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Native vs Cross-platform mobile development

Andrii Horiachko
15 August 2016 • 4 min read
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Native vs Cross-platform mobile development

When it comes to mobile apps development there’s a common discussion that tends to come up between companies and clients. Endless discussion without a final answer. Which tastes better Cola or Pepsi? Will you choose skiing or boarding? Do you prefer Google Chrome or Internet Explorer? Just kidding, no one prefers Internet Explorer. Anyway, we’re sure you got the idea. So mobile development, native or cross-platform?

Let’s assume that you want your app on both Android and iOS (these operating systems cover 97% of the smartphone market worldwide, so, for now, we’ll set aside all the other platforms).

 

What will be the best option? Create two separate apps or just one app for both platforms?

And since we’ve been developing apps for years, we’ll be the ones who’ll try to answer and to sum up for you all the pros and cons for both ways.

There are several approaches to cross-platform development:

  • The hybrid cross-platform app is a combination of mobile websites and native app shells for each of the platforms. The core of the application is an HTML5 or JavaScript mobile app. It can look more attractive because of both iOS and Android support JavaScript code without a web-view. It works great only if you keep it simple and light, but complex JavaScript components are too slow and heavy for mobile and it won’t feel natural.
  • Mobile optimized web applications (various frameworks, like PhoneGap, Ionic or Accelerator’s Titanium) based on an open-source JavaScript SDK to create native, hybrid, and mobile web apps that provide native-platform-specific features such as UI components.

Let’s start comparing:

Wider Reach and Effective Marketing

 

Cross-platform:

Pros

  • Time and money: Yep, perhaps, this one is the most persuasive for clients – a way to reduce development cost. Standard-based web technologies that bridge web applications and mobile devices can be a cost-saver at the stage of development.
  • Wider reach and effective marketing: App for multiple platforms leads to wider audience and exposure. And the more people the more benefits for the app.
  • Web and the mobile views will look very similar and you’ll have to update it once and sync all. It offers single business logic in the code which eliminates the number of bugs when you develop an app for 2+ platforms.
  • Best choice for gaming: Development area where cross-platform definitely wins. Game developers use Corona and Cocos2d-x SDKs, which make it easy to add physics to 2D games with the underlying engine built around Box2D. And there’s Unity, a powerful game development engine fully integrated with intuitive tools and rapid workflows which allow you to create interactive 3D games.

Cons

  • Framework limitations. Choosing cross-platform, you’re choosing your framework, and eventually, you’ll find yourself locked in that framework flexibility. So as we like to say, you’re only strong as your weakest link, but in case of cross-platform: you’re only flexible as the flexible frame you chose.
  • Speed issues. If developers apply the cross-compilation process it can slow the app down for most of the frameworks.
  • Lack of features support. Cross-platform won’t support every feature of Apple or Google.
  • Accessibility limitations. There are also hardware limitations, thus it is likely that you won’t be able to use a camera, GPS, or push notifications
  • The inefficiency of frameworks. Development won’t be done using native languages, thus the efficiency of the final code will fully dependent on translation.
  • Support and updates. Hard to find a vastly experienced developer in this platform

 

Native:

Pros

  • UX. The native app development environment provides tools and widgets that help to create standard intuitive interfaces, which are not available for hybrid/cross-platform choice.
  • Code works faster. New features are integrated more quickly and easily. Hardware-related things like screen touch events, access to the camera, calendar, notification, etc., geo-location tracking are much easier to implement with native technologies. When things go wrong in the app development, Android or iOS will likely get you a tool to solve your issue.
  • Native features availability. This is, basically, the mirror of cross-platform con bullet. Cross-platform doesn’t have all kinds of access to native features, including testing and debugging instruments, natives apps do.
  • UI. As soon as patterns and widgets are available for natives, UI built upon it is better automatically too. Starting with Google’s Material Design approach for Android platform, Amazon Fire OS and Apple Swift language.
  • Marketplaces. Native apps get full support from the concerned marketplaces like App Store and Play Store rank popular apps, making every user know where to find the right one. Because of the approval process, users are assured in complete safety.

Cons

  • Investment in the development stage. Takes more time and resources to develop apps in multiple native platforms for a product.

  • Updates. You’ll have to upgrade apps often for the latest OS and features

 

Did you make your decision?

Surely, to make a final decision you’ll have to consider all ins and outs, like why do you need the app, what will be the purpose, how important speed and performance would be, etc. Based on listed above native apps wins for most of the cases, but not for all of them. It’s acknowledged that native apps cost more on the front end; for this reason, mobile web and hybrid apps can seem more appealing; however, as a conclusion, we can say for sure that, the cost of more enticing options brings more benefit in the long run.

Thus, we’ll rather advice native approach whenever it is possible. And as a result, you’ll have a quality product that is promoted via the app store that has full access to the device, that is secure, and that is attractive to users. If costs are that huge limitation, you can try to start with one OS to see how it goes, but to start with a product of high quality right away, without settling for “just as good".

It’s not a coincidence that Shazam, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Skype and hundreds more are making all their products using native development. You don’t need a copy of your website in your app; you need an interactive solution that fully uses all features of your mobile device.

We have extensive experience creating mobile applications for both startup and large companies. Contact us today and allow us to do our best solving your challenges.

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