What should you go for – Native or cross-platform app development?

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The mobile app market has grown exponentially in the last few years. Statista predicted that by 2020, the industry is expected to generate around $189 billion in revenue worldwide. With half of the web traffic now coming on mobile app platforms, there is nothing belittling this industry. Businesses of all types and sizes are now trying to develop apps that provide the best user experience. 

However, developers face the need to choose between the two approaches when developing a mobile app:

  • Native mobile app development
  • Cross-platform mobile app development

The two approaches differ in several ways from each other which we will cover in this blog. We will also walk you through the features and pros and cons of the two mobile app development methods so that you can decide which option you should choose in a particular scenario.

Native mobile apps

Native applications are created for specific mobile platforms like Android, Blackberry, etc. They use programming language and development tools that are ‘native’ to one particular platform. Android app development, for instance, uses Java or Kotlin programming languages while iOS app development requires a good knowledge of Objective-C, Cocoa Touch, and Swift programming languages.

Native mobile apps can be downloaded from their respective app stores, i.e., Google Play Store for Android and App Store for the iOS platform. These apps fit right to the device and have access to programs and services like Maps, Calendar, Camera, Accelerometer, and media files on the device.

Cross-platform app development

Cross-platform mobile app development allows you to build an app that is compatible with multiple operating systems. The primary goal of this approach is to develop an app that runs on different devices and operating systems without much code change.

However, this approach also took a fair amount of criticism for performance issues and the development bugs they created. Since it takes a ‘one size fits all’ approach, the apps failed to operate uniformly across all platforms.

Importance of mobile app Platform

Currently, the most popular mobile app platforms are Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. The two platforms have captured a majority of the global market. However, it is important to conduct thorough research of target regions and prospects before you choose your app platform. The United States, for example, is a bigger iOS market compared to Android. So, if you choose the Android platform solely on the global data, you might lose an important region with plenty of potential customers.

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To avoid losing any prospects, you can either take the cross-platform app development approach or simply build a native app for each platform. Both the approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, so whatever decision you take will affect your app.

Advantages of Native app development

  • Native apps offer optimum performance:

Native apps utilize the platform resources and capabilities to their full potential. They easily integrate with the hardware features of the mobile device which allows them to perform much better than cross-platform mobile apps. Native apps are fast, responsive, and are less likely to crash.

Features:

A major reason why developers may prefer a native app is its ability to make use of the native features of a device including Bluetooth, camera, microphone, etc. This is something cross-platform apps fail at since they have limited access to the API (Application program interface).

  • Less dependency on internet connection:

Native apps do not require a permanent internet connection to perform to the best of their capabilities. These can access data in the offline mode too as they are installed on mobile devices. This also makes native app development perfect for gaming applications.

Disadvantages of Native app development

  • High development costs:

A major drawback with native mobile apps is the development costs. You will have to build separate apps for each platform if you want users to use your app on a specific platform. This means you will need to hire two different programmers or a professional who excels in multiple programming languages. An increase in the development costs and the amount of time required are only logical extensions.

  • App upgrades:

Another challenge associated with native app development is the frequent upgrades and updates. Often, there is no proper mechanism in place to inform users about new updates. So, when developers fix a bug or make an upgrade, they can only hope that users download the latest version of the app. Most users abandon the app when they find a bug instead of updating it from the app store.

Advantages of Cross-platform app development

  • Reusable codebase:

Unlike native app development, cross-platform app development allows you to use the same codebase across various mobile platforms. It saves you time and the need to learn multiple programming languages. Developing a cross-platform app also reduces the app development time significantly, as you only need to build one app instead of two.

  • You reach a wider audience:

Cross-platform app development also allows developers to reach a wider audience across different mobile platforms. They get a chance to expand their business irrespective of the operating system used by the customers. The Airg spam free app Hookt is an example of how a cross-platform app can reach millions of users in a matter of a few years.

Disadvantages of cross-platform app development:

  • Performance issues:

Using a single app across all mobile platforms sacrifices flexibility and performance of the app. Cross-platform apps lack responsiveness and face frequent app crashes. The performance of these apps is not at par with native apps since they do not make use of the native features of the device.

  • Design defects:

Every mobile platform has a specific design and navigation requirement. While the graphical elements of cross-platform apps automatically transform to match the platform’s framework, they might still face various design troubles. Professional developers at app vertical can adjust the design guidelines for various platforms and help you to overcome the issues.

The bottom line:

The decision to choose between native and cross-platform app development entirely depends on what you need from an app. Choose native app development if you want to target prospects across a specific mobile platform. It is also a better option if you want your app to interact with the native applications of a device. However, if you’ve budget constraints and want the app to run on multiple platforms, cross-platform development is the way to go.

This great article is contributed by Audrey Throne. She is a mother of a 3-year old and a professional blogger by choice. Throne is passionate about lifestyle, business, automotive, technology and management and blogs frequently on these topics. 

Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne.

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