What mobile strategy is best: Native or Hybrid?

So: What is best? A native app or a hybrid app? And if you build a hybrid app, what’s the best framework to use?

As with most interesting questions, it turns out that the answer is “it depends”. I often get questions like “isn’t Xamarin (or Cordova) better than build a native app”. Weeeell, it’s not as simple as that.

Here’s a few ideas that I’ve found myself repeating lately:

  • Are you building something that should be available to a large audience where you also want a (mobile friendly) web site? Then Cordova is probably worth a look. Actually, if you get the Progressive Apps parts right, you may want to use Cordova for iOS and a “pure” web app for Android. If you’re building something for an event (like a conference!), mobile web should probably be a strong consideration. People don’t like to download an app that they will only use for a specific period.
  • Are you building an app to internal users in the company where you can control what device they use? Then you may want to consider targeting a single native platform (either iOS – if you don’t think companies should pay taxes – or Android – if you feel that mobile devices can never be too inconsistent). CSS + JavaScript has a lot of sharp edges and adding a layer of abstraction on top of a programming model also adds a layer of obfuscation. If you can get away with targeting just one platform, then go native!
  • Also, if you want to go for absolute top-of-the-class, you probably want to build (two) native apps. Anything that wasn’t build with the native SDKs will probably feel a little foreign and weird on the device. At the very least, hybrid frameworks usually trails a bit behind the newest platform developments. This means two code bases, two copies of every bug and quite possible two teams (or 2 + a backend team). You pay for style!
  • If you want something that doesn’t have to be spit-and-polish perfect but that should still feel well integrated with the respective devices and you don’t want to invest in two separate code bases, then Xamarin or NativeScript may be a good bet.
  • Finally, you always want to consider the skillsets of the team at hand. If you want something native-looking and have a bunch of JavaScript developers, NativeScript and ReactNative are your friends. If you have a bunch of C# developers, then go for Xamarin.

As a mobile developer, there’s always more stuff you should learn. This is why I co-founded the Mobile Era conference which happens in Oslo November 3rd-4th, where we will have talks on Android, iOS, ReactNative, Ionic 2, as well as IoT, beacons, mobile databases and much more. Tickets are soon sold out at mobileera.rocks

About Johannes Brodwall

Johannes is Principal Software Engineer in SopraSteria. In his spare time he likes to coach teams and developers on better coding, collaboration, planning and product understanding.
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