Organizations interested in building mobile apps must face the native vs. cross-platform app development question. There are strong reasons to build native apps; on the other hand, there are strong reasons to build cross-platform apps too.
So how does your business decide which mobile app development approach is best? The first step is to learn more about native app development and the alternatives like cross-platform development.
When you fully understand the difference between native vs. cross-platform app development, your organization can decide on the mobile app development approach best suited to its goals and objectives.
This post will explain native mobile app development, how it relates to cross-platform mobile development, and the pros and cons of each app development approach.
What Is Native App Development?
Native mobile app development is targeted at a specific platform. When developing mobile apps, there are only two platforms of consequence, iOS and Android.
Native development requires the use of platform-specific programming languages and development technologies. For example, native iOS apps use Swift or Objective-C, and Android apps use Java or Kotlin.
Since native mobile apps are built for specific operating systems, native app developers tend to be highly specialized and usually focus on iOS or Android. Although, there are native app developers who are proficient on both mobile platforms.
In addition to specific programming languages, native mobile app development requires specialized software development kits (SDKs) and integrated development environments (IDEs).
For example, to develop Android apps, developers will need to use Android Studio or IntelliJ IDEA, and to develop iOS apps, developers will need to use Xcode or AppCode as their IDE.
The Advantages of Native Mobile App Development
There are several benefits to native mobile development. The top advantages native app development offers businesses includes the following:
- Better User Experience
- Unmatched performance levels
- Full access to device features
- Fewer bugs
Better User Experience
Native apps offer the best possible User Experience because they inherit the device’s OS interfaces. Since native mobile apps tightly follow the design guides for a specific platform, their UX/UI design feels more natural. Native app development provides the smoothest possible UX.
Unmatched Performance Levels
Native mobile application development utilizes the platform’s core programming languages and APIs. As a result, native mobile apps are faster, more responsive to user actions, and far more efficient than alternative options.
Full Access to Device Features
Native applications can access all features and functionality of the underlying device. As a result, native mobile applications can provide a richer, more integrated User Experience.
Full access to the device’s features also makes native applications more secure since they can access the platform-specific built-in security features.
Native applications have fewer bugs because they get first access to new platform updates and SDKs. Fewer bugs contribute greatly to the User Experience levels native apps can offer mobile users.
The Disadvantages of Native App Development
We’ve covered the most impressive qualities of native mobile development. You’re likely wondering why any organization would consider alternative app development approaches when native app development offers better performance, UX, etc.
There are disadvantages to native app development, including the following:
- Code reusability
The code for native mobile apps cannot be reused for multiple platforms. If you want to build a native app but you also want to reach users on both Android and iOS, you will have to develop two native apps.
The lack of code reusability plays a significant role in the other difficulties we will mention below.
Native app development costs more. While part of this additional cost can be attributed to the fact that two apps must be developed, even if you wanted to develop a single native app, the cost would still likely be higher than the alternative due to the specialty required to build it.
Developing two native apps takes longer than building a single cross-platform app. Building two apps with separate codebases will take longer and delay the time it takes your business to get its product to market.
In addition, much like cost, developing a single native app might take longer than building a cross-platform app due to the specialized technology and skills required.
What Is Cross-Platform Development?
Cross-platform mobile development enables organizations to reach multiple platforms with a single codebase. Instead of focusing on building two native apps, businesses can build cross-platform apps to reach all mobile users with a single codebase.
Cross-platform apps are built using development frameworks that utilize native SDKs from a unified API. This enables cross-platform developers to easily access the different platform’s libraries and SDKs.
Cross-platform development frameworks also enable apps to compile the codebase to use some native UI features, which can give well-made cross-platform apps a near-native feel to users.
The Advantages of Cross-Platform App Development
Organizations build cross-platform applications for several compelling reasons. The benefits of developing cross-platform mobile apps include:
- Code reusability
- Simpler maintenance
Cross-platform apps utilize a single codebase across platforms and operating systems. Code reusability not only simplifies the development process but also ensures that business logic remains consistent between mobile devices and platforms.
It is cheaper to develop a cross-platform app than it is to develop native apps. You only need a single development team proficient in your chosen cross-platform framework instead of two native app development teams.
Cross-platform apps are easier to maintain since there is only one codebase to work with. A single codebase not only ensures that updates remain consistent across devices but it also ensures that your organization addresses maintenance and support issues for both platforms.
The Disadvantages of Cross-Platform App Development
While cross-platform development addresses a few of the shortcomings of native app development, there are still disadvantages to cross-platform app development that your business should consider including the following:
- Worse performance
- Fewer integrations
- Late access to platform features
Cross-platform apps cannot match the performance level of native applications. Cross-platform apps have to utilize a runtime environment to communicate with the underlying platform. Since there is another layer of computation required, the performance levels of cross-platform apps are lower than native apps.
Cross-platform frameworks don’t integrate all platform-specific features and functions. Since there are fewer integrations, the User Experience of the application does not seem as natural or seamless to the user.
Late Access to Platform Features
When new platform SDK releases are rolled out, cross-platform frameworks typically have to wait for access to the latest updates. As a result, cross-platform apps are always slightly behind native apps, which can make them feel less cutting-edge to users.
Choosing Between Native and Cross-Platform Apps
Deciding whether cross-platform or native apps are the right choice for your organization can be tricky. It is important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each development approach before you make a final decision.
There is no perfect option. Native apps might perform and look better than cross-platform apps, but they also take longer and cost more to develop. Consider how your mobile app will benefit your business strategy and whether it would be more beneficial to have a native app or a cross-platform solution.
If you want to learn more about native vs. cross-platform app development and get guidance on which approach is most aligned with your business objectives, contact an experienced app development partner like Koombea.