Mobile Apps Go Native: Part II. Now with Low-Code

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When 87% of users spend their time in native mobile apps, it's time for your company to get serious about native. But despite the clear end-user preference, companies face an eternal dilemma when it comes to mobile app development - going native or going hybrid. In this part II of the two-part blog series, I'm going to discuss why native hands-down wins the "hybrid versus native apps" debate and how companies can use low-code to build better and faster native apps.

Build the app right or build it quickly?
The case for native mobile goes beyond satisfying user tendencies. When companies decide to invest in native apps, they invest in customer loyalty by providing their clients with a better user experience. They are also investing in revenue growth by increasing customer engagement and conversion. And last, they are investing in themselves by reducing operational costs and improving employee productivity and accuracy. It’s true – when it comes to mobile apps – native offers the best performance. But this luxury doesn’t come for free.

Native apps are written in platform-specific languages – Java for Android and Swift/Objective-C for Apple. While some companies may have Java skills in-house to satisfy Android, they probably won’t have Objective-C or Swift developers on staff. Plus, since native apps are developed separately for each platform, companies must build, debug and maintain two sets of source code for every single application.

Given that native mobile apps take longer to build due to the additional complexities, companies are forced to decide between doing it right (native) and doing it quickly (mobile web).

However, there is an alternative – hybrid mobile app. Hybrid apps attempt to combine the best of both the worlds (native and web apps) into a single solution for both Apple and Android. Like a native app, a hybrid mobile app can be downloaded and installed on the phone and has access to some device features. And, like a web app, developers code the hybrid app in web languages they already know and write the code just once to run the app on both mobile platforms.

So, hybrid is the way to go then?
Remember the saying “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is?” Well, this is definitely the case for hybrid apps. Since hybrid mobile apps are essentially websites packaged up to run inside a native container, they may initially look and feel like a native app but users soon realize something is amiss. Just Google “hybrid versus native apps” and read any of the nearly 1.5 million search results. You’ll quickly realize that hybrid apps are slow, glitchy, and have limited offline capabilities. It’s no wonder hybrid is often referred to as “fake native.”

When 85% of users won’t do business with you after having a bad mobile experience, betting your mobile strategy on the hybrid technology will end up be a critical mistake. Don’t believe me? Ask Mark Zuckerberg! Version one of the Facebook app was a hybrid. Soon the app couldn’t scale to keep up with rapidly increasing customer demand. Facebook then decided to utilize a technology called React Native and rewrite the app as a native app. User acceptance was tremendous and Mark later admitted that, in hindsight, his decision to go Hybrid/HTML5 was one of his biggest mistakes.

Low-Code to the rescue!
While low-code development platforms have enabled companies to quickly build web and hybrid mobile apps for many years, Mendix is excited to be the first low-code vendor to add native mobile capabilities to its portfolio.

Leveraging React Native – the same technology used by Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Walmart and more – Mendix eliminates the need for customers to choose between doing it right (native) and doing it quickly (mobile web/hybrid). Plus, the Mendix platform is enabling companies to push their competitive boundaries by unleashing the full power of going native: offline capabilities, camera, geolocation, biometric authentication, Bluetooth-connected devices, augmented reality, and next-gen services like conversational chatbots and voice interfaces such as Alexa and Siri.

If all things were equal and it took the same effort to build a web, hybrid, or a native app, most companies would go native every time simply because the native app’s performance, security, and user experience destroys the other two options. Mendix removes the technology and resource constraints associated with native app development and helps businesses to deploy native Apple and Android apps 10x faster than standard development practices. So, go ahead companies-who-never-thought-you-could-go-native, have your cake and eat it too.

David Brault is working as Product Marketing Manager at Mendix.