Hybrid Mobile Apps: A Better Blend

By: Katie Bascuas

Hybrid mobile apps marry native capability with web technology for a more cost-effective mobile approach.

What do you get when you cross the relative ease of writing web-based mobile apps with the capabilities of a native app? Answer: hybrid mobile apps, a combination approach that provides the most cost-effective development model, says Parag Acharya, managing director, business intelligence and mobile solutions, at Personify.

"You use the best of both worlds," explains Acharya. With the hybrid approach, he says, you get the improved user experience of native apps that can access a mobile device's features (such as GPS and camera technology) without the cost and inconvenience of writing different code bases for various device platforms.

"From an Android to an iOS device to Windows mobile, you're deploying the same code base" when creating a hybrid app, Acharya says. "You write the app using largely the same web technologies, such as HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS, that make up a bulk of your application code base, and then you wrap it into a container, which is essentially a native browser container for each of these platforms."

Although they've yet to proliferate in the association space, hybrid mobile apps are expected to make up more than 50 percent of the mobile app market by 2016, according to technology research firm Gartner.

The Consumer Electronics Association deployed a hybrid app earlier this year as part of its innovation movement, an advocacy campaign focused on educating people about the public policy issues affecting the technology community.

The app allows CEA members and members of the public to upload personal anecdotes explaining how a policy issue affects them as stakeholders in the technology and electronics industries. From students commenting on immigration issues to small-business owners discussing the importance of innovation, the app and its accompanying mobile website host a diverse gallery of firsthand accounts.

"What we wanted to do was have an easy way for people to tell their stories and enter their stories into this app so that then we can use it to share with members of Congress when we're on the Hill or share through our social media properties," says Laura Hubbard, senior manager, division and policy communications, at CEA.

With users continuously adding content via the app or the mobile website, the hybrid approach worked best because it automatically updates both the site and all versions of the app without having to rewrite any code.

"We needed something to be able to update one location," says Michael Brown, CEA senior director, marketing. "If people are entering their information, it's updated real-time."

Katie Bascuas is associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "A Better Blend."]

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is an associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC.