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Mobile Application Types – Native, Mobile Web, Hybrid

February 5, 2018
Mobile Application types, Native Apps, Mobile Web Apps, Hybrid Apps, Mobile Apps, Types of Mobile Apps, Mobile Apps types

When it comes to Mobile Applications testing, the terms like Native Apps, Mobile Web, and Hybrid Apps are quite often heard for Mobile Application types. These are the classifications for Mobile Applications and depends on App design, App development, and App deployment to the intended mobile device(s). Now the questions that arise are:

  • What are these Mobile Application types?
  • How are these Mobile Application types different from each other?
  • What are their Pros and Cons?
  • Which one to choose?

With this, we will proceed to understand on different Mobile Application types in this section.

Native Apps

In general, among all different Mobile Application types, the majority of the apps in the mobile device are Native apps. These are the apps that are developed for the specific platform and are dependent on hardware. They are written in the language that the platform understands and accepts – for example Java language for Android platform, Swift or Objective–C for Apple platform, and C# or VB.Net for Windows platform. As they are developed for specific platform/device, they use almost all the built-in features of mobile device – like messaging, contacts list, calls, camera, gallery, GPS, etc.

Native apps should be downloaded and installed onto the mobile device itself through the market place – like Google Play store or Apple App store based on the device platform. These apps usually appear as an icon in Menu list and/or home screen when downloaded and installed, later supports widgets of them for easy to use and quick access to the particular section of the app. Also, internet access is not a requirement for all the Native apps. Some apps do run in offline mode.

Pros of Native Apps

  • Fast, responsive, and reliable
  • Can be integrated with built-in features of the device for usage which increases accessibility of the app
  • Supports push notifications alerting users when their attention is needed
  • Very user-friendly as the UI/UX of the App matches with platform conventions. Since it is platform dependent, UI/UX of the Native App for the entire platform need not be compromised.
  • Exclusive Software Development Kits (SDKs) and development tools ease developers in building Native apps.
  • App Stores will take care of transactions once approved

Cons of Native Apps

  • Since this App is platform dependent, if it has to support multiple platforms then each platform should have a separate/different codebase of the same application. For example, App designed for Android will have one codebase and for iOS will be the different codebase.
  • Costly and takes longer time if App has to support on multiple platforms. If the developer is specialized in one platform and App has to be designed for two different platforms, then the requirement arises for one more specialized developer for the other platform. This increases both cost and time.
  • Most of the Native apps need to maintain the mobile website as well which is again costlier.
  • New App launch or updates to existing App requires approval at App Store which could take longer time and may become tedious for developers as the delay could result in the backlog of App due to other similar apps in the market. But once approved, apps get full support from the App Store, in terms of security and safety.
  • Different users might be using different versions of the same app, and hence support should be provided to almost all the versions of the app.

Mobile Web

Mobile web apps are not actually the real applications (as Native apps) to download and install. They are the websites that open in the mobile device through web browsers. They can be run when the internet is available and do not take memory or storage in the device.

Mobile Web Apps are same as Web Apps but designed for Mobile devices. These apps are written/built in HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS, and do not need Software Development Kits (SDKs) to work with, as they are just accessed in the web browser like any other web apps.

When the Native apps are supported by mobile web apps as well, there would be no much difference between them in terms of usage. The only difference would be the browser buttons, URLs, and browser cache.

Pros of Mobile Web

  • Platform independent – They have common codebase across multiple mobile platforms.
  • Easy to access as they are just to be launched in the web browser. They are instantly available, and cannot be deleted so that they are accessible all the times
  • Easy to develop – Desktop website codebase is taken and redesigned to fit the contents properly to the mobile device screen.
  • Easy to update – Updating codebase is generic to all the users. Only Web page of the latest version is accessible by all the users.
  • Highly responsive – Most of the websites have proved to be loaded within 3 seconds from launch
  • Easy to find as their pages to display in search results and are broadly reachable to wide-range of users
  • No download/install process to be followed
  • Browser caching property helps to read the webpage in offline mode
  • No need to get approval from App store – Mobile Web can be released to market at developer’s convenience
  • Time to develop and Maintenance cost is comparatively low

Cons of Mobile Web

  • Cannot access the built-in features of the mobile device, like Camera, Calls, Messaging, GPS, etc.
  • Features are scoped minimally
  • Different users use the Mobile Web on different browsers which could result in difficulty to record the usage patterns with the browser.
  • Browser version, plug-ins, could interfere with feature’s functionality. A too lower version of the browser may not support the high-fledged feature.
  • Since the App Store does not interfere with Mobile Web, there is no guaranteed safety and security
  • Cannot be accessed if the internet is not available.
  • Accommodating too many features could result in failure of the entire mobile web app.

Hybrid Apps

Part Native, Part Web App = Hybrid App.

Hybrid App is the combination of Native App elements (specific to the platform) and Web App elements (available on the internet). Since Hybrid App is the mixture of Native and Web app, it will be available in App store and makes use of the built-in features of the mobile device, and also rely on HTML to render in browser i.e., the browser is embedded within the app. When the Hybrid App is accessed, it displays the web content and adapts to WebView display.

Pros of Hybrid Apps

  • Managing codebase is easy as it needs only one codebase. i.e., instead of building individual apps for different platforms, just build one App and tweak it a bit to work on all the required platforms
  • Saves time as the App need not be developed completely separate for each platform.
  • Scalability – Build for one platform, launch it on other platforms as well.
  • Because of part Native app, device’s built-in features can be utilized
  • Browser is embedded within the app
  • Makes use of advantages of both Native and Mobile web apps
  • Updates to Hybrid Apps can be released to the market skipping App Store approval if native code is not modified.

Cons of Hybrid Apps

  • Performance/responsiveness is slow compared to Native and Mobile Web apps alone – Since Hybrid App loads in a browser-like component called WebView, it is only good for UI display and running JavaScript. Performing actions result in slowness.
  • Transition between pages/ features is slow
  • Great dependency on browser speed
  • Increased complexity of the App development – integration of Native App elements and Web App elements becomes complicated
  • Cross-platform achievement is difficult, due to Native App element

Which one to choose among these Mobile Application Types? Native or Mobile Web or Hybrid App?

Choosing the one from these three different Mobile Application types is not less than a challenge. Following points should be considered before deciding on choosing the app type:

  • Importance of the speed/performance of the app
  • Should the app make use of built-in features of the mobile device
  • Support for Online and Offline modes
  • Need of Cross-platform support
  • Budget/maintenance cost
  • Time to market
  • Rich User experience
  • Overall complexity
  • Who are the target users and their way of accessing the App
  • Should it be available in App Stores
  • Frequency to release updates

However, the decision to choose the type of App is purely technical and is an organizational decision, and should not have any limitations for the users.

Consequences on Testing Phase

Conducting tests differs from one App type to another. Each type will impact the strategy to choose, types of tests to be conducted, and test steps to adapt graphical aspects of the app varies across platforms. Testing Hybrid Apps is more challenging than testing Native App and or Mobile Web, both manually and automation.

  • While testing Hybrid Apps, integration testing between the Native part and Web App part is very challenging. Also, WebView is mainly with displaying UI, testing the app across different screen resolutions and sizes are time-consuming.
  • Function Tests should be thorough and adequate so that not even a corner of the app is missed during testing.
  • Mobile behavior due to various factors like no signal, changing network connectivity, orientations, battery, and interruptions should be tested in integration with App testing
  • App should undergo full System Testing before releasing the updates (every time).

Conclusion

All the three Mobile Application types of App are to cater the needs of the mobile users. They have their own strengths and weaknesses, and there is no unique best possible solution. The choice and decision purely depend on the organizational needs. No matter which App is chosen, but the testing has to regress and should give best possible coverage in whole.

About the author

Nandini KS editor

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