According to global mobile phone usage statistics, the majority of mobile audience uses only two operating systems. Android is currently in the lead with 70.8% of users, while iOS comes in second with 28.8%. At the same time, the mobile app market is thriving, with over 90% of mobile usage being spent on apps. The current trends suggest that mobile app revenue is expected to reach $935 billion by the end of 2023.
As competition in the mobile app market continues to grow, developers face the dilemma: should they prioritize spending less time on development, creating robust and scalable apps, allowing for easy and low-cost maintenance, or leveraging unique OS features? This decision drives the choice between cross-platform and native mobile app development.
Let us dig deeper into the pros and cons of each approach.
Native Mobile Apps: The Definition
Native mobile apps are designed to run on a specific platform and utilize all of its unique technologies and hardware capabilities. For example, iOS and Android have their own software development kits (SDKs) and integrated development environments (IDEs) that developers must use to build apps for each respective platform. Additionally, each platform has its own programming language – Java alongside Kotlin are for Android, and Swift and Objective-C are used for iOS.
Native app development takes a dedicated development team for each platform to ensure your application functions properly and adheres to your OS navigation and logic.
Pros of Native Mobile Apps
Mobile app development services utilizing the native approach offer numerous benefits. The most prominent among them are:
Native app performance levels are usually higher due to their direct access to the operating system’s functions and technologies. This leads to smoother interaction with the device’s default features, faster response times and reduced chances of crashes, especially when dealing with graphics or multimedia.
Proper integration with OS capabilities
Native apps are tailored to address particular issues on a given platform. This routine enables a more seamless use of device hardware capabilities (for ex., Bluetooth, NFC, camera, GPS or else). This aspect becomes especially crucial when your app needs to access physical or geo-location data.
Improved app store positioning
User experience plays a major role in determining app ranks within app stores. Applications with high user experience ratings score higher, gain more visibility and revenue. Moreover, native apps tend to get more favourable treatment in app store rankings due to presumed superior performance and ease of use.
Cons of Native Mobile Apps
The drawbacks of native apps are not too numerous. However, some may have a crucial influence on the choice of a development approach.
Considerable time and finance to build
Undoubtedly, native application development takes longer hours. The code cannot be universally applied across different platforms, necessitating additional time for conversion and rewriting. Thus both the costs and timeframes get bigger.
Whenever developers create native solutions, they make use of specific language environments incompatible with other platforms. For example, if an app is running on Swift for iOS, it cannot perform on Android since Kotlin or Java are native to this platform.
If your target market is dominated by a particular operating system, this drawback may not be too impactful. However, developing a native application for a single platform can lead to profit losses as the application will not function on other platforms.
What is Cross-Platform Mobile Development?
Pros of Cross-Platform Mobile Apps
Developing apps that can function across different operating systems is quite widespread nowadays. The obvious advantages of cross-platform apps are the following:
Decreased costs and development timeframes
Developers can use a single tech stack and codebase for cross-platform solutions, which means they do not have to learn different frameworks and languages. This also eliminates the need for companies to hire two separate teams to work on each platform’s interface and hardware.
Streamlined maintenance and support
More to the above, you can eliminate lots of app support and maintenance expenses. You can easily update your app as you don’t have to make separate changes. The lack of complex platform-based functionality enables quick adjustments for all end users simultaneously.
Wider audience coverage
Users tend to give priority to solutions capable of running on multiple platforms at once. Most of them are ready to pay for such products. This might help attract a larger audience and build up stronger brand identity.
Consistent user interface
Thanks to the universal tools available, you can create almost identical designs for any device. Developing apps as part of a common codebase provides consistency to the user interface and features on all the engaged platforms.
Cons of cross-platform mobile apps
Despite what’s mentioned above, practice shows that despite all the benefits cross-platform development has a set of considerable drawbacks as well. For example:
Lack of intuitive interfaces
Users are accustomed to the interface and functionality of their gadgets and expect maximum responsiveness. Cross-platform applications in their turn offer a unified interface and don’t take much account of the specific features offered by the given OS.
The market for cross-platform solutions is growing increasingly more competitive day by day. Flutter has recently emerged as the most popular framework, replacing React Native and Xamarin at the top. This means projects built on older frameworks might have worse code support. Native engineering would not have such an issue.
Different OSs might have similar application functionality, but complex components take more computing power. This can be a disadvantage for some businesses that want their apps to have more power and better functionality.
Cross-platform apps are less flexible to source code changes. This is largely due to the universal development tools that hinder capacity for deep integration with the hardware.
To Draw the Line: Is One Development Approach Better Than The Other?
Well, no. Basically, each one is great for its own good.
But before you decide which approach is better for you specifically, any mobile app development company will suggest first consider your specific business needs. Consumer segment, value of time and financial resources, preferred level of app integration with user devices, clearly defined long-term goals – these are just the basic factors to take into account.
For example, it makes good sense to choose cross-platform development when:
- You are looking for a powerful solution sustaining high loads;
- You need to build up an MVP version fast;
- You are running on limited resources.
There are also cases when native development is preferable. It would be appropriate to prioritise it when:
- You are looking to reduce project time-to-market;
- Superior performance is essential;
- A lightweight app is needed.
In any case, take your time and choose wisely.
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