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How to Choose Between Native App Development and Cross-Platform App Development?

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14 min read

By the start of 2023, mobile devices were responsible for more than 60% of all the people using the internet. This made businesses realize they couldn’t wait anymore. They understand that making their websites work well on phones and tablets or creating a mobile app is vital.

Illustration shows the statistics of worldwide subscription.

Imagine that you’re in the world of mobile app creation, where the aim is to deliver a fantastic user experience that fits right into the palms of our hands. The trick? Designing such apps means making them work perfectly with smartphones, whether they run on Android or iOS. 

The choice between these two operating systems is more than just a tech detail. It’s a decision that sets the stage for how we build the apps.

So there are two paths to tread: one is the “native” route, where you dive deep into the specifics of a single operating system and develop the product separately for Android and iOS (using native languages and tools), and the other is the “cross-platform” journey, where your app works seamlessly with one codebase across various operating systems. 

With over eight years of hands-on experience in programming languages, databases, hardware, and software operations, I have a treasure trove of expertise. My journey in the software world has been exciting, marked by many successful projects. At DashDevs, I’ve honed my skills to guide you on this paramount journey. Let me help you tackle the complexities, choose the right development approach, and turn your app idea into something unique.

As I’ve observed, many people lean towards cross-platform applications as the most logical choice due to their capability to operate across multiple operating systems, thus potentially reaching a broader audience. However, there are several complexities to take into account, which I will delve into further.

The approach you choose shapes everything: how your app looks, what tools you use to create it, and most importantly, who gets to use it. It’s a decision that sparks a chain reaction, and I am about to tell you what is for what. 

What is a Native Mobile Application?

Native apps are like customized creations made specifically for one type of device. They’re designed to work on just one platform. These applications are accessible through dedicated app stores such as Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play. So, the obvious thing you need to consider is that an app crafted for the iOS ecosystem will not function on Android devices, and conversely.

Industries such as fintech, e-commerce, social networking, health and fitness, and media streaming often benefit from the enhanced performance and seamless integration of native mobile apps.

The underlying reason for this platform exclusivity lies in using platform-specific tools and programming languages during development. 

Developers employ programming languages like Kotlin or Java for Android app projects. In contrast, developers use languages such as Objective-C or Swift when the client wants to focus on iOS applications. 

Why does it matter to you?

  • Opting for a single programming language and platform-specific tools can reduce development costs. It simplifies the development process, leading to fewer complexities and smoother coordination among the development team.
  • Working with a single programming language speeds up development,  leading to quicker coding and easier bug-fixing of your app.
  • Using platform-specific tools helps maintain consistent branding across different platforms. The app’s look, feel, and functionality align better with each platform’s distinct characteristics, making your product recognizable.
  • Focusing on one platform initially can help allocate resources more effectively. It lets you release a high-quality app on one platform before extending it to other platforms.

Examples of native apps: SwiftKey, Spotify, WhatsApp, and Google Maps.

Native app tools

  • Android: Android Studio, Android IDE, IntelliJ IDEA
  • iOS: Xcode, Appcode, Atom

Illustration shows the pros and cons of Native Applications.

Pros of Native Mobile Applications

In this section, I’ll explore the compelling advantages of adopting native mobile app development for business owners, users, and development teams so you can understand how it influences each aspect of product development.

#1. Optimal Performance. Native components boast exceptional performance, fortified by a spectrum of native app development tools, APIs, and kits. These resources foster the building of products. For instance, the ability to execute user interface code on a separate processor thread significantly reduces loading times, easing user waiting duration.

#2. Intuitive User Experience. The expertise of mobile engineers is harnessed in native app development, employing native Software Development Kits (SDKs) to ensure a uniform user interface. The interfaces of native apps harmonize with specific platforms, leading to an integrated feel and an intuitive user experience.

#3. Maximized Capability. By working with a mobile app development company to create an app tailored for a specific platform, you make the most of that platform’s capabilities. Experts can integrate cutting-edge, platform-specific features that effectively engage users and cater to their needs. Native development equips the engineering team with optimal tools to create an interactive, user-centric product.

#4. Addressing Complexity. For complex mobile applications with native features (use GPS, upload files from a phone/tablet, function while offline, etc.), native app development is the right choice. This approach helps develop high-performing applications that can be fine-tuned and personalized in alignment with user preferences.

#5. Direct Hardware Access. Native apps provide direct access to the smartphone’s hardware, encompassing microphones, cameras, GPS, and more. In contrast, hybrid and cross-platform apps rely on APIs to access hardware, which can impact app performance.

#6. Reduced Bug Potential. While proficient software engineering teams can ensure bug-free products irrespective of the app development approach, adopting native methods minimizes bug risks. This stems from consolidating development efforts into a single codebase, streamlining maintenance, and mitigating the chances of errors.

Cons of Native Mobile Applications

#1. Cost Implications. Native app development comes with a notable cost consideration. Crafting applications separately for iOS and Android platforms necessitates the engagement of two distinct teams. This bifurcation of resources can escalate costs significantly.

#2. Time Intensiveness. The commitment to platform-specific development inherently translates to time consumption. This approach limits the feasibility of repurposing the same development efforts for another platform. Consequently, a dedicated team must be allocated to fashion the counterpart version.

#3. Frequent Updates. Updating native apps is regularly driven by the need to resolve issues like bugs and errors. Users receive notifications when these updates are available to download from their respective app stores. However, there’s a challenge here. Some users may delay or overlook these updates to conserve storage space on their devices. While this might seem reasonable, it can inadvertently lead to a less-than-optimal app experience. The app’s performance and functionality could suffer if these updates aren’t promptly installed, affecting the seamless user experience that the app aims to deliver. It’s crucial to balance managing device space and ensuring the app runs smoothly with the latest updates.

What is a Cross-Platform Mobile Application?

Cross-platform application development, sometimes called multi-platform development, involves creating applications operating on various platforms. Think of it as creating a blueprint for your app that can be used to build on iOS and Android. It’s like having a versatile recipe that works in different kitchens without changing the main ingredients. This approach saves time, costs and effort and allows you to cater your product to a broader audience.

Developers achieve this by using shared portions of the app’s code for different platforms. They use tools like React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter to make applications work this way.

While cross-platform development has the advantage of saving time and money, there are potential downsides to consider. Making an app work well on different platforms can be challenging. It might also require an extra layer of technology to make the app run on various platforms, which can affect how well it performs.

  • Here is an example of how this approach has been put into action by our experts at DashDevs:

Keen Advisor (Flutter, Dart): This is a cross-platform mobile app tailored for advisors on the Keen platform. Advisors can seamlessly connect with their customers through in-app chat or calls (so it’s simple). They provide valuable insights, assist users in finding answers to pressing questions, and offer closure. This user-friendly app brings together advisors and customers, regardless of whether they use iOS or Android. It’s important to note that the app’s functionality isn’t overly complex. This is why we strategically chose to develop it as a cross-platform app. By doing so, we’re streamlining time and cost factors, ensuring an efficient solution for our valued client. 

Startups and businesses often find cross-platform development attractive because of its efficiency in terms of time and cost. But it’s important to remember that this approach might limit how much you can customize the app beyond what the tools allow. So, while cross-platform development can be a wise choice, weighing its pros and cons against your specific needs and goals is crucial, especially if you’re aiming to create a customer-centric product that aligns with the needs and expectations of your target audience.

Examples of cross-platform apps: Airbnb, The World Bank, Fox Sports, Alaska Airlines. 

Cross-platform tools

  • React Native, Flutter, Adobe PhoneGap, Xamarin, Qt, Ionic, Apache Cordova, Sencha, Solar 2D, Unity.

Illustration shows pros and cons of cross-platform app development

Pros of Cross-Platform Mobile Applications

#1. Unified Codebase. When you opt for cross-platform development, you create a single code set that works across different operating systems. This means developers can avoid writing new code for each platform, saving you money that could be invested in a larger expert team and extended development period.

#2. Speedy Development. The cross-platform route means less code to write and test, speeding up the development process. You can get things done quicker since you’re not bogged down with writing and checking as much code. Consequently, you can swiftly launch your app, seize market opportunities promptly, and establish your brand presence ahead of competitors.

#3. Savings in Costs. Cross-platform solutions make a lot of sense for startups and businesses with limited budgets. They can help cut down development expenses. This can be an intelligent choice to make the most of your resources.

#4. Tapping into New Opportunities. With modern cross-platform technologies, you can attract fresh talent to your team. Developers often thrive on tackling new challenges and incorporating new technologies into your projects can motivate and excite your team. DashDevs engineers always accept new opportunities to work on impressive ideas and turn them into working products.

#5. Shared Logic. Thanks to the single codebase approach, you can be sure that your app works the same way on different platforms. It’s like having a common thread of logic running through everything. The same codebase means fewer resources and costs, which is better for developing simple apps.

#6. Effortless Maintenance. Updating a cross-platform app is a breeze. Why? Because you’re dealing with just one codebase. All the different versions for various platforms use the same code, ensuring consistency in every build. This benefits your business considerably since, should you need to modify features or onboard new developers, a unified codebase guarantees easier comprehension and quicker adaptation. This translates to significant time and cost savings since updates can be implemented efficiently without requiring extensive re-coding or comprehensive knowledge transfer.

Cons of Cross-Platform Mobile Applications

#1. Taking Up More Space. Cross-platform apps often occupy more space on your device. The team should be mindful of mobile optimization possibilities to manage this aspect effectively. This can be a concern for your business as it might deter potential users who are cautious about consuming too much of their device’s storage. Hence, you should prioritize efficient storage usage to maintain a positive UX and attract more сlients.

#2. Integration Challenges. Cross-platform frameworks might not seamlessly include all the features specific to each platform. For certain hardware-specific functions, such as utilizing GPUs, expertise in native app development might be necessary for smooth integration.

#3. Slower Performance. Cross-platform frameworks generally include a unique tool to run your app, communicating with platform-specific services. While this can be helpful, it adds an extra layer of processing, potentially leading to slower performance of the application and imperfect UI. 

#4. Delayed Access to Platform Features. With the release of new Software Development Kit (SDK) versions, there typically come new features and enhancements. With cross-platform frameworks, you might have to wait for a separate update to access these new functionalities. For you, this could mean missing out on providing cutting-edge features to your users, which could impact user engagement and satisfaction. While this may momentarily postpone your app’s access to the latest offerings, rest assured that these delays won’t hinder your ability to perform necessary updates or interrupt your overall progress. Considering how this delay could affect your app’s competitiveness and relevance in the market is essential. So, if you need your updates to be fast - choose the Native approach. 

Native vs. Cross-Platform: Choose the Right Option

After looking at some primary differences between development approaches, it’s time to navigate you with the crucial factors to consider when deciding between native and cross-platform solutions for mobile app development. By factoring in these elements, you can make an informed choice that aligns with your app development goals and business objectives.

  • App Type and Purpose. Understand your app’s nature and purpose. Is it complex, loaded with features, and unique? This scenario could demand extensive programming. 

Also, consider if the user interface is a standout feature or not. Do you need access to specific hardware functions like the camera and GPS? If yes, native development provides direct access to these functions for optimal performance. Your mobile approach should give the right tools for your app’s needs and ensure an excellent user experience.

  • Developer Expertise. The team’s skills matter. Developers should be familiar with the frameworks you choose. Look into the programming languages and tools required. To simplify this process, you may need a product manager who conducts a discovery phase or a business analyst who will discover the market and choose what’s best for you. At DashDevs, we have one of the best experts in this field, so when you need help—don’t hesitate to book a call with professionals.

For instance, consider that iOS native apps are developed using Objective-C or Swift (finding an experienced developer here might be more accessible, given the significant number of native developers in the tech industry). On the Android side, you’ll need Kotlin or Java skills. If you’re exploring cross-platform options like Flutter, remember that it uses Dart (hiring developers with expertise in Flutter can be relatively expensive due to its newer status). If you’re interested in Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile, it’s a favorable choice as its syntax aligns with Swift concepts (while it might be challenging to find developers within a budget, you can always find experienced professionals).

  • Long-Term Reliability. Assure that your chosen approach has staying power. Investigate platform providers, community size, and adoption by big companies. 

If you’re considering the long-term prospects of your app, both native and cross-platform approaches have their merits. Native development offers robust performance and tailor-made user experiences, which can be advantageous for sustained app growth. On the other hand, cross-platform development can accelerate the development process and potentially save costs, making it appealing for long-term projects with budget considerations.

To decide, evaluate your app’s nature, UI significance, and specific hardware requirements. If your app requires extensive hardware access and a highly customized UX, native development may be the optimal choice. Alternatively, cross-platform development can be a valuable solution if you’re looking for faster development and cost efficiency.

Ultimately, consulting with experts like the DashDevs team is recommended to analyze your app’s unique needs and goals. This way, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your long-term app strategy..

  • Budget Considerations. When it comes to costs, both native and cross-platform development have distinct financial implications. Native development typically involves higher initial costs due to the need for separate development teams for each platform (iOS and Android). This can result in increased salaries, resources, and project management expenses.

Cross-platform development can save costs by allowing developers to work on a single codebase for multiple platforms. This streamlined approach can reduce development time and resource allocation, making it a more budget-friendly option for startups and businesses with limited financial resources.

To make an informed decision, evaluate your project’s budget constraints and weigh the benefits of tailored user experiences (native) against the potential cost savings and faster time-to-market (cross-platform).

  • Industry Acceptance: Gaining insights from tech experts matters. Communities like Reddit, StackOverflow, and Google Trends offer valuable perspectives. Look up trends for “native mobile development” and “cross-platform mobile development.” Both approaches have their share of interest, but cross-platform methods appear to be growing.
  • Learning Resources: Access to learning materials is critical when exploring cross-platform or native development. Investigate official documentation, books, and courses for multiplatform frameworks. Ensure that the provider offers a clear roadmap with long-term plans.
Benefit from our experience to choose the best development approach
Navigating App Development?

How to Make the Final Choice between Native or Cross-Platform Approach?

The decision you make holds a significant impact on the costs, time, and user reception of your app. Consider all the factors discussed above before concluding. If you’re still pondering, here are some extra pointers.

When to Choose for Native Mobile App Development

Consider native development if:

  • Your app needs complete access to all phone resources and services (for example, a fitness app that utilizes the device’s GPS for tracking outdoor activities and the camera for capturing workout visuals).
  • You aim to build a highly responsive app.
  • You want to make the best use of all the capabilities your phone’s hardware offers.
  • You desire an app that can be easily updated and enriched with new features.

When to Choose Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

Consider cross-platform development if:

  • You can accept the fact that an app will be slightly less responsive for the sake of broader platform compatibility and cost-effectiveness.
  • Your app doesn’t involve intricate animations or complex logic (this could include apps focusing on information delivery, content consumption, basic utility functions, or data collection, for example, a simple note-taking application).
  • There’s a short timeframe for testing your app idea and hypotheses in the market.

Conclusion 

When it comes to deciding between native and cross-platform mobile app development, each option comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, your choice should be driven by your project’s specific needs and developers’ expertise.

Native mobile apps continue to excel in user experience and performance. Although they might come at a higher cost, you can expect lower defect rates and superior visual quality.

On the other hand, cross-platform app development offers swifter and more straightforward construction, yet achieving a comparable user experience on each platform requires additional effort.

In the grand scheme, native apps are usually “better” and offer superior user experiences and overall application quality. However, it’s essential to recognize that cross-platform development is a viable alternative, especially for less complex applications. This approach can help you save time and resources while delivering a satisfactory product.

Still uncertain about whether to go with native or cross-platform mobile app development? Reach out to us for professional guidance from our expert team. We’re here to assist you in making the most suitable decision for your business.

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