Hybrid Mobile Application Development: The What, Why and How

Whether your business is small, medium, or large, whether your business focus is in retail, manufacturing, media, finance, healthcare, fitness or technology, there is a good chance that your enterprise can benefit from mobile application development. Today’s business user and consumer is used to having access to tasks, activities, special interests, news and entertainment and work processes and, in an age where mobile devices rule the world, that access must be mobile. If you want to understand why mobile app development is important, consider this: Mobile applications allow your business to expand its market and competitive advantage and ensure customer satisfaction.

In most cases, a business cannot isolate and dictate the devices its consumers and/or business users prefer. Even if your business provides its team members with an Android or iPhone device, that user is likely to have more than one device and those devices may not use the same operating system.

Given this reality, the wise organization will choose to develop its mobile application using cross-platform mobile development. Cross-platform app development ensures that business team members and consumers can access your mobile app, no matter the device they are using.

‘There are many options for hybrid mobile app development, and it is crucial that your selected IT partner understand all of those options and that they can accurately and effectively advise you on the best option for your project.’

In this article, we will discuss cross-platform mobile application development, otherwise known as Hybrid Mobile App Development. We will define the technology, the pros and cons of this approach, and how to decide whether to use hybrid mobile apps, and we will provide a list of considerations to include when selecting a hybrid mobile app development partner.

What is Hybrid Mobile App Development?

Now that we have piqued your interest, we should answer the question, ‘what is hybrid app development.’ In order to give you a complete picture of this approach, we must also tell you about the alternative.

While Hybrid Mobile Apps provide access via Android and iOS (Apple) operating systems, native mobile applications are designed to comply with and operate within only one of the two operating systems, either Android or iOS.

Hybrid Mobile Apps – What are hybrid mobile apps. Hybrid mobile apps blend the native and web application approach with the foundational code written with web technologies like HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Tech Target defines a Hybrid Mobile App as ‘a software app that combines elements of both native and web applications. Hybrid apps are essentially web apps that have a native app shell.’

This approach allows users to access the application via iOS and Android devices. Hybrid mobile app developers can write the code once and deploy it across iOS and Android platforms, so implementation and upgrade is easy and fast.

Native Mobile Apps – When we consider native vs hybrid apps, the biggest difference is that the native app is designed and developed using code that supports the iOS OR the Android environment (not both). Developers use Java or Swift, etc. to create the solution. When a business considers hybrid vs. native applications, it must decide whether to release and support one native app for Android or iOS or to design and develop two separate solutions (one for Android and one for iOS) and maintain and upgrade two versions of the solutions as the application and user needs evolve.

If your business is trying to decide whether mobile application development, and specifically, hybrid mobile application development, is right for your enterprise, you may wonder what you can do with this technology.

Here are a few examples of existing business applications to help you understand the value and use of hybrid app development:

Social Media – Businesses like Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and WhatsApp use hybrid apps in a very different way. Whereas Instagram and X look to engage users and support ranking, popularity and community, WhatsApp leverages hybrid development to create an app that is used for communication, messaging, and international access to friends, family and co-workers.

Reservation Systems – Uber and other well-known businesses use hybrid apps to allow customers to book and pay for services, with user-friendly features that allow for ranking, check the status of delivery or arrival, etc.

Communication and Integration – Companies like Gmail provide apps to communicate with friends and co-workers and integrate that functionality with document storage and editing and other applications and features, including video conferencing.

Image and Data Design and Synchronization – Evernote is a great example of how hybrid mobile apps are used to provide a secured interface for scanning, image capture via built-in camera, data synchronization and design features. This app also allows for collaboration and discussion and permits users to make notes.

Banking and Crypto Accounts – Hybrid mobile apps are used to manage accounts and monitor the status of financial investments and/or cryptocurrency investments.

App Stores – The Amazon and Apple App Stores were developed as hybrid mobile applications. Here you can search for and find games, media apps, entertainment apps…in short any kind of app you might need, and download those apps, and you can return to the site to upgrade the app or to find reviews and information about apps.

Streaming – There are mobile apps designed and developed to enable streaming of programs and content from your favorite streaming networks. These apps include the ability to access and login to your streaming account for a particular service, so you can keep all your content and services in one interface for your viewing pleasure. Shopping and eCommerce – Hybrid mobile apps allow for product searches, and some even allow you to virtually ‘try on’ clothing, using an image of yourself and a product image. You can pay with your favorite payment app, using integrated payment platforms and you can track shipping with integrated shipment apps that provide updates on the status of your shipment. Forbes reports that an impressive 37 of the Top 50 retail apps in America are hybrid.

Pros and Cons of Hybrid Mobile App Development

Before you consider hybrid mobile application development for your business, it is important to understand why mobile app development is important and the advantages of hybrid mobile app development as well as the tradeoffs. There are many reasons that a hybrid mobile application can be valuable to your business, so let’s start with the benefits of hybrid mobile application development.

Advantages of Hybrid Mobile App Development

Mobile App Daily lists a number of advantages to Hybrid Mobile Application Development. We have listed those benefits that we consider the most important in this section:

Single Code-Base – The ability to design, develop, maintain and upgrade only one code, means that you don’t need as many resources, or as much time to complete a project or to fix bugs or upgrade a solution.

Reduced Cost – By using common code, the business can reduce costs for resources and time to market.

Availability of Resources – Taking the hybrid mobile application approach means that developers do not need to learn and stay abreast of training on separate languages.

Easy Maintenance – Hybrid mobile apps are easy to maintain, and the business can avoid maintenance of two native apps, because the hybrid app uses only one code base. Hybrid apps do not require versioning, so general maintenance and support is easier and less complex. 

Scalability and Loading – Hybrid mobile apps work well, even with a slow internet connection. These apps load content faster than their native app and web app counterparts, and can accommodate graphics, images, video, etc. These hybrid apps function on iOS and Android devices and support third-party plug-ins.

Integration – Hybrid mobile apps allow easy synchronization and integration with other applications, so users can leverage GPS, messaging and camera apps without issue.

App Stores – Both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store allow hybrid mobile apps, meaning you can reach users with both Android and iOS devices, thereby expanding your market and reach.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Mobile App Development

Here are a few examples of the issues you may encounter when developing a hybrid mobile application:

Restrictions of Operating System – Because the Hybrid Mobile App development environment utilizes one code base, some of the native features for iOS and Android are not available. For applications with complex features, this means that the development team cannot capitalize on native features to ensure quality and stable performance. Developers may not be able to access and leverage the specific features of one or both of the operating systems (OS).

User Experience (Ux) – Designing and developing for hybrid mobile apps can mean that a developer must balance how the user experiences a feature or function in iOS vs. Android. When using the same code base, one operating system (OS) may provide a better user experience than the other.

Limitations of Plug-Ins – Third-party plug-ins for hybrid mobile apps may fall short of what developers want to accomplish when compared to native operating system plug-ins.

Performance – For complex mobile applications, the performance of a hybrid mobile app may be a bit slower. Simple, small applications are rarely an issue. Hybrid mobile apps do not handle 3D graphics well, though developers can use third-party plug-ins to resolve this issue.

Bug Fixes – Unless your development team has experience and skill in both iOS and Android operating systems (OS), it can be difficult to find the exact cause of an issue in the single code base for a hybrid mobile application. There are many reasons to choose the right IT partner to help you with your hybrid mobile application. Not the least of these is the skill and experience required to identify and fix bugs in a hybrid mobile app.

Now that we have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid app development, let’s look at the factors that will affect your decision to choose hybrid mobile app development.

How Do I Decide Whether to Use Hybrid Mobile App Development

As with any software or technology project, the decision to take a particular approach should be based on your requirements, your target audience and your market. Here are a few of the factors you should consider, before choosing the hybrid mobile app development approach for your project.

Requirements – Does your project lend itself to hybrid mobile app development vs. native mobile app development? What are the features and functionality you require? You will need to develop a detailed feature set and have a good understanding of how the native vs. hybrid approach will impact your ability to meet these requirements. Work with your IT partner to determine whether the hybrid mobile app approach is best for your business needs.

Target Audience/Users – Who will be using your solution? Do you have a good understanding of what they expect and want and an understanding of their skills and buying or user adoption behavior? If you don’t know who will be using your hybrid mobile app, how they will be using it, or whether they are likely to adopt your solution based on gaps in the market, competitive strategies and your own branding and market position, you should gather this research. It will inform which approach you take and how your development team chooses to address your users to provide the right user experience (Ux) and user interface (UI).

Upgrades, Development, Time to Market – What is your expected schedule? Is it reasonable to expect that you can complete your project using the hybrid mobile app approach? What is your time-to-market estimate? Do you have a plan for upgrades and a roadmap to get your product to its completion? Does this roadmap involve more than one major release?

Devices, Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) and Operating System Considerations – Does your market strategy involve compliance with Android AND iOS? If so, are you better served to take the hybrid mobile application approach or are you considering the development of your solution in both native operating systems (OS)? If so, have you planned for the extra resources, training, expenses and time to complete two separate versions of your application? If yours is a business application, do you have a bring-your-own device (BYOD) environment where you will be required to comply with both Android and iOS? What market advantages can you enjoy by creating a hybrid mobile app that is suitable for both operating systems?

Budget, Schedule, Resources – Once you have an idea of your requirements, your market and your needs, you must carefully plan your budget, and lay out a reasonable schedule for completion and launch. Will you use in-house resources to develop and launch your solution? If so, are you certain that you have the right training and skills to choose the best hybrid app development platform, hybrid mobile app development frameworks, and tools and languages, and to execute the project on-time, and perform maintenance, bug fixes and upgrades? If you are choosing an expert IT partner to help you with your project, be sure you have a comprehensive understanding of your requirements and your customer needs before you select your partner. This will help you and your chosen IT consultant to develop and execute a strategy.

Hire Hybrid Mobile App Developers

When you are ready to consider an IT partner for your hybrid mobile app development solution, be sure that you select a partner with a rich set of skills and experience in cross-platform app development frameworks. Cross-platform mobile app development requires a specific and particular skillset, and that skillset can dictate project success or failure.

Skills and Experience in Cross-Platform Mobile Development

Hybrid mobile application development requires numerous skills and team focus including:

  • User Interface (UI) conceptualization and design
  • User Experience (Ux) focus with an understanding of both iOS and Android environs
  • Mobile App architecture, design and development
  • Mobile App manual and automated testing
  • Integration with portals, enterprise apps and content management systems (CMS)
  • Web application and web services integration
  • Smart watch application integration
  • Mobile app migration and upgrade
  • Configuration of mobile apps on app stores
  • Testing, bug fixes and upgrade planning for mobile apps
  • Dedicated resources with appropriate skills

Top Cross-Platform Development Frameworks

When considering an IT partner, be sure that the partner has experience in all popular hybrid mobile application development frameworks and tools. Cross-platform app development requires that the partner carefully examine your requirements and choose the right frameworks and languages to suit your needs.

‘A business cannot isolate and dictate the devices its consumers and/or business users prefer. Even if your business provides its team members with an Android or iPhone device, that user is likely to have more than one device and those devices may not use the same operating system.’

A recent Statista survey lists the top hybrid mobile app development frameworks as: Flutter, React Native, Cordova, Ionic, Xamarin, Unity and NativeScript, while Sitepoint lists Ionic among the top selections.

There are many options for hybrid mobile app development, and it is crucial that your selected IT partner understand all of those options and that they can accurately and effectively advise you on the best option for your project. Be sure that the vendor you consider has knowledge and experience with all the top frameworks, including:

FlutterThe Flutter environment is a rich hybrid mobile application environment. To understand the Flutter advantages, read our free article, ‘Understand Flutter Programming: What Is It and Should Your Business Use it for Mobile App.’

Ionic – Ionic allows developers to choose from a variety of technologies like CSS3, JavaScript and HTML6. To understand Ionic cross-platform technology, read our free article,’3 Things You Should Know About Ionic Framework.’

Apache Cordova – Cordova provides robust support for developers and ensures that the business app will meet organizational and customer requirements. To understand how Cordova can support the cross-platform approach, read our free article, ‘3 Benefits of Cross-Platform Mobile Application Development.’

React Native – React Native is a Facebook product that supports high-performance hybrid mobile applications and third-party plugins. To understand React Native and hybrid mobile app development options, read our free article, ‘4 Great Hybrid Mobile Application Development Tools to Help Your Project Succeed.’

It is important to note that there are other frameworks and skills that are crucial to the hybrid mobile application market and domain. If you want to succeed with your hybrid mobile application project, be sure you consider the skills and experience your prospective IT consultant brings to this project and whether these services and skills will be dedicated to your project throughout its lifecycle.

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Find out if Hybrid Mobile Application Development is right for your mobile app and/or smart watch project, and Build Your Software Team with dedicated resources. Discover the benefits and components of mobile application development technology, and the hybrid mobile app development environment, with these complementary articles: ‘Mobile App Development is Important to Business, So Are Mobile App Programmers,’ ‘What are the Pros and Cons of Flutter Programming?.’

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