October 28, 2015

Hybrid mobile app development just got simpler: Part I

Mobile has swiftly risen to become the leading digital platform, with total activity on smartphones and tablets accounting for an astounding 60 percent of digital media time spent in the U.S.  Did you know that by 2016 more than half the mobile apps deployed will be hybrid? This blog post is the first of two-part series on developing hybrid mobile applications. In the first part, we will look at what is a hybrid mobile app and why hybrid mobile applications are very popular within enterprises. In the next part, we will see how WaveMaker can simplify hybrid mobile app development using visual RAD methodology.

What is a hybrid mobile app?

Enterprises want applications that can run on desktops as well as mobile devices. To create mobile applications, there are two options:

  1. Native mobile apps that use the target programming language supported by the native device; or
  2. Hybrid mobile apps that use standard Web HTML technologies and are wrapped using Apache Cordova / PhoneGap libraries to give them the ability to run as an app on the target device.

Refer to this article, For a detailed comparison of native and hybrid apps.

While a native app provides the best user experience, developing native apps is a costly affair. It requires developing the application on each device separately and requires highly skilled developers who can code in Objective-C/Swift for iOS, and/or Java for Android devices. Many enterprises want to balance the need for great user experience with the simplicity and speed of developing the application. This is where hybrid mobile apps come in.

Why hybrid mobile apps are popular with enterprises?

Gartner says by 2016, more than 50 percent of mobile apps deployed will be hybrid.

Why is this so? Why are enterprises moving towards hybrid mobile applications? To understand this let’s talk about how hybrid mobile apps are built and the advantages they provide.

How to create hybrid mobile app?

Hybrid mobile apps are built with a combination of web technologies like HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript and also use Apache Cordova, a library that provides set of APIs to access device capabilities. As a result, hybrid apps can utilize the device capabilities like camera, GPS, contacts, calendar and more. Hybrid apps can be put on app stores and can be downloaded onto the device. The apps are launched on the device similar to native applications and run on the device. In other words, hybrid mobile apps are like any other apps on your phone and it can be very difficult to tell how a mobile application is built.

Advantages of hybrid mobile apps

Hybrid mobile apps are popular with mobile app developers because:

  • They are easy to develop as compared to native apps because hybrid mobile apps rely on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Developers can re-use their existing skills in web development.
  • As a developer you can develop an app just once and deploy/run on all platforms (iOS, Windows, Android).
  • In terms of user experience, hybrid apps come very close to the rich experience provided by native apps.
  • Hybrid app users can perform most of the interactions, such as pinch, swipe, and click, that are prevalent in mobile user interfaces.

Given these advantages, hybrid mobile apps are well suited for most B2B and enterprise applications.

How to simplify hybrid mobile app development?

Until now, developing hybrid mobile apps required developers with a very good understanding of HTML5, CSS, JavaScript as well as Apache Cordova framework APIs. Additionally, developers needed to master UI design for mobile layouts. Overall, hybrid mobile app development can be expensive and very time-consuming despite the advantages over native apps.

However, with WaveMaker, developers can now can use the visual Rapid Application Development paradigm to develop beautiful hybrid mobile apps.  Note: Hybrid mobile app development features on WaveMaker are currently in alpha stage.

Sample hybrid mobile apps

Here are some of the hybrid mobile apps built using the WaveMaker platform:

Personal Book Catalog App

Employee Profile App

Isn’t that cool? If you want to build hybrid mobile apps, check out WaveMaker and get a head start with your apps using our in-built mobile templates.

Also, look out for the next part of this blog which talks about how WaveMaker greatly simplifies hybrid mobile app development.