Cross-platform App Development and Native App Development: Which One Is Better?

By admin30 November, 2023Write a Comment

In the early days of the smartphone era, developers were forced to create applications that were specific or native to certain devices, operating systems, and platforms on which they had to be developed. As the mobile app market and ecosystem for mobile apps grew, new approaches emerged, such as developing the same app for different platforms. This is how cross-platform development emerged.

In this guide, we discuss the differences between cross-platform app development and native app development. We will go over the pros and cons of both approaches so you can decide which one to choose when developing your next mobile app.

What’s a Native Mobile Application?

A native mobile application is a software application designed and developed specifically for a particular mobile operating system (OS) or platform. Native applications are developed using the programming languages, tools and frameworks that are typical for the target platform. This means that an app developed for a platform such as iOS is written in a language like Swift or Objective-C, while an app for Android is usually developed using Java or Kotlin.

In addition, developing native apps for different platforms requires separate code bases for each platform (e.g. iOS and Android). This can lead to increased development time and costs, as developers have to maintain and update separate code bases for each platform.

Pros of Native Mobile Applications

There are a number of advantages to developing native mobile applications. These include:

  • Better performance: You create and optimize native apps for a specific platform. You also compile them using the platform’s core programming language and APIs. This makes them very fast, more efficient, and more responsive to user actions.
  • Strict security: Native apps can increase the security of your users’ data. They have access to platform-specific built-in security features.
  • High-quality UX: Native applications provide a smoother input and output for the user. The look and feel are consistent as they adopt the interfaces of the device’s operating system. They follow the design guidelines for the respective operating system, making the flow of the application feel more natural.
  • Full access to functionality: Native mobile apps can access all of the device’s features, providing a more comprehensive, integrated user experience. They also gain access to services such as push notifications, which are crucial for user engagement.
  • Minimal bugs: Native app developers get access to updated SDKs as soon as they are released. These updates always contain improvements and new features.

Cons of Native Mobile Applications

However, native mobile applications also have some disadvantages. Some of these disadvantages are:

  • Cost: Native mobile applications are usually expensive to deploy. They require separate development teams for each platform. For example, you need developers who know Java or Kotlin to create a native Android app. For native iOS apps, you need an additional Swift/Objective-C developer.
  • Development time: Separate teams working on similar apps for different platforms take time. Maintenance and extensions also require a lot of effort.
  • Lack of code reusability: You have to create and keep code in separate projects to serve different mobile operating systems.

What’s a Cross-Platform Mobile Application?

A cross-platform mobile application is a type of mobile app that can run on multiple operating systems, such as iOS and Android. Unlike native apps, which are developed specifically for a single platform using platform-specific programming languages and tools (Swift or Objective-C for iOS, Java or Kotlin for Android), cross-platform apps are designed to work on multiple platforms using a single codebase.

What’s a Cross-Platform Mobile Application?

Pros of Cross-Platform Mobile Applications

Creating cross-platform mobile applications can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Low cost: Cross-platform mobile app development requires only a single development team. They need to be familiar with the chosen framework. The app reaches a wider audience that tests and attracts the market.
  • Code reusability: With cross-platform frameworks, allow you to use a single code base. This ensures consistency in the business logic used.
  • Rapid development: By reusing code and improving productivity, you can get to market faster. Cross-platform frameworks have also optimized the process of app testing during development.
  • Easier maintenance: Updating a cross-platform app is easier. This is because you are dealing with a single code base. All builds for the different platforms use the same code, ensuring consistency.

Cons of Cross-Platform Mobile Applications

Cross-platform mobile development eliminates some of the disadvantages that native app development has to contend with. Nevertheless, it also has its disadvantages:

  • Larger digital footprint: Cross-platform apps tend to be larger. You need to pay attention to the mobile optimization options available.
  • Difficult integrations: Cross-platform frameworks do not integrate all platform-specific features. Some hardware-specific integrations, such as the use of GPUs, may require knowledge of native app development.
  • Lower performance: Cross-platform frameworks usually bundle a custom runtime environment to run your application. This is responsible for communicating with platform-specific services. This adds another layer of computation, which can lead to lower performance.
  • Delayed platform functions: New SDK versions usually include new features and updates. For cross-platform frameworks, you will need to wait for a separate update to gain access to these newer features.

Native App Development vs. Cross-Platform: How to Choose?

Time to market

This is a common problem for start-ups and new product lines. You want to launch the product early to get good feedback from users. Cross-platform app development is best suited for this scenario as it is quick to create and update. Native mobile development would be time-consuming and more difficult to maintain, which ultimately slows down the time to market.

Performance and convenience

Mobile apps can have high compute requirements — especially for games. For apps that need accelerated performance, native mobile development is often the best fit. Using cross-platform frameworks in this scenario would require extra effort and native app expertise. Optimizing performance for a specific operating system enables you to ensure your application runs as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Speed of development

Here too, the competition between cross-platform and native apps has a clear winner: cross-platform apps are superior in terms of development speed. Why is that? They are more convenient: you don’t have to form two teams to develop an app or ask the specialists in one team to switch between two platforms. Instead of creating two versions of an app, you create one version and save months of work.

Cost of development

In the competition between native apps and cross-platform software, both platforms have some advantages in terms of development costs. Cross-platform apps require a single team that can focus on a single task. This means that they are cheaper to develop in short-term scenarios. Native apps are more expensive to launch because you need to maintain two teams. At the same time, they are less susceptible to major changes from developers.

Data security

In this case, the problem with cross-platform applications is that they usually do not have full access to native APIs. This means that they cannot benefit from all the security patches used in the native app compared to cross-platform development. As cross-platform apps have to use different translation layers, they are more vulnerable overall: bugs can occur not only in the native code but also in the development framework itself. Interaction bugs are also likely in many cases.

Conclusion

To summarize, the decision between native and cross-platform development is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each approach has its own strengths and limitations, making the decision a strategic one that must be tailored to the specific needs and goals of each project. By carefully evaluating the factors that play a role, companies can make an informed decision that paves the way for a successful mobile app project.

At BKPlus Software, we understand the complexity of this decision and will guide you through the process. Our team of experienced developers has a deep understanding of both native and cross-platform methodologies, so we can provide you with a solution that is perfectly suited to your individual requirements.

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