When should I go native with my app?

More and more companies are realizing that in order to be in front of their customers and interact with them the way they want, they need to have an app. Aside from that, there are a ton of advantages to investing in a high quality app for your business. From building customer loyalty and brand recognition, to improving customer engagement and differentiating yourself from the competition, apps are a critical way your business is perceived. Don’t have an app? Most customers will move on to someone who does.

Unfortunately, too many businesses don’t give apps enough focus, and it shows. Poor execution, lack of funding, slow performance, and limited functionality all make it easy for customers to move on to someone else, with literally a tap of their finger. When it comes to building a quality app, you should consider going native.

Let’s take a step back first. What is a “native” app exactly and why is it important? When creating a new mobile app, you basically have two choices: a native app or a hybrid app. Each have their own advantages and approaches. To put it simply, native apps are designed specifically for, and only run on a single operating system (Apple or Android), while hybrid apps can be developed once and run on any modern device.

Because hybrid apps are cheaper to create, many businesses go down that path and later regret it. Take, for example, a little app called Facebook. In 2012, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg went on record saying their biggest mistake was not going with a native app to start with. The big reason? Responsiveness. Too many customers complained about the clunky operation of the hybrid app, and the company was forced back to the drawing board. This is just one example of when to consider native vs. hybrid.

In a nutshell, when considering whether to build a native app, it often comes down to better performance, more intuitive designs based on sophisticated and well-maintained toolkits, and silky smooth performance on the mobile device. In all, you’re getting the highest quality experience, with an app that can access all of the functions available on the smartphone or smart device.

Are there any downsides to native apps? As with any technology, there is always a trade-off. Native apps tend to be more expensive to create, since you have to create separate apps for Android and Apple iOS operating systems (98% of the mobile market), and they require the expertise of programmers familiar with these platforms.
Are you building a static, informational app with little more than product brochures for example? Sure, a hybrid app will suit you fine, and save you some money. But if your app is intended to increase sales and drive conversions and long-term customer loyalty — in other words, if it’s one of the main ways your customers will interact with you — then native is the way to go. Always think about what the impact will be on your customer, versus letting cost be the deciding factor.

What are some other advantages to going native we didn’t mention? Everyone is concerned about security. Native apps can take advantage of the underlying security features of the mobile device, making it much more secure than a hybrid app which depends on the security features of the web browser only.

Also, as smart devices evolve, new features and functionalities are being added all the time. Native apps are well positioned to take advantage of these, whether it’s facial or fingerprint recognition, the high quality camera and multi-directional microphone, GPS for targeting location, and even Near Field Communication (NFC) for mobile purchases made with a tap. Hybrid apps, on the other hand, are limited to only what the web browser can access, leading to a much smaller set of functionalities.

What are some examples of good native apps? There are thousands and thousands, with more being added every day, but all of today’s companies with a prominent digital footprint have one. Google Maps is a good example. As a native app, you can easily search for and download it from the App Store for your device. Whenever Google improves the app, it’s automatically updated on your phone.

When you’re waiting for Google Maps to tell you when to take the next turn, you don’t want to wait even a few extra seconds for it to respond. Performance is critical for a navigation app, as well as smooth animations and tight integration with the GPS chip on your device. You might take all these things for granted, but if the app was hybrid, there would be a huge difference in the overall experience. Other great native app examples include the Facebook and LinkedIn apps. Again, performance here is key.

Appworks, a Boston-based native app development company, has been there from the beginning and helped pioneer some of the first native mobile offerings. Our full stack development team supports a range of services to support your Android and iOS apps, including:

Android and iOS App Quality Assurance – full testing services to ensure apps go out the door free of bugs and are optimized for performance
Android and iOS App Porting – for when you want to move an app from another platform onto iOS
Android and iOS App UX and Design – our full design services to help you with branding and logo design, user experience, user interface design, and creation of style guides for use with future apps

Contact us today for a free consultation!