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Native vs Cross-platform app development. What will suit your project best?

Software technologies are evolving at a rapid pace allowing engineers to deliver quality mobile solutions while ensuring consistency across all mobile devices. Although 5-6 years ago the best option was to employ programming languages such as Java and Objective-C for making a native application, now the market offers cross-platform tools that enable engineers to achieve a native-like experience.

Before building a software product to address business challenges, it is important to choose between native and cross-platform app development. By defining the way tailored to the project requirements, companies can engage users, achieve reliable performance, or reduce costs. In this article, we will compare cross-platform and native application development to help you recognize which way will perfectly suit your needs.

What is native app development?

A native mobile app is built for a single operating system (OS). Therefore, a software engineer writes a codebase for one platform using programming languages such as Swift and Objective-C (iOS development) or Java and Kotlin (Android development). To make a program that can run on both iOS and Android, two codebases have to be created, which results in hiring two teams with certain skill sets.

Providing high performance, native applications offer a seamless user experience. However, as teams have to duplicate the same functionality and business logic employing different technologies, native app development is more costly.

Popular native mobile apps

Twitter, Reddit, Slack, WeChat, Netflix, Spotify, Uber, Coursera, Evernote, Trello, Basecamp 3, Kickstarter, Signal, Postmates, Flipboard, Foursquare City Guide.

What is cross-platform app development?

Many customers and software engineers dreamed about having the opportunity to write code that would run across all mobile devices. Cross-platform fools were invented to turn this into reality. With cross-platform technologies, programmers can create one codebase making a program for several operating systems.

As customers don’t have to hire two teams, they cut down expenses and improve time-to-market. Cost and time savings are the main benefits of cross-platform mobile app development. Since it can be difficult to implement complex design elements for each OS taking into account its guidelines and peculiarities, the interface of this kind of application is usually universal.

Popular cross-platform mobile apps

Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Ads Manager, Skype, Shopify, Walmart, Tableau, Flipkart, Pinterest, Groupon, eBay Motors.

Comparing native and cross-platform app development

1. Time-to-market

With cross-platform technologies, companies improve the speed of building a mobile application. Surely, it is possible to develop native programs for iOS and Android in parallel. However, some tasks—necessary to be performed when making a product for one operating system—can require more time than creating it for another.

Issues that teams have to address during the project may differ. Furthermore, a software engineer has to test two mobile apps: although functionality is the same, it is to behave as intended and comply with the requirements on both platforms.

When delivering a cross-platform solution, programmers write one codebase, which contributes to faster time-to-market. Hence, if the main goal is to launch a product under tight deadlines or evaluate an idea by collecting and analyzing customer feedback, this way will suit your needs.

Considering practical use cases, we created an online table booking system that consists of a web app for restaurants and a mobile app for users. To launch it as fast as possible, our team recommended the client to employ cross-platform technologies.

Choosing the right technology stack and following Agile, our engineers managed to deliver the platform in just 2.5 months. Another cross-platform solution that we built under tight deadlines is a food pre-ordering service that includes a mobile application for users and a terminal for cafe owners.

2. Cost

Cost reduction is among the key benefits of cross-platform mobile app development. To build a cross-platform solution, an organization doesn’t have to hire iOS and Android engineers to create two codebases.

As a result, customers significantly cut down expenditures, which is especially useful for startups and SMEs. However, world-famous companies often choose cross-platform application development, for instance, Facebook, Walmart, and Groupon.

3. User experience

User experience (UX)—how customers feel about a product when interacting with it—is crucial for any software program. A mobile app should be easy-to-use and provide intuitive navigation, so that users can perform necessary actions without even thinking.

It also should deliver a consistent UX across all screens, which is easier to achieve with native application development. Consistency means that a smartphone solution looks and behaves the same on all mobile devices.

4. User interface

When creating a cross-platform mobile application , software engineers need to take into account the discrepancies of iOS and Android platforms in terms of a graphical user interface (UI). To develop the best design, the product should be built according to the guidelines of both operating systems. However, this task is more difficult to accomplish by employing cross-platform technologies.

5. Performance

If built properly, native applications are performant, stable, and responsive, which is especially important at peak loads. A cross-platform mobile app may run slower compared with native programs due to the slower response of the user interface.

However, client-server operations in both approaches are carried out the same way. As a consequence, the performance of a cross-platform application could be worse if the team creates a user interface with numerous elements.

From our experience, we can say that it is possible to achieve high performance and fault tolerance even in complex projects. For instance, our team delivered a business networking app for a startup that can handle heavy loads even at peak loads.

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