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Definition: hybrid mobile app

A smartphone or tablet application that is written in the standard Web programming format (HTML, JavaScript and CSS) but the Web elements (the "WebView") are wrapped within a native shell for iOS or Android. The shell allows the app to access inherent functions such as the camera, notifications, GPS receiver and sensors. As with a native app, the hybrid app must be installed and updated from the app store.

More Web Programmers Than Native Programmers
A major advantage of the hybrid is the greater availability of Web programmers over iOS and Android programmers. In addition, when mobile apps are written in their native languages (Objective-C and Swift for iOS; Java for Android), any change to the program's behavior must be made in both sets of source code. Native programming requires extensive training, and each platform's inherent architecture, syntax and development tools barely resemble each other (see IDE). See native mobile app.

Better or Worse?
It all depends. The more the mobile app functions like a website, the more efficient the hybrid approach. Hybrid apps tend to be more sluggish than native apps, but faster hardware performance increasingly narrows that gap. However, apps that require intricate animation such as video games demand complex programming, and native programming is often the only solution. See Apache Cordova, PhoneGap, HTML5, JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets, Objective-C, Swift, Java, API and hybrid app.

Alternatives to Native Apps
Just like native mobile apps, hybrid mobile apps require users to go to the app store, download the app and periodically get updated from the store. However, nothing is easier for users than to launch their browser and go to a website, which they can easily bookmark. There are three alternatives to the native mobile app or the hybrid mobile app (see mobile website, responsive Web design and progressive Web app).

Hybrid vs. Native
From a programmer's point of view, the hybrid app is much easier to maintain.