UI (exclusive/custom APIs and components optimized for different screen sizes and system versions);
  • Immediate implementations (features can be implemented as soon as they are released to developers);
  • Easy to prevent bugs and technical problems;
  • Provide layouts for each platform;
  • Non-dependence on open-source libraries/third-party frameworks;
  • Faster to configure (only compatible with one platform allowing to use any new features);
  • Payment integration;
  • Access to hardware features (quick and easy to implement).

The Cons:

  • Takes longer and is more expensive to have them simultaneously on iOs and Android;
  • Adding new features requires separate codebases;
  • Need a bigger team of specialists in native languages.

Best to use when:

  • Only need to code for one platform and use specific hardware features (GPS and camera, for example);
  • Want to give the best user experience removing complex and unnecessary features;
  • For 3D games or apps with many animations.

Hybrid app development

Hybrid app development combines elements of both native and web apps. They allow developers to code in one single language that can run in different operating systems.

They are written using web technologies (Javascript, HTML, and CSS) but, instead of the app being shown within the user's browsers, it is run from within a native app and its embedded browser. Let's take a look at its advantages and limitations:

The Pros:

  • Lower development costs (especially when creating for several different platforms);
  • Shorter time-to-market period (same back-end for all variants);
  • Easier maintenance (based on web solutions);
  • Easier to add new features (due to one codebase);
  • Possibility to use device features (native APIs are available);
  • Integration with Web-based services;
  • Have an embedded browser (to improve access to dynamic online content);
  • Can work offline depending on the functionalities.

The Cons:

  • Complex apps with many features will run slower;
  • Rely on system browser security;
  • New features implementation can suffer delays;
  • Having just one codebase means the app run equally everywhere (could not perform specific iOS or Android features);

Best to use when:

  • Have a simple project based on content (no animations or complex features);
  • Need to release on both iOS and Android and (not needing to use many native components);
  • Want to test a project idea (Minimum Viable Product).

PWA (Progressive Web Apps)

Progressive web apps are relatively new to this app development scenario, having had more widespread adoption in the latest years. These are web apps that seek to appear and act exactly like the native ones.

But what does that mean? It means PWAs can be installed and accessed on mobile devices (works offline and send push notifications) and can also use hardware features like camera and GPS. The user experience is optimized for each platform and there are no dedicated languages or frameworks for Progressive Web Apps (usually done in Angular or React). Let's check it:

The Pros:

  • Access on different platforms and devices;
  • These apps can be found online in the browser (no app store needed);
  • Loading speed;
  • Work offline;
  • Cheaper and faster do develop (50%-75% less time than traditional native mobile development);
  • Good responsiveness (easy adapt to different screen sizes);
  • User interaction and navigation is identical to native apps;
  • No need to install it (free from app stores, lengthy downloads, and updates).

The Cons:

  • Hardware and operating system features limitations;
  • Hardware integration problems;
  • Weaker performance on iOS;
  • Little support for Apple devices;
  • Not available on app stores;
  • Needs more battery power.

Best to use when:

  • Want a robust e-commerce experience;
  • Want higher traffic (available on all devices).

Conclusion

As it shows, there are many differences between each one of these types of apps. Choosing the best option will rely on many factors, such as the product, the audience for whom it is intended, the timeline, the budget, and above all, the core business.

Focusing on the project's needs is halfway to success, so it is vital to analyze its complexity and limitations. Considering the user's behavior and characteristics, it is possible to have time and cost-efficiency app development.

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