Native versus Hybrid Mobile Apps, Which One Should a Company Build?

Written by: Guest Post on June 28, 2017

There are 854 million mobile subscriptions across the region – more phones than people. So does this mean that all businesses should have a mobile app?

Not necessarily. Despite the everyday use of a phone, a mobile app is only suitable for a handful of verticals, like fashion and electronics because of their ‘discovery potential’ and purchase frequency.

Source: Deloitte

A mobile app is also used for proximity marketing or to send out push notifications. For example, a business could target users with ‘location finder’ enabled on their phone, send a message to offer a discount at their nearest offline location, and increase foot traffic offline.

If a business can benefit from a mobile app, below are some pointers to know before building.

Native vs. Hybrid. What’s the main difference?

Native apps are built separately for either iOS or Android devices.

Hybrid apps are built on one framework that can be used for both iOS or Android devices.

Choosing one or the other is vital to a business’s performance depending on its goals. eIQ talks to Mandy Arbilo, Regional Project Manager at aCommerce, Southeast Asia’s leading ecommerce service provider, to find out the key features and differences between native and hybrid apps.

Native Apps

Time to build: 3-4 months per platform (iOS or Android)

Cost: $30,000-35,000 per app

Good if you need: Integration with third party applications such as Google Maps, including payment platforms such as Samsung pay, Android pay or Apple pay. Also recommended if the business requires functions such as store finder or a directory, as they are more accurate when integrated into a native app.

To note: Some brands are building an iOS app first to target the more affluent Apple device users that typically spend 2.5x more on in-app purchases than Android users. But if the aim to reach a wider demographic, building an Android app will be more effective in Southeast Asia.

Source: Deloitte

Native App Advantages

  • Faster, more responsive and reliable user experience than Hybrid
  • Allows push notifications to alert users when attention is needed in the app, this experience cannot be replicated in a Hybrid app.
  • Better integration to leverage device functionality i.e. camera, microphone and swipe functions
  • Native apps work with the mobile device’s built in features, so they are easier to work with and perform better on the device.

Native App Disadvantages

  • Dedicated developer to manage a codebase for each platform because iOS apps will not run on Android and vice versa
  • More expensive to build as brands would have to build two. Costs for maintenance can also be high.
  • Have to submit their app into the App store/Google Play store

Examples of Native apps:

  • Pokemon Go – Mobile game
  • Season – Thailand e-marketplace (mobile only)
  • Pomelo – Fashion brand

Hybrid Apps

Time to build: 3 months

Cost: $30,000 per app

Good if you need: Relatively affordable price to start your business and deploy an app into the hands of more customers as soon as possible. A hybrid is an MVP; a minimum value product and is a good cost-effective solution for brands that would like to target both Android and iOS users but are short on resources.

To note: The best way to explain a hybrid app is that it’s a fusion of a native app and a web app.

Users install a hybrid app like they would with a native, but it is actually a browser bundled inside the app. A hybrid app allows you to add new functionalities to both versions of your app through one codebase.

The process is similar to building a simple, responsive website.

The speed of your hybrid will depend on the user’s internet browser speed whereas native apps are less dependent on internet connection to work.

Hybrid Advantages

  • Development for hybrid apps are often less expensive than native app development
  • Hybrid apps are easier to scale onto another platform such as a Windows Mobile
  • Saves time and money because the one base requires less maintenance but the speed of the app will depend on the user’s internet browser speed

Hybrid Disadvantages

  • Performance is the hybrid app’s biggest setback because hybrid apps load in a browser like function called webview and are therefore only as good as the webview.

The webview is responsible for displaying the UI and running javascript. Google and Apple did not give webview the same engines used by their mobile browsers, Chrome and Safari, and therefore hybrids have not reached the level of a Native app’s performance.

  • The hybrid app needs to be tested on each platform to ensure it is properly responding as it has less access to the device’s functionalities
  • The UX of the app will suffer because the app’s components can not be customized to suit the behaviors of Apple or Android users exclusively.

“By building a hybrid app, you won’t be able to please both camps. Try too hard to customize the app based on the platform and it may end up costing the same as two native apps,” says Mandy.

Examples of Hybrid Apps

However, the following examples show that a hybrid app can be high functioning too (thanks HTML5).

  • Evernote
  • Amazon App Store
  • Uber
  • Instagram
Uber app

The final verdict?

“If you were to build an ecommerce app, or deploy a functionable platform with a decent sized budget, it’s advisable to go with a native application because of its high performance, integration with third party applications such as Google Maps app, and offline capabilities” says Mandy.

For those with smaller budgets, build a hybrid app first to test traction and if it shows potential for scale, dedicate resources into a native app. Facebook did it.

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