Hybrid Mobile App Development

Hybrid App Development Calicut

Hybrid mobile applications are built in a similar manner as websites. Both use a combination of technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. However, instead of targeting a mobile browser, hybrid applications target a WebView hosted inside a native container. This enables them to do things like access hardware capabilities of the mobile device.

Today, most hybrid mobile applications leverage Apache Cordova, a platform that provides a consistent set of JavaScript APIs to access device capabilities through plug-ins, which are built with native code. As a side note, Apache Cordova originally started as a project named PhoneGap. These days, PhoneGap exists as a distribution of Apache Cordova that includes additional tools. For more context about this history, check out PhoneGap, Cordova, and what's in a name?

These plug-ins include APIs for accessing the device's accelerometer, contacts, camera, and more. There is also a number of plug-ins that are built and maintained by the developer community at-large. These can be found in the Apache Cordova Plugins Registry. A curated subset of these plug-ins that have been throughly tested, documented, and extended can also be found at the Verified Plugins Marketplace.

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Hybrid mobile applications provide a way for developers to re-use their existing skills in web development. Developers don't like the prospect of getting locked into proprietary platforms. This includes the programming languages and SDKs provided by platform vendors (more on this later).

Hybrid mobile application development looks appealing to an organization's bottom line. Why hire a developer for each platform when you can hire one developer and target all of them through HTML, CSS, and JavaScript? Well, the reality is a bit more complicated.

Yes, it's true that hybrid mobile application development enables developers to target more than one platform. However, each platform comes with a set of caveats when it comes to its web runtime or WebView. This is especially true with Android, which is inconsistent between OS versions.

Moreover, there might be unique capabilities of platforms to which a developer may wish to target. In those instances, a combination of plugins and platform-specific code must be utilized in order to take advantages of those capabilities. Alternatively, developers can take advantage of 3rd party web runtimes like Crosswalk that can be embedded in your hybrid app.

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Before committing to a platform strategy, it's important to evaluate the technical and non-technical merits of hybrid versus alternatives like web and native – especially as it relates to your mobile application's requirements. For example:

  1. Which mobile platforms do you wish to target?
  2. Do you want to distribute your application via app stores?
  3. Are you looking to utilize the capabilities of the mobile device?
  4. What are the technical abilities of your development team?
  5. Does the one-size-fit-all approach of hybrid really live up to its promise?

These and other questions are worth asking before embarking upon development of a mobile application. To elaborate on this, let's examine a few of these questions in more detail.

Benefits of Hybrid Mobile App Development

Initially, when mobile app development was a novel idea, it was preferred to develop mobile apps native. However, with the growth in mobile users, app usage, and device fragmentation, they have come to realize the benefits of multi platform application development. Hybrid mobile apps, necessarily, fall in the middle of the native and web app spectrum. They manifest the user experience properties of both native and web, providing a variety of sublime benefits like:

  1. Reduced Development Costs: Building a hybrid mobile app is relatively cheaper and gets the task done sooner than any native or web mobile app. In the fiercely competitive digital era where 'time to market' has become critical than ever, cost efficiency plays a vital role in helping enterprises build and get their product to the market in no time. With the help of a set of libraries and various development frameworks such as Xamarin and PhoneGap, hybrid app developers can accelerate the development process and submit the app to various app stores to apparently save both time and cost.
  2. Improved UI/UX: A consistent user experience across multiple mobile platforms is one of the main reasons behind hybrid app's popularity. Users expect the app to be instantly responsive on different devices and deliver a glitch-free experience. Hybrid apps are based on the idea of "information is just a tap away". And while it displays data faster and adjusts to different device screen configurations immediately, it also resolves the issues of the fluctuating data streaming capabilities. Being lightweight, the hybrid app UI can also load the high-definition graphics and content quickly.
  3. Ease of Integration: Like native apps, hybrid apps leverage the device's internal programming system through an overlay which helps to enable seamless synchronization with other compatible apps. This reduces the integration issues for developers. In turn, the hybrid apps work well with the device's native applications such as camera, messaging, GPS, etc. to ensure a smooth user experience.
  4. Offline Support: Hybrid apps store the device's API to save offline data that helps to load the application quickly. It partially stores information that the users can access at the time of poor or no connectivity. Since a majority of users want to reduce their mobile data consumption and have an uninterrupted access to app's data, a hybrid app is capable of providing just that – offline app accessibility without performance glitches. It is one of the primary reasons why hybrid mobile apps are the best when compared to native mobile apps.
  5. Simplified Maintenance: Unlike a web application, a hybrid app is designed to make use of all the features available in the mobile device. Though native apps also utilize all the device features, maintaining it is quite a challenge for users and developers alike. Developers have to roll out new updates in the form of new versions and users are required update the app every time a new version is launched. A hybrid app bypasses versioning and makes app maintenance as simple as updating a web page, that too in real time. This level of flexibility further facilitates the scalability needs of an enterprise.

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