Hybrid apps vs. native apps

We often hear from customers and prospects who are confused about whether to get a native app or a web-based app. What’s the difference? And which is better?

There’s also been a big buzz in the mobile community lately. It’s all because both Facebook and Linkedin have changed the way their mobile apps work, taking them from HTML5 hybrid apps to native solutions.

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So what does all this mean? HTML5? Hybrid apps? Native app?

Basically, it’s the difference between an app that’s built specifically for a particular platform (iOS or Android), and an app that is based on the web and can run on any device.

HTML5 is just a way of creating online content. Facebook and Linkedin both had hybrid apps. This means they were built in HTML5, then bundled inside a native shell so that consumers could find and download them in app stores.

But they’ve both recently switched to native apps. This has been somewhat controversial, as many people think HTML5 and hybrid apps are the future of mobile.

What this means for ecommerce brands thinking about developing their own app?

And why did Facebook and Linkedin switch from their hybrid apps to native ones?

There was one major reason – speed. A native app will always be faster and smoother to use. And that’s vital for ecommerce brands, whose customers want convenient shopping from a full product catalogue on mobile.

Speed is definitely what customers want from mobile apps. A Compuware survey found that four out of five users expected an app to launch in three seconds or less. And they expected apps to load faster than mobile websites.

A faster, smoother experience

Speed isn’t the only reason that native apps offer a better user experience. There are two other major advantages.

  • Responsiveness: When you move your finger across a screen, or swipe to view a new picture, a native app will respond almost instantaneously. It feels like you’re interacting with a physical object rather than pixels on a screen.
  • Smoothness: This is one of the major reasons Linkedin switched. Animations and movement will always perform more smoothly in a native app. They look better and feel less clunky than in a mobile website or a hybrid solution.

It’s possible to have these two advantages in a hybrid app, but they’re very expensive to recreate, requiring a lot of programming time.

What’s the solution?

At Poq, we took the decision to build all our apps natively. We know that fashion consumers want fast, smooth apps to browse and buy from.

In fact, with version 2 of our mobile platform, we’ve switched from having apps that are accessible off-line, to apps that grab images and data from the internet. It means that you need to be online to browse and buy from the app, but the trade-off is a much faster experience for fashion shoppers. We’ll be updating all of our apps to this new standard over the next month.

The future?

Things move fast in the tech world. But right now, we think that native apps offer the best mobile shopping experience for consumers. We’re not alone either – usability guru Jakob Nielsen offers the same advice in his latest update on the issue.

There’s an old but relevant quote from this Guardian article that sums up the difference:

“If you look to connect with your customer via a mobile web app (a “handshake”) and your competitor offers them a “cuddle” with a better native app experience, you will lose, regardless of the eloquence of your argument or the sophistication of your engineering.