Hybrid Mobile Applications on the Rise

10 Mar 2016

To help alleviate the development time and maintenance related to the multiple code bases of native mobile apps, hybrid mobile applications have emerged as a solution. Hybrid app development’s key benefit is the ability to develop in a single language and maintain a single code base while running the app across multiple devices. In addition, hybrid apps can allow developers to work with a programming language they are more familiar with. For instance, a web developer could develop a web application using HTML/CSS/JavaScript or AngularJS, then use a platform such as Ionic Framework to embed the application in an app and have it available on the Google Play Store, as well as Apple’s App Store.

What are Hybrid Mobile Applications?

Hybrid mobile apps are like any other apps you’ll find on your phone. They install on your device. You can find them in app stores. You can play games, engage your friends through social media, take photos, track your health, and much more. Hybrid apps are hosted inside a native application that utilizes a mobile platform’s WebView. This enables the hybrid mobile application to access device capabilities such as the accelerometer, camera, contacts, and more. These are capabilities that are often restricted to access from inside mobile browsers. Furthermore, hybrid mobile apps can include native UI elements where necessary.

Hybrid Mobile Applications

How do Hybrid Mobile Applications differ from Native Mobile Apps?

A well-written hybrid app shouldn’t look or behave any differently than its native equivalent. More importantly, users don’t care either way. They simply want an application that works well. Trying to figure out if a mobile application is hybrid or native is like trying to differentiate different brands of bottled water. Unless your someone who really cares about it, it’s not terribly important. What matters is that the water hydrates you. The same can be said for hybrid mobile applications; so long as the application does what it’s supposed to do, who really cares how it was built?

How are Hybrid Mobile Applications Built?

Hybrid mobile applications are built similar to developing a website. Developers use technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. However, instead of targeting a mobile browser, hybrid applications target a WebView hosted inside a native container. This enables them to do things like access hardware capabilities of the mobile device.

Today, most hybrid mobile applications leverage Apache Cordova, a platform that provides a consistent set of JavaScript APIs to access device capabilities through plug-ins, which are built with native code. As a side note, Apache Cordova originally started as a project named PhoneGap. These days, PhoneGap exists as a distribution of Apache Cordova that includes additional tools. A platform that is rather new on the scene that our developers love to use is Ionic Framework. Ionic makes it incredibly easy to build beautiful and interactive mobile apps using HTML5 and AngularJs.

When to choose to develop a hybrid mobile app?

Before committing to a mobile development strategy, it’s important to evaluate the technical and non-technical merits of hybrid versus alternatives like web and native. For example:

  • Which mobile platforms do you wish to target?
  • Do you want to distribute your application via app stores?
  • Are you looking to utilize the capabilities of the mobile device?
  • What is your budget and timeline?

These and other questions are worth asking before embarking upon development of a mobile application.

Don’t know if you need a native mobile app or if a hybrid mobile application will fit your needs? Let us evaluate your project requirements and give you input today!

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