What is Hybrid App Development? Definition, How It Works And Frameworks


What is Hybrid App Development? Definition, How It Works And Frameworks hybrid app development

Mobile app development is the current industry standard if you want to reach a bigger target audience with your application expanding to multiple platforms. Web apps may seem a little old-fashioned, but they still hold a dominant position in the industry.

But what if we told you that you didn’t have to create different versions of the same application multiple times and could have one codebase to rule them all?

The way to achieve it is through hybrid app development. Today, we’ll look at hybrid application development, how it works, and how you can use it to your advantage, just like a few other mega-corporations already aboard the hybrid app hype train.

What Is Hybrid App Development?

Hybrid app development is a process where a development team builds an app with a certain framework that can target all different platforms simultaneously, like Android, iOS, Windows, etc.

The idea is greatly preferred among all developers since it’s easy for them to create a single code base for all platforms instead of multiple code bases.

Aside from UI that needs to suit the different devices, hybrid development allows developers to write the code once, and it can later be reused for creating the same app for a different platform.

 Two factors drive the demand for hybrid application developments.

  • They’re much easier to make compared to native applications
  • Utilizing the source code properly allows a business to expand its reach on multiple user platforms, including the web

To understand more about hybrid app development, we must understand the two counterparts that come together to make a hybrid app.

Native Mobile App

A native mobile app refers to a mobile application that has been created with native programming languages and tools that are specific to that platform. Due to the applications being created with the default solutions, developers have complete access to the device’s capabilities.

The native application offers better application models for the device since its design and core programming infrastructure are closer to the backbone of the device itself.

Native mobile application development allows the development team to move faster and grants complete access to all the native User Interface (UI) controls and layouts. This helps the developers align the style and theme of the application to fit the system’s default themes.

In native mobile app development, applications created for one specific device with a device-native tech stack will not run on different systems. For example, a mobile app developed for iOS using Swift will not run on Android.

To release the app on both platforms, you have to follow native design practices for both different platforms and create different code bases, which can drive up the development cost pretty high.

Web Application

Native mobile apps are a great way to reach a bigger audience since mobile device users are constantly increasing. But mobile apps go through a lot of hassle, including different app-store gatekeeping rules. Multiple instances of bigshot apps vanishing overnight from all stores for not complying with regulations.

To play it safe, most businesses stick to a web-only version of the application, allowing them the freedom of existing outside app stores and offering the facilities of the application to both desktop and mobile users.

However, web applications and their features are restricted to the capabilities of the browser the user is accessing the application from. The application doesn’t often have full access to the user’s device, limiting many features and functionalities.

Another challenge with web applications is that many common application UI controls don’t exist natively, and you have to recreate them. While many UI libraries offer an extensive range of assets that have recreated many native functions, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find absolutely everything there.

Google introduced the idea of Progressive Web Applications (PWAs) back in 2017, and it allows web applications to adopt more features similar to native mobile apps, like standard app icons, push notifications, offline capabilities, etc.

How Hybrid App Development Is Different From Native Development

As mentioned earlier, hybrid app development lets you create a codebase for an application and deploy it across different platforms.

Developing hybrid apps is easier since the frameworks are regularly updated, allowing you to utilize specific features offered by certain platforms without leaving the comfort of your development environment.

However, it raises the issue of making the code base too large since the base has to contain all the unique attributes in code form that target all the different platforms, and codebase maintenance can become more complex when the app is gradually updated.

Native apps perform much better than hybrid apps, targeting only a single platform. If performance is the key factor for your app, then you should go for a native app development approach.

But hybrid app development is the best option if you plan to expand your operations across all platforms and upgrade app performance over time.

Reasons Why Businesses Should Adopt Hybrid App Development

The following are the most common reasons why businesses are leaning towards hybrid app development more and more.

  • It’s a budget-friendly option since it costs half the native app development.
  • It is a highly scalable application option since the same codebase can be improved and used on different platforms.
  • Hybrid app development doesn’t rely on any approvals
  • You have complete access to automatic upgrades
  • Removes efforts for decoding every single line and reduces maintenance time
  • Hybrid app users can access the app in offline mode as well

Benefits of Leveraging Hybrid App Development

1. The Development Cycle Is Smoother

Hybrid apps are far easier to develop since the software development team members don’t need in-depth knowledge about all the native languages for each platform.

Hybrid app development mostly revolves around web technologies, and anyone knowledgeable in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript can work on hybrid apps.

2. Has Better Maintainability

When working with hybrid applications, you interact with a single code base deployed on multiple platforms. So, instead of maintaining multiple code bases for different platforms, you only need to perform maintenance on a single code base, easing the entire process.

3. Hybrid Apps Perform Better

Hybrid apps are relatively lightweight and run within a single process and memory space. Due to low resource consumption, any general mobile device can run hybrid apps smoothly, resulting in high performance.

4. Cross-Platform Compatibility

Hybrid apps are designed to run on multiple platforms at once since their beginning, so they don’t have limitations compared to native apps. It allows business owners to simultaneously expand their reach to multiple platforms to maximize their reach.

5. Improved User Experience

Hybrid applications can reuse components across all supported platforms, resulting in a consistent user experience. When the user experience and brand appearance are the same regardless of the platform the users access the product from, it helps improve brand image.

Stages of Hybrid Mobile App Development

1. Pre-Development Stage

This stage determines whether hybrid app development is the right development choice for your application. After you decide on creating a hybrid application, you also need to choose the right tech stack and the right framework for the project.

2. Development Stage

In this stage, the development team starts coding the application. This stage includes

  • UI/UX Preparation
  • Architectural Development
  • Functionality Development

3. Testing Stage

Once the development stage is over, you test the early prototype version of the application before releasing it to production. In this phase, your app’s front and back end are tested.

4. Deployment Stage

Once the testing is complete, you release your application for one or more platforms for the end-users to access. You must either submit your application to different web stores like the Google Play Store or host it on your web server.

5. Maintenance Stage

Hybrid app development is a continuous process, and you will need to make changes over time to your application. The changes will depend on your business requirements. You might also have to opt to release a different version with better functionalities and features.

Top 5 Frameworks For Hybrid App Development

1. Flutter

Google developed the Flutter framework, and it also uses a programming language that Google designed called DART, which is a mix of Java and Kotlin. Flutter can develop and deliver apps for all mobile and desktop platforms and embedded devices.

Despite being new on the market, FLutter has gained a constant rise in popularity for a few of its amazing features:

  • Unmatched levels of cross-platform compatibility
  • The hot reloading feature allows developers to see app changes instantly
  • Highly compatible with multiple platforms and operating systems
  • Best compatible with Google’s mobile OS and Fuchsia
  • Higher speed compared to other hybrid app frameworks

Flutter has a few drawbacks as well:

  • Limited community with few experts
  • App size is restricted to 4 MB minimum
  • Doesn’t have a set of free advanced tools
  • Flutter still has more potential to show
  • Apps built with Flutter are 40% bigger compared to other apps

Few enterprise-level organizations that use Flutter are

  • Google Ads
  • Hamilton Musical
  • Alibaba
  • Birch Finance
  • Coach Yourself

2. React Native

React native is a cross-platform mobile app development framework, and its first stable build was released by Facebook in 2019. It’s based on React and is an open-source JavaScript framework. It lets you build multi-platform user interface components that can be linked to Android and iOS native views.

The best features of React Native Include

  • It uses JavaScript, which is a popular language that is easy to learn
  • Uses ready-to-use components that speed up the development cycle
  • It’s easier to find bugs in apps built with React Native
  • React native promotes code reusability for maximum optimization of the development process
  • The Live Reload feature is great for modifying code and previewing changes instantly

React native also brings its range of issues

  • React Native still has a gap for navigation components that can offer a contact user experience
  • Documentations are poorer in quality because other developers are not highly experienced
  • Requires extensive scoping in terms of hardware enhancing
  • Offers very limited scope for third-party solutions
  • Apps built with React Native often have compatibility and stability issues

A few popular brands that use React Native are

  • Airbnb
  • Discord
  • Facebook Ads Manager
  • Instagram
  • Myntra
  • Uber Eats

3. Ionic

Ionic uses HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to create mobile apps and is one of the fastest cross-platform hybrid frameworks. The robust nature of Ionic helps create Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). Ionic was released in 2013 and has helped create more than 5 million apps till then.

The framework has built-in support for AngularJS, which is a go-to choice for front-end developers who are already familiar with the framework.

Noteworthy features of Ionic are

  • You can easily develop once and publish on all platforms with a single attempt
  • The UI components provided by Ionic are highly lucrative and more appealing to users
  • With a mix of Ionic and Angular JS, Ionic helps create robust apps with tons of features
  • In terms of material design, Ionic offers the best built-in support
  • The Ionic framework has a strong community with documentation support

There are a few cautions you should also take when working with Ionic

  • Ionic apps often don’t perform as optimally as you hope it to be
  • Highly depends on app performance that affects overall app performance
  • JavaScript developers feel overwhelmed due to the merging of Angular JS
  • The in-app navigation is highly complicated
  • Doesn’t have hot reload features to preview real-time changes

Few reputed firms that use Ionic are

  • ChefSteps
  • JustWatch
  • Diesel
  • Sworkit
  • Honey

4. Xamarin

Xamarin is a framework that was acquired by Microsoft back in 2016. With Xamarin, you can build APIs and access native Android, iOS, and Windows APIs. Xamarin develops with .NET framework libraries and C# programming language.

Xamarin is undergoing a complete reform and will be consolidated into the .NET platform and renamed to .NET Multi-platform App UI (MAUI).

The best features of Xamarin are

  • The testing feature is very simple
  • Gets constant support and tools from Microsoft
  • Most of the codebase is reusable between iOS and Android
  • Offers high-performing apps 
  • Xamarin is great for tracking and testing mobile app performance
  • Gets constant hardware support, giving it the best functionality to work with plugins and APIs

However, there are a few things you should be aware of when working with Xamarin

  • The business license is highly expensive
  • Doesn’t offer integration into different applications
  • The range of professionals is highly limited
  • Doesn’t offer much to technologies

Some of the well-reputed firms that use Xamarin are

  • Fox Sports
  • Pinterest
  • Siemens
  • Olo
  • The World Bank

5. Unity

While Unity can be considered a hybrid application framework, it’s mostly used for developing games and various graphically demanding entertainment forms. The main language used in Unity is C#.

While Unity can be used to develop mobile or web apps, it will not have a native feel that is as effective as the other options. Despite mainly being a game development engine, Unity is flexible enough to target any platform: 

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Linux
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Web (WebGL)
  • Extended Reality Kits (Oculus Rift, HoloLens, Playstation VR, etc.)
  • Gaming Consoles (Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, etc.)

Challenges With Hybrid App Development

1. Takes More Time To Roll Out New Features

While hybrid applications are highly flexible and useful, they can’t be updated frequently, and instead, the developers have to take time to implement each unique feature in the framework.

When looking for frameworks to create hybrid apps, always look for frameworks that will support different feature implementations in the future.

2. Bigger Size Compared To Regular Apps

Most of the frameworks used to create hybrid apps are relatively fast, and some can even compete with native apps. But at the end of the day, a native will always perform better.

Hybrid app frameworks use various libraries and code snippets to call native code, whereas native apps can do it directly. These additional libraries and code snippets must always be present with the app, increasing the overall size of the final software.

3. Hybrid App Developers Charge More

Though hybrid apps require less expenses to complete, the final price depends on the requirements and the number of features you want to implement. A more complex hybrid app design can raise the budget quickly.

Examples of Hybrid Apps

1. Evernote

Evernote is an amazing note-taking app that works flawlessly across different platforms and devices. This productivity app is well-known for its amazing performance on all platforms, which defies the low-performance and slow-moving disadvantages of hybrid apps.

2. Gmail

Though Gmail was first built with HTML, it has since upgraded to HTML 5 to allow users to access advanced features and functionalities to enhance the overall user experience. Gmail is the best example of a combination of native and web elements that work flawlessly to deliver a high-performing mobile app.

3. Instagram

Instagram is considered the most popular social media app for sharing pictures and connecting through messages instantly. The app supports tons of offline data since it’s gone hybrid, allowing users to access all the features and media even offline.

4. X

X is another hybrid app that proves that performance is not an issue for app development of this type. The mobile app of X can handle huge amounts of traffic and millions of users daily. Without any issues.

5. Uber

Uber has an app that is easy to navigate, and the user interface is highly intuitive. The Uber app is a great example of hybrid app development with high user accessibility and is widely used by millions as the most popular rideshare app.

To Wrap It All Up

The true allure of hybrid app development is to easily reach multiple platforms while developing and maintaining only a single code base with minimal development cost and effort.

While having its distinct downsides, hybrid apps are still a great way to expand your reach over different platforms and enlarge your user base.

Are you looking to pair with a trusted software development vendor to create a hybrid app for your business? Our professional mobile and web app development team at Impala Intech can help you create a highly sophisticated hybrid app with the right features and looks to make the most of it.


How Can I Choose the Right Hybrid App Framework for My Project?

When choosing a framework, consider factors like project requirements, developer expertise, and platform support.

Are There Any Notable Performance Optimization Techniques for Hybrid Apps?

Minimizing the use of heavy animations and optimizing images can improve performance.

Can hybrid apps access the device’s file system?

Yes, plugins can grant hybrid apps access to the device’s file system.

What is the role of plugins in hybrid app development?

Plugins extend the functionality of hybrid apps by providing access to native device features.

What Is the Future Outlook for Hybrid App Development?

Hybrid app development is likely to continue evolving with improved performance and more native-like experiences.