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What is the difference between Native, Web and Hybrid Mobile Applications? July 9, 2013

Posted by HubTechInsider in Uncategorized, Wireless Applications.
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Native, mobile Web, or hybrid? For many companies considering tapping into the mobility of their increasingly connected workforce with enterprise mobile solutions, as well as b2c mobile applications with user communities in the millions, that’s the primary question.

The answer: It depends. There’s no single correct solution that applies to all scenarios and needs. Each option — mobile Web apps, hybrid applications, and native apps — has its own advantages and disadvantages. The right path for your company depends on a variety of factors.

Before beginning your mobile application development project, it is important to run through a checklist of questions that must be tackled at the outset: What is your business hoping to accomplish with the app? Do you have a mobile device management policy? If so, what is it? These are just a few examples, you should have a more comprehensive list of preliminary questions to have answered as part of your initial requirements elicitation and gathering process.

Before you can determine which option is best for your custom mobile development project, it is important to understand a few basic fundamentals on the differences between native, hybrid and mobile Web applications:

Native Applications are applications that are developed exclusively for a specific mobile platform and that can leverage all device capabilities.

Native applications can leverage the full array of features and functions available through the mobile device’s core operating system. Generally, they are faster, smoother and offer a significantly more fluid user experience than either Hybrid apps or mobile Web apps.

Hybrid Applications are applications that wrap a mobile web interface inside a native application “container”.

Today, technology changes so rapidly that most businesses require immense flexibility and scalability to adapt content, design and even application architecture, all on the fly. By deploying applications that rely on a robust combination of HTML5 Web technologies and native OS features, you preserve a large degree of control over the content and design of the solutions we build for mobile platforms.

Many companies find that this hybrid development process empowers them to perform fast, easy, on-demand updates, without losing the inherent advantages that come from hosting a solution in the iTunes Apps Store or the Android Marketplace.

Mobile Web Applications are applications that are implemented with HTML5 and JavaScript that operate entirely inside a mobile browser.

Mobile Web apps offer an attractive option for companies that are looking to get into the Mobility game but don’t want to invest in building native applications across four different mobile platforms. Whether getting a new app up and running or maintaining or updating an existing mobile solution, with Mobile Web Apps everything is simple and inexpensive. Better yet, HTML5-driven mobile Web apps are cross-platform compatible and, in large degree, more secure than native applications (given that very little data is stored locally on the native device.)

Comparing Native and Hybrid Mobile Applications

The following table offers a matrix comparing the benefits and various features supported by native and hybrid mobile applications:

Feature Native Hybrid
Access to the Contacts or Address Book Full support All platforms except older Blackberry OS and WebOS
Access to the Accelerometer (motion detection) Full support Not supported on older Blackberry OS
Camera Full support Not supported on older Blackberry OS
Storing data locally and offline Full support All platforms except older Blackberry OS and Samsung Bada
Accessing network properties and conditions Full support Full support
Access to the local file system for saving and retrieving files (e.g. images) Full support All except Symbian, older Blackberry OS, WebOS and Bada
Access to Location / GPS data Full support Full support
Local notifications (alerts, vibration, sound) Full support Full support

Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software developmentAgile project managementmanaging software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projectsecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. I have been working in the software engineering and ecommerce industries for over fifteen years. My interests include computers, electronics, robotics and programmable microcontrollers, and I am an avid outdoorsman and guitar player. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Quora, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurshipecommercetelecommunications and software development, I’m a PMO Director, a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of several ecommerce and web-based software startups, the latest of which is Tshirtnow.net.

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