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Hybrid mobile apps

Hybrid apps are essentially web apps that have been put in a native app shell. Once they are downloaded from an app store and installed locally, the shell is able to connect to whatever capabilities the mobile platform provides through a browser that's embedded in the app.


hybrid application (hybrid app)


A (hybrid app) is a software application that combines elements of both native apps and web applications. Hybrid apps are essentially web apps that have been put in a native app shell. Once they are downloaded from an app store and installed locally, the shell is able to connect to whatever capabilities the mobile platform provides through a browser that's embedded in the app. The browser and its plug-ins run on the back end and are invisible to the end user.


Hybrid apps are popular because they allow developers to write code for a mobile app once and still accommodate multiple platforms. Because hybrid apps add an extra layer between the source code and the target platform, they may perform slightly slower than native or web versions of the same app.


Features of hybrid applications


Hybrid applications features include:

  • The ability to function whether or not the device is connected. 
  • Integration with the mobile device's file system.  
  • Integration with Web-based services. 
  • An embedded browser to improve access to dynamic online content.

How hybrid applications work


Hybrid apps work similar to Web apps but like native apps, are downloaded to the device. Similar to Web apps, hybrid apps are typically written in HTML 5, CSSand Javascript . Hybrid apps run code inside a container. The device's browser engine is used to render HTML and JavaScript and native APIs to access device-specific hardware.

Although a hybrid app will typically share similar navigation elements as a Web app, whether or not the application can work offline depends on its functionalities. If an application does not need support from a database, then it can be made to function offline.


Hybrid application pros and cons


Pros of hybrid apps include:

  • Will operate on different platforms.
  • Faster build times compared to native apps.
  • Cheaper to develop compared to building two versions of a native app for two different platforms.
  • Easier to launch patches and updates.
  • Can work online and offline

Some cons, however, include:

  • Variations due to leaning development on one platform—as an example, if a development team leans their work on one platform, another supported platform may lack in quality, or suffer from bugs.
  • The appearance of an application may vary from platform to platform.
  • The need to test the application on a range of devices to ensure proper operation.
  • User experience (UX) may fall if the user interface (UI) isn’t similar to and well enough designed to what browsers the user is used to.


What are hybrid mobile apps?


Hybrid mobile apps are applications that are installed on a device, just like any other app. What differentiates them is the fact they possess elements from native apps, applications developed for a specific platform such as iOS or Android, with elements from web apps, websites that act like apps but are not installed on a device but are accessed on the Internet via a browser.

Hybrid apps are deployed in a native container that uses a mobile WebView object. When the app is used, this object displays web content thanks to the use of web technologies (CSS, JavaScript, HTML, HTML5).

It is in fact displaying web pages from a desktop website that are adapted to a WebView display. The web content can either be displayed as soon as the app is opened or for certain parts of the app only i.e. for the purchase funnel.

In order to access a device's hardware features (accelerometer, camera, contacts…) for which the native apps are installed, it is possible to include native elements of each platform’s user interfaces (iOS, Android): native code will be used to access the specific features in order to create a seamless user experience. Hybrid apps can also rely on platforms that offer JavaScript APIs if those functionalities are called within a WebView.


What are the advantages of hybrid apps?


Hybrid apps offer a certain number of advantages:

  • Combining user experience with an agile development cycle and controlled costs.
  • Avoid the limitations of the Apple App Store: to deploy an application on the Apple App Store, the app has to be submitted and there is a waiting time for validation. The delay will vary depending on the time of the year, but also depending on whether it is a first submission or an update. It generally takes between 1 to 7 days. Hybrid apps thus offer a great advantage for developers who wish to update their app frequently as it is not necessary to resubmit the new version if the modifications haven’t touched native code.
  • Finding resources: most applications have an iOS version and an Android version. They are thus developed using the corresponding programming language: Objective-C or Swift for iOS, Java for Android. Hybrid apps allow for the use of programming languages used frequently by web developers (HTML, JavaScript and CSS) who can thus reuse their knowledge. This makes finding resources to build a hybrid app easier.
  • Reusing the code of the web app part: the code is written once and deployed across all mobile platforms.
  • Reducing development time and costs: the code is written once, which substantially reduces development time and costs compared to native apps which require development for iOS and development for Android.

What are the limitations of hybrid apps?


  • A limited user interface: hybrid apps have a design that doesn’t have a native feel. The user interface thus isn’t as seamless. Possibilities (3D for example) are also restricted due to the fact that WebView is used and that this doesn’t allow the exploitation of the devices’ full potential.
  • The difficulty or impossibility to exploit the platforms’ capacities in full. Each platform, iOS or Android, has unique capacities that a developer may wish to exploit. If this is the case, a combination of specific plugins and code of the platform will be used to achieve this on a hybrid app. This further complicates the app development project.
  • Slower performance and transition between pages.
  • Dependency on the browser’s speed.