Native vs cross-platform mobile development seems to be an age-old debate. Today, it represents the second biggest fight after the struggle between iOS and Android and divides the tech community into two groups.
Although supporters of each approach believe they know the ultimate answer, the truth is that both cross-platform apps and native apps continue to evolve. Since the particular application development technologies are constantly changing, it is critical to analyze cross-platform frameworks and native mobile apps from time to time. That will allow finding out which mobile development solution is leading.
Of course, both native apps and cross-platform apps have their pros and cons regarding software development. Such factors may impact all people involved with a relevant mobile app – its owner, users, or dedicated software development team.
But in the case of a mobile app development team, the engineers have their preferences depending on programming languages and app development technologies they typically work with. On the other hand, numerous big organizations, including Google, Facebook, or Airbnb, have developed their apps using a hybrid mobile app platform like React Native or Xamarin.
Despite the type of industry your business operates in – retail, banking, or educational courses, you need to consider the amount of time people spend on their smartphones. Therefore, the idea of building a mobile application for your customers makes great sense.
So, let’s start with the core of both cross-platform applications and native applications.
Native app development means developing a mobile app that is specific to only one platform (iOS, Android, or Windows). It means a native app is developed using programming languages and different tools that refer to this platform. That allows native apps to obtain significant benefits from all the device’s features, including camera, GPS, contacts list, etc. Users can install such web apps through the relevant stores like Google Play for a native Android app and Apple app store for iOS apps.
Also, native development solutions are known to provide exceptional user experience since they traditionally show high performance. The enhanced user experience often results from the visuals adopted to the UX platform. But numerous startups consider the cost of native application development incredibly high because they must start developing a mobile app for Android and iOS.
Each native app runs over a native platform like iOS, Android, or Windows. Traditionally, to build a native mobile app, the native app development team uses a software development kit (SDK), along with an integrated development environment (IDE) necessary for the relevant operating system (OS).
Among the key native app development technologies are:
The most critical advantages of native app development are:
You will get access to all application programming interfaces (APIs) and tools offered by the platform your programmers are developing on. Technically, there cannot be any limits on how they conduct the native development process.
Native app development solutions are easier to publish and always have higher ranks on the platform’s application store since they provide better performance and load speed.
Products created with native app development are often more scalable due to the flexible resources management approaches and multiple available tools.
In native app development, the code interacts with the underlying resources directly. That leads to higher performance levels. Besides, native Android and iOS apps typically provide better UX.
The most critical cons of native apps are:
Native app development can be incredibly costly since you need to launch an application for Android and iOS platforms separately. It means you should provide two development teams that will work on different platforms. Besides, native app development requires higher costs when you need to deal with strict deadlines.
The process of native app development is significantly time-consuming because your programmers cannot duplicate the work conducted for iOS to Android or vice versa. After all, a separate team must develop another version.
Cross platform app development means the process of building an application that will work on multiple platforms. You can develop cross platform solutions by applying specific tools such as React Native, Xamarin, or Flutter that allow deploying the created cross platform apps on different platforms (both Android and iOS).
Although cross platform development can save time and cost, you may face the risk of sacrificing quality during the app development process. Tailoring a cross platform app that runs optimally on various operating systems is a challenging task. After all, cross platform mobile apps require an additional abstraction layer when performing, which leads to lower performance.
In the case of startups, they prefer using cross platform technologies, especially due to cost reduction. But you have to remember the difficulty to customize a cross platform application beyond things allowed in the relevant framework chosen for cross platform mobile development.
The most critical advantages of cross platform app development are:
There is no need to have two separate teams of developers. Instead, you should provide only one app development cross platform team. That allows saving a lot on the app development cost.
Since cross platform apps are created using a single cross platform development tool, you will have just one code base created.
Implementing the “write once, run anywhere” method provides cross platform developers with the opportunity to utilize a single code on several platforms. That contributes to cost reduction and cross platform app development time shortening – unlike native app development solutions.
Cross platform development does not require the app development team to learn numerous technologies before building cross platform solutions. They need to master only some tools necessary for creating a cross platform app. Also, since you do not have to create different codebases, the initial cross platform development is much faster.
In addition, you can make future changes to a cross platform app simultaneously with no need to provide each cross platform with individual changes. Ultimately, creating a cross platform app that performs on multiple platforms requires only a single cycle of app development.
Cross platform app development allows targeting a wider audience. In turn, your cross platform app can provide increased revenues.
Among the mandatory advantages of cross platform development are speed and agility. That promotes cross platform developers to work in small teams and improves the overall cross platform development process.
The most critical disadvantages of cross platform development are:
A cross platform mobile app may often perform slower compared to native apps as the interface provides a slow response. A cross platform app processes more information because it involves an additional abstraction layer.
However, in cross platform solutions, all client-server operations are conducted similarly to the native mobile app development ones. Thus, the performance of your cross platform app will be worse only if you have a multi-element interface. But you need to remember that cross platform development makes it difficult to apply the specific components of all necessary OS.
Cross platform developers may find it difficult to access smartphone functionalities such as a microphone, camera, GPS, voice control, or offline mode in the way possible for native app development solutions.
Modern cross platform applications cannot fully benefit from native UX elements. Thus, cross platform solutions will not provide the same excellent UX experience usual for a particular platform. Besides, cross platform mobile applications often fail to offer significant UX due to the shared code.
If you compare native and cross platform solutions, it is impossible to integrate cross platform applications into their target OS. In this case, some cross platform development products can fail to run appropriately due to the inconsistent communication between the native elements of the device and their non-native code.
Native app vs cross platform app: which one to choose? Of course, making a final decision may become a tricky task. But after we have defined the nature of native vs cross platform app solutions, analyzing their pros and cons, and defining the key cross platform vs native technologies, let’s understand better how native and cross platform development differ.
Here we describe the main areas where native vs cross platform solutions differ:
Ultimately, you need to take into account all the described points to select native or cross platform development for your application.
Native and cross platform development solutions have different advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, the choice between native vs cross apps will depend on project requirements, along with the expertise of the programmers involved.
In terms of UX and overall performance, native applications are considered the best choice. Although they are more costly, you will obtain better visuals and lower defect rates. On the other hand, cross platform apps are easier and quicker to create. But it requires more effort to provide an appropriate UX on the relevant platform.
If you are still doubtful about implementing a native vs cross platform approach, check our mobile development services and contact us to get professional advice. In Exoft, our qualified team has great experience in implementing end-to-end software and mobile development projects.
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