Confronting the Native vs. Cross-Platform Debate: The Best App Development Approach

Native vs. Cross-Platform App Development

When Google launched Flutter (a cross-platform SDK) back in 2017, one of our clients wanted to build an MVP using the kit. As we know, MVP is a prototype or an early version of the software that serves as a proof-of-concept of its core functionalities. The intention was not to cut down the cost or expedite the project but to draw attention from competitors.

Actually, Flutter was still a new technology back then that needed to go through a lot of improvements. Our developers, of course, tried their best to convince the client that the programming language was still raw and the project would not be easy to scale. Despite our advice, the client decided to take the risk, and eventually, we faced the predicted scaling issues. The ultimate result was a complicated project that sucked resources and time from other business priorities, both for us and the client.

Why did I share this story? To tell you that don’t choose technology just for the sake of it. Use tools that offer real benefits to your needs. And speaking of choosing the right tech stack, the greatest corporate hot potato perhaps is the native vs. cross-platform app development. While both these technologies are equally powerful, a recent Statista report shows that around one-third of global developers use cross-platform frameworks, and the rest prefer native tools.

My experience says both approaches have their benefits and drawbacks, and so, I decided to share our insights with you. This blog is all about sharing some tips and tricks on native app vs. cross-platform app to help you choose the best app development framework. Remember that your decision will determine the success of your project, and making the wrong choice might lead to terrible consequences.

Interested enough to steer yourself to the correct choice? Let’s dive right in then!

Key Stats and Facts About Mobile App Development

Everything in our lives, as well as in businesses, has become constructed into digital assets. We make the most important decisions over mobile apps, and accordingly, the mobile app development world has evolved to be pretty diverse at lightning-fast speed. So, in case you’re still skeptical about prioritizing the right framework for your app, have a look at these data and think about the vast impact of mobile apps at this time:

  • There will be around 7 billion mobile users by the end of 2021.
  • The total number of app downloads in 2020 was 218 billion. That’s a 7% increase over each year. (it’s definitely the time for you to work on user acquisition).
  • Gen X/Baby Boomers (ages 41-75), Millennials (ages 25-40), and Generation Z (ages 6-24) spend 16%, 18%, and 30% more time each year, respectively, in their most-used apps.
  • In 2020, the average daily time spent on a mobile device was 4.10 hours, a rise of 20% in a year.

Impressive figures, right? So, if you want to boost your business with a market-winning mobile app, keep reading this blog as I’m about to start a step-by-step comparison study on cross-platform vs. native mobile development.

Native vs. Cross-Platform App Development: How Do They Differ?

Considering the differences below, businesses can get a clear idea of native vs. cross-platform app development. Let’s explore which app development framework is the best fit for your business in the long run.

Understanding Native App Development

 Understand Native App Development

The name itself is pretty self-explanatory. When you build an app for a particular platform, operating system, or device, it becomes a native app; for example, an iOS app, Blackberry app, Windows phone app, or Android app. Such an app involves only one specific programming language like Swift/Objective C for iOS and Java/Kotlin for Android.

Now, as a business owner, you have to understand that native mobile app development can grant your developers complete access to a device, its operating system, and features like compass, GPS, accelerometer, camera, contacts, and more. Hence, you can offer a dynamic user experience to your customers.

Particularly for Android/iOS app development, native apps facilitate the interaction between a programmer and UI/UX designer because:

  • The programmer knows how to enhance the UI features for that particular platform.
  • The designer knows what UI features to implement that users prefer in a particular operating system.

Looking to build a native mobile application without compromising UI/UX?

For these reasons, your users can intuitively interact with your native app.

Amazing benefits? Sure! But don’t rush to develop native apps now; let’s first look at the complete picture of native app development vs. cross-platform by highlighting their pros and cons (since every technology has its own flaws).

Advantages of Native App Development

Advantages of Native App Development

1. High Speed and Stability

Since developers can fully leverage the benefits of a specific platform and don’t have to write complex code like their counterparts, native apps are comparatively faster and more stable. Since they’re cost-effective and highly performative, startups usually prefer native apps.

2. Reliability and Security

Security risks of native apps are relatively a lot lower than cross-platforms or hybrid apps. As native app development involves a few technologies, layers, and languages, vulnerabilities are less likely to slide in.

3. Quick App Release Process

The features of a native app seamlessly fulfill its requirements, and that’s why you can publish your app in the Play and App Stores in the simplest way.

4. Offline Functionality

One of the greatest advantages of native apps is that they can work perfectly even without a mobile network. Your users can enjoy extra convenience through this feature as they can access app functionalities in an offline environment or during airplane mode. Even if someone is living in a remote area or has limited data, native apps can be of great benefit to them.

5. No Third-Party Library Restrictions

In case you’re planning to build an app with complex non-standard functionality, it should definitely be a native app. The cross-platform app development frameworks involve different architectural structures of operating systems and hence, offer compromised solutions that are not really ideal. So, it won’t be difficult for your developers to access third-party libraries while building a native app.

6. Dynamic UI/UX Approach

There are significant differences in the user interface of Android and iOS apps. If someone is familiar with the iOS platform, it will take some time for him to get used to the screen design of Android. I’m talking about developing behavioral patterns that are different for Android and iOS devices. For such reasons, users, as well as developers, find native apps more convenient.

7. Easy Update

A quality app must need a simple and straightforward way to get updates from time to time. In this regard, the winner between a native app and a cross-platform app is the prior one, as you can easily update native apps over time and incorporate new features like IoT, AI, and more.

Disadvantages of Native App Development

Disadvantages of Native App Development

Although native app development has an extensive list of perks, it has its downsides as well. Have a look at the critical ones:

1. Increased Development Cost

Since native app development involves only one single platform, you need to make a choice: do you want to expand releases for a little easier spend, or do you want to pay for multi-platform development at a single run? Compared to cross-platform app development, the overall expense of native app development would be around 30-40% more. So, choose carefully.

2. Separate Code Base

Since Android and iOS are different platforms, you need to have a separate code base and maintain the code quality and coding standards for each. Your developers should be ready to implement each functionality of the app twice, as well as necessary tools and development procedures.

3. Longer Time to Market

Developing a native app is usually time-consuming. Hence, you must plan for a longer lead time to develop and test your app before releasing it to the market. Also, you need to hire different teams to build an app and ensure its smooth functionality across different operating systems.

When Should You Consider Developing a Native App?

Sure, native apps offer quite a few attractive benefits but again, as a business owner, you have to understand the situations where you can go for native app development. Mentioned below is a list of conditions you should consider:

  • When we talk about cross-platform vs. native mobile development, native apps are a bit costlier to build. So, if you don’t have any budget constraints for the app development project, native apps are an excellent choice for you.
  • If you’re planning to build a complex and high-end app software product, go for native app development. Native apps seamlessly leverage all the benefits of the device, giving you the opportunity to offer a robust app experience to your users.
  • If you’re launching your first app to your users, you may want to build a native app to impress them with a dynamic app experience.
  • If the majority of your users follow a single platform, you can stick with native apps and code specifically for that platform only.
  • Native apps are great if your business deals with animations or 3D games.
  • If you’re planning to target venture capitalists for product funding and grab a wider base of daily activity users with an intuitive and user-friendly app, native app development can provide rich benefits for you.

Develop a native application having
top-class UI/UX

Tools You Need for Native App Development

Usually, your developer will need an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and an SDK (Software Development Kit) particularly required for the operating system (Android/iOS/Windows) of your app. Here I have curated a list of programming languages and frameworks you would need to develop a native app:

For Android

  • Frameworks: Android Studio, IntelliJ IDEA
  • Programming Languages: Java, Kotlin

For iOS

  • Frameworks: XCode, AppCode, Atom
  • Programming Languages: Swift, Objective C

Top Examples of Native Apps in the Present Market

Examples of Native Apps

It’s no surprise that a myriad of native mobile apps is available in the market – all developed to perform most efficiently on the respective platform. From live video streaming apps and navigation platforms to messaging and gaming apps, you might already be familiar with a lot of them. Here are some of the successful ones:

  • Spotify
  • Google Maps
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Artsy
  • Waze
  • Pokémon Go
  • WhatsApp

Understanding Cross-Platform App Development

 Understand Cross-Platform App Development

Unlike native apps, cross-platform apps use only a single codebase and run on various devices and platforms at the same time. Developing an app of this sort is comparatively faster and cheaper as you can reuse almost 70-90% of the code for multiple other platforms. The rest of the code you need to create natively with the help of different tools like Xamarin, React Native, Ionic, and Flutter.

Cross-platforms apps have their own set of benefits, such as affordable development cost, dynamic functionality, and hassle-free implementation. Remember that the primary goal of cross-platform solutions is to optimize the essential stages of mobile app development, and thus, it’s not really about your users or their convenience. Such apps compile the source code to execute it on different operating systems. You will get a separate executable file for each compilation, with the .apk extension (Android) or .ipa (iOS).

Build a feature-rich cross-platform application to fulfill your users’ need

And if you compile the .apk extension with an executable file, it does not mean you can run it on iOS. You will need to do some work on the codebase anyway. But don’t worry, all you have to do is to make a few changes only.

Let’s move on to the next part of the native vs. cross-platform debate and have a look at the benefits and drawbacks of cross-platform solutions.

Advantages of Cross-Platform App Development

 Advantages of Cross-Platform App Development

1. Code Reusability

We can’t stress enough how reusable code proves to be a real bonus for developers by saving their time and efforts. With the “write once, run anywhere” approach, you can use the common codebase for each operating system, leading to a faster and simpler development process.

2. Hassle-Free Maintenance

Since you will only use one codebase, you don’t have to worry about flawed outcomes. You can develop a top-notch quality mobile app with great accuracy as cross-platform apps are a lot easier to test, fix, and update across all platforms.

3. Wider Audience Reach

Cross-platform apps are quite versatile and broadly available in the market. Hence, it will allow your business to reach broader audiences and new markets.

4. Reduced Cost

Of course, the economical cost of building react native apps, or other cross-platform apps is one of the great reasons to opt for this solution. Just imagine how much you’ll be able to save by running a single app on several platforms. This development technique is like a blessing for small and medium-size business owners as it fits in their budget and trims down upfront expenses.

5. Uniform UI/UX

We all know the grave importance of UI design in an app. While we always try to develop something unique and attractive, maintaining it is not an easy task. Moreover, creating a similar UI/UX for each problem is really complicated and time-consuming. Cross-platform app development saves us from this struggle with a common codebase.

6. Shorter Time to Market

You can launch your iOS and Android app simultaneously since cross-platform development supports multiple platforms. Hence, it’s a great strategy to improve your time to market, increase the number of potential users, and get them to download your app.

7. A Promising Future

The growing number of cross-platform apps indicates its bright future for business owners. This approach correctly aligns with the latest mobile app development trends. Each day, new frameworks with modern technologies are hitting the market and helping cross-platform app developers build apps that feel and look native. So, why should you pay more for the same result?

Disadvantages of Cross-Platform App Development

Disadvantages of Cross-Platform App Development

Despite the advantages, cost and time-effectiveness have some price to pay. Here we have noted down the most significant downsides of cross-platform solutions.

1. Performance Issues

Since cross-platform apps don’t have complete access to the target device, your users may experience some performance glitches. Chances are, your app might not perform optimally because of the incompatible communication between the device’s native components and your app’s non-native code.

2. Dependence on Third-Party Libraries

The cross-platform approach supports only a small number of libraries and SDKs. So, your developers might face difficulties discovering ways to incorporate new functionalities into the app.

3. Lack of Flexibility

If you’re planning to implement some cool features in your app that would run on different devices, cross-platform solutions are unlikely to offer the flexibility native apps do.

When Should You Consider Developing a Cross-Platform App?

To be more precise on the appropriate use of cross-platform apps, here are some perfect situations for this development class:

  • Cross-platform app development is easy on the pocket. So, if you want a minimum investment with maximum outcomes, go for it.
  • The maintenance cost of cross-platform apps is relatively less. Build such an app for no negative impact on the business revenue.
  • If you want faster development and time to market, cross-platform solutions are a win-win scenario for you.
  • If you want a not-so-complex app whose functionality does not really vary between different platforms, cross-platform development is a better choice.

Tools You Need for Cross-Platform App Development

Tools for Cross-Platform App Development

Cross-platform solutions won’t do you any good if you don’t choose the best cross-platform mobile app development framework. And there are so many different options in the market today that selecting the best one is sometimes challenging. So, I have done some research on my part and come up with the top-performing tools available. Check them out.

  • Xamarin
  • React Native
  • Flutter
  • Ionic
  • Appcelerator
  • Adobe PhoneGap
  • Corona
  • Qt
  • Sencha
  • Unity3D
  • 5App

Top Examples of Cross-Platform Apps in the Present Market

Access to different operating systems calls for efficient apps that can perform on the same. There are a lot of examples of successful cross-platforms in the market that have inspired businesses to take advantage of this approach.

So, if you have decided to opt for cross-platform app development, take a look at these leading examples that have become indispensable parts of our daily lives.

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Adobe Reader
  • Skype
  • Slack
  • Bloomberg
  • Insightly
  • VLC
  • OpenOffice

Native App Development vs. Cross-Platform App Development: What Should You Choose?

Coming to the question of cross-platform or hybrid vs. native apps, it’s not easy to pick a winner. But what if we set some parameters or criteria for a quality app and evaluate the merit of each approach? Sounds perfect to me for figuring out the finest app development framework.

So, consider the dropdown below and get a clear understanding of which is the best fit for your business.

1. Performance

If you want to deliver dynamic app performance to your users, building a native app is the wisest decision you can make. You can implement cutting-edge features of mobile phones such as wireless and network access points, memory management, accurate navigation, etc., to enhance service delivery and overall user experience.

Allow us to share a real-life example of a megacorp utilizing native app development. In the beginning, Airbnb adopted the React Native framework for cross-platform app development to grow faster with the “write once, deploy everywhere” approach. But as the company evolved its services and priorities, it switched to native apps and achieved profitable outcomes.

 Native Apps Best in Performance

2. Development Costs

Needless to say, budget and resource constraints are the biggest concern for startups. Of course, they expect a modern and decent quality app that fits within their budget. Native app development can be a deal-breaker here as it’s comparatively a lot costlier to afford. On the other hand, creating a cross-platform app requires a single codebase, hence fewer resources and efforts.

That’s why when costs come into the picture of cross-platform vs. native mobile development, cross-platform solutions could be your ideal choice.

Low-Cost Cross-Platform App Development

3. Time to Market

Did you know, 31.4 thousand iOS apps and 75 thousand Android apps get released every month through the Apple Store and Google Play Store?

Such intense is the present market competition that businesses must launch their apps at the earliest to stay afloat on edge. In this regard, developing, testing, and maintaining a native app take quite a long time. So, if you want a faster time to market, the cross-platform approach is worth considering.

 Regular Update in Cross-Platform App

4. UX and Customization

90% of customers say rich user experience is more likely to keep them shopping, and 70% of them say bad user experience has made them discard their shopping cart.

All these figures explicitly point out the fact that modern users always expect a great user experience from a brand throughout their app journey. So, the user experience of your mobile app will entirely control your overall user retention rate.

Providing enhanced usability, personalization, and customization is the primary business area you should work on. And talking about a native app vs. cross-platform app, native apps offer better UX capabilities with customizable interface components and preset libraries.

Native Apps Best for UX and Customization

5. App Security

There were 1001 cases of data breaches in the US in 2020. In the same year, data exposures affected 155.8 million people through the unwanted revelation of their confidential data. And the reason was inadequate information security.

Undoubtedly, app security is now a crucial concern for business owners, especially if you run an eCommerce company or any other industry dealing with customers’ sensitive information. Remember that you must deliver an error-free app as compromising sensitive data, and user security can destroy your brand reputation.

Native apps, in this respect, come with various in-built security features that can help your developers implement smart fraud detection, file encryption, two-step verification, and so on. For instance, you can learn how to build a fintech app with strong security.

So, even if you choose to build a cross-platform app for increased time to market and reduced development costs, wait till your app is popular and stable in the market. You can then go ahead with native app development and ensure the high-end security of your app.

Security in Native App Development

Our Experience with Native vs. Cross-Platform App Development

With our discussion so far, who do you think wins the final battle for your business?

Well, I think the decision is entirely situational as each approach has its play areas. But wait, there’s more.

If you want to develop a stable and reliable mobile app with amazing performance, no time and budget limitation, and aimed at only iOS or Android users, native apps would be the best bet.

On the flip side, if you want to develop an app in the most time and cost-effective way that would focus on a wider user base, choosing cross-platform over native apps can hit the bull’s -eye for you.

Keep in mind that only individual circumstances pave the way towards choosing the appropriate strategy, and no write-up can offer a universal answer to you.

Ready to discover the best app development solution for your business?

Summing Up

I hope this article provides you with the needed background information and helps you establish a discourse in a language understood by both your developers and customers. Discuss with your project team and make the ultimate decision only after that. The more reasoning about this or that solution you listen to, the better.

Does this discussion on native vs. cross-platform app development still sound too technical for you? Let go of your concerns and hit us up with your ideas. Our qualified developers will analyze your requirements and suggest the appropriate framework.

So, consult a top-rated mobile app development company like Radixweb and find out how you can go about creating a game-changing app for your business. We’re ready to work on your project, as always!

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Vinit kariatukaran is a senior mobile application development manager at Radixweb and passionate about developing and designing innovative high-reach mobile applications. He endeavors to keep himself abreast of all the latest technological changes and updates to deliver the best in the business. When at leisure, he loves to read books and have interesting conversations with his colleagues and friends.