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Top 5 frameworks for hybrid app development

What is hybrid in hybrid app development?

Hybrid apps blend native and web solutions into a coherent and holistic app experience. In particular, a hybrid app consists of a core that is written using various web technologies, which allows a mixture of technologies to be chosen based on their utilities and ability to solve a problem effectively. It is this freedom to choose from outside a native framework that gives it the name hybrid. Now, consider that you want to choose a development framework for your new app or product. You will naturally face the following questions:

  1. Is it a right choice to build your application solely with native solutions? 
  2. Is it worth it for your team to look into hybrid or web technologies? 
  3. Are there already some hybrid solutions out there? If yes, how are they performing against core metrics? 

These are among the several important questions that one needs to ask while deliberating which route is best for their business. The answer to each question weighs in to make the right decision. Before we dive into the hybrid app development frameworks, let us quickly explore the genres of mobile application development to build an overview of things.

Native Mobile App

A native mobile application refers to an application that has been written using the native development languages and tools specific to a native platform. Popular examples are, a native iOS applications that are written in either Swift or Objective-C and compiled using Xcode. Another is a native Android application that is developed using Kotlin or Java and compiled using Android Studio.

 

ProsCons
Developers have full and easier access to the device’s capabilities as the applications are built using the platform’s default capabilities; like all the device’s sensors, the user’s address book, etc. No cross-platform compatibility – any application written for iOS using Swift cannot run on Android, and vice versa. Meaning, you have to develop specifically for each platform, which can lead to a larger budget and team size, assuming that you’d want to release your application for both iOS and Android. 
Native applications tend to be more performant since their code is closer to the ‘metal’, i.e., they are fast and render a smoother experience.Applications that are natively built are usually only available through the native platform’s app stores. This implies that the app is subjected to its respective rules and restrictions. This also means that an update or a release has to get approval from the app store and as a result can take from days to weeks.
Developers get access to all of the native user interface controls and layouts inherent to the platform. 

 

Web Application

A lot of developers prefer building a web-only application, which provides them the freedom to explore and build outside of the grip of the app stores. Traditional web applications written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for which one can leverage a wide range of frameworks and libraries, such as Angular, React, Vue, or even plain-vanilla JavaScript form the core of web application development frameworks. 

ProsCons
Freedom from the control and restrictions of a native platform and its App Store.The mobile web application is restricted to the capabilities of the user’s mobile browser, which means that the app often will not have full access to the user’s device. 
Support from big tech – companies such as Google and Microsoft allow web applications to have more app-like features such as standard app icons, push notifications, offline capabilities, and more. A major challenge for using web technologies is that many of the common application user interface (UI) controls, e.g. tab navigator, do not natively exist and therefore have to be built. This leads to extra effort, but at the same time, many of the UI libraries have taken great care in replicating most of the common UI components necessary for an app.
This solution can easily create an application from a single codebase, which is then compatible with a variety of platforms and can be quickly updated with a new feature or bug fix.

 

Hybrid Mobile App

As we discussed, a hybrid (mobile) app blends both native and web solutions, while the core of the application is written using web technologies (such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript), which are then delivered like a native application. Using plugins, these applications can have full access to the mobile device’s features. 

ProsCons
A hybrid app runs from within a native application and its own embedded browser that is essentially invisible to the user. This independence gives the ability to create and publish true native applications that can be pushed to each of the platform’s app stores.Similar to web applications, the UI library has to be recreated. Although, solutions like React Native and others provide robust UI components that look and feel like their native counterparts while providing a full suite of building blocks for your application. 
Usually developers have only one code base to manage. This implies faster build time and speedy delivery into production. 

 

Popular hybrid app frameworks

React Native

React Native is one of the most famous hybrid app development platforms and it’s based on React and JavaScript that provides native modules. This is the hybrid app framework of choice for a lot of developers. It allows them to convert the source code into native elements and thus deliver users a native-like experience.

ProsCons
React native feels like a high-powered tool, rendered with native code that is backed up by a large community of developers.If your hybrid app needs multiple UI transitions or plenty of interactions and various screens, then it might not be the best to go for a React Native hybrid app.
A lot of costs could be cut down by reusing the code in React Native and consequently, it admits a shorter app development cycle.React Native is a heavy tool and therefore offers a steep learning curve.
There is plenty of choice for social plugins such as display grid picture, feed, etc.React Native suffers from a limited supply of custom modules and it offers only a few native UI features thus encouraging you to get your hands dirty with code.

 

Flutter

Flutter is Google’s power-packed toolkit to craft and run a hybrid or a cross-platform app in no time. It is designed to support multiple languages and to run smoothly across several platforms, and all that without the need to look for an alternative to Swift, Java, or Objective C. One could design and build a stunning UI in no time given its flexible design components. Its interactivity elements help you create the engaging experience that users want.

 

ProsCons
It’s extremely fast and is compatible with Fuchsia, Google’s mobile OS.Since Flutter is Dart-based, a not so popular language yet, it admits a steep learning curve.
Flutter ships with its own widgets that a developer can easily use to implement buttons, sliders, switches, dialog boxes, tab bars, loading spinners, etc. Furthermore, it enables you to assemble (and nest) multiple widgets for crafting your app’s unique UI requirements.Flutter is new in the scene and unfortunately, it provides minimal support for some common features that are well developed in other frameworks.
A cool feature of Flutter is that it ships with the hot reload feature.Flutter app can easily be approximately 40% larger than a native app.

 

Ionic

Ionic is one of the most popular hybrid mobile app development frameworks. Sometime back, when it was first released, it challenged the jQuery-based mobile apps’ front runner position to put together a visually striking, progressive web app in no time. It has a low learning curve with a lot of available plugins and not to forget all of the UI components that it provides out of the box.

 

ProsCons
Ionic opened the door to build and deploy Angular-based apps that could be shipped with plenty of UI components and predefined elements.Unfortunately, it’s still not the best option if you’re planning to build a heavy-duty app due to the lack of full support for several advanced features.
As it’s Angular-based, which is a common platform of use among developers, it has a low learning curve. In addition, it has a live reload system that enables a preview of the hybrid app right on the target device.Some of Ionic’s features are Cordova-based and this makes it vulnerable to cross-platform implementations as not all the plugins are supported.

 

Xamarin

Xamarin is Microsoft’s attempt to offer a cross-platform framework that uses C# programming language with .NET. However, it is compatible with several platforms and provides performance and user experience similar to native-like solutions.

 

ProsCons
Can achieve high performance as the compiled code is specific to a platform.One needs to purchase Visual Studio to write Xamarin code. In addition, there is a learning curve for developers who are not experienced with C# and .NET programming
Open-source framework – Xamarin is a completely free and open-source framework that has more than 60,000 contributors. Xamarin has many OS-specific limitations. It also has a runtime overhead, which in turn impacts the load time of the app.
Cross-platform app development –  Xamarin supports the building of several apps for various mobile phone operating systems like Android, Windows, and iOS from a single codebase. It is commonly estimated that a developer can share more than 75% of her code across different platforms using Xamarin.Even though Xamarin supports an almost single code base for cross-platform development, it still has a large overhead as compared to fully native apps.

 

PhoneGap

PhoneGap is generally appreciated for its ease of use and compatibility with multiple platforms. Its origin lies with the Cordova framework and a lot of developers use popular programming languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to write a single codebase that the framework converts into an app in a matter of minutes. With PhoneGap, a developer could easily access mobile devices’ functionalities such as microphone, camera, compass, and many more. It does it by offering native plugins for each mobile platform. This results in the easy building of a hybrid app which makes PhoneGap one of the most efficient mobile app frameworks out there.

 

ProsCons
PhoneGap offers mobile apps to be built quickly while significantly reducing the development cycle. It has several tools that are designed to improve developer productivity such as PhoneGap CLI, PhoneGap Developer mobile app, PhoneGap Desktop app, and PhoneGap Build.It is generally believed among many developers that apps built on PhoneGap are not as good as that of a truly native mobile app.
PhoneGap is an open-source and free framework. PhoneGap is not particularly suited for game development.
Cross-platform app development: PhoneGap provides the option of developing a single codebase for more than one platform. PhoneGap lacks plugins for every essential feature, unlike other big competitors such as React Native.

 

When and which hybrid to go for?

How does one decide whether to go hybrid or not? Well, unless your app’s requirements are extremely high performance like a game, hybrid applications are generally a safe bet due to the fast development cycle, low costs, and compatibility across a variety of platforms. 

 

Once you have decided to go hybrid, there are several factors that go into deciding which platform is suitable for your project, such as available expertise, budget, post-launch services, etc. At Makeen, we have helped several startups across a variety of domains to make such decisions and guided them through and through to achieve scale and growth for their business post-launch. Our engineers and designers bring extensive skills and expertise to address the challenges of an early stage startup in a cost effective manner while being ambitious. Book a consultation with our experts today to get the right hybrid platform for your project that is geared towards achieving scale and growth of your business.

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