We all know that providing a positive mobile experience is key to business success. No matter what industry you’re in, your customers are on their smartphones – and expect your digital properties to keep up.
But when it comes to actually building mobile experiences, many companies get sticker shock at the cost of producing TWO totally native apps for both Android and iOS, and revert to a mobile web app instead.
However, while this approach of a single, cross-platform app can maximize integration, there’s no doubt that the user experience for your customers will suffer.
Fortunately, there’s another option — the hybrid mobile app.
What is a hybrid mobile app?
Before we get on to the benefits of hybrid apps, it’s important to understand what they are.
When you’re developing mobile experiences, you really have three options:
- You can develop a native mobile app which integrates with one of the main mobile operating systems (e.g. iOS, Android)
- You can develop a mobile web app (a website, usually in HTML 5, that mimics an app)
- Or you can develop a hybrid mobile app, which is somewhere between the latter two.
These options each come with their own benefits and drawbacks.
Generally speaking, native apps will provide the best experience due to their ability to use the most device-specific functionality (e.g. gestures, geolocation, access to the camera). Mobile web apps provide a positive user experience, but it does suffer due to its lack of specificity. However, they’re easy to build and easy to update. Plus, anyone can use them regardless of device.
And hybrid apps combine the benefits of both. Here are the four core benefits of hybrid apps.
1. You get a great user experience
The core benefit of a native app is that they provide the best user experience. But with a hybrid app, you can capture the majority of that native app UX while maintaining a simple backend structure.
Using development packages like Ionic and Intel XDK, you can build a UX that takes advantage of device-specific functionalities while still rolling out fixes across all platforms with a single update.
Plus, as your users shift from one device to another (e.g. from an Android phone to an iPad), the experience is identical and fluid.
2. Your apps are FAST
Again, native apps set the gold standard for speed. A native app will pretty much always be faster than other mobile development options.
However, a hybrid app isn’t exactly slow. They’re much faster than mobile web apps because they aren’t reliant on network communication. So even at peak times, your app is going to render quickly.
And if you’re looking at all mobile web solutions, a hybrid app is going to run considerably faster than a responsive website.
Google Play and the App Store have strict requirements for what’s allowed in. And given that these two marketplaces drove 17.2 billion downloads in Q1 2016 alone, it’s a giant pool of users to capture.
However, Google and Apple are stern gatekeepers and a key requirement for app submissions is that they be native or hybrid apps only.
If you’re going to put in the effort of building an app, it’s critical that you enable downloads through these stores. While some companies are unwilling to partner with Apple and Google (namely Amazon), unless you’re an Amazon-sized enterprise, it’s truly a non-starter to get customers away from these marketplaces.
And there’s no point in building any app at all if no one downloads it.
4. Offline use
Like native apps, hybrid mobile apps use the device’s API to store some data offline. That’s a big advantage for users who are watching their data consumption or have poor connectivity, and is a big drawcard for users on the go.
Passing in and out of coverage, using your app in transit or on a plane, or even just a desire to avoid roaming charges will all suppress app use if you require an internet connection.
Native apps remain the crème de la crème when it comes to mobile user experiences. However, their specificity is also their downfall — they are costly to build and costly to maintain.
Web apps, on the other hand, are relatively inexpensive to build, but can suffer when it comes to providing a great experience:
- They can be slow
- They require a constant internet connection
- They fail to take advantage of device functionality
Hybrid mobile apps combine the best of both worlds. Their integrated back-end mean its fast to develop and execute updates. And because they mimic some of the functionality of native apps, they get some of the device-specific benefits enjoyed by native apps, and their differences can go unnoticed by most-end users.
And of course, you only have to build one of them for all devices.
Building an app doesn’t have to bankrupt your development budget. With hybrid apps, you can provide an outstanding experience at a manageable price.
Got questions about mobile app development? We’ve got answers. Get in touch to see how we can help you!