Sep 7, 2023
about 5 min read
Native vs. Cross-Platform App Development: What You Need to Know
Native vs. cross-platform? Which approach is best for your project? Learn how to choose the right one here.
Mobile application development is booming with 299 billion of mobile app downloads worldwide. However, not all apps are created equal. Regarding developing mobile applications, there are two main approaches: native vs. cross-platform.
Native apps are built specifically for a particular platform, such as Android or iOS. Cross-platform apps, on the other hand, are made using a single codebase that can be deployed to multiple platforms. Depending on the approach, apps can differ in performance, user experience, functionality, and cost.
Thus, this article will compare these two popular app development methods: cross-platform vs native. We will explain what they mean, how they differ, and the pros and cons of each. By the end of this article, you will better understand which approach is best for your app idea.
What Does Native Mean in Software?
In software, the term “native” refers to something specific to a particular platform. In other words, a native application is built using a platform’s development tools and APIs. For example, a native Android app will be able to use the Android SDK—which provides access to the platform’s features like cameras, accelerometers, and GPS. As a result, developers can tailor-make apps to take full advantage of their chosen platform’s capabilities.
Native development requires additional time and resources. In exchange, it provides excellent performance and user experiences (UX). This approach is mandatory for building highly complex mobile apps, like a product inventory application with heavy data processing or a gaming app with 3D animations.
What Does Cross-Platform Mean in Software?
Using reusable, web-based code, cross-platform applications can run natively across multiple platforms. Developers rely on cross-platform app development frameworks to provide the tools, plug-ins, and UI components necessary for “write once, run anywhere” coding. Currently, there are many frameworks that let you build cross platform apps, including React Native, Flutter, Xamarin, and Ionic.
Cross-platform development can save time and money by reducing the need for separate teams and codebases for each platform. However, it can also compromise the app’s performance and UX, as some features may not work well or look consistent across different devices. Cross-platform applications may also have limited access to native APIs and functionalities.
Native vs. Cross-Platform App Development: 5 Key Differences
Here are some of the key differences between native vs. cross-platform you should consider before choosing an approach:
Performance: They Key Advantage of Native App Development
Native apps are more responsive and perform better than cross-platform apps. They directly interact with the device’s internal resources (eg., CPU, GPU, memory, battery, etc.). This allows them to deliver faster loading times, smoother animations, and better user experiences.
However, native apps require more maintenance than cross-platform apps. Developing and testing them for different platforms can be time-consuming and costly. Also, you may need to update them frequently to keep up with each platform’s changing standards and requirements.
Performance is crucial for app success in gaming, data processing, animation scenarios, etc., where any delay or glitch can ruin the app’s functionality and reputation.
Development Time and Cost: The Key Advantage of Cross-Platform App Development
Compared to native apps, cross-platform apps are faster and cheaper to develop since they share a single codebase and run on multiple platforms. This reduces the need for separate teams and codebases for each platform. Also, developers can reuse existing code and components from web development.
In exchange, cross-platform applications may not be able to achieve the same level of quality and performance as native applications. They may face compatibility issues, bugs, or errors due to the extra abstraction layer between the code and the platform. They may also have limited access to the platform’s native features and APIs, which may restrict their functionality and user experience.
Finally, cross-platform applications might need to rely on third-party tools and frameworks that are not regularly updated, causing their performance and quality to drop.
Development time and cost are crucial for app success in scenarios such as MVPs (minimum viable products), prototypes, or simple apps, where speed and budget are the main priorities.
Native vs. Cross-Platform: Product Lifetime
Native applications are more stable and reliable as they are built using tools and frameworks that the platform owners specifically support. Thus, they can run smoothly and securely on the intended platforms without any risk of being outdated or incompatible. Native apps can also benefit from the platforms’ updates and improvements. Thus, their functionality and user experience are enhanced over time.
However, native applications also have some drawbacks. Maintaining and updating them for different platforms can be expensive and challenging, especially if the platforms change their policies or requirements frequently. They may also lose their relevance or popularity if new platforms emerge in the market.
Product lifetime is a key factor for app success in long-term projects or complex apps, where durability and reliability are essential.
How Cross-Platform and Native Apps Compare in Terms of UI/UX Design
Native apps have better UI/UX design than cross-platform apps, as they follow platform-specific guidelines and standards. This allows you to create consistent and intuitive UIs that match the look and feel of the native elements.
However, native applications also have some UI/UX design drawbacks. Designing UIs for different platforms can be tedious and repetitive. You have to follow the same rules and conventions for each platform. Native applications may also have limited room for creativity or experimentation, as they have to adhere to the platforms’ expectations.
UI/UX design is essential for app success in e-commerce, social media, entertainment apps, etc., where user engagement and satisfaction are paramount.
Native vs. Cross-Platform: Which Offers Better Security?
Native apps are more secure than cross-platform apps. You can code security features into the app’s infrastructure. This allows you to protect your data and users from unauthorized access, malware, or data breaches. Additionally, native apps can take advantage of the platforms’ security measures, like encryption, authentication, and biometrics.
However, native apps are not completely immune to cyberattacks. You must be extra cautious if your app stores sensitive data or has unsecured network connections. Additionally, native apps can put users at risk of identity theft or fraud if they fail to implement proper security protocols or permissions.
Security is vital for app success in banking, health care, and enterprise, where data privacy and integrity are critical.
Native vs. Cross-Platform: What is the Best Approach for Your App?
There is no definitive answer to which approach is better for your app. It depends on factors such as your budget, timeline, target audience, app complexity, features, and quality. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you decide:
- Choose native app development if you want to:
- Build a high-performance app with complex features and functionalities.
- Provide a superior UX with customized UIs and interactions.
- Access the full potential of the platforms’ native features and APIs.
- Enough time and budget to invest in separate teams and codebases for each platform.
- Choose cross-platform app development if you want to:
- Build a simple or moderate app with essential features and functionalities.
- Reach a wider audience across multiple platforms with minimal effort.
- Save time and money by using reusable code and a single team.
- Willing to compromise on some aspects of performance and UX.
We hope this article has given you some insights into the differences between native vs. cross-platform and how to choose the best approach for your app.
If you need more help or guidance, feel free to reach out to us. Golden Owl is a team of experienced and professional app developers who can help you turn your app idea into reality. Whether you need to build cross-platform or native mobile apps, we can provide the best solutions and services. Contact us today to get started!