One of the oldest debates for mobile apps is to either develop it for a specif platform or be it a cross-platform app compatible with different mobile operating systems. This debate has been kept apart from the tech community for years. Both these development approaches are in a constate state of change due to the enhancements coming over technologies. The native and cross-platform apps both have their pros and cons. Several factors decide the adaptation of these approaches, which can vary from financials, domains, geographical sets of users, and availability of apps developers.

  1. Mobile Platform Importance
  2. Native Apps Development
  3. Cross-Platform Apps Development
  4. Native v/s Cross-Platform App – The Difference

Native vs Cross-Platform Apps

Mobile Platform Importance

Mobile platforms across the globe majorly divide into Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. There are other platforms against which the percentage is entirely ignorable; developers do not even opt to develop the apps for those platforms.

More than 75% market is covered under Google’s Android Mobile Operating System, whereas around 75% of the mobile market converges under Apple’s iOS. Other platforms such as Windows have a minimalistic share in the market and are bound to shrink in the coming years. Capturing either Android or IOS with a mobile app plays a vital role by deciding which technological approach to follow while developing a mobile app. The app can be either a native app, which means that it is specific to a platform, or another variant is to create a cross-platform app that is supported by multiple platforms.

Let us start by having an overview of what Native and Cross-Platform Development look like before diving into the differences, pros, and cons.

Native Apps Development

In a simple nutshell, coding a native application is when a developer uses the same programming language to build an application-specific to an OS. An example can be utilizing Android Studio, which uses Java as a core language to develop applications specific to Google’s Android Platform.

Native applications tend to be faster and is more user friendly as it appears to be part of a device. The buttons, checkboxes, text boxes, and other controls are pretty standard across the devices as all applications follow the same set of APIs. The interaction of apps with underlaying hardware is practical, and a scarce chance of incompatible lies around. The Native application takes full advantage of the device hardware such as a compass, GPS, camera, and ports. The strong compatibility of native apps with their relevant hardware enhances them to be highly scalable.

Developing a single app on a different native platform with an idea to capture the users of each platform can be daunting on the budget. More developers having expertise specific to the native platform, testers, environment, and deployment, along with man-days, becomes the sole reason for a high budget to provide a similar user experience on different platforms. With iOS and Android leading the native apps market, both use a different set of tools and technology. iOS uses XCode as a framework, and coding is done using Objective C or Swift Language. Whereas the Android Apps uses Android Studio IDE and Java or Kotlin as its development language.

Cross-Platform Apps Development

The “Write Once, Run Anywhere” is very well suited for Cross-Platform Apps. This allows developers with a single set of expertise to develop the application using a single code base and run it on multiple platforms. Fewer specialists are required, and development takes less time and hardware resources. Cost-wise, it is well on a budget as the client does not have to have separate budgets for each platform’s resources. With smaller team sizes, speeds, and agility, the development effort reduces to an extent; thus, the lifespan of an idea to implementation is significantly less.

The deployment is relatively seamless as there is a single codebase that fits all the platforms. There are some trade-offs which the developer has to keep in mind with regards to slow performance as the app can react differently with device interfaces along with additional wrappers over the functions that transpose the code as per the platform of the current device. The cross-platform development approach uses a native rendering engine for its core activities. The codebase uses JS, which connects to device components with bridges. Developers usually use React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter to develop Cross-Platform Apps.

Native v/s Cross-Platform App – The Difference

Much debate goes around the forums and blogs while putting off the pros and cons of both Native and Cross-Platform Apps. Some groups go into selecting Native apps keeping the customer-centric approach. In contrast, the other side tends to select Cross-Platform to ensure they provide the service by revolving their product around service-centric regardless of the OS c Platform customer uses. Let us dive into the comparison chart to grasp an idea of what these two approaches have to offer.

Comparison Factor Native App Development Cross-Platform App Development
Development Time It presupposes the writing of app source code from scratch for each platform. It reduces time-to-market; the code is highly reusable.
App Users Developing an app for one platform, the client can lose up to 50% of the potential app users. It allows the promotion of the same app through different platforms, thus targeting a broader audience.
Design Challenges The design gets simplified by the services and support provided by the OS. Developers have to add some features explicitly.
Programming expertise Native developer’s skills usually cost more and are difficult to obtain. As Cross-Platform frameworks are web-based, there is a massive pool of resources having expertise in web-based programming.
Tools XCode, AppCode, Android Studio React Native, Xamarin, Flutter
Rendering Native Native
Pros Full access to device OS’s features, High Performance, App runs efficiently, High-Quality UI/UX Different OS Support, Code Reusability, Cost-Effective
Cons High Dev Cost, No Code reusability, No multi-platform support Slow Performance, Limited OS Features support, Weak interaction with other native apps

The debate can go on for hours and hours; however, most companies focus on user experience in terms of smooth transitions and application flows. Designing applications as native can result in more application usage, which can tend to more revenue and reviews.