Hybrid Mobile App Development

The hybrid approach combines native development with web technology. Using this approach, developers write significant portions of their application in cross-platform web technologies, while maintaining direct access to native APIs when required.

The native portion of the application uses the operating system APIs to create an embedded HTML rendering engine that serves as a bridge between the browser and the device APIs. This bridge enables the hybrid app to take full advantage of all the features that modern devices have to offer.

App developers can choose between coding their own bridge or taking advantage of ready-made solutions such as PhoneGap— open-source library that provides a uniform JavaScript interface to selected device capabilities that is consistent across operating systems.

The native portion of the app can be developed independently, but some solutions in the market provide this type of a native container as part of their product, thus empowering the developer with the means to create an advanced application that utilizes all the device features using nothing but web languages. In some cases, a solution will allow the developer to use any native knowledge he or she might have to customize the native container in accordance with the unique needs of the organization.

The web portion of the app can be either a web page that resides on a server or a set of HTML, JavaScript, CSS and media files, packaged into the application code and stored locally on the device. Both approaches carry advantages and limitations. HTML code that is hosted on a server enables developers to introduce minor updates to the app without going through the process of submission and approval that some app stores require. Unfortunately, this approach eliminates any offline availability, as the content is not accessible when the device is not connected to the network. On the other hand, packaging the web code into the application itself can enhance performance and accessibility, but does not accept remote updates. The best of both worlds can be achieved by combining the two approaches. Such a system is designed to host the HTML resources on a web server for flexibility, yet cache them locally on the mobile device for performance.

Feature Native app Hybrid app Web app
Development language Native only Native and web or web only Web only
Code portability and optimization None High High
Access device-specific features High Medium Low
Leverage existing knowledge Low High High
Advanced graphics High Medium Medium
Upgrade flexibility Low (Always by way of app stores) Medium (Usually by way of app stores) High
Installation experience High (From app store) High (From app store) Medium (By way of mobile browser)

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