Before starting work on a new app, most companies find themselves faced with the same question: should they create a native app that works perfectly on a particular platform, or sacrifice a bit on the UI/UX side, but take a major win on the time-to-market and application management front and build a hybrid app. A few years back the expected answer might have been the former, but the triumph of React Native has recently shifted the balance towards hybrid apps.
With native apps, an entirely new app is built from scratch for each platform. This means that an app with a completely separate code is needed for iOS, Android, Windows, and any other platform where you want to offer the app. Often, each version is written in a different language, and if something needs to be changed, the changes need to be done individually for each version of the app.
At the same time, the choice to offer a native app grants the opportunity to take advantage of OS-specific capabilities that most hybrid apps cannot exploit. For example, on iOS, it is easier to implement platform-specific UI or UX solutions, or on Android, to take advantage of offline capabilities and other background activities that a hybrid app may not be able to handle.
On the flip side, hybrid apps are applications that use a single code base to provide a near-native user experience across many different platforms. This means that the same app can run on different operating systems, and if something needs to be updated or changed, the necessary steps can be taken only once, and the new features are immediately available on every platform. As time goes on, hybrid apps will also enable more and more platform-specific special solutions, such as platform-related UI/UX elements.
While hybrid apps are faster, cheaper, and more convenient to create, they also have their limitations. Since the same code is used for each platform, it is more difficult to provide users with OS-specific features or functionality that requires top-notch integration with hardware. In most cases, this should not be a problem, but when it comes to a very specific application – such as a game – the weaknesses of hybrid apps may become a roadblock.
The king of hybrid apps is React Native
Hybrid apps can be written in a number of different languages and using a variety of frameworks, but in the last few years, React Native by Facebook, Flutter by Google, and Xamarin have become the most popular options. All of them enable to achieve similar results, but at least for now, React Native is clearly coming out ahead.
The biggest advantages of React Native – that’s also used by Uptime – are:
- Faster development – because the same code base is used for all platforms, the app only needs to be written once. With native apps, the same thing would have to be built two or three times separately. The single code base also makes it easier and faster to ship updates.
- Performance and usability – Apps built with React Native are fast and powerful, and they can provide many features that were the exclusive domain of native apps just a few years ago.
- Cost-effectiveness – Because hybrid apps are less labor-intensive to create, they are significantly more cost-effective to build and maintain.
Today, React Native is used by the majority of the world’s largest companies. For example, Facebook, Instagram, Uber, AirBnB, Tesla, Skype, Microsoft Office mobile apps, and Shopify have all opted for the framework.