Statista, a popular provider of market and consumer data, projects that the global mobile app market will be worth $190 billion in 2020, from $70 billion in 2015.
Amid the remarkable growth of the industry, the “native vs. cross-platform” app development debate is also raging.
In 2017, Android and iOS, the two commonly used operating systems for smartphones, held a market share of 85.1% and 14.8% respectively. As of March 2018, there were 3.8 million apps in Google Play (for Android) and 2 million in Apple’s App Store (for iOS).
So, should you invest in developing native applications or kill two birds with one stone by developing cross-platform ones like those that Maxim, who has more than 10 years of software development experience, teaches people to develop?
This article talks about the differences between native and cross-platform applications and explains some of their advantages and disadvantages.
Native app development
Native applications are created using platform-specific programming languages. For example, some languages that can be used for developing Android apps include Java, Kotlin, and Python. For the iOS mobile operating system, the languages include Swift and Objective-C.
The native apps are created specifically to be run on the target platform—with the support of all the native technologies and other hardware components such as camera and calendar.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using the native approach in mobile app development.
Pros of native apps
- High performance
Since the technologies used in developing native applications are platform-specific, the native code enjoys direct access to the host’s operating system and functionalities.
This easier interaction with the native features of the mobile devices enhances the overall performance of the application, especially when rendering graphics or multimedia content.
Therefore, building complex applications using native code could reduce the risks of downtimes from crashes or freezes.
- Better user interface
Since native apps integrate with the mobile operating system flawlessly, users are able to navigate a familiar interface without many hassles, resulting in positive user experiences (UX) and repeated use.
- Better positioning on app stores
The quality of user experience is an important rating standard in the app stores. If an app has a high positive rating, it can be ranked highly, leading to greater visibility and increased revenues.
And, native apps are likely to be positioned better on the app stores because of their high performance and ease-of-use.
Cons of native apps
- Costly and time consuming
Without a doubt, creating apps natively for more than one operating system can significantly prolong the development process. The same code cannot be deployed on different platforms and programmers will require more time to convert and rewrite the code, increasing costs and development time.
Furthermore, if a company wants to build native applications for multiple platforms, it may be forced to hire additional specialist programmers. For example, one developer could be focused on iOS app development while the other on Android app development, which further increases costs.
- Missed opportunities
Developing apps that focus only one platform could result in missed opportunities, especially if other platforms are not taken into consideration. The reduced target market could lead to revenue losses for your development efforts.
Cross-platform app development
As the name suggests, cross-platform entails creating applications that can run on a variety of operating systems. After writing the application’s code, it can be deployed on different devices and platforms without worrying of incompatibility issues. It’s an all-in-one approach that is popularly used to save time and money.
Here are some advantages and disadvantages of using the cross-platform approach in mobile app development.
Pros of cross-platform apps
- Affordable and time-saver
The “write once, run anywhere” approach allows developers to utilize a single code on multiple platforms, which greatly reduces costs and shortens the development time—unlike native apps.
- Easy and fast deployment
Cross-platform app developers do not need to learn multiple technologies before creating their apps; they just need to master a few and set the ball rolling.
Since there is no need for creating different codebases, the initial deployment on the target platforms is much faster.
Furthermore, future changes to the application can be done simultaneously without making individual changes on each platform.
- Wider audience reach
Developing cross-platform apps provides access to a wider target audience, which could lead to increased revenues.
Cons of cross-platform apps
- Performance glitches
In contrast to native applications, cross-platform applications do not integrate flawlessly with their target operating systems. Therefore, some of the apps may fail to perform optimally because of inconsistent communication between the non-native code and the device’s native components.
- User experience issues
Apps developed using shared code may fail to offer robust user experiences. Cross-platform apps cannot fully take advantage of native-only features and provide excellent user experiences.
The choice between native vs. cross-platform app development may sometimes be difficult to make. Native applications win on certain expectations such as high-performance while cross-platform applications are preferred on certain aspects such as savings on time and money.
Ultimately, you should go for a platform that works best for your specific requirements and ensures you attain the goals of your application development efforts.
All the best.