Hybrid applications can be defined as applications that run both natively on mobile devices and through browsers on the web. Hybrid applications are extremely popular as they reduce the time taken to develop the application as well as make web applications more effective by allowing them to access various hardware features. For instance, hybrid apps allow the use of the camera, accelerometer, proximity sensor, GPS, and other various hardware which otherwise require native installation.
Also, hybrid applications can be seen as safer for those who value their privacy as unlike native applications, they are unable to use hardware resources once the browser or container is closed. Native applications on the other hand are able to use hardware such as GPS and internet connectivity even after the user exits the application. On the other hand, web applications are not able to fully utilize the hardware and are vulnerable to crashing if the user’s device is not too powerful and the client (browser) hangs.
So, what does a hybrid app mean? A hybrid app can be simply defined as an application that has features similar to a native app but is structurally similar to a web application. Due to having a fluid structure and native container, hybrid applications offer multiple benefits.
Through hybrid apps, one can add native elements from different platforms such as iOS and Android, which further allow us to use various platform-specific features. Hybrid apps are also great for providing a cross-platform experience.
Popular platforms and applications must provide the same quality of user experience across all the operating systems and devices a user can run the app on. For example, if the UI/UX (user interface/user experience) and features of Instagram would be different in web browsers on iOS and Android devices, the experience would not be standardized.
This would not be a good scenario and it would lead to many users feeling deprived and confused. Also, users on other devices would not be able to access certain features that are not supported by their OS’s version of the application.
With the help of a comprehensive full stack web development course, you can easily learn how to make hybrid apps that can run across multiple platforms.
What are Hybrid Apps?
Hybrid apps are applications that have a structure that works in multiple types of environments such as web and native mobile environments. Hybrid apps are known to possess native containers that allow full-fledged access to a mobile device’s hardware as seen in installed applications. These hybrid apps can access the same kind of APIs to connect to various services like in the applications we install from Play Store or App Store.
Hybrid applications are foundationally web applications with native features. With the help of native containers, hybrid applications can summon various features of the hardware that are OS-specific. For instance, with the help of hybrid applications, we can use the capabilities of an iOS system while we cannot even run an Android application on iOS.
With native API requests, these applications can use our signed-in Google accounts, calendar, phone log, contacts, and other various features from our mobile devices. For example, a hybrid app that offers an AR (augmented reality) experience would be able to use our camera much more effectively for live video processing.
What are Native Apps?
Native apps are applications that are developed to run on platforms such as iOS and Android. Native applications are developed using IDEs such as Swift or Kotlin. Notably, Kotlin allows us to develop Android applications while Swift and Objective C allow us to develop applications for iOS. Native applications are generally not cross-platform and are OS-specific.
However, with technologies such as React Native, we can also build cross-platform native applications that can run on multiple types of operating systems.
With technology stacks such as MERN, we are also able to develop native applications. However, alongside React, we would also need React Native to do so. Native applications are extremely powerful as they can fully utilize the hardware resources of a mobile device as effectively as possible. As a matter of fact, there are native applications for computers that run on OS such as Chrome OS.
What are Web Apps?
Web apps are applications that are developed to run in web environments. These applications can be software or portals that are rendered in the frontend (client-side or browser side). The core functionalities and features of these applications are rendered or relayed from the backend. Technologies such as Node.js are used for backend development.
Hybrid App Development Process
Now that we know what hybrid applications are, let us find out how they are developed.
Hybrid applications are initially developed as web applications that can function in containers for being run on native devices. First, the code is written for the web application and native elements are then added to the structure of the applications to make them run in native environments.
Then, the ability to access hardware resources and send API requests is also embedded in these hybrid applications. Once the web version of these applications is developed with a stack such as MERN (MongoDB, Express, React, and Node), you can then use React Native to make these web applications into hybrid applications or even fully-native applications.
How do Hybrid Apps work?
Here are the various features of hybrid applications:
- Fast and powerful
- Lightweight but structurally simple
Comparison of Hybrid Apps vs Native Apps vs Web Apps
Here is a comparison of hybrid applications vs native applications vs web applications:
|Hybrid Applications||Web Applications||Native Applications|
|Safer than native applications||Cannot track or monitor users once the browser is closed||Privacy concerns in regards to various services running in the background|
|Can work with or without being installed||Does not need to be installed||Needs to be installed in the storage of the device|
|Can work on browsers and containers||Can only work in browsers||Do not need browsers to run and are stand-alone applications|
Advantages of Hybrid Apps
Here are the top 5 advantages of hybrid apps:
- Hybrid applications do not need to be installed and can be used as web applications using containers or WebView.
- Hybrid applications are lighter on hardware resources and can be used across all kinds of devices, even the ones with weaker hardware.
- Hybrid applications are not as limited in their use as web applications like native applications for more powerful applications and functions.
- Hybrid applications also do not need to be installed and require only temporary storage for the cache.
- Hybrid applications speed up development pipelines, especially when we need to build the application for all kinds of platforms.
Limitations of Hybrid Apps
Here are the limitations of hybrid apps:
- Hybrid apps are not as powerful as their native counterparts.
- Hybrid apps are also limited in using hardware resources as native applications.
- Hybrid apps are also known for crashing when there is too much cache or a memory management problem.
Even though there are a few disadvantages of hybrid apps, they are not troublesome as the limitations that are experienced in web or fully-native applications. The main disadvantage of hybrid apps is the additional requirement to know how to use other frameworks and libraries apart from a stack such as MERN.
Tools for Building Hybrid apps
Here are some tools that are used for building hybrid apps:
- MongoDB: A NoSQL database technology
- React Native: A React framework for developing cross-platform native applications
- HTML: It is the foundational markup language used by browsers for rendering web pages
- CSS: A scripting language for styling and designing web pages
Examples of Hybrid Apps
All of us have used the browser versions of various applications such as Twitter, Uber, and Instagram. However, we must not confuse these hybrid applications with web applications as unlike the desktop mode that is rendered in computers, hybrid applications work great in mobile browsers and through other applications.
So, what are the best hybrid mobile apps? There are many that we use on a daily basis and do not even notice. Some examples are:
- BMW app
So, now that we know what are hybrid apps and how hybrid apps work, its time for you to learn how to build one!