DEV Community 👩‍💻👨‍💻

Cover image for Native vs Hybrid vs Cross Platform Apps
Tina Huynh
Tina Huynh

Posted on

Native vs Hybrid vs Cross Platform Apps

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Native App?
  2. What is a Hybrid App?
  3. What is a Cross Platform App?
  4. Native vs Hybrid vs Cross-Platform
  5. Conclusion

The Apple App Store has around 2 million apps available for download and there are almost 3 million apps available for download on the Google Play Store. According to statista, there were 230 billion mobile app downloads worldwide in 2020.

Especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, building mobile apps has become a primary need of every business from startup to leading brands. But the most significant variables that lead to success are what methodology, technology and operating platform chosen to launch the product(s).

What is a Native App?

Native apps are developed for specific platforms, either Android or iOS, whereas cross-platform applications are compatible to run on multiple platforms Native mobile app development is the process of creating an app exclusively for one mobile operating system. Since these are platform-oriented, developers need dedicated tools to build native apps. Java, Kotlin, and Android Studio are used for Android Native apps. Swift, Object C, and XCode or Atom are used with iOS apps.

Remember, a native app developed for Android will not function on iOS and vice versa. However, using the accepted languages, developers are able to make better use of the innate features of the respective platforms. On top of that, native apps are more responsive and perform better than cross-platform apps. This is because native code directly interacts with the device's internal resources. For long-term projects, native development is the safer option since tools and frameworks are more stable.

If you are developing a complex application, native apps are a great choice since they can leverage all the benefits of the device but it does become costlier overall. On top of that, native apps take more time to build.

What is a Hybrid App?

Hybrid app development is the combination of native and web solutions. Developers embed the code written with languages like HTML/CSS and JavaScript into a Native app with plugins such as Ionic's Capacitor or Apache Cordova. Similar to cross platform apps, with hybrid app development, the code is only written once. The same code can be utilized for multiple platforms again and again. This means there is a shorter development timeline and the cost is minimized. Hybrid apps are also easy to maintain since they are solely based on web technology.

What is a Cross Platform App?

Cross platform app development is the process to develop an app that is compatible with various platforms. These apps render a Native-like look and feel to end-users but are not capable of leveraging all the benefits of the device. But this doesn't mean that cross platform apps compromise on the app security front. These apps are actually stable, easy to maintain, and iterate features.

Building cross platform apps will save a lot of time and effort as your code will only need to be written one time. The "write once, run anywhere" approach allows developers to utilize a single code on multiple platforms. Because of this, cross platform apps have great product maintains as there is only one codebase to test, deploy fixes and upgrades to, etc. Also, developers do not need to learn multiple technologies before creating their apps. This means that developer means can be a lot smaller. Some available cross platform development frameworks include React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter.

But unlike native apps, cross platform apps do not always integrate flawlessly with the targeted operating system. The app may be slower than a compared Native app since there is a need for an additional abstraction layer and rendering process on top of the limited functionalities and UX due to not being able to fully leverage the device's benefits.

Native vs Hybrid vs Cross Platform

  • Performance

Native apps are built using native technologies. Therefore, they are better known for their performance.

  • Time to market

Hybrid & Cross Platform are worth considering if you are in a time crunch and need to get an app to the market fast. Every month, approximately 30k mobile apps are released in the Apple App Store.

  • Development Costs

Cross platform apps take the least amount to development since it allows developers to reuse the same code for various platforms. Cross platform apps also minimizes the cost from different resources in terms of technologies and the amount of developers needed in general.

  • App Maintenance

Native apps require much more effort to maintain than cross platform applications despite using dedicated tools, frameworks, and codebase.

  • App security

Native apps come equipped with multiple built-in security features.

  • Customization and UX

Native apps is the best choice in terms of UX. Note, about 90% native-like performance is possible using React Native or Flutter frameworks.

  • Access to Tools, Libraries, and Frameworks

With native apps development, access to the number of tools and technologies a developer can use is limited. With cross platform apps, there is a wide choice of third-party tools to extend the functionality of the app.

Conclusion

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer developing native applications, hybrid applications, or cross platform applications? I personally have only touched native applications a little with iOS and cross platform applications.

Happy coding!

Top comments (0)

Timeless DEV post...

Arguably the single most important piece of documentation for any open source project is the README. A good README not only informs people what the project does and who it is for but also how they use and contribute to it.

How to write a kickass README