Taking a Native-Centric Approach to Hybrid Mobile App Development

Over the past year, I have been exploring Cordova/PhoneGap, React Native, and NativeScript for hybrid/cross platform mobile development with JavaScript. As part of this exploration, my key question was, “Can I access the power of the native mobile platform while also leveraging the openness of JavaScript to maximize code reuse across platforms?”.

This led me down the road of a taking what I call a native-centric hybrid approach to developing iOS and Android apps. The philosophy behind this approach is that since Users expect an intimate UX on their devices, Developers should be diligent to get intimate with the platforms they are targeting while also striving to maximize code reuse to reduce overall development costs. The essence then is to mix native code (i.e. iOS, Java) with JavaScript code in the “right way” and strike a balance between UX and code reuse. In general, I discovered that things can get tricky mixing native code and JavaScript code, especially if there is a high degree of interaction between components.

However there are merits to this approach if care and attention is followed. In general,

  • Consider using native tech for app flow, transitions, animations, UI components with rich, complex interaction
  • Consider using HTML/CSS/JS for content rich UI components, services & business logic
  • React Native is a friendlier option for mixing Pure Native and Cross-platform JavaScript than Cordova
  • NativeScript with TypeScript/Angular 2 is an opinionated framework that takes a JavaScript first approach to cross platform mobile development
  • In the end, not sure the added complexity of mixing Cordova and Native is worth it. If you need to mix, React Native is a better option.

Presentation Slides and Demo Code

You can further explore my discoveries through the presentation slides and demos I put together by cloning the publicly accessible GitHub repository located at Native-Centric Hybrid GitHub Repository.

Once you clone the repository, checkout the README file for details on setting up your Macbook to run the demo examples.

I also encourage you to review the slides as context before going through the demo code. For convenience, the most recent slide deck (pdf format) can be found at Presentation Slides – 2016.

Places to Look for Inspiration

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