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    What You Need to Know About Native and Cross-Platform Apps

    In our blog, we occasionally compare cross-platform mobile development frameworks or devote articles to the native way to create apps.  But maybe someone doesn't know the basics of these issues? Say, what is a native application? What is its difference from a cross-platform app? We're ready to answer your possible questions and clarify the matter through and through.

    Interested? Then keep reading! We're going to describe cross-platform and native app development technologies and discuss their pros and cons. And, of course, we'll explain to you what to select for your project (at least what to base your choice on).

    Native App Development

    Okay, what does native application mean?

    The name itself is very eloquent and indicates the correct answer. The native approach means the one intended for a specific OS, Android or iOS (Apple). And a native mobile app, in turn, is a program written in a certain platform language: Java/Kotlin (Android) or Swift/Objective-C (iOS).

    A native app developed for Android or iOS has a lot of advantages, among others, it appreciably simplifies the interaction between a UI/UX specialist and a programmer:

    • the designer knows exactly what UI approaches are familiar to users of a particular operating system and implements them;

    • the iOS/Android developer knows how to maximize the implementation of UI features for a specific platform.

    As a result, the user opens the native mobile application and intuitively interacts with its interface.

    Impressive? Sure! But before you rush to create native apps, let's take a look at their pros and cons (since there are flaws in them too).

    Pros

    1. Stability and high speed. These factors are ensured due to the fact that native mobile developers can resort to the help of tools tailored to a specific platform. Therefore, the advantages of each OS are being fully used.

    2. Simple functionality implementation. The ability to use all the features of platforms mentioned in the previous paragraph leads to the fact that we can make the application more flexible and scalable.

    3. The facilitated app release process. The process of publishing your program in App & Play Stores is as simple as possible, which is understandable: the features of native apps perfectly meet all their requirements.

    4. There are no third-party library restrictions. If your application has complex non-standard functionality, the best choice is native mobile app development; frameworks for cross-platform options imply compromise solutions which are far from ideal (after all, the architectural structures of operating systems are different).

    5. An effective approach to UI/UX. iOS and Android apps have significant differences in the user interface. And a person who prefers a specific platform is used to special screen design. We're talking about forming behavioral patterns (which aren't the same for iOS and Android devices). And users find native mobile app examples more convenient in this regard (not only users but also developers as we mentioned earlier).

    Cons

    1. Increased native app development cost.  You're unlikely to be surprised by the fact that native development is quite expensive. In the end, such an approach implies the joint work of Android and iOS developers. And more employees lead to more costs.

    2. A longer duration of development. You’ll have to wait longer for the launch of your program (especially if you want to run the program on two platforms at once).

    3. More expensive support. Launching an application is just the beginning of its life cycle. Next, you’ll have to constantly update its functionality, correct errors (if any), and more. And native mobile apps are rather difficult to maintain. And, as is the case with the development price, the more effort is spent on support, the more you have to pay.

    native app development

    Cross-Platform App Development

    Now you know the answer to one of your questions (what is native mobile app development?). And it's time to talk about the pros and cons of a cross-platform way to create apps.

    The main idea of ​​cross-platform solutions is to optimize the processes of building a mobile application (so it's not about the user as such and his convenience). The cross-platform approach provides the ability to compile source code for execution on multiple mobile platforms. Though, the result of each compilation is a separate executable file: with the .ipa (iOS) or .apk extension (Android). 

    And if you've compiled an executable file with the .apk extension, it doesn't mean you're free to run it on iPhone. You'll have to do some work with the code anyway; however, don't worry: just a few changes might be required.

    Native mobile app vs Hybrid mobile app vs Cross-platform app

    Many people think that hybrid applications are the same as cross-platform ones. And in some ways they're right, the concepts are similar... though, not totally. That's why we'd like to brighten the issue.

    Cross-platform app development is the process of one-time formation of the codebase which can then be used for various OSs. And the logic for creating hybrid applications is similar. 

    However, hybrid programs are always based on web technologies (such as Javascript or HTML5), while cross-platform apps sometimes take advantage of other solutions either. A prime example is the .NET - oriented Xamarin framework.

    But let's get back to discussing cross-platform mobile app development tools. What is represented by today's market?

    • PhoneGap

    • Xamarin

    • Flutter

    • React Native

    • NativeScript

    • Cordova

    • Phonegap

    • AppCelerator

    Of course, the list of available frameworks is much larger, we just gave an example of possible solutions. 

    Now we offer to see what affects the choice of a specific cross-platform tool. So… 

    1. The experience of a particular developer. An instance: Xamarin is based on C#, and if the developer doesn't know this programming language, he is unlikely to choose the framework in question. But the C# expert would be able to create Android and iOS applications which are in no way inferior to the native ones.

    2. The budget of the company. Another quite significant parameter is the price you should pay to work with a specific framework. If PhoneGap is a completely free tool, then many others often require payment, sometimes quite a lot.

    3. The complexity of the project. The previous point is related to this one. If you have an unlimited budget, you can safely choose any framework you want. Otherwise, focus on the complexity of your project. Say, if your app requires no special work with graphics and hardware, then you’ll do with cheap PhoneGap instead of costly Xamarin implementation.

    Now let's talk about the pros and cons of cross-platform app development.

    Pros

    1. Saving money. Of course, cost savings issues are among the main reasons to develop a cross-platform app. Just think about how much you're going to save by creating a single application able to work on multiple platforms!

    2. The simultaneous launch of iOS and Android applications. Since the cross-platform app is focused on several different platforms, then it'll enter a few markets at once. And the number of potential users is also increasing (as well as the chances of getting them to download your program).

    3. Ease of improving the program. The application logic works the same on all platforms, which can significantly simplify the process of updating and improving your mobile service. You don’t have to do double work.

    4. Identical UI/UX. We often say how important the interface design is. And we're all working to create something unique... but if we manage to do so, how to maintain it? Alas, keeping identical UI/UX for native mobile apps is a rather complicated task (if only because two separate teams work on them). On the other hand, the use of a single code base allows cross-platform applications to have the same user interface on each platform.

    5. A promising future, confirmed by an increasing number of popular cross-platform apps. In addition, new frameworks are being released to help cross-platform mobile developers in their work. Therefore, today these programs both look and behave like native applications. So why pay more if the result is the same?

    Cons

    • Worse access to native features of the device. One way or another, the cross-platform application doesn’t have access to all the features of the platform. However, the need for full integration doesn’t always arise (it depends on the app tasks).

    • Lack of flexibility. When you need to implement some cool feature which should work and be supported on various devices, cross-platform technologies are unlikely to be able to provide the level of flexibility of native mobile applications. You might face a few difficulties.

    • More complex interaction with App Store and Google Play. The process of authorizing a cross-platform application in App Store and Google Play takes a lot of time. Moreover, each update must also be authorized before it becomes available. Sometimes it becomes annoying.

    native app development

    Native vs. Cross-platform app battle: what to choose?

    native vs. cross-platform app

    As the above infographic shows, people are actively using mobile applications, which means these programs should be as effective as possible. And the way they are created also affects the final result. But what to choose?

    We suggest considering cross-platform and native app development technologies according to the following criteria.

    #1. Platform Dependence 

    Cross-platform applications should be supported by all platforms. And they are supported… but with the proviso: developers need to modify the code a little bit anyway.

    The native approach guarantees effective work on a specific platform but requires the creation of several app versions (more work, more money).

    #2. User Experience 

    User Experience is crucial to the success of any application. And this determines the importance of user-friendly design. Moreover, each development approach has its advantages (which we mentioned earlier in the article). 

    Native applications, if you remember, have an intuitive interface inherent in a particular platform. Therefore, the user has no difficulties when getting acquainted with the new program.

    On the other hand, cross-platform mobile developers can create a single UI/UX style common to both iOS and Android apps (it’s important not to go too far, though, and maintain a more or less standard look of key controls, otherwise, you might confuse your users).

    However, good developers will find the optimal solution to each problem:

    1. native approach: native mobile developers will coordinate their actions (including with the actions of UI/UX experts) so that the interfaces of iOS and Android app versions are as identical as possible (given the special features of each platform);

    2. cross-platform approach: developers will make sure all application elements look recognizable (UI/UX is the case when originality isn’t permissible in excess), and the interface itself is intuitive and user-friendly.

    #3. Restrictions 

    When building native apps, it's easier to set the interaction of the program with a specific OS (as you know, if you carefully read our article). So, getting access to all the services of the device is quite easy. But if you're dealing with cross-platform app development, you have to consider the features of the chosen framework (which might impose certain restrictions).

    #4. Audience Reach

    Cross-platform and hybrid applications allow you to reach a wider audience than native programs since they're targeted at several platforms at once (and you'll be able to establish contact simultaneously with iOS and Android users). As a result, you get a chance to increase your user base in the shortest possible time. And let's admit, sometimes such an opportunity becomes a decisive factor (especially when it comes to small business).

    #5. Development & Support Cost

    We've already discussed cross-platform and native app development cost and compared the expenses of supporting the final product, but we want to repeat it again to complete the picture.

    Native development requires at least two specialists (Android and iOS experts). And this is at best! Of course, cross-platform technologies are much more affordable. 

    And if we talk about your program's support, then it's the same story. Native applications are complex and therefore expensive to maintain, unlike their cross-platform counterparts.

     As you understand, there are many cross-platform frameworks, each with its own pros and cons. We offer to compare two of them... so: NativeScript vs React-Native!

    Now let’s summarize everything that was analyzed above. So… 

    Choose native app development if you need:

    • an application running on a specific platform (iOS only or Android only). Let’s say if you’re sure which devices your customers prefer;

    • an app with free access to all phone resources;

    • an application that makes the most of the device’s hardware.

    And, in general, if you have a good budget and need extra complicated app functionality - create native apps, why not?  

    Choose cross-platform app development if you need:

    • application for two platforms at a budget price;

    • the ability to quickly enter two markets (ios iOS / Android);

    •  an application without complex animation which doesn't deal with excessive calculations;

    • a mobile program with permanent Internet access to download content.

    Summary

    Some companies specialize in building native apps. Others tell their clients to develop a cross-platform app ("Why pay more for the same quality?", so to say).

    We aren’t so categorical. We know that each application is unique and needs a special approach. That’s why we take into account all the features of a particular project and give advice based on these premises.

    Our company employs highly qualified developers who will analyze your case and recommend you what is best to choose: iOS and/or Android native development or cross-platform approach. Contact us without delay!

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