If you’re keen on launching a mobile app, one of the most crucial decisions is choosing between native or cross-platform development.
App developers will explain your options using complicated terms, which may leave you feeling completely confused about what you need.
First, it is essential to define the development time, app functionality, costs, and technical requirements. Once you familiarize yourself with the types of apps and their functionality, you can be more definitive in your discussion with an app developer.
To make things simpler for you, we will compare cross-platform and native app development and discuss their pros and cons. We’ll also explain which option is more suitable for your project.
Interested? Then let’s dive in!
There are many things to keep in mind before we even start working on an app.
So what’s the actual difference between native and cross-platform apps? Let’s find out.
A native application is a software program created with a specific technology dedicated to a particular platform or device. Each mobile operating system has its programming languages. For Android mobile app development, you should adopt Kotlin or Java. For iOS native mobile app solutions, developers choose Objective-C or Swift.
A native app is installed directly on a mobile device. These apps can quickly access various services on a device, such as a microphone, accelerometer, or push notifications.
Data associated with the native app is stored on the device or remotely, in cloud-based storage. This provides you with high performance and more flexibility than alternative application types.
Advantages of native applications include:
Disadvantages of native applications include:
Examples of native applications vary from navigation programs, such as Waze, to social apps, such as Twitter. For instance, the Facebook app was written in HTML5 to use the same code for iOS, Android, and mobile web. However, the app was slower for iOS users, leading Facebook’s app developers to create separate code for iOS.
Now that you know what native mobile app development is, it’s time to talk about the pros and cons of cross-platform app development.
Cross-platform development is the process of creating an app that works on both Android and iOS. This allows you to optimize the processes of building a mobile application. Instead of using native frameworks, languages, and tools, you should adopt React Native, Ionic, Xamarin, or Flutter.
This approach provides the ability to compile source code for execution on multiple mobile platforms. The result of each compilation is a separate executable file with the .ipa or .apk extension.
Such apps will work on more than a single platform. For example, creating a game as a cross-platform app will allow users of both Android and iOS devices to download and use it.
A popular shopping app, Alibaba, was created with Flutter. The Facebook app was originally a hybrid, but it became cross-platform to offer a better experience. The Slack collaboration hub offers a real native-like experience, although it is a cross-platform app.
Although native apps demonstrate a high level of performance, they can be costly to build. Additionally, if you have a limited budget, it may seem like cross-platform app development will be the most affordable option. At first glance, this can save you around 30–40%, as only a single codebase is created for both Android and iOS.
However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll pay more for native mobile app development. We highly recommend you consult with your development team regarding the cost issue.
Discuss with your development team what features limitations each option has so that you can make an informed decision based on the app functionality you require.
If you are going to grow and improve your app continuously, you should also discuss this with your dedicated team. This data helps developers to offer you the most suitable solution.
Consider whether you want to migrate your app. Discuss with the developer if migration will be possible and what it will take to accomplish this.
Search engines (and people) love fast-loading apps. If your app is not responsive, your search rankings will drop.
Nothing is more annoying for users than an app that takes too long to load. Low speed is one of the main reasons why visitors leave an app. Make sure your loading time is about 2–4 seconds.
If your app will only display data from the network, cross-platform development will be a convenient option. However, if the app involves heavy processing or requires access to low-level APIs, you should look at native development.
In some cases, you’ll want to get an MVP app up as soon as possible. Instead of working on two versions of the app, you should consider cross-platform development.
User experience is crucial to the success of any application. Note, however, that each development approach has its advantages.
Native apps have an intuitive interface ingrained in a particular platform. Users have no issues when familiarizing themselves with the new app. Opting for cross-platform will limit the UI/UX element of the app. However, cross-platform mobile developers can develop integrated UI/UX for both iOS and Android apps.
Cross-platform applications should be supported by all platforms, but developers need to modify the code in any case. The native approach ensures effective work on a specific platform while involving the creation of various app versions.
When building native apps, it’s easier to interact with a specific OS. However, if you’re dealing with cross-platform app development, you have to consider all the features.
A cross-platform app allows you to reach a wider audience than a native one. As a result, you get a chance to increase your user base in the shortest possible time.
So, which option should you choose for your business? It will be more convenient to explain the differences between native and cross-platform development with a comparison table.
|Codebase||Individual codebases for different platforms||Single codebase—one code base for multiple platforms. Platform-specific changes are not excluded|
|Libraries||Doesn’t depend on open-source libraries or platforms||Highly dependent on different libraries and frameworks like Xamarin, React Native, Flutter, etc|
|Debugging||Native debugging tools||This depends on the framework. You may start with JS and then debug Java code on Android or Swift on iOS. Cross-platform SDKs like Flutter or Xamarin employ Dart and C# languages respectively|
|Complexity of development||🙁||🙂|
Now let’s summarize everything that has been considered above.
Cross-platform and native architectures are just two of the endless options to choose from when beginning a new mobile app project. To make your choice, you should start with evaluating the budget, timeline, experience of the team members, and target audience.
Other things to keep in mind are customization, platform independence, product complexity, and portability.
If you are still in doubt, we’d suggest you contact one of our consultants to find out the most cost-effective and suitable solution for your mobile app. There are many technical aspects you don’t need to know in detail that a professional would know from experience.
Is your company prepared for success?