Hybrid apps: PC performance

by Luca Baldini on 11/13/2013

A few days ago, a friend told me that he needed to develop an iPad app and asked for my opinion on which tool to use. Obviously I told him, “Do it with Instant Developer. It’s faster than traditional tools and generates offline apps that also work on Android and Windows 8.” I explained to him that mobile applications developed with Instant Developer are hybrid and can also use the device’s hardware and file system. His reaction was, “But aren’t hybrid applications slower than native ones?”

It’s a reasonable question. We even asked it ourselves a few years ago when deciding how Instant Developer should evolve. It’s true that in early devices the difference between hybrid and native apps was still perceptible, but it’s important to remember that we were only getting started. The hardware has taken giant steps, and today we can say that hybrid and native apps are indistinguishable.

Take the new iPad Air: not only is it a beautiful device that’s lighter and thinner than its predecessor, but it’s also higher performing. JavaScript tests run in Safari and on my PC deliver the same results, much better than the iPhone 5 compared with the tests run at the end of 2012. Our applications return five times faster than before.

The same is true for the latest Android devices. The new KitKat is very promising, and with the new webview based on Chromium 30, which is active by default, we’re certain that performance will be vastly improved. The JavaScript V8 engine and the hardware acceleration for the CSS can’t help but make things easier for our hybrid applications. I can’t wait to try them on the Nexus 5!

Microsoft is right in there as well with the new Surface 2 RT. In that case too, performance is definitely noticeable: it’s at least three times faster than its predecessor, and again, results are comparable with what I get on my PC.

Mobile still has a lot to show us, and hardware is growing very quickly. The performance of the devices is good enough for hybrid applications to be truly fast and increasingly indistinguishable from native apps: with the current devices the best choice for developing a business app is to go hybrid.

Have you tried showing a friend one of your apps on a latest-generation device? I’ll bet they’d struggle to distinguish it from a native one.

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