mobile app development

The 10 Best Hybrid App Frameworks in 2021

Hybrid frameworks are great options for reaching a wider audience of multiple operating systems. These best hybrid frameworks deliver more than they offer.

best hybrid app framework

The shift from desktop applications to mobile applications wasn’t incidental but gradual. Mobile apps are a faster way to reach out to wider and more heterogeneous audiences. Speaking of mobile applications, there are various aspects related to mobile app development that accounts for success. Things like frameworks, platforms, ASO, etc. are responsible for the triumph of mobile apps. 

When we talk about frameworks, it comes down to native apps vs hybrid apps. Here we’ll specifically talk about the hybrid app framework and the best ones, but before that, you might need to be accustomed to the basic differences to proceed. For developers who are aware know which one to root for but for those who do not know, the following explains the differences between the two.

Native vs Hybrid app framework - Know the difference 

Native- Native apps are singularly developed for their inherent platforms, either iOS or Android. A native Android app will be written using Java or Kotlin and a native iOS app with Objective-C or Swift. The Android ones can be compiled by Android Studio and iOS apps with Xcode. Native apps are the fastest but at the same time expensive. The app written for one platform cannot be used by the other. For eg., An app written in Kotlin cannot run on iOS platforms and vice versa. 

Hybrid- Hybrid app development can be defined as an amalgamation of native and web app developments, thus the name hybrid. Since hybrid apps are developed for more than one platform you will need the best cross-platform framework. These apps are developed using web technologies including HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. They are easier and quicker to build than native but aren’t faster than them. Few advantages of hybrid mobile app development include cost-saving and a single code base with which you can develop each app for multiple platforms.

There are many other aspects to Native vs Hybrid apps, but above are the key points to separate the two. 

Coming back to hybrid mobile app frameworks, to get the best of it, you need highly advanced and exceptional frameworks. That’s why we provide you with choices where you can decide which of these hybrid frameworks suit you the best.

The best 10 hybrid app frameworks for your app development are:

1. Ionic

When we talk about hybrid app development, Ionic is amongst the most popular frameworks to exist today. The front-end HTML is built on top of AngularJS and Cordova using the most upbeat APIs including Shadow DOM and Custom Elements. The official integration with Vue (for support) is in progress. With Ionic, you’ll find it quite easy to build PWAs or Progressive Web Apps. Learning Ionic is easy for developers and it makes it enjoyable to use the framework. 

It has a rich library with front-end building along with premier user interface components that enable a developer to create top-notch PWAs. It also enables developers to create fantastic designs and graphical representations in the apps. UI design aspects like image design and placement, typography, innovative themes, etc. are things that the Ionic mobile hybrid framework will help a developer achieve.

The Ionic CLI (Command Line Interface) is a medium/tool which helps you in developing hybrid apps built with TypeScript and Node.js. It helps you to build a hybrid mobile app and get regular updates. The Ionic CLI provides you with an inbuilt development server, debugging tools along catalyze other pits facilities.

Minimum requirements are Android 4.1 and iOS 7. Ionic has helped more than 5 million apps to take genesis.

 Ionic - best hybrid app framework

Thumbs Up

  • Apps created are uncomplicated with easy updates
  • Won’t need to spend prolonged hours to work on the framework as it uses a lot of Angular concepts to catalyze the process  
  • Has native functionalities
  • A plethora of UI components
  • Pre-generated app setups with creative layouts
  • Extremely popular

Thumbs Down

  • Testing gets intrinsic at times when the browser doesn’t provide the right information regarding the smartphone surroundings.
  • No hot reloading
  • Too much plugin dependent
  • Not the best for heavy apps

Website: https://ionicframework.com/

2. React Native

Developed as a web-interface development platform in 2013, React Native was officially released to develop hybrid mobile applications in 2015 by Facebook. One of the best hybrid app development frameworks, React Native earned a pretty good reputation in 2020 which is expected to continue throughout 2021 as well. Many pits React Native against ionic as they consider them as common alternatives. While experts argue that Ionic leads to better UI and performances among apps, React Native, on the other hand, gives the users an almost native-like experience among apps with more stability. React Native has a huge potential to become one of the best hybrid mobile app development frameworks in the coming years. 

Command over React Native depends purely on its usage. What this means is a developer may not gain expertise over it in the first few usages. One has to spend some time with the mobile hybrid framework to comprehend the reactive pattern. But more than that, it’s the restricted UI features and the native features which compel developers to code more and more. Of course, given there are a lot of great things one gets to learn with it as well.

Among application development frameworks, React Native is extensively used to create iOS and Android apps. With a single JS codebase, it allows developers to make innovative mobile apps. Developers who are fluent in Java and Swift love to work on the React Native framework. It comes with Native modules and components which help in boosting the performance of an app. 

Many react-native companies are adopting the framework to build hybrid mobile apps for tomorrow. Brands like Facebook, Instagram, 2048 Discovery VR, Gyroscope, etc. are using this best hybrid development framework to develop world-class apps.

React Native - best hybrid app framework

Thumbs Up

  • Expense saving with max code reuse
  • Native code rendering
  • Node.Js supported
  • Easy identification of bugs
  • Node Packet Manager (NPM) installation makes it easy to use for budding developers.
  • Live reload with two screens- one for code modification and the second to preview the changes
  • Time taken for the development process to complete is very less
  • Lots of plugins to enable compatibility with hardware components of a device

Thumbs Down

  • Not the best for apps having numerous screens, UI transitions, heavy special effects, and lots of interactions 
  • Needs improvement in accessing hardware components 
  • Shortcomings in the form of navigation components.
  • Insufficient custom modules

Website: https://facebook.github.io/react-native/

3. Flutter

There has been a lot of hype regarding Flutter in the last two years. Google’s premier open-source SDK has earned the respect of developers worldwide. Flutter uses the powerful language Dart, another magnum opus of Google’s and the C++ rendering engine. The hybrid mobile app framework also uses Skia, a 2D rendering engine to make visuals. It is quick and aids to create superb foundation libraries and widgets.  

Flutter enables developers to create apps with high-productive value as it has a single codebase for Android and iOS. It makes room to create highly creative UIs with flexible designs and allows compelling interactions that lead to the creation of brilliant MVPs (prototypes). That’s why big brands want Flutter to develop their apps.

There is something about Google’s innovations because every new development of theirs is a hot topic of discussion among tech forums. Big names like Alibaba, Birch Finance, Hamilton Musical, etc. have adopted Flutter to create powerful, engaging apps. And since it allows learning the absolute new language (Dart), it’s created a lot of hype and jobs in the market. More and more app development companies are adopting Flutter to develop engaging hybrid apps which the user will love to use. But if you thought, that’s it then let me drop a bigger Fact Bomb. Flutter and Fuchsia will be working together! 

YES, you heard that right. Fuchsia which is Google’s new powerful mobile OS will have its app developed through Flutter SDK.

Flutter - best hybrid app framework

Thumbs Up

  • Apex choice for cross-platform development
  • Lightning Fast 
  • Hot reload feature- enabling coders to see the changes in the app right away.
  • Smooth UI designs with unorthodox design elements
  • The absolute choice for MVP
  • Dynamic code writing
  • Provides own widgets
  • Compatible with Fuchsia

Thumbs Down

  • Very new; it still might have a lot of ground to cover
  • Lack of profile data completion (iOS)
  • Apps created via Flutter are (on average) 40 percent bigger in size than native apps.
  • Developers need to learn Dart before using Flutter
  • Some features have minimal support

Website: https://flutter.dev/

4. PhoneGap

With so many great hybrid mobile app development frameworks out there, why would a developer (still) prefer PhoneGap? First, let us know what it is.

PhoneGap is also known as Apache Cordova as it is supported by the Cordova framework and Adobe. One of the top hybrid app frameworks, apps can be written with JavaScript, CSS3, HTML5 by developers. PhoneGap provides reliable cross-platform compatibility with just one code for all platforms. This reduces the efforts of a developer and makes it easier for him/her to progress. It’s quite cost-effective and a great choice if apps need to be developed with budget-constraints. PhoneGap has some other worthy features as well including greater access to Native APIs, strong backend support, notable UI libraries that can upgrade the interface, and a lot more. Above all, it has Adobe’s trust.

An interesting feature of PhoneGap is ‘Build’. Now, what is it? The build is its cloud compiler that can compile apps even without any SDKs installed. With the PhoneGap mobile development framework, a developer can mold a feature-heavy and fully customized hybrid mobile app. These apps have the potential to reach out to a wider audience in limited ways and function with total efficiency. PhoneGap’s best use can be seen when a developer goes on to create mobile web apps that are not complex rather easy to use and understand. And if there’s a cash crunch, what better than PhoneGap?

PhoneGap - best hybrid app framework

Thumbs Up

  • Simple to learn
  • It’s compatible with a single codebase for iOS, Android, and Windows 7 platforms
  • Rugged backend system
  • Extremely flexible as it supports HTML5, JavaScript and CSS3
  • Taps into the system's hardware components like Camera, accelerometer, navigation compass, etc without tampering with the design (UI) features.
  • Rapid testing can be performed with ease
  • Easily compatible with the plugin architecture

Thumbs Down

  • Apps can be tentatively slower
  • Popular mostly among smaller businesses
  • Doesn’t support every functionality
  • Shows signs of efficiency while working with native apps
  • Fewer pre-built UI widgets

Website: https://phonegap.com/

5. Xamarin

Another important hybrid apps framework acquired by the software giant Microsoft, Xamarin is one of the most intelligent frameworks used by developers. It has been written using C# which is more modern and has improvements over Java and Objective-C. But what makes Xamarin so unique that it has the means to include libraries for Java, C++, and Objective-C directly. Xamarin’s assemblage of libraries is huge. The framework is reduced explicit cost and gives minimum budget hassles.

Where it gets interesting that Xamarin is often competing with React Native for the topmost spot. It’s because developers are looking for creative ways to build hybrid apps balancing both creativity and budget with equal proportions.

Xamarin can be used to develop hybrid apps for iOS, Android, percent, and Windows. It’s known to give an equal performance and UX of a native app. With their native UI controls, Xamarin apps show absolute prowess. The Xamarin Mac tools is a recurring name among hybrid app development tools. Interestingly, it’s known to follow the WORA principle which expands to Write Once, Run Anytime. On Xamarin’s official forum and also third party websites, it has a huge community and gets substantial support too. 

Setting up Xamarin is a piece of cake. Developers need to download the Xamarin installer and run it. Once the installation is complete, they need to proceed with the configuration where they have to provide the whereabouts of Android SDK and Java. Once the procedure is complete, developers need to go to Xamarin Studio to create their private accounts and follow the rules that are on display. Once done, this best hybrid mobile app development framework is ready for usage. 

Xamarin - best hybrid app framework

Thumbs Up

  • Native UI features
  • More than 95 percent of the code is reusable for different platforms
  • Apps connect brilliantly with hardware components via plugins without hampering the device’s performance
  • With Xamarin Studio, Xamarin SDKs, Xamarin Test Cloud, and Xamarin Insights, it has its own fully developed ecosystem
  • Wider learning opportunities
  • Continuous performance without being unstable
  • Easy API integration
  • Spot on for cross-platform development
  • Fast GUI prototyping 
  • Excellent code sharing and maintenance

Thumbs Down

  • Highly expensive in comparison to any other mobile web app framework
  • Not many developers know how to use Xamarin
  • Platform-specific limitations in Android and iOS
  • Overhead codes- unable to allow smooth integration 
  • Lag in API support
  • Not ideal for game development

Website: https://dotnet.microsoft.com/apps/xamarin

6. NativeScript

For those who want their cross-platform apps to be coded in JavaScript, TypeScript, or Angular, NativeScript is the best hybrid mobile framework. It allows users to access the APIs for both iOS and Android devices. NativeScript apps are created using JavaScript or any other programming language that transpile to javascript like TypeScript and Angular. 

The apps created in NativeScript are completely native that use the same APIs as used in Xcode or Android studio. The apps can be integrated with this party library from CocoaPods, Maven, and npm.js without the need for the wrapper. Another notable feature is the use of reflection to handle native API endpoints. In place of requiring separate binding layers between NativeScript and the mobile platform API, NativeScript uses reflection to gain information and metadata about the native platform APIs. All the features added to any native platform API can be used for ReactNative apps immediately. 

The introduction of NativeScript 2.0 has made use of Angular to build cross-platform mobile applications possible. When you are using Angular with NativeScript you can share large chunks of code between your mobile and web apps.

Thumbs up

  • Executes fast
  • Compiles down as a native code and runs as a native app
  • Split custom content
  • Support for Vue.js.

Thumbs down

  • Bad documentation
  • Examples have far too many unrealistic assumptions
  • Misleading description of the environment.

Website: https://nativescript.org/

7. Kendo UI

Kendo UI offers the best collection of JavaScript UI components with the libraries of Agular, React, jQuery, and Vue. Using Kendo UI allows you to quickly build high-performance, eye-catching and responsive applications regardless of which javascript framework has been opted for by you.

Kendo UI allows you to easily add advanced UI components into your existing design and take leverage of your existing libraries. It offers a bunch of advanced features like advanced data grid components, charts, spreadsheets, schedulers, and much more.

Thumbs up

  • Export data to various mime formats
  • Present hierarchy of topics that users can navigate
  • Great editor control

Thumbs down

  • Lack of supports on rare occasions
  • Datasource has a learning curve
  • Better documentation is needed.

Website: https://www.telerik.com/kendo-ui

8. Framework7

Framework7 is an open-source and free top hybrid app framework which is used for creating desktop, mobile, and web-based applications with a native feel and appearance. This best hybrid app development platform offers such UI components that will run seamlessly on any platform. 

Framework7 can be paired with advanced tools like NW.js, and Electron. This best hybrid app development framework allows you to use any tools of your choice, except HTML, CSS, and Javascript. 

Thumbs up

  • Easy to learn and implement
  • Contain plenty of widgets and components
  • Built-in helper libraries.

Thumbs down

  • Only supports iOS and Android
  • Less online community support.
  • Average documentation.

Website: https://framework7.io/

9. Aurelia

Aurelia is one of the great and powerful top hybrid mobile app frameworks which allows users to create components using vanilla JavaScript or TypeScript. The best framework for hybrid mobile app development, it supports an extensive online community with effortless coding and unmatched extensibility

Aurelia is a simple, powerful, and unobtrusive framework allowing users to create multi-platform apps with better routing, composition, and progressive enhancement.

Thumbs up

  • Simple testing
  • Effortless coding and conventions
  • High performance
  • React binding

Thumbs down

  • Learning curve
  • Average documentation

Website: https://aurelia.io/

10. Onsen UI

Onsen UI is a great choice of the framework which allows you to create applications and components for various operating systems. It is one of the fastest ways to develop HTML5 hybrid applications. It offers a native look and feel to its users and offers a lot of ready to use components and automatic styling.

Onsen UI has been perfectly optimized for mobile use and is easy to learn. The apps developed on Onsen UI will have a smooth experience even in lower-end devices.

Thumbs up

  • Easy to use
  • Performance optimized for a range of devices
  • Fast and efficient

Thumbs down

  • Weak documentation
  • Still support

Website: https://onsen.io/

Conclusion

Well, it’s a real tough one, IMHO. Picking one would be impossible so it’s better to settle for two- Flutter and React Native. Flutter is new, powerful, compatible with Fuchsia, and allows learning the new language Dart (It’s a BIG thing). It also gives a single code base for iOS and Android. Flutter could likely be the future of all frameworks. But then we also have the super-efficient React Native. It makes coding an intriguing job for developers and making it easier for them to make interactive apps. Moreover, it supports Node.Js and saves a lot of time and space. Both Flutter and React Native have stockpiles of the best hybrid apps. We suggest you study what the best mobile app development companies would use and suggest for your case.

Now that you have an open book for the best and trending hybrid frameworks for 2021, open up your systems and start creating.

‘Happy Coding!’

General FAQ

  • What is a hybrid mobile app?
  • What is the difference between native app and hybrid app?
  • How do you make a hybrid mobile app?
Aparna <span>Growth Strategist</span>
Written By
Aparna Growth Strategist

Aparna is a growth specialist with handsful knowledge in business development. She values marketing as key a driver for sales, keeping up with the latest in the Mobile App industry. Her getting things done attitude makes her a magnet for the trickiest of tasks. In free times, which are few and far between, you can catch up with her at a game of Fussball.

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