Today, mobile applications have become the most dynamic business tool, offering unmatched efficiency in connecting with customers. A wide range of industries such as banking and carpooling use mobile apps to provide their users with a convenient and beneficial experience. With the growing smartphone market, many companies today opt for various ways to integrate mobile apps into their workflow to expand their market reach.
Have you thought about creating your own app but have no idea how to do it? If so, there are three main approaches to building a mobile app that you could explore: native, hybrid, and cross-platform technologies. Your decisions ultimately depend on your goals, the wishes and needs of your target group, and your budget.
Let’s take a look at the native versus cross-platform approaches to mobile app development and understand what they’re best suited for.
Native vs. Cross-Platform Development: Definitions and Differences
Native app – ‘heavy-duty’ apps
Native applications are developed for a particular operating system. This means that a native iOS app only runs on Apple devices, while an Android app only works on smartphones and tablets equipped with this operating system. Native app components present the user interface (UI) in a way that makes the user feel comfortable or “at home” when using the mobile application because the design and features are adapted to the operating system they use.
When developers create native applications for iOS and Android mobile devices, they use a specific programming language such as Java or Kotlin, and Objective C or Swift.
The biggest advantage of native apps is that the full potential of the hardware and the respective platform can be used through targeted programming. This ensures the best performance. They can also be distributed through the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store, or the HUAWEI AppGallery, ensuring access for millions of users. In addition, native apps benefit from a high loading speed, which leads to higher customer satisfaction.
Another advantage that is often stated is that native apps can also be used offline. However, this is only partially true. As long as the apps don’t have to get any information from a server, this statement is true. This applies, for example, to native apps that are preinstalled on many smartphones, such as photos, contacts, or a calendar. Messenger services such as WhatsApp are also native apps installed on the smartphone. However, they need a connection to the server in order to function fully. We can open the app offline and write messages, but these will not arrive until we have a connection to the internet and server again.
Since native apps are specifically developed for an operating system, they may have to be programmed twice. Both iOS and Android are used by so many people these days that companies often want to make their apps available for both operating systems. The programming effort is higher and this can ultimately result in higher costs.
What it is best for:
Developing a native app is great if you wish for a “heavy animated UI (user interface).” Therefore, it is a good choice for mobile games and other applications that need more powerful technology. It is also ideal for applications that use the mobile device’s built-in functions, such as voice recording options, GPS, camera functions, swipe gestures, etc. For example, Twitter and Pokemon Go run on native app technology and take advantage of the seamless push notification features.
Cross-Platform App – a balance between price and performance
Cross-platform apps are not developed for a specific platform. This type of application is developed in an intermediate programming language that is not part of the device’s operating system. It is later compiled into the respective operating system using a cross-platform mobile app framework such as Xamarin, React Native, Appcelerator, Flutter, or Native Script.
Developing a cross-platform app cost less than building a native app because the code for this type of app only needs to be written once and then run on different platforms – and this means the mobile development process will be faster also than in the case of a native app. You can also score at fast speeds. Flutter apps in particular are considered to be particularly powerful – they can keep up well with native apps.
In a cross-platform app, it may not be possible to implement all functions exactly as you would like – partly because the hardware is not compatible with certain things. Creativity with cross-platform apps is also limited by the requirements of iOS and Android as far as certain developer guidelines are concerned.
What it is best for:
Unlike their native counterpart, cross-platform apps allow their single code to work seamlessly across multiple operating systems. This reduces development costs and shortens the otherwise lengthy development and marketing time. Well-known social media networks like Facebook operate on cross-platform native technology, and rightly so as they update frequently. The cross-platform native technology is great for brands that want to be fast without sacrificing app quality.
An app helps spread the word quickly, and such engagement could increase sales for brands. However, remember that user experience is king in this case. So your development strategy must ultimately boil down to giving your audience the best app experience they can have.
Ultimately, your budget, deadline, app capabilities, and developer expertise will help you decide which technology to use. If you ask us, cross-platform technologies are the best solutions for start-ups and SMEs, as they can quickly and adequately provide most businesses with the necessary app functionality without putting pressure on their budget.
Are you confused by the technical details? Contact one of our professional developers to decide together what type of application suits your business niche.