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A (hybrid app) is a software application that combines elements of both native apps and web applications. Hybrid apps are essentially web apps that have been put in a native app shell. Once they are downloaded from an app store and installed locally, the shell is able to connect to whatever capabilities the mobile platform provides through a browser that's embedded in the app. The browser and its plug-ins run on the back end and are invisible to the end user.
Hybrid apps are popular because they allow developers to write code for a mobile app once and still accommodate multiple platforms. Because hybrid apps add an extra layer between the source code and the target platform, they may perform slightly slower than native or web versions of the same app.
Features of hybrid applications
Hybrid applications features include:
- The ability to function whether or not the device is connected.
- Integration with the mobile device's file system.
- Integration with Web-based services.
- An embedded browser to improve access to dynamic online content.
How hybrid applications work
Although a hybrid app will typically share similar navigation elements as a Web app, whether or not the application can work offline depends on its functionalities. If an application does not need support from a database, then it can be made to function offline.
Hybrid application pros and cons
Pros of hybrid apps include:
- Will operate on different platforms.
- Faster build times compared to native apps.
- Cheaper to develop compared to building two versions of a native app for two different platforms.
- Easier to launch patches and updates.
- Can work online and offline
Some cons, however, include:
- Variations due to leaning development on one platform—as an example, if a development team leans their work on one platform, another supported platform may lack in quality, or suffer from bugs.
- The appearance of an application may vary from platform to platform.
- The need to test the application on a range of devices to ensure proper operation.
- User experience (UX) may fall if the user interface (UI) isn’t similar to and well enough designed to what browsers the user is used to.
Hybrid vs. native vs. Web
Native applications are built specifically for the platform they are installed on. They can take advantage of a mobile device's hardware, including the accelerometer, GPS and camera. Native applications are written in the same language the platform’s operating system is written in. So, for example, a native iOS app should be written in Objective-C and Swift.
Hybrid applications combine native and Web apps, as it is installed and operates similar to a native app, but has the inner workings of a Web app.