Native vs cross-platform app development. What will suit your project best?

Software technologies are evolving at a rapid pace allowing engineers to deliver quality mobile solutions while ensuring consistency across all mobile devices. Although 5-6 years ago the best option was to employ programming languages such as Java and Objective-C for making a native application, now the market offers cross-platform tools that enable engineers to achieve a native-like experience.

Before building a software product to address business challenges, it is important to choose between native and cross-platform app development. By defining the way tailored to the project requirements, companies can engage users, achieve reliable performance, or reduce costs. In this article, we will compare cross-platform and native application development to help you recognize which way will perfectly suit your needs.

What is native app development?

A native mobile app is built for a single operating system (OS). Therefore, a software engineer writes a codebase for one platform using programming languages such as Swift and Objective-C (iOS development) or Java and Kotlin (Android development) . To make a program that can run on both iOS and Android, two codebases have to be created, which results in hiring two teams with certain skill sets.

Providing high performance, native applications offer a seamless user experience. However, as teams have to duplicate the same functionality and business logic employing different technologies, native app development is more costly.

Popular native mobile apps

Twitter, Reddit, Slack, WeChat, Netflix, Spotify, Uber, Coursera, Evernote, Trello, Basecamp 3, Kickstarter, Signal, Postmates, Flipboard, Foursquare City Guide.

What is cross-platform app development?

Many customers and software engineers dreamed about having the opportunity to write code that would run across all mobile devices. Cross-platform fools were invented to turn this into reality. With cross-platform technologies, programmers can create one codebase making a program for several operating systems.

As customers don’t have to hire two teams, they cut down expenses and improve time-to-market. Cost and time savings are the main benefits of cross-platform mobile app development. Since it can be difficult to implement complex design elements for each OS taking into account its guidelines and peculiarities, the interface of this kind of application is usually universal.

Popular cross-platform mobile apps

Instagram, Facebook, Facebook Ads Manager, Skype, Shopify, Walmart, Tableau, Flipkart, Pinterest, Groupon, eBay Motors.

Comparing native and cross-platform app development

1. Time-to-market

With cross-platform technologies, companies improve the speed of building a mobile application. Surely, it is possible to develop native programs for iOS and Android in parallel. However, some tasks—necessary to be performed when making a product for one operating system—can require more time than creating it for another.

Issues that teams have to address during the project may differ. Furthermore, a software engineer has to test two mobile apps: although functionality is the same, it is to behave as intended and comply with the requirements on both platforms.

When delivering a cross-platform solution, programmers write one codebase, which contributes to faster time-to-market. Hence, if the main goal is to launch a product under tight deadlines or evaluate an idea by collecting and analyzing customer feedback, this way will suit your needs.

Considering practical use cases, we created an online table booking system that consists of a web app for restaurants and a mobile app for users. To launch it as fast as possible, our team recommended the client to employ cross-platform technologies.

Choosing the right technology stack and following Agile, our engineers managed to deliver the platform in just 2.5 months. Read a case study to learn more about the project. Another cross-platform solution that we built under tight deadlines is a food pre-ordering service that includes a mobile application for users and a terminal for cafe owners.

2. Cost

Cost reduction is among the key benefits of cross-platform mobile app development. To build a cross-platform solution, an organization doesn’t have to hire iOS and Android engineers to create two codebases.

As a result, customers significantly cut down expenditures, which is especially useful for startups and SMEs. However, world-famous companies often choose cross-platform application development, for instance, Facebook, Walmart, and Groupon.

3. User experience

User experience (UX)—how customers feel about a product when interacting with it—is crucial for any software program. A mobile app should be easy-to-use and provide intuitive navigation, so that users can perform necessary actions without even thinking.

It also should deliver a consistent UX across all screens, which is easier to achieve with native application development. Consistency means that a smartphone solution looks and behaves the same on all mobile devices.

4. User interface

When creating a cross-platform mobile application , software engineers need to take into account the discrepancies of iOS and Android platforms in terms of a graphical user interface (UI). To develop the best design, the product should be built according to the guidelines of both operating systems. However, this task is more difficult to accomplish by employing cross-platform technologies.

5. Performance

If built properly, native applications are performant, stable, and responsive, which is especially important at peak loads. A cross-platform mobile app may run slower compared with native programs due to the slower response of the user interface.

However, client-server operations in both approaches are carried out the same way. As a consequence, the performance of a cross-platform application could be worse if the team creates a user interface with numerous elements.

From our experience, we can say that it is possible to achieve high performance and fault tolerance even in complex projects. For instance, our team delivered a business networking app for a startup that can handle heavy loads even at peak loads.

6. Mobile app maintenance

Choosing native application development, companies should take into account that software maintenance will be more costly. Software engineers have to monitor two products for bugs, errors, and vulnerabilities.

Updates have also to be created and released for two platforms separately. In this case, cross-platform app development allows you to reduce expenses while providing more convenience.

7. Access to smartphone functions

Native mobile applications usually provide easier access to smartphone functions like a camera, microphone, address book, voice control, and offline mode. Incorporating this feature in a cross-platform solution generally requires more time and effort. However, if you don’t need to add this functionality, you won’t feel any difference.

To summarize all the above-mentioned information, let’s list the pros and cons of native and cross-platform mobile app development.

Cross-platform app development

Advantages of cross-platform mobile app development:

  • reduced costs
  • faster time-to-market
  • facilitated product maintenance
  • the possibility to reuse code to create one solution for iOS and Android

Disadvantages of cross-platform app development:

  • worse user experience
  • lower performance in complex projects
  • it is more difficult to create a comprehensive user interface
  • building a feature to access smartphone functions requires time and effort

Native application development

Advantages of native app development:

  • high performance and design responsiveness
  • a consistent user experience
  • it is easier to develop a multi-element interface
  • access to smartphone functions

Disadvantages of native mobile app development:

  • consumes more time
  • more costly in terms of development, testing, and maintenance
  • post-launch product support is more difficult

Although it may seem that cross-platform development is about decreased performance and worse responsiveness, technologies such as React Native allow engineers to make cross-platform apps that load fast and deliver a seamless user experience.

Many popular mobile applications were built using this cross-platform framework, including Tesla, Facebook Analytics, Vogueworld, SoundCloud Pulse, and Uber Eats. Learn how to build a cross-platform app like Uber Eats in 3 months.

Wrapping it up

As both options have their strong and weak sides, you should analyze business-specific needs and highlight the key software requirements. For instance, if the primary target is to build a mobile solution serving millions of users and delivering an amazing customer experience, native application development will be the best choice.

In case an organization aims to create a software product for employees to address internal challenges, making a cross-platform app will be a good option.

Cross-platform app development is a great choice when:

  • you have a limited budget but it is enough to build a working solution
  • the main goal is to test out an idea in action or validate several hypotheses and collect user feedback
  • the product has low or medium-sized complexity: it is not supposed to scale by up to millions of users, process millions of requests per second while maintaining high availability, etc.
  • a mobile application has to be delivered under tight deadlines

Native application development will perfectly suit your needs if:

  • the primary objective is to ensure an amazing user experience
  • you have the resources to hire two teams for building a mobile application
  • it is crucial to enable scalability and high availability even during heavy loads
  • the app is expected to serve millions of users while providing reliable performance and/or offline mode
  • you want to create a comprehensive user interface with multiple complex elements

If you have a project idea or want to address some technical issues, contact our team. Our software experts will get back to you within 24 hours. With solid experience in custom mobile app development, we will be glad to assist you in turning your ideas into reality.

The consultation is free of charge.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Get the latest scoop on software application tips, announcements, and updates from us. Subscribe to our newsletter!