DEV Community

Cover image for Native vs Cross-Platform Mobile Application Development - Which One Is Better?

Native vs Cross-Platform Mobile Application Development - Which One Is Better?

・4 min read

In today’s market, there is no question that the technical world centers around mobile applications. There is no truer statement then the all familiar “There is an app for that.” Given the pivotal role that mobile applications play in both the commercial and personal world, you may be driven to create an application of your own. When creating a mobile application, there are two major categories of application, Native and Cross Platform. This article details the difference between the two as well as the pros and cons of each application type when considering native vs cross platform app development

What is the difference between a Native and Cross Platform Mobile Application?

The major difference between a native and cross platform app is the platform on which they are designed to run. The following narrative describes this in more detail.

What is a Native App?

A Native application is a mobile application that is developed to exclusively run on a single platform such as the Apple iOS. Certain programming languages are built to run on a specific platform as libraries for the application are available only on that platform. The Apple iOS, for example, comes prebuilt with support to run applications that were developed in languages such as Objective C and Swift for iOS.
Android phones on the other hand support applications developed in Java for Android. Native applications developed for iOS will not run on Android phones. The same holds true for applications developed for Android; they will not run on iOS. Although compatibility is a major issue, developers can make better use of the embedded features within a specific platform such as the iPhone by using a language native to only that device.

What is a Cross Platform App?

A Cross Platform App is a mobile application that can be utilized on multiple mobile phone platforms such as both Android and the iOS. Cross platform app development uses standards that are compatible with two or more mobile platforms. Usually, the two platforms at a minimum consist of Android and iOS, the two mobile platforms which make up mode of the mobile phone market share.
Cross platform applications must be developed utilizing programming languages that are standard and therefore platform independent. Two examples of such languages are Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). There are many development tools that will assist in creating cross platform applications.

Should I Choose Native App Development or Cross Platform?

There are many points to consider when choosing a native app vs cross platform. Some of these points include performance, scalability, user interface, and cost.

Major Benefits of Native Application Development.

Performance and Scalability

One of the major benefits of utilizing a native application is the improvement in performance. Native Applications can optimize resources within a platform allowing the environment to be utilized to its full potential. This not only improves speed, but reliability, and the resulting applications are much more robust and less likely to crash. Developers with intimate knowledge of a development environment can maximize features to highlight the capabilities of the platform.

Rich Feature Set

Native applications can also make use of features that are only available on a proprietary device. One major example of this is the ability to run offline. As the underlying languages utilized in a cross platform development environment are largely web-based, this feature may not be available with the cross platform option. Standard web languages also often have limited to no access to the underlying environment Application Program Interface (API). This limits the feature set available to the developer.

Major Benefits of Cross Platform Development

Time and Cost Savings

The predominant reason to favor cross platform applications is obvious, development takes the least time and often costs twice as much since two separate applications must be developed. Development is not the only area that suffers. Long-term maintenance also requires double the time and cost. Over time there will be multiple problems, security issues, and bugs that must be addressed for each application separately. All new feature development will also require double work.

Which Development Approach Should I Choose?

If the cost of developing two applications is not a major prohibitive factor, from a performance perspective a native application is the true winner. In a world where user experience is driving the market, the native application has even more of a clear advantage. Native applications offer an ideal user experience with better speed and performance, a feature-rich user interface, and smooth functionality. Native applications are ideal for more complex applications that require performance and a detailed feature set.

For more simple applications, cross platform may be a better choice. Streamlined applications such as simple games and content distribution may be better served with a cross platform option. These applications are simple and require little interaction with the operating system. The lower cost and lower maintenance options are often preferable. Cross platform applications are also an option for small businesses that may be on a limited budget.

Some Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the choice in mobile application development strategy comes down to the individual needs and budget for the development of a mobile application. Cost, time, the user interface, offline application use, performance, and application feature set are all key considerations when choosing a development path.
There are many experts in the field that can assist you in making a final decision about which method is best for your business strategy. For a detailed review of your development needs, Hire Mobile App Development Company to assist with this and other key decisions in your application development life cycle.

Discussion (0)