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Hybrid Mobile Apps

Hybrid Mobile Applications

Hybrid development combines the best (or worst) of both the native and HTML5 worlds. We define hybrid as a web app, primarily built using HTML5 and JavaScript, that is then wrapped inside a thin native container that provides access to native platform features. PhoneGap is an example of the most popular container for creating hybrid mobile apps.

For the most part, hybrid apps provide the best of both worlds. Existing web developers that have become gurus at optimizing JavaScript, pushing CSS to create beautiful layouts, and writing compliant HTML code that works on any platform can now create sophisticated mobile applications that don’t sacrifice the cool native capabilities. In certain circumstances, native developers can write plugins for tasks like image processing, but in cases like this, the devil is in the details.

On iOS, the embedded web browser or the UIWebView is not identical to the Safari browser. While the differences are minor, they can cause debugging headaches. That’s why it pays off to invest in popular frameworks that have addressed all of the limitations.

You know that native apps are installed on the device, while HTML5 apps reside on a Web server, so you might be wondering if hybrid apps store their files on the device or on a server? Yes. In fact there are two ways to implement a hybrid app.

  • Local – You can package HTML and JavaScript code inside the mobile application binary, in a manner similar to the structure of a native application. In this scenario you use REST APIs to move data back and forth between the device and the cloud.
  • Server – Alternatively you can implement the full web application from the server (with optional caching for better performance), simply using the container as a thin shell over the UIWebview.

Netflix has a really cool app that uses the same code base for running the UI on all devices: tablets, phones, smart TVs, DVD players, refrigerators, and cars. While most people have no idea, nor care, how the app is implemented, you’ll be interested to know they can change the interface on the fly or conduct A/B testing to determine the optimal user interactions. The guts of decoding and streaming videos are delegated to the native layer for best performance, so it’s a fast, seemingly native app, that really does provide the best of both worlds.