First there were websites; then came mobile apps and with that there was great dilemma whether to use mobile websites or apps, where the latter gained ground because it provided a better user experience. Now, the dilemma is between choosing native app and hybrid app models for start-ups, at least in India, where hybrid apps dominate. Jayavardhan B N, former engineer at technology giant, Huawei, and co-founder of Bengaluru-based mobile app development start-up, Hashtaag, with offices in the US and the Netherlands, puts the two app models in perspective.
What’s the basic different between the two app models?
To create hybrid apps, you don’t need to code it differently for different mobile operating systems (OS) – Android, iOS, and Windows. With common coding and universal design, it can be deployed to all the three OS. However, when it comes to building native apps, exclusive coding is necessary for each of the OS, because every OS has its own programming language and usually they follow native design guidelines. All large enterprises or emerging ones uses native apps like Flipkart, Facebook, and Swiggy.
So which is the ideal one to use including the cost factor?
Native apps are costlier to build than hybrid apps. There is a 30 per cent deviation both in terms of time and cost if we develop all platforms in parallel when it comes to hybrid apps. For e.g., if you are spending Rs 1 lakh on building native app, then hybrid app will cost Rs 70,000 because it requires coding once for all platform. Hybrid apps are ideal in cases when a start-up is only testing its model and the idea but is not sure about it. For businesses who understand their market, business model and customers well and are confident about scaling it up, can go for native apps.
So, is India a hybrid app market? What about the vulnerability factor?
Yes, in India, the usage is largely of hybrid apps because they are cheaper, unlike the US and other evolved markets. Because native apps use local OS resources they are more secure and performs better than hybrid apps. It is like transplanting an actual organ versus an artificial organ into your body, which is the OS, when it comes to apps. The body will respond to the actual organ better than the artificial one, though artificial one will be cheaper. The security also depends on how strong your backend is which means how secure is your server, how many layers of security has been added to it, whether you are using encryption methods while storing and use tokenisation, SSL certificate when transmitting information and other measures. Hybrid Apps are less secure when compared to Native since it does not use local resources to its potential.
Any particular growth stage when start-ups should switch to native apps?
There is no stage for startups to switch from hybrid to native apps. However, once the testing of the product is over and there is traction coming to the app and there is a need for optimising the performance and user experience , you can switch to native apps to enhance that. But that’s not mandatory; you can begin with hybrid apps as well. It is like you have money to buy both Nano and Mercedes, but to get great comfort and ride quality you can straight away buy Mercedes. There are some inherent flaws in hybrid apps which don’t go away even if you think of revamping the user interface of the app. But there is lot of advancements going on with respect to Hybrid and we hope these platforms can overcome the limitations in the near futurequality you can straight away buy Mercedes. There are some inherent flaws in hybrid apps which don’t go away even if you think of revamping the user interface of the app.
(This article was first published in the February issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)