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Native vs. Cross-platform: Which to Choose for App Development?

The utilizations of portable technology increase in number every day. From gadgets that provide access to social networking, web surfing, and entertainment, mobile phones are now set and ready to become the prime productivity device of a very large contingent of the human population.

According to a Statista survey, 50% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. Following business logic, enterprises now need to find ways to grab the attention of mobile users. Develop a successful mobile app is the best way to do so.

Numerous businesses around the globe have already begun incorporating mobile applications into their day-to-day operations and workflow, thus boosting their reach.

However, most enterprises face a common challenge when entering the mobile first-world: the type of app to build, a Cross-platform app, or a Native app.

From my experience, I have garnered a list of questions, the answers of which influence the enterprise's choice between Cross-platform and Native apps.

  • What goal does the app have?
  • What user experience does it plan to incorporate?
  • What features will the app sport?
  • How important are speed and performance?
  • What is the budget for development?
  • What is the timeframe for development?
  • Is the enterprise going to outsource the development of the app?

Read on for a comprehensive overview of Native vs. Cross-platform that strives to answer these questions with a detailed analysis of the difference between Native and Cross-platform apps, their advantages, and disadvantages. Thus, when entering the mobile app development sphere, you have guidelines to help you achieve your enterprise goals.

Comparative analysis of Native vs. Cross-platform Apps

1. Native Apps

Native applications are developed for a specific mobile operating system. A Native app is developed to follow all technical and user experience guidelines of the OS, making it faster and more secure. Sporting complex integrations with device-specific software and hardware, Native apps execute fast at a high level of precision.

The advantages of Native apps vs. Cross-platform Apps are:

  • Native apps utilize the device's hardware and software and can offer users a wide range of functionalities.
  • Native apps are known for their rapid and responsive performance.
  • The UI of Native apps is very aligned to the general user experience of the OS it is built for.
  • Ratings on App stores give a clear assessment of the quality of a Native app.

The disadvantages of Native apps vs. Cross-platform apps are:

  • Every OS requires its version of a Native app, and therefore Native app development requires the involvement of multiple codebases.
  • Since many developers are required to build and maintain Native app codebases, the cost of development is high for Native apps.
  • Development efforts for Native apps are very time intensive as every feature update would require development on each platform the app is to be released on.

2. Cross-platform Apps

A Cross-platform app is a website fitted into a Native covering. Cross-platform apps look and feel like Native apps; however, their website powers them. Compared to Native apps, Cross-platform apps are faster, easier, and cheaper to develop. They are completely functional across all platforms, and the enterprise can launch new versions of the app without the need for manual updates.

The advantages of Cross-platform apps vs. Native apps are: 

  • Native apps have a single codebase, enabling them to run efficiently on all OSs, whether Android or iOS. They sport a consistent user interface and can function across devices.
  • Development, maintenance, and upgradation of a Cross-platform application are a lot faster as developers need to work on only one codebase, unlike Native apps.
  • A Cross-platform app has a single codebase, it takes much less time and resources to develop, making it more cost-effective than a Native app.

The disadvantages of Cross-platform apps vs. Native apps are:

  • Cross-platform apps are foundationally similar to web apps and therefore require an uninterrupted network connection to function correctly.
  • Due to their design architecture, Cross-platform apps rely heavily on plugins to access the features of the device they are running on.
  • The user experience of a Cross-platform app is not as seamless and intuitive as a Native app. Given that a Cross-platform app's interface is the same for all Oss, if its android experience is focused on, its iOS experience is jeopardized and vice versa.
  • Cross-platform app development does not fix functional issues immediately addressed by Native app development.

Drawing from the data above, it is easy to infer that both Native and Cross-platform apps have pros and cons. Your choice between the two approaches should depend on your enterprise needs and user demand.

In my experience, an enterprise should always go with the option to serve the end-user in the most efficient manner possible. Cutting corners on price or usability is not advised. If there is a synergy between end-user preference and the application's goal, then your enterprise is sure to build a unique tech asset for its business.

Parting Thoughts

With advantages like a faster time to market, cross-device compatibility, easy updates, and lower costs, Cross-platform applications may come across as very appealing.

However, in the long run, most enterprises are forced to spend a considerable amount of resources on fixing and tweaking their Cross-platform app because of user complaints about UI issues and sometimes even performance issues.

On the other hand, Native apps possess unique functionalities to the OS they are built for. Interactions between the app and device features such as GPS, address book, camera, etc., make them potent business touchpoints. A Native app offers unmatched security, performance, access to all Native APIs, and a highly responsive UI.

The original investment on a Native app may be higher than a Cross-platform app; however, the enterprise will save a lot of time and money in the long run and offer value propositions such as a great user experience (which is of primary importance) and enterprise-grade app performance.

In summation, I would like to state that each approach to app development or mobile presence has its advantages and disadvantages. Still, in the end, Native app development is a more significant contributor to an enterprise's brand value and bottom line. But before you choose between Native and cross-platform apps, you need the right partner in the form of a leading mobile app development company. We trust that this article has proven informative. Until next time, happy developing.

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