Max Lynch, Co-Founder & CEO at Ionic.

In today’s uncertain environment, it’s not unusual for management to feel powerless over factors outside of their control. Many industries are paralyzed in a “wait and see” posture, a precarious position for business leaders. However, mobile app spending and installs are thriving, and they grew significantly during the first half of 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In the first half of 2020, worldwide spending across app stores netted $50.1 billion — an increase of 23.4% from the first half of 2019. First-time app installs are up 26.1% year over year in 2020, reaching 71.5 billion downloads. Though mobile was poised to set new records in 2020 ahead of the onset of Covid-19, uncertainty has leaders using this moment to reevaluate their operations. Regardless, mobile is on the rise, and as I discussed previously, the numbers prove that mobile apps are no longer a nice-to-have.

However, as I also discussed, barriers to adoption that slow mobile app development in the enterprise linger, and while dozens of challenges drive this, now is the ideal moment to explore where challenges begin. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of figuring out which development approach is right for your company. Let’s review this topic.

Hybrid Vs. Native

Hybrid and native are just two of the myriad paths to choose from when beginning a new mobile app project, and teams might not be sure where to start. Selecting the right strategy depends on various factors. Begin by evaluating your budget, your timeline, your team’s experience with the technology and your target audience. Other relevant considerations include customization, platform independence, product complexity and portability.

Other reasons for migrating from a native approach to hybrid include: 

• Speed And Efficiency: Maintaining a single code base allows for simpler and quicker updates.

• Cost-Effectiveness: Leveraging your existing web developers to create and maintain hybrid apps precludes the need for hiring costly outside talent.

Design And UX Consistency: A cross-platform approach eliminates redundancies across channels.

Going The Hybrid Route: Challenges

According to Forrester, a hybrid approach can save an organization between 75% and 80% compared to native. However, developers must keep an eye on potential challenges that can arise as a result of going the hybrid route. While a cross-platform app development platform is appealing, it’s not the answer every time. Developers should reconsider using a hybrid approach when:

• The app is heavy on graphics such as 3D or features like augmented reality and virtual reality (e.g., games).

• The app features highly specific features or access to a nonstandard piece of hardware that requires custom plug-ins.

Other challenges that have been associated with hybrid builds include the lack of hot reloading, which allows you to refresh changes within the app once they’re made rather than a more time-consuming refresh of the whole app to make changes active. Security within hybrid is also often criticized given that the hybrid container (which is essentially a web browser) can expose some of the features of the underlying platform.

Solving these problems begins at the very forefront of the project: Developers must know their app. Sometimes, solutions do exist; for example, developers can assess security needs upfront and, if needed, implement some native code to better secure an app. In short, developers must understand exactly what their app requires in order to meet its full potential and make an educated decision from there.

Next Steps

Rarely is a mobile app designed for one platform because apps must be viable across all platforms and devices to meet ever-evolving customer expectations. A hybrid framework can enable developers to build apps that run on all platforms and devices, while a native approach means building separate apps for each mobile platform, and sometimes, specific apps for tablets and smartphones. Also:

• Hybrid provides adaptive styling, so the look and feel of your app automatically adapts to each platform.

• Because hybrid technology is web-based, you can run your app in any modern browser as a Progressive Web App (PWA), providing a great experience across platforms and devices using just one code base.

By choosing a hybrid framework based on open web standards, you can future-proof your development strategy in some other important ways. Many existing platforms will work with any JS framework so your teams can maintain the use of the various tool sets and approaches they prefer — and evolve with them.

After examining each approach, you now have foundational information to decide which is best for your company. Given the increasing need for mobile apps after Covid-19 as well as considerations like development time and cost, increasing competition for customization, efficiency and the ubiquitous shortage of mobile app developers, the scale tips in favor of the hybrid approach. Add to that the fact that, according to Statista, “the number of smartphone users worldwide today surpasses 3 billion and is forecast to further grow by several hundred million in the next few years,” and I believe it’s clear that the time is now.

Is your company prepared for success?


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