Today, 99.6% of smartphones function on IOS or Android. Many companies use mobile applications to do business or inform about a new brand. On the one hand, the ability to develop one application for all platforms is beneficial, but on the other hand, this approach can have a bad impact on the user-friendliness, appearance, and functionality of the application. The choice depends on various factors – target audience, business goals, product features, budget. And each approach has its specifics, affecting the final result.
Also, there is a question about the future of mobile apps, due to the growing use of AI solutions. Therefore, the issue of native or cross-platform mobile app development is more acute than ever. Should your company invest in native development or is it better to create a cross-platform app? We’ve prepared a brief overview that will show the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches and perhaps help you decide on the most appropriate solution for you.
Mobile Development Market Overview
The mobile development market is active and very complex right now, so it is difficult to understand all aspects and see a clear picture. But if you want to develop a mobile app, you need to look at the offerings on the market, whether there is a place for the idea and what to expect in the near future.
For example, the size of the global mobile app market in 2018 was estimated at $106.27 billion. And according to Statista, the total number of first-time mobile app downloads worldwide will grow to 258.2 billion by 2022.
The market report shows that Android surpasses iOS in terms of downloads. As of the end of March 2018, users had downloaded WhatsApp 60.23 million times from the Google Play Store and only 9.15 million times from the App Store.
The market is expected to grow from 2020 to 2027 at a compound growth rate (CAGR) of 11.5%. Demand for mobile apps will grow, primarily due to the increase in the number of smartphones, the use of technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence in mobile apps.
What makes a good mobile app?
A good mobile app is an app that fully satisfies the needs of the end-user. It does so quickly and efficiently. Businesses strive to improve their mobile app to better meet the needs of their users and achieve success.
First of all, a good mobile app should solve the problem of users and how it can help simplify their lives. The app should have a great user interface, which determines how the user will continue to use it. Plus users crave personalization. So that interactions are tailored to their preferences or usage behavior, for example. This requires using profile information from user history to segment and deliver personalized content to the user.
The app should provide real value to customers, which can be useful for usage, entertainment, convenience, or a number of other areas.
The mobile app should provide offline functionality so that it can function well without an Internet connection.
Maintain high performance, as poor performance can lead to a negative user experience. And users tend to avoid such applications.
Regardless of how revolutionary and optimized an app is, no one will know about it without promotion. A solid marketing plan will encourage users to install the app again and re-target users.
Provide users with a feedback channel to greatly improve the user experience, get feedback, and increase ratings.
Also, to ensure the long-term popularity of the mobile app, you need to support its development and release continuous updates to fix bugs and keep users coming back for more information.
Cross-platform application development
The existence of different operating systems has led to such an approach in mobile application development as cross-platform.
Cross-platform is the ability of mobile applications to run on multiple platforms. Such mobile development allows covering two operating systems at once with a single code. It provides an almost native experience through a visualization interface using native controls. Creating a cross-platform application takes fewer resources, which allows to quickly implement ideas without adjusting to the standards of a particular platform.
- One code
The same code can be used on different mobile platforms. A cross-platform application doesn’t need a separate technical stack for each operating system. So the application can be easily deployed to a different platform, avoiding bugs and making it easy to change the application logic.
- Saving time and money
The application is created for all platforms using a single technology stack. No need to prepare unique elements for each platform, resulting in lower costs.
- Impact on users
Applications of this type can reach a wider range of users because they are used on all mobile devices regardless of the operating system.
- Easy and fast deployment
Developers don’t need to learn multiple technology stacks of different platforms. They need to be well versed in one development stack and its features. In this way, deployment across platforms is much faster. And updates to the application can be deployed simultaneously, without making individual changes.
- Limited functionality
Cross-platform applications cannot use built-in device features because they have limited access to the API.
- Performance issues
On the other hand, using a universal technology stack results in poor performance. Because they are inline code suitable for all applications, they often only work on certain devices. It will be difficult to adapt an off-the-shelf application to make the most of it.
- Design issues
The appearance of the interface and the correct configuration of the UI can complicate development and cause a lot of problems. Each system has its native requirements for element design, and sometimes these requirements are mutually exclusive. Although about 20% of App Store rejections come from application bugs and poor UI design.
- Problems with uploading to the app stores
Adding an app to the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store is different. Product requirements are distinct, and going through all the tests and requirements to comply with both stores will cause problems and take a lot of time and effort.
Native Application Development
If the application is written in a specific programming language, such as Objective-C and Swift for iOS or Java for Android, the application will be called native. Such applications have access to all the services and functions of the phone: camera, microphone, geolocator, calendar, media files, notifications, and so on. The native application has a user-friendly interface, powerful functionality, high security, an extensive menu, and also sparingly uses the memory and battery of the device.
Companies create such applications individually, so that the user is comfortable interacting with them.
- Stability and high-performance
Development uses platform-specific tools: Swift and Objective-C for iOS, Java for Android. The interaction of the application with the native functions of mobile devices increases the overall performance of the application. Especially when displaying graphical or multimedia content. Thus, native apps will reduce response times, crashes, and freezes.
- Using platform capabilities
Native apps solve specific problems on a specific platform. They are more flexible and scalable than cross-platform ones, allow stand-alone functions and it is easy to add functionality and upgrade the application. This leads to a better match of application capabilities with the hardware capabilities of the devices.
- Quality user interface
iOS and Android apps have different architecture and interface features. Native apps are notable for their usability, where users can navigate through a familiar interface without problems. This ensures a positive user experience and repeats usage of the app.
- Positioning in app stores
User experience is an important ranking metric in app stores. If an app has a high user experience score, it will also be highly rated by the app store. This means more recommendations and more revenue from the app.
- Creation and support costs
Native application development takes longer than cross-platform applications. Since the same programming code cannot be used on different platforms, programmers spend time converting and rewriting it. This increases costs and development time. Maintenance and support is also time-consuming and costly because different platforms have different updates.
- Incompatibilities with other mobile operating systems
Developers use a certain language for a certain OS that is incompatible with others. For example, Objective-C/Swift for iOS, and Kotlin/Java for Android. Therefore, the iOS app will not be compatible with Android devices and vice versa.
Choosing between native and cross-platform development
When choosing between cross-platform or native development, the first thing you should do is to decide the tasks and the audience the app is intended for. You also need to determine what functions the application will have.
For instance, a cross-platform type of development is good when writing a prototype application for several platforms on a limited timeframe or if you plan to create an application purely for information dissemination. But if the application goal is long-term development, which requires a positive user experience, it is better to create a native application. You can choose the type of development by different criteria, for example:
Maintenance and support
Finding and fixing bugs, updates, and changes in native applications take more resources because two different specialists work. Only one developer can maintain a cross-platform application.
A native app has maximum access to all the functions and services of the device. Whereas a cross-platform application does not have access to all the features of the platform. Although there is not always a need for full integration. It all depends on the tasks that the application has to solve.
Cross-platform apps are inferior to native apps in terms of providing a positive user experience, and this is their main problem. It’s also worth a lot of effort to make such an application look like a native.
The user wants to see standard controls, appearance, and icons on the app screen. Standards are different for different platforms. So to get out of this situation, you can either create a single design for both platforms, and users of one have to adapt. Or create two different designs with features of each platform, but release two applications in the same cross-platform language.
A native application is developed for each platform taking into account all the features. This makes it possible to add functionality and improve the application. True, this makes native development more expensive than cross-platform development. Cross-platform development runs faster, reducing the time and resources spent.
Of course, this is not all. Individual circumstances always lead to the choice of this or that development. It is better not to make hasty decisions, but to do it after consulting with developers and determining the goals of the application. The more arguments there are in favor of one approach or another, the better.
Both native and cross-platform development have their advantages and disadvantages. The main thing to remember is that there are other ways to reduce costs and shorten development time. For example, it can be the completeness of the terms of reference and prompt feedback when communicating with developers and the project manager.
Anyway to understand which approach is optimal for you, evaluate the complexity and uniqueness of your application. And if there are doubts, it is better to contact a professional developer. He will help you choose which type of development is suitable for your goals.