How is developing and testing hybrid apps different than native and web apps? We break down the differences and give you tips for developing and testing hybrid apps.

What Is the Difference Between Native and Hybrid Applications?

Hybrid Apps

A hybrid app, as the name implies, is basically a combination of the two. They are typically created with Web app languages like HTML, but they are hosted inside a native wrapper. So while the inside of this app is made with HTML, JavaScript and CSS, the outside is a native shell. This kind of app is also downloaded and installed on a device. This gives developers more flexibility and combines the best features and functionalities of both types.

Native Apps

An app that is developed for a specific platform or device, such as Health for iOS. These apps can interact directly with operating system features and take advantage of latest hardware and software updates. This is generally seen as an advantage over Web apps. However, because the app is designed for a specific platform, a new version of the app must be created for each platform to be deployed on. For example, if you were creating a native game app, you would need to write one version of the app for iOS, and a separate one for Android. This is generally seen as a disadvantage over Web apps.

Mobile Web Apps

A Web app is stored remotely and then deployed via internet through a browser. They are typically written in both client-side and server-side script like HTML5, JavaScript, PHP, ASP etc. These apps can be faster to develop since only one version is needed, reducing the number of apps needed to be developed and tested.

How Do The Differences Between Native and Hybrid Apps Affect Test Strategy?

Now that we’ve got that all straightened out, what impact do these differences have on your testing strategy? Well, not a lot as long as you plan for the most challenging type of app you’ll test: the hybrid app.

Hybrid app testing poses the most challenge for testers because they’re combo apps – they use both native and web objects to provide a seamless user experience. That just means when testing hybrid apps, testers need to address characteristics of both native and mobile Web apps collectively.

Once you’ve got a plan in place for hybrid apps, you can apply it to native and mobile Web apps as well.

The Advantages of Hybrid App Development

Hybrid apps are growing in popularity partly because they are time and cost-effective. Enterprises and SMBs planning to develop apps can take advantage of existing infrastructure built upon Web technologies as opposed to developing an app from the ground up.

Another reason hybrid apps are gaining popularity is that they help enterprises scale their app strategy. HTML5 and JavaScript are Web standards so they can run across several different platforms.

This means developers can utilize the same code to function across different devices and platforms, minimizing the level of effort required for the app to run on multiple mobile platforms. Enterprises can further scale their app strategy by expanding the breadth of applications.

Using HTML5 and JavaScript means applications can be developed for employees, partners, and customers in a fraction of the time needed to create these apps natively. When you think about how aggressive many enterprises are getting with app rollouts, you see why hybrid apps are an attractive option.

Hybrid applications allow developers to access native device functions, such as the camera, through the native Web container.

Traditional mobile Web sites and applications do not have this access through the built-in device browsers. Using the native Web container, Web developers can create much more feature-rich mobile applications. Hybrid apps also allow the Web content to run without a connection to the server.

These apps are released just like native applications – through app stores.

On the downside, there are some limitations as to what developers can do with Web technologies. In some cases, there can be reduced app functionality as well as performance issues with a hybrid development approach.

Developing a Strategy for a Hybrid App Testing Framework

So, what does this mean for your test strategy?

It means you have to plan to test mobile Web objects AND native objects all wrapped up in a single hybrid app.

It comes down to this: you need to be able to easily differentiate between mobile objects and native objects so you can test accordingly. The ability to interact with all objects appropriately based on object type is important.

For example, you need to know that interacting with an HTML5 object will be a little bit different than interacting with a corresponding native object. You just need to anticipate these differences and create tests accordingly.

Your test strategies should also include information verification for all of the app types noted above. Since most apps pull in information from a website, its important that when you test, you ensure the website is providing the right information to the app.

In addition, you need to be aware of other factors that web objects present to an application. For example, are there security holes that allow unwanted access to the device? Are there online and offline differences that hybrid apps allow?

If there is no outside access, does the application behave differently? And finally, do the hybrid Web objects have performance problems? All of these questions need to be considered.

At the end of the day, a solid mobile testing strategy is the first step no matter what kind of app you’ll test. The right strategy can mean the difference between highly functioning, reliable apps and an app with poor performance and bad reviews.

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Steve Orlando

Steve Orlando is a seasoned development and quality assurance professional with experience testing and developing mobile, Web, mainframe, CRM and desktop applications. In his role as director of product development for Mobile Labs, Steve drives the design and implementation of the company’s private mobile device cloud, deviceConnect™ as well as its automated mobile app testing solution, Mobile Labs Trust™.

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