Hybrid mobile apps have come a long way, but native mobile apps are often seen as the “gold standard” of mobile apps. As actual downloaded software they offer more functionality than the current breed of hybrids.
There are even times when they’re the only practical option for an app. User experience is growing in importance, and native apps definitely deliver in that area. Still, there are limitations to be aware of before investing in native.
What It Means to Be Native
A “native mobile app” is built for a specific platform (Android, iOS, or Blackberry) using that device’s specific programming language. iOS relies on Objective-C or Swift, for example, while Android favors Java and Blackberry uses C++. These apps are downloaded from an app store or another hosting location and live on individual devices.
The Power of Native
Native apps have a lot of advantages over other formats.
Because they’re written for a specific device, native apps have none of the compromises developers have to make when building hybrid apps. They open faster, handle data-intensive or complex functions well, and generally have superior performance.
Access to device functions
Native apps can potentially access all a device’s functions, whether they’re hardware or other apps. This includes the camera, microphone, flash, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, calendar, alarms, phone book, and any other feature the user allows. They also offer push notifications. With up to a 65% open rate, push notifications are incredibly useful for keeping users engaged with an app. Hybrid apps can reach more device functions than ever, but they have structural limitations when it comes to full access.
Offline access is in demand, especially in emerging markets and for business travelers. Since they live on a device, native apps have excellent offline potential. Users can access selected functions outside of a coverage area with the assurance that the app will update once the connection is restored.
Device specific development means better compatibility, so native apps are less prone to failing. They have a relatively high rate of availability when compared to hybrid or web apps.
Reliability, speed, and availability combine to create a high quality user experience. Plus, native apps use familiar device conventions that make navigation and trouble-shooting intuitive for fans of the platform.
Found in App Stores
The first hurdle in enticing users to download an app is helping them find it in the first place. When it’s in the app store, it turns up in searches by customers looking for similar apps. Potential users can view ratings and reviews from current users, which has been shown to increase consumer confidence. There’s also the peace of mind inspired by an app’s presence in the App Store since there are quality guidelines imposed by the App Store itself.
Better vendor support
Building an app is a significant investment for companies. Native apps have more assurance of long-term vendor support. They offer platform-specific Software Development Kits (SDK) that make development easier and increase the final quality of the app. Stability like this can be a major draw during a hectic digital transformation process.
Limitations of Native Mobile Apps
If there are so many advantages to native apps, why aren’t all apps native? There are some unavoidable drawbacks to native apps.
Native apps are more expensive to develop and maintain. They have a longer development cycle that needs a team of platform specialists. Because they only work on a single device, companies that choose native must build a different app for each platform they plan to support. This is potentially a serious problem for creators of enterprise apps.
App Store approval
Being in the App Store reassures users for a reason. The approval process can be complicated, and there’s no guarantee that an app will be accepted at all. While it’s not an everyday problem, changing guidelines can result in last-minute changes to what was a finished app.
Users need to download the app to use it. The average American downloads one or two apps a month, so competition for device space is fierce.
When users are working on different devices, app support and customer service become complicated.
When Native is the Best Choice
Despite the higher cost, there are times when only a native app can handle the project at hand. If connectivity expected to be an issue, few hybrid models can match native offline performance. Games and other processing-intensive apps need the better performance of native to provide the kind of user experience that keeps retention rates high.
Also, when an app needs to use a lot of specialty hardware features native is the logical choice. That applies to cross-app interactions (when the app needs to access other apps like calendars, alarms, and contacts) as well.
At the end of the day, native apps translate into performance. Hybrid apps have many useful applications and there are many use cases where the difference in speed is negligible, but it’s important to know when there’s no substitution for native. After all, the cost of building an app that doesn’t work is always higher than investing in a native app.
Trying to decide between a native and hybrid app? Bring your questions to Concepta’s development team. We can provide tailored advice with your specific business goals in mind. Consultations are free, so schedule yours today and take the first step towards a successful release!