When you think about app development, the chances are that iOS and Android come to mind.
Most businesses who create a custom piece of software for smartphones will choose to launch on one or both of those platforms, and then transition towards other ecosystems like Windows and macOS.
However, if you’re considering an app for your firm, you should keep an open mind, considering the benefits of a cross-platform hybrid app as an alternative.
Built with a native foundation to allow interaction with hardware of all types – including smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs, and smart TVs – hybrid apps use web browsers to view and interact with HTML content seamlessly.
And Google and Apple are getting in on the action, with Android Instant Apps already allowing users to launch dedicated web apps from their smartphones without having to download anything; iOS 14 is set to introduce a similar feature to encourage users to spend more time on their devices without using the App Store.
Hybrid apps definitely offer a number of benefits, but won’t necessarily be the right option for your needs.
Below, we offer an introduction and round up the pros and cons of hybrid apps…
Introduction to Hybrid Apps
Before we delve deeper, let’s offer a quick look at what Hybrid Apps actually are.
Unlike iOS and Android apps, which are packaged exclusively for one ecosystem, hybrid apps run on browsers – like Safari and Chrome – with server-side and client-side scripting. An ecommerce store, for example, will host product information on their server, and allow users to access that product information and make an in-browser purchase, using Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Consider them a mobile version of your website, but with added functionality. Though hybrid apps are predominantly built with web languages such as HTML, they can tap into client-side APIs to offer additional services – like being able to take Apple Pay payments on the web.
The biggest advantages of hybrid apps
- Instant access: Unlike native apps, hybrid apps can be loaded through a link, which you can distribute through social media and email marketing. By immediately getting users to interact with your app, you’re bypassing common friction points (app stores).
- Cross-platform: The most obvious reason why businesses opt for hybrid apps is because they’re built for multiple platforms; so long as your users keep their web browser updated, they’ll be able to access your software on all of their devices.
- One-size-fits-all: Hybrid apps can cut development time, as most of the functionality can be built with existing languages like HTML, which are easier to develop and test on multiple platforms. An iOS app that takes three months to develop might be ready in a couple of weeks if you opt for a hybrid app instead, helping you launch faster.
- Offline access: On some hybrid apps, data can be stored locally for offline access – ideal if you’re offering functionality like mapping, video tutorials, or user manuals.
- Easy maintenance: Thanks to HTML and other web languages, hybrid apps are relatively easy to maintain; you don’t have to worry about new operating system releases that could change the infrastructure of your application or limit functionality.
- Affordable: Hybrid apps can be developed quickly and require less maintenance than iOS or Android apps, and are therefore much cheaper for small businesses.
- No need for approval: If you’ve ever developed an app, you’ll know how difficult it can be to overcome Apple and Google’s strict guidelines and operating system protocols – often requiring lots of back and forth. Web apps don’t require approval, making them the ideal choice for businesses looking to launch their software quickly.
- Automatic updates: Rather than having to submit changes to your app to the App Store and Play Store, and then wait for approval, your developer can instantly make amendments to your hybrid app and they’ll appear immediately. Every time a user logs onto your hybrid app, they’ll access the latest version, enhancing security.
Drawbacks of hybrid apps
- Limited functionality: Although hybrid apps are considerably more flexible as mobile web browsers gain new functionality and performance improvements, your developer won’t be able to access specific hardware features like augmented reality.
- Browser needed: Users will need to open their web browser to run your app, which requires more steps and a URL or bookmark. With a native iOS or Android app, your software will always appear on your users’ home screens. (There is a workaround.)
- Discoverability: As we’ve just touched upon, getting users to find and interact with your app can be tough without an App Store listing. Be creative with marketing and encourage users to bookmark your app or save it as an app shortcut on their phone.
- User management: Unless you ask users to create an account and log in whenever they load your app, you’ll struggle to collect usage and performance metrics which could improve your app. On the other hand, adding a login screen every time users load your app could limit engagement and increase abandonment and bounce rates.
Not sure whether to opt for a hybrid or native app for your software? Reach out to the agile app development experts here at Zudu for a free consultation on 01382 690 080 today.