Developing Hybrid Applications
Developing Hybrid Applications
The world of mobile applications has developed greatly throughout the years. The increasing number of platforms, such as Windows, Android, and iOS, along with the growing number of devices, and the desire of most companies to develop an app, has created a flooding of app developers in the market, as well as an abundance of various development tools. If at first, a developer had to be proficient in Objective C to develop an app for iOS; and to create the same app for Android, they had to also be proficient in Java, today there are sets of tools that enable the development of apps using a single development environment.
What is a Hybrid Application?
Advantages of Developing a Hybrid Application
The biggest advantage of developing hybrid applications is the ability to use the same code across all platforms (cross-platform). This saves you time and money during the development stage, as well as in maintaining the system overtime. Also, Web technologies are very popular, and there are many external libraries you can use to develop UI elements in a very simple and quick manner.
Disadvantages of Developing a Hybrid Application
The main disadvantage of using hybrid technology over the native language is in its performance. The WebView element often has a limited memory capacity and as such – limited performance capabilities. Also, native operating system components are developed with graphics and memory optimization in mind. All these make for a slicker feel in native applications, especially when the amount of UI elements is increased or when the complexity level is increased.
Tools for Developing Hybrid Applications
Many new tools for developing hybrid apps have emerged in the last few years: Xamarin, Cordova/Phonegap, React Native, Unity, Appcelerator and more. The main difference between these tools is the computer language they use for development, the level of complexity, and the number of plugins and external libraries that can be used in conjunction with the development tools. Below is a description of some of the tools:
Phonegap is without doubt the most common tool. It contains the largest number of plugin libraries. Development is done using JS, and plugin libraries are available for simplifying the development process even further (For example – Ionic which is almost entirely based on Cordova together with AngularJS).
Unity is a tool mostly used to develop two and three dimensional games. It contains complex physical and graphic engines, and allows for creating games across all platforms very quickly. Development is in C# and this platform contains a variety of external libraries and open-source code samples for different projects.
React Native is a relatively new tool based on ReactJS. This tool enables the use of JS coding for rendering the device’s native UI elements. Currently, the number of external libraries and the elements being used for this technology is relatively small.
Xamarin is a Microsoft tool which enables the use of the language C# for creating mainly web based mobile apps. As of today, this tool has not yet gained much popularity.
What to Check for when Choosing a Hybrid Development Tool
When choosing a development technology, you need to consider not only the programmer’s abilities and ease of use of the development tool, but also its maturity. If we want to develop a very basic application which does not include changes in the standard UI elements, React Native is likely an excellent solution (using native technology for creating basic native elements).
However, we should be aware that if we want our UI elements to perform uniquely, we need to be proficient in Java and Objective C or Swift when using React Native to achieve the desired result, as opposed to writing web based elements as in Phonegap, and we will actually lose the main advantage in hybrid development. It is also important to remember that elements such as WebView have a limited ability to access hardware, and quite often we will have to write add-ons in the native language in order to access complex device capabilities (i.e. push messaging, access to your contacts and more). Here too, the maturity of the technology has a tremendous advantage: Phonegap, for example, has a much bigger hardware component plugin stock than Xamarin does.
Is the Hybrid App Right for Me?
The most important thing to understand before choosing your development technology is the goal of the app and who is its target audience. An informative app whose main goal is to display information to the end user is mostly a good candidate for development with hybrid technology. Apps with basic animation or apps used as a Proof of Concept, or MVP’s, are also great examples for using hybrid technology, due to cost considerations. If, on the other hand, an app requires very detailed animation, or a large amount of information for display, or large multimedia files or complex logic (large videos, photo editing, virtual reality etc.), using Native technology would be a better option. Even if the app is relatively simple, the target audience may be sensitive to its performance capabilities (mostly young users who love technology). Also, if other apps in the industry have a high level of finishing and that is what the audience is accustomed to, you don’t want to cause disappointment or bring negative criticism.
In conclusion, the decision to develop a hybrid app should be based on a wide set of considerations, beginning with your budget and development timeline, through your users’ needs and its target audience, and ending with the level of competition and the user habits. I will stress that if you have chosen to develop a hybrid application, you should pay close attention to selecting the right development tools that will get you the desired results in the most efficient way.
Although it would seem easier to save a lot of energy by simply choosing Native technology, the savings you will eventually get in time and money from developing a hybrid app can exceed 50 percent, which will continue into the maintenance and improvement stage.