There are many ways you can go about app development, such as with native and cross-platform development. Depending on the complexity of your intended solution, its desired responsiveness, and your target audience, you will go either for an app aimed at a particular platform or one that would work across various platforms.
Before you make up your mind, check out the differences between these types of apps, including their advantages and drawbacks.
What Is Native App Development?
Natively developed applications are mobile apps built for a particular operating system or platform, such as Android and iOS. Such applications cannot work on any other OS because they are developed using the syntax recognized by the particular OS only.
With this being said, native mobile app development requires an application to be developed according to the requirements of the platform. An app built for a native platform, such as an Apple device, won’t be suitable for installation on an Android device and vice versa. On top of that, you can’t just download a native application from the Internet and run it — you can only access it via special software, such as Google Play or App Store.
While native development limits the use of the application on other platforms, it provides exceptional performance in terms of both functionality and UX. With natively developed apps, you don’t have to worry about their compatibility with various devices and browsers — it will run smoothly on the platform it’s built for.
Native mobile development technologies & frameworks
Developing a native application for a platform requires using particular programming languages, technologies, and frameworks so that the platform can read the app’s code and run it. This means that there will be totally different codes written using different technologies for an Android application and an iOS one.
Native Android app development
There is a good pool of development tools for Android, including those provided by Google. Some of the tools used for native application development on this platform include the following:
- Android SDK
- Android Jetpack
- Compose UI
When an Android app is ready, it is submitted to the app store, Google Play, to be shared with users. It is where the solution will be stored for downloading or purchasing and further installation.
Our team did native app development for Android as a part of a smart city software solution. The app had to collect data from 2 million connected lighting devices globally and track them. We covered the app’s front- and back-end development, synchronization with a cloud platform, UI/UX design, and quality assurance.
Native iOS app development
Creating an application for an Apple device comes with some stricter requirements than for Android — iOS has a closed-source code, hence the apps need to comply with the restrictions it places. The following technologies can be used for native iOS app building:
- iOS SDK
Before the solution is available for installation or purchasing, Apple’s App Store needs to approve it. The criteria are quite demanding and include the app’s excellent performance, appropriate content, and other aspects.
Pros and cons of native mobile app development
Overall, native apps are the best choice when rich functionality is required. Native development allows creating complex and well-performing apps that provide interactive UX, are easily updated and scalable.
1. Vast functionality. Since native apps are built from scratch and are not limited by anything like browser compatibility, you can add to them the features you need to meet your business goals and deliver the best experience to the users. You can make the app as simple or complex as you want, and this may be especially useful if your product or industry requires particular architecture to be implemented.
2. High performance. The fact that an application is developed for a particular platform implies its full compatibility with it. You get great application performance since there won’t be any issues with installment, conflicts with the browser, or devices’ hardware. Even complex native applications will show great performance at high speed. If you’d like to learn more about web application speed and performance optimization, we’ve got just the right article about it.
3. Great UX. Apart from the great performance in terms of functionality, native mobile solution also provides an excellent user experience. You can adjust your application to the unique design and features of the operating system and enhance how it interacts with the user.
4. Scalability. Building an application from scratch allows changing it when and how you need it with no complications. You can easily adjust a native application to the changes as your business grows and scale the solution to handle more operations or a bigger user count.
With better functionality and performance comes a higher price and longer production time — these are major disadvantages of native development.
1. Costly. Developing a native application is not the most affordable type of software building. First of all, you need specialists who use particular technologies and frameworks to build a solution suitable for the operating system. Also, you will be building it from scratch, hence it is custom and may require unique mapping and thoughtful decision-making.
You’ll also have to cover application development for different platforms — for example, you’ll have 2 apps if you’re going to market the project for both iOS and Android users. And this means different tech stacks, approaches, and teams.
2. Time-consuming. For the same reasons that make it costly, native development is time-consuming. Finding the right team, coming up with the view of your future app, then project implementation — all these contribute to making your custom solution development quite time-consuming.
What Is Cross-Platform Development?
Cross-platform app development implies that an application is developed to work on several platforms. In other words, a single application will work on both iOS and Android when it’s developed for cross-platform use.
With this being said, developing software that will run on various platforms means that it will be compatible with each of them. But since every platform has its own requirements, the solution must comply with those of every operating system. This may lead to the app’s slower performance, let alone its limited functionality.
Cross-platform mobile development technologies & frameworks
Technologies and frameworks for cross-platform app development allow building solutions in one place that will run across various devices. Among such, the most popular tools are the following:
- React Native
As you can see, you have some choice in the frameworks to use for your cross-platform app, so you can consider the features of each and use the one that matches your needs the most.
Pros and cons of cross-platform mobile app development
Cross-platform apps are quite simple since they rarely provide great performance with complex functionality. But the benefits outweigh this — short production time, comparatively low cost, and single codebase, which contributes to quick development.
1. Quick to develop & launch. Since cross-platform apps can be developed with many programming languages and frameworks, there is some freedom in choosing a tech stack for the development. Therefore, you can choose the one with which your team can work.
As the frameworks and technologies are used in a wide scope of industries and projects, there are some settings and widespread approaches to developing apps. Most likely, there won’t be any delays in development or deployment, making it a quick development and product launch.
2. Cost-effective. Since the number of technologies is not as limited as it is with native app development, it should be easier to find a team. Cross-platform development also requires fewer engineers compared to the native app because the same team develops apps for all platforms instead of different apps for each platform. Also, cross-platform development takes less time for building and testing.
3. Single codebase. Apps working across various platforms have a single codebase, and this brings in some related benefits. Software with a single codebase allows for reusing the code on other platforms in the course of development. In addition, maintaining and adjusting the application is also simpler with one codebase.
While a simple cross-platform application can be a successful solution, a more complex functionality will cause performance issues, as well as customizing or scaling the solution may also be a challenge.
1. Slow performance. The code of a cross-platform application is much more complicated than that of a native application because it has to ensure the app’s compatibility with all the devices and platforms where it will be used. This leads to more code and a longer response time for the ready application. In addition, platform compatibility issues may trigger delays in the app’s performance.
2. Limited functionality. Since the app must perform well across all intended platforms, the code is already complicated to comply with each. And adding complex or numerous features to the application is likely to slow its performance down even more, resulting in a sluggish app. Some features can also be blocked by a device’s limitations, and this results in not allowing to add some features to the app at all. Therefore, the application should have limited features to run smoothly.
3. Poor UX. Cross-platform applications’ design tends to be quite simple, consequently, it lacks interactiveness. The issue with this is that a single-codebase solution cannot have a design that would adjust to all platforms and devices, as well as it won’t use the unique design features supported by each platform, such as eye-catching animations, graphics, and other effects.
4. Difficult to customize. Adjusting the app to introduce an update or extend its functionality requires lots of resources, while there’s no guarantee that the application will perform well on each platform for the reasons discussed earlier. In addition, updating the solution on each platform tends to be time-consuming since every platform’s approval is required.
Cross-Platform vs Native: which one to choose?
Now that you know what is a native application development and how it differs from the cross-platform one, you can make up your mind on what kind of app you need. Below you can see what type of application fits a particular case best:
|Native app||Cross-platform app|
|You need a highly responsive application||Simple functionality will do|
|It will use the device’s hardware & resources||You just want to test an idea|
|You plan to update & scale it||You just want to test an idea|
As you can see, your business needs to define the type of app development you should go for. So, analyze what your goal is to choose the suitable approach.
Different goals require different solutions, hence the type of application development that will match your business needs calls for some analysis. With the listed definitions, comparisons, and examples of native and cross-platform apps, you can decide which one will be the best choice for your project. But if you still need assistance figuring that out, reach out to our team and we’ll decide together.