State of Mobile November 21, 2016

The rebirth of hybrid

Thomas Mons

Director of Engineering

In our annual report 'The State of Mobile' we have identified five very concrete evolutions you should understand to stay on top of the digital game in 2017. The third is the rebirth of hybrid. Hybrid apps have resurrected, and they come in many forms. But the crucial choice of which type of hybrid development to apply, has become difficult.

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Where is this trend coming from? 

Hybrid mobile development is nearly as old as native development. Shortly after the native SDK’s, Unity started supporting iOS & Android to facilitate cross-platform gaming apps, and Phonegap was launched, causing the first wave of hybrid apps.

At that time, early 2009, web was seen as the future of app development, but soon the first hiccups appeared: webviews could not match the quality of native views. And they were a royal pain to debug, as decent development tools were lacking, and platforms and their respective versions varied enormously. On top of that, new UX paradigms started to emerge that could not be realised with web technology at that time.

In 2012, Mark Zuckerberg called the hybrid Facebook app the biggest mistake he had ever made. Facebook went native and others followed soon: the first wave of hybrid apps died, hooray for native development.

However, by 2015, webviews became more performant (WKWebView, Crosswalk) and now included decent debugging tools. Javascript gained popularity (node.js, Angular, React,..) and its language evolved (ES6). Phonegap was open sourced as Cordova, its ecosystem started to take shape and new frameworks based on Cordova appeared (Ionic, Intel XBX, Cocoo). Microsoft acquired the up-and-coming Xamarin, made it open source and integrated it in Visual Studio. In Xamarin you can build native apps for multiple platforms using 1 language (C#) and 1 IDE, with the business logic shared between all platforms. In Xamarin Forms, you can even share views.

Still in 2015, Facebook created React Native, a variant of the extremely popular React framework that allows to create and share native views on iOS and Android using Javascript and JSX.

How is this trend evolving? 

Today, Hybrid 2.0 is thriving and can be defined in 3 categories of hybrid apps:

  • HTML/JS-based,with server-side rendering (“wrapper apps”)
  • HTML/JS-based,with client-side rendering (e.g. Cordova based apps)
  • Intermediate language that results in a native app (Xamarin, React Native & Unity)

How to choose? 

Before choosing a mobile app development technology, you should make some crucial assessments. Download The State of Mobile for the full article and other trends that will shape your business in the years to come.

Download The State of Mobile

Get insights into today’s mobile behaviour and technologies to watch in the years to come

Download the report
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