App development is no more a luxury, but a necessity in today’s time. Why do we say that? Well, the reason is, the global mobile application market has already crossed $106 billion in 2018 and is growing at an annual rate of 18.4%. However the old debate between cross-platform vs native mobile app development still hasn't got a closure yet. If you are also juggling to find the best one, then read this blog. Here, we have tried to simplify the differences between both of them. Keep reading.
Customers need applications! From shopping to healthcare to financial services, mobile applications have made everything handy and easier. You would be surprised to know that Android itself powers 74.13% of smartphones and iOS estimates its market share to be around 24.79%.
Applications are empowering humans to an extent that today there is an app available in the market to resolve every single challenge of ours.
However, Native and Cross-platform solutions seem to have shuffled the cards. The debate between Native Vs Cross-platform application development seems to have no end. After proper discussion and guidance with our expert team, we have mapped out a few important considerations of both the cases.
Let’s dig deep into the updates, benefits, and drawbacks of using both of the powerful solutions.
What is Native App development?
Native application development refers to the development process using platform-specific programming language, SDK and the primary technology stack. This development process also makes use of the device memory, camera, sensors, GPS, contact lists and more. Native applications are uploaded on the application store, Google Play, and Apple app store. From here the users can install them in their devices.
Native-built applications offer higher & better performance, have robust functionality and deliver the seamless user experience.
Native application programming languages or frameworks:
Depending on the platform of development, developers decide the programming language for native app development. Say for example, for iOS development, Objective C and Swift are used, whereas, for Android development, Java or Kotlin is used. In frameworks, the XCode framework is used to build iOS applications and Android Studio is used to build Android applications.
Some of the prominent applications have grabbed their market share by building Native applications. The list goes like GoogleMaps, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Telegram and more.
What is cross-platform development?
Cross-platform app development refers to the app development that can perform on any type of operating system. The code that is written once for cross-platform development is deployed on smartphones, tablets, computers, smartwatches and televisions.
Developers write a solitary codebase and run across the various platforms without worrying about code compatibility. This development process saves a lot of time and money. These applications are easy to maintain and update.
Cross-platform application framework:
Platform independent i.e cross-platform applications use React Native, Xamarin or Flutter framework for developing applications.
Popular cross-platform applications on the list are Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Skype and Slack.
There are two types of cross-platform mobile application development: Native cross-platform applications and Hybrid applications.
Native cross-platform applications:
Every native application programming language be it Java, Kotlin, Object-C or Swift have its own SDK. Developers unify the API that runs on top of the native SDK, use native IDEs. They thereby use the same codebase, and develop applications for iOS and Android.
Hybrid cross-platform applications:
Now that we know the basics of the two types of application development, then let us know the pros and cons of each.
Pros Of Native Application Development:
Native applications use platform-specific SDK and programming language, it facilitates direct access to the native platform’s features and functionalities. The direct rendering of the native features, boost the performance of the application.
The native-built is useful especially when the developers want to publish graphics and multimedia content. Native application building thereby mitigates the changes of application downtimes, crashes and freezes.
Works without an internet connection:
This is the most sought after benefit of native application development, working without internet connectivity. A native application is accessible to the user all the time, even on an airplane mode.
Superior User Interface:
The most important factor behind an application's success is an impressive and flawless UI. Native apps integrate with the mobile OS and thereby give a familiar interface where a user can navigate without any hassle. Unlike other platforms, developers do not have to compromise with UI for creating user-friendly interfaces.
Keeps up the aspect ratio:
The aspect ratio is defined as the width to height ratio of different devices. This ratio plays a major role in defining the quality of user experience. Since native applications have platform-specific layout access, these applications can scale the aspect ratio. It has the capability to adjust it with the screen type respectively.
Allows access to hardware features:
The way native apps integrate with the device features is commendable. This allows native apps to have direct access to the hardware features and thereby make the user experience more interesting.
Allows better positioning on app stores:
Because of the above-mentioned benefits such as higher performance, impressive UI and others, the natively developed application ensures a better positioning on the App stores. Thereby the native-built applications have greater chances of higher visibility and increased revenues.
Cons of Native application development:
Doesn’t allow code reusability:
Today when the IT space is moving towards, “Code once, use everywhere”, native applications don't support this phrase. A developer has to code two different languages for making an app accessible to Android and iOS users. Definitely this would require more effort and consume a lot more time for development.
You would have to invest human efforts and time in coding a native application. And hence you need to pay them for the service. This increases the overall cost of application development. Furthermore, if you wish to add some special features to the application, you may have to hire special programmers. This will further add to the cost of development.
It is a struggle to find the talent:
Companies expecting to build native applications have to hire skilled programmers. With the rising demand, there is a scarcity of subject experts. And hence you have to struggle back and forth in finding a skilled developer.
Less revenue opportunities:
Since native application building allows you to target only one platform, it may happen that you are missing the revenue opportunities from the others.
The higher cost of maintenance:
Clutch.co states that the maintenance of native applications can cost you up to 25% of the total development cost. The reason behind this is, you need to pay a good chunk of money to the platform-specific developers.
Pros of Cross-Platform App Development:
Quick development turn-around time:
One of the major benefits of cross-platform app development is that you can reuse almost 80% of the original codebase! You can further serve it across multiple platforms. This includes the backend and all UI levels. And thus the development time is reduced by almost 10-20% of the total development time.
Wide audience reach:
This is one of the major differences between native and cross-platform app development. The native application gives you a chance to outreach a limited number of the audience. While cross-platform applications give you a broader range of audiences. This increases your chances of getting revenues from the developed application.
It ensures consistent app performance across various platforms:
“Write once, run anywhere” approach facilitates developers to use a single codebase and run across multiple platforms. There is no dramatic change observed in terms of application UI and visible performance.
It allows you to work with a small team size:
Speed and application agility are the two confirmed benefits of cross-platform application development. This feature enables developers to work effectively even with a small team within the organization.
It facilitates update synchronization:
App updates have become the norm in the tech world. Being the need of the hour, developers roll out updates every month which may add on to the maintenance cost. However, the same is not applicable when it comes to cross-platform app development. Application updates can easily be synchronized thereby saving a huge amount of money.
Easy bug resolve:
A single codebase is used across multiple platforms in cross-platform applications. And hence when there is a bug in the code, a single solution will resolve it for all the platforms.
Cons of cross-platform app development:
A major fallback of the cross-platform application comes when it has to handle CPU and GPU heavy tasks. Also the cross-platform applications do not integrate seamlessly into the OS. At times, there may come communication glitches between the non-native code and device components.
Limited support of third-party libraries:
There are many third-party libraries and SDKs that do not extend synchronization support with cross-platform applications. Developers have to continuously juggle in finding out ways to integrate expected functionality into the application.
It may cause issues with user experience:
Cross-Platform applications are developed using a shared codebase. This sharing may fail in providing a robust user experience across all the platforms. Additionally, these apps can not take complete advantage of native features that could enhance the user experience.
Let’s draw a comparison chart that will help in a better understanding of the two.
|Feature||Native applications||Cross-platform application||Winner|
|Performance||Native applications have a full potential to serve with high performance||There are performance glitches with Cross-Platform applications||Native Application|
|Features||Native applications make use of the device’s native feature||Cross-platform applications can not use the device’s native feature||Native Application|
|User experience||Native applications have every single thing that is essential for a seamless user experience||Cross-platform apps are intuitive but since the code is shared, it may have communication error thereby disturbing the user experience||Native Application|
|Quick development||Developers have to type individual code for different platforms||Developers are free to reuse the codebase and thereby use it across various platforms||Cross-Platform Application|
|Cost-effective||As mentioned, for every single platform, you need to invest human efforts and tie for app development||With a single codebase, you can extend the code functionality over various platforms||Cross-platform Application|
|Learning Curve||Native app development has an easy learning curve||The learning curve of Cross-platform application is steep and takes time||Native Application|
Hence we can say it's always a tie when it comes to native vs cross-platform app comparison. However, the choice depends on your application's intended feature, scope and the project timeline.
You can go for native application development when you wish to build a spectacular, complex and feature-rich application.
However, cross-platform application development is a go-to choice for developers who have less time for project delivery. They are highly preferred for B2B apps where the project is tight on budget as well as on development time.
A Case study to Support the debate:
If you study the case of the Airbnb application, you will find out that the application was primarily built using React. The company invested almost 2 years behind the implementation of advanced native features on React Native. They expected element transitions, geofencing, and parallax scrolling to work across the platform, but got disappointed. After two years, Airbnb announced its shift to go back to iOS and Android.
This case study nowhere is an indication that React app development is not favorable. But it means that, when there are too many features integrated in an application, then the app might not work as per the expectations.
So who comes out to be a winner for you? The answer lies within your expected features from an application. You need to have a complete check on your project-specific requirements before you make a final call between native and cross-platform app development.
If you need any help with your project development, you can contact us. We will be happy to assist you in finding the best fit for your business.