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Hybrid App Development - Pros and Cons [2024]

Last updated on
January 11, 2024



Hybrid App Development - Pros and Cons [2024]


The number of mobile phone users is forecast to reach 7.49 billions in 2025 — no wonder that digital businesses have stopped asking themselves whether they should build a mobile app a long time ago. Now, they’re asking which mobile development approach they should take.

Choosing the right mobile development approach is never easy. One has to balance conflicting priorities, plan for months and years ahead without knowing how the mobile landscape will look like in the future, and somehow meet growing user expectations while sticking to a budget.

Anyone who has ever built a mobile app from scratch knows that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Some applications are clearly suited for one approach, while other applications can be built using a number of different approaches. In recent years, however, hybrid mobile app development has skyrocketed in popularity, and this article explains when it does make sense and when it doesn’t.

Hybrid mobile app development is taking over

According to the Ionic Developer Survey, which surveyed more than 13,000 developers about the tools and technologies they use when building apps, 32.7 percent of developers expect to completely abandon native development in favor of hybrid. In addition, the survey found a nearly 700 percent decrease in developers building exclusively with native tools.

<blockquote><p>The broader trend is that hybrid development is gaining traction, while the native approach is waning. We think that makes sense. The benefits of hybrid are obvious. And as the web evolves, there are fewer and fewer reasons not to adopt</p><p>— the Ionic Developer Survey</p></blockquote>

Explore hybrid app development trends.

What is hybrid mobile development?

Hybrid mobile development refers to the process of building mobile applications that can run on multiple operating systems (like iOS and Android) using a single codebase. This approach differs from native development, where separate applications are built for each platform using platform-specific programming languages (Objective-C or Swift for iOS, Java or Kotlin for Android).

Hybrid app vs native

Hybrid apps combine the best and worst elements of native and web apps. They utilize web technologies such as JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS but also provide access to native platform features. Basecamp, Instagram, Yelp, Uber, MarketWatch, or JustWatch, are all excellent examples of hybrid apps that can access native features such as the GPS, camera, contacts, and various sensors and run on both Android and iOS.

Native apps, on the other hand, are written in a platform-specific programming language (Objective-C or Swift for iOS, Java for Android, C# for Windows Phone) using platform-specific development tools.

In the past, all mobile apps were native apps because no other approach existed. But thanks to popular hybrid mobile app frameworks such as React Native, PhoneGap (Apache Cordova), Ionic, and Onsen UI, mobile app developers can finally write an app once and run it anywhere.

But just because mature hybrid mobile app frameworks are readily available doesn’t mean that everyone should use them. The hybrid mobile app development approach has its advantages and disadvantages, and it’s essential to understand them in order to decide when it makes sense.

Hybrid app development features

The main features of hybrid app development include:

  1. Single codebase: Developers write the application's code once and deploy it across multiple platforms, which can significantly reduce development time and costs.
  2. Web technologies: Hybrid apps are typically built using standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This allows for easier adoption by developers familiar with these technologies.
  3. Cross-platform compatibility: By using frameworks like Ionic, React Native, Xamarin, or Flutter, hybrid apps can achieve near-native performance and look across different platforms.
  4. Access to device features: Despite being built with web technologies, hybrid apps can access device-specific features such as the camera, GPS, and accelerometer through various plugins or extensions.
  5. Easier maintenance: Updates to the application can be rolled out more easily, as changes need to be made only once in the common codebase.

Advantages of hybrid mobile app development

<blockquote><p> “If you are a web developer, not only do you know how to build browser applications, but you love the web platform because you can use the same skills to build an app for iOS and Android,”</p><p>“Hybrid apps are really about embracing the web and making it work for mobile.”</p><p>— explained Ionic’s CEO Max Lynch.</p></blockquote>

The hybrid mobile app development approach allows companies to leverage their existing web development talent to enter the mobile market. According to Lynch, there are 30 times more web developers than there are native app developers, and their salaries reflect this reality. Startups and small companies can save a lot of money by tapping into this readily available talent pool.

Apart from helping companies save money, hybrid mobile app development also makes it possible to target multiple platforms without maintaining multiple codebases, which reduces the time to market significantly and allows them to reach a higher number of users.

  1. Cross-platform development: Perhaps the most significant advantage of hybrid apps is their ability to run on multiple platforms (like iOS and Android) using a single codebase. This means developers can write the code once and deploy it on various platforms, saving significant time and effort.
  2. Reduced development cost and time: Since the same code can be used for multiple platforms, the development time and costs are significantly reduced compared to native app development, where separate codebases are needed for each platform.
  3. Simplified maintenance: Updating and maintaining a hybrid app is easier because it involves managing a single codebase. Any update or bug fix can be synced across all platforms simultaneously, ensuring consistency.
  4. Broader market reach: Being able to deploy on multiple platforms with a single development project means you can reach a wider audience, as your app is accessible on both iOS and Android devices.
  5. Access to device features: Despite being developed with web technologies, hybrid apps can still access various device features like the camera, accelerometer, and GPS through plugins and APIs.
  6. Familiar web technologies: Hybrid apps are built using familiar web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This can be a significant advantage for teams that already have experience with these technologies.
  7. Faster development and deployment: The use of web technologies and a single codebase can lead to much faster development and deployment times, which is crucial in getting an app to market quickly.
  8. Flexible development frameworks: There are several frameworks available for hybrid development (such as React Native, Ionic, Flutter), each offering a range of tools and libraries that can further speed up and enhance the development process.
  9. Improved performance over web apps: While they might not match the performance of native apps, hybrid apps generally offer better performance than traditional web apps since they can leverage the device's processing power more effectively.
  10. Offline support: Hybrid apps can provide offline support by storing some data locally, which is beneficial for users with intermittent internet connections.

Disadvantages of hybrid mobile app development

The fact that hybrid apps use a single codebase for all major app platforms means that it’s sometimes difficult to match the level of polish of native apps. This can become especially problematic when feature requests start to creep in uncontrollably and without taking into consideration the inherent limitations of the hybrid approach.

Android makes it particularly difficult to achieve consistent design, given its countless carrier and device combinations. The situation is much better on the iOS side, where it’s possible to capture over 95 percent of users by supporting only the two most recent versions of the mobile operating system.

In the past, hybrid mobile apps were plagued by performance issues because of the limitations of the hardware and JavaScript engines that were available at the time. While both mobile hardware and JavaScript engines have improved considerably over the years, it will still take some time before most smartphones have desktop-quality processors and plenty of memory to eliminate all performance issues associated with hybrid apps.

<blockquote><p>“99 percent of the time, hybrid works very well, as most businesses are not creating high performance, graphics-heavy game apps. They only need to create, read, update, and delete data (CRUD) with a bit of UX sprinkled on top. Sure, if a game is your end goal, then choose native,”</p><p> – Matt Netkow, Senior Product Evangelist for Ionic.</p></blockquote>

  1. Performance: Hybrid apps generally do not match the performance level of native apps. They can be slower and less smooth, especially for high-performance tasks like complex animations, intensive graphics, or extensive data processing.
  2. Native look and feel: Achieving a native look and feel can be more challenging with hybrid apps. Users might notice differences in UI elements and transitions, which can affect the overall user experience.
  3. Access to device features: While hybrid apps can access most device features, this often requires additional plugins or frameworks. Some advanced device features might be limited or not accessible, and new OS features might take longer to be supported.
  4. Dependency on frameworks and third-party tools: Hybrid development relies heavily on frameworks like React Native, Ionic, or Flutter. Developers are subject to the limitations, bugs, and lifecycle of these tools. If a framework is discontinued or falls out of favor, it could pose significant challenges.
  5. Increased size: Hybrid apps can be larger in size compared to native apps. This is because they need to include the web view and the framework's code, which can increase the download size of the app.
  6. Debugging and testing complexities: Debugging hybrid apps can be more complex than native apps. Issues may arise from the interaction between the web view and the native layer, and developers might need to debug both web code and native code.
  7. User Experience consistency: Ensuring a consistent user experience across different platforms and devices can be more challenging. Variations in devices' screen sizes, resolutions, and hardware capabilities can affect the app's look and performance.
  8. Internet dependency: For certain functionalities, hybrid apps might rely more on internet connectivity compared to native apps. While they can store some data locally, they might need to fetch updated content or data from the web.

How to make a hybrid app more native?

  1. Use native plugins: Utilize native plugins to access device-specific features like camera, GPS, accelerometer, etc. This ensures that your app interacts seamlessly with the device’s hardware, offering a more native experience.
  2. Optimize performance: Focus on optimizing the app’s performance. This includes minimizing the use of heavy libraries, optimizing images and assets for faster loading, and ensuring smooth animations and transitions.
  3. Responsive and adaptive UI design: Design your UI to be both responsive and adaptive. It should look good and function well on a wide range of screen sizes and resolutions. Use platform-specific design cues to make the app look familiar to users of each platform.
  4. Improve touch interactions: Ensure that touch interactions in your app are responsive and natural. Implement feedback on touch (like haptic feedback) to enhance user engagement.
  5. Streamline navigation: Navigation should be intuitive and in line with what users expect on their respective platforms. Use native-like navigation patterns like tabs for iOS or drawers for Android.
  6. Use native UI components: If your framework allows, use native UI components. Frameworks like React Native or Flutter allow you to create components that are converted to their native equivalents.
  7. Minimize web view use: Limit the use of web views for displaying content. Over-reliance on web views can make the app feel less native and more like a web page.
  8. Optimize startup time: Work on reducing the startup time of your app. A quick launch time is a characteristic of native apps and improves overall user experience.
  9. Local data storage and offline functionality: Implement local data storage for offline access to data. This not only makes the app faster but also usable without an internet connection, mirroring the behavior of many native apps.
  10. Regularly update and test: Regularly update your app to utilize the latest features of the hybrid framework and fix any existing issues. Also, thoroughly test the app on various devices to ensure consistent performance and appearance.
  11. Custom animations and transitions: Use custom animations and transitions that are smooth and mimic those found in native apps. This can significantly enhance the user experience.
  12. Follow platform-specific design guidelines: Adhere to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines and Google’s Material Design guidelines to ensure your app feels at home on each platform.

Technologies used for hybrid app development

  1. React Native: Developed by Facebook, React Native allows developers to build mobile apps using JavaScript and React. It's known for providing a near-native experience by using native components under the hood. React Native apps can access device functionalities like camera, GPS, etc.
  2. Ionic: Ionic uses web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build apps. It's often used with Angular, but can also work with Vue.js or plain JavaScript. Ionic offers a library of optimized mobile UI elements and gestures.
  3. Flutter: Developed by Google, Flutter is a relatively newer framework that uses the Dart programming language. It's unique for its widget-based architecture and is known for high-performance applications with a consistent UI across platforms.
  4. Xamarin: Xamarin, a Microsoft-owned framework, allows developers to write code in C# and share it across platforms. It integrates deeply with the .NET framework and offers access to native APIs and functionalities.
  5. Apache Cordova/Adobe PhoneGap: These frameworks allow developers to build mobile applications using HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. They use a WebView with additional plugins to access native device features.
  6. Framework7: This is a lesser-known but powerful framework for building iOS and Android apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It focuses on providing a native feel with its rich UI components.
  7. Sencha Touch (now part of Ext JS): Sencha Touch is a JavaScript framework that enables developers to build mobile web applications that look and feel like native apps.


The decision whether to take the hybrid mobile app development approach is a big one. Everyone in the mobile app development world has an opinion on which approach is best, but the fact remains that every project has different priorities which ultimately dictate how it should be completed.

Knowing what the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid mobile app development are allows you to make an educated decision and choose the approach that works best for you.

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Marcin Dryka
Software Engineer

Full-stack software developer with 17 years of professional experience.

Bianka Pluszczewska
Tech Editor

Software development enthusiast with 8 years of professional experience in this industry.

Marcin Dryka
Software Engineer

Full-stack software developer with 17 years of professional experience.

Bianka Pluszczewska
Tech Editor

Software development enthusiast with 8 years of professional experience in this industry.

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