Apps or mobile applications have become immensely popular in the recent decade. Stats reveal that more than 3.55 million apps are available on Google Play Store and 1.6 million on Apple's App Store.
With such high numbers, the global app market is expected to generate US$487.99 billion by the end of 2023. By 2026, the total revenue is predicted to expand by 9.27% annually (CAGR 2022-2026), with a market size of US$614.40 billion.
Nowadays, everyone has plenty of apps on their phone. Some of these apps are native, while others are cross-platform apps. The two approaches to developing apps are significantly different:
Cross-platform development means apps designed for multiple operating systems, like Android and iOS. On the other hand, native development refers to building two different apps for separate operating systems.
Choosing between native app development vs. cross-platform is challenging, as both approaches have benefits and risks. You should also know which approach would be best depending on app requirements.
So, in the following guide, we are going to cover everything about native vs. cross-platform development, including
- What is cross-platform native app development?
- Why is native app development better?
- Is native development better than cross-platform?
Let's get started!
Table of Contents
What is Cross-Platform App Development?
Cross-platform app development refers to building apps for more than one platform using the same codebase. In other words, a cross-platform app would work for multiple operating systems without limiting its features.
React Native is one of the most popular frameworks for cross-platform mobile development.
Take WhatsApp, for example. It's a free cross-platform messaging system that allows you to send texts and media and call anyone, anytime, anywhere. There is no restriction on the operating system you should have to use WhatsApp, as it works on both Android and iOS phones.
Thus, building and maintaining a cross-platform app is easier because it saves you from creating two different codes for multiple OS. Because such an app would behave the same on both Android and iOS, it will be accessible to a large percentage of users. For instance, Instagram, Facebook, Walmart, and Bloomberg are all cross-platform apps with considerably high numbers of users.
Moreover, cross-platform apps also eliminate the time and effort spent trying to create multiple different ways to serve the same experience. It saves much of a hassle for developers and makes the app versatile.
Besides the building part, deploying an app on all platforms at once makes marketing and managing straightforward - you don’t have to target platform users separately. It will also be quicker to remove bugs and update the app if it has the same codebase.
Another critical factor is the cost involved, as it will take a higher investment to build two native apps. Not to forget the costs involved in other areas like promotion and fixing common errors.
Thus, cross-platform apps offer greater benefits than dealing with two different codebases for the same app, which mostly consumes more time and effort and involves risks of bug-fixing failure and updating complexity.
Pros & Cons of Cross-Platform App development
First, let's go through some of the pros of cross-platform app development:
Building Cross-Platform Apps Requires Less Time
A cross-platform app reuses the same code for multiple operating systems with slight changes. It saves considerably more time than creating two different codebases for various platforms.
Moreover, developing an app is more than writing its code. Factors like features, interface, and design also take significant time. You can create and test an MVP with a larger user base in much less time.
Considering this, a native app would require double the time invested, while a cross-platform will use the least time.
Cross-Platform Apps Require Lower Development Costs
The development costs will be much lower when the same code is used for two operating systems (Android and iOS). Hiring two teams to build and maintain different apps for various platforms is not needed.
As mentioned earlier, marketing and updating the app in the future will also require money. Cross-platform mobile apps reduce this amount because you'll advertise and update it one time.
Easy Access to Cross-Platform Developers
Part of successfully building a cross-platform app requires hiring professionals with advanced expertise in the field. The best thing is that finding experts for hybrid mobile apps is much easier, thanks to React Native, than trying to find developers that specialize in designing native apps.
Cross-Platform Apps Feature Quick Idea Prototyping
When building a cross-platform app, you can quickly prototype an idea and test it. It helps quickly judge an idea's weight or how it will work. You can also get constructive criticism and modify your idea appropriately.
Prototyping an idea is important because it serves as the foundation of your future goal app. Thus, when you put your concept to the test with your clients for a cross-platform app, you can meet expectations quicker than native apps.
No Limited Features With Cross-Platform Apps
As developers, you would want all users to receive a great experience using your app, which gives another point to cross-platform apps. Because you won't be dealing with two separate codebases, the same app interface will allow users of different OS to interact freely without facing any feature differences. This will enhance user experience, resulting in positive reviews, and they will likely recommend the app to others more.
It is Easier to Fix Bugs & Update Cross-Platform Apps
Dealing with one codebase in cross-platform apps gives developers an advantage to quickly detect and fix bugs and errors in the app. It also saves you from the hassle of dealing with different, unexpected bugs in two native apps.
As you quickly detect and fix the bug, you can update your cross-platform app faster. It also gives you much room to listen to customers' reviews and modify your app quickly, which is harder if you are dealing with two codebases simultaneously.
Faster Marketing for Cross-Platform Apps
Advertising a cross-platform app frees you from targeting two different audiences. Because your app will work on Android and iOS, you can collectively target both operating systems' users, making marketing much easier and faster.
It contrasts with native apps, where unless you develop two versions of your app in perfect synchronization, you would be marketing two different apps for different audiences. It will take double the research, time, and effort to devise and run a business marketing strategy.
Such amazing benefits make cross-platform mobile apps an excellent approach for app development. However, there are some risks involved with cross-platforms, as listed below:
Performance Might Get Affected by Cross-Platform development
If not done correctly, performance is at the most risk in cross-platform apps. It's because deploying a universal solution for two systems comes with some compromises and results with e.g. heavier computational power consumption than native apps.
Cross-Platform Apps Require Complex Coding
Upgrading Cross-Platform Apps Isn't that Easy
Besides developing, updating cross-platforms may be challenging. It can make or break your app's functionality, especially when fixing bugs and errors. When updating a native app, you can focus on one code offering features on a particular platform. However, cross-platform apps will require you to edit the codebase while considering compatibility with two different operating systems.
What is Native App Development?
One of the most excellent ways of creating applications is through native app development. Native app developers design for a single platform rather than being cross-platform apps that work on different mobile operating systems.
In other words, building native apps is a development process in which mobile applications are customized and committed solely to an Android or iOS platform.
Because the software program is precise to a platform, native apps provide an outstanding user experience. However, selecting a native development method requires more time and effort and involves higher costs as the code for Android and iOS must be developed individually.
Native apps are preferred over cross-platform and hybrid app development because of their smart performance. They operate and load faster throughout the systems and have fewer bugs overall.
Hence, native apps are designed exclusively for a particular mobile platform. Developing an app with a specific platform allows developers to leverage all the possible options fully it provides without needing to make compromises for other types of gadgets.
Pros & Cons of Native Development
Like cross-platform apps, native apps have benefits and a few demerits. Let's explore them!
The following are the top benefits of native apps:
Native Apps Have the Best Performance
When using native mobile app development, the application is designed and optimized for a specific platform. The native mobile apps are installed on the device, allowing the program to take full advantage of the smartphone's operating system. As a result, a native app is much more productive and offers higher performance.
Native Apps Feature Advanced Security
Creating a native mobile app is an effective way to ensure that your user's data is always secure. It's because native apps, compared to cross-platform applications, are less likely to face security threats.
First, native apps are not dependent on various web pages or programming platforms. Native apps also provide improved encryption technology and prevention.
Additionally, using programming languages specifically for a platform contributes to increased data security. It goes straight in contrast with cross-platform apps where the use of general languages raises the risk factors.
Native Apps Have Lower Risks of Bugs
Several factors ensure native apps have lower risks of bugs and errors. The app code, for example, operates directly on the operating system. Unlike hybrid apps, there is no independent software layer that can significantly slow down operations.
As a result, features such as the camera, GPS, and microphone can be used more quickly and effectively. Moreover, innovative games that have complicated 3D animation and visuals lend themselves better to native app development as they make use of the device's native graphics capabilities.
Native Apps Have More Visual Appeal
Native development apps are better than hybrid ones in visual appeal. Every aspect of native apps is designed with your operating system and uses every detail to maximize visual appeal.
Thus, these apps native to iOS or Android have their own visual appeals and features. For instance, if you own an iPhone, you've probably realized that many apps look completely different on your phone than on a friend's Android. Many are only accessible through OS-specific download facilities, such as Google Play, for Android users.
Native Apps Receive Fast Updates
Native applications can gain access to the most recent Android and iOS updates. However, programmers must wait for dependent tools to introduce various features for hybrid apps. As a result, hybrid app users cannot immediately access the most recent updates.
Native Apps Offer Better User Experience
Native apps offer a significantly more pleasant user experience than cross-platform apps with poor performance and a lack of offline functionality.
Moreover, a native app can utilize the platform's native UI and UX components. It's also simpler to optimize the screen resolution, dimensions, and pixel density of the native app UI.
Besides, native app platforms such as Android Studio or XCode frequently include ready-made templates to help reduce errors. So, in conclusion, native apps can mimic the appearance and feel of iOS platforms, offering an easy route to good UX.
Native apps have many benefits over cross-platform apps. However, as good as they are, native apps also come with some risks, as discussed below:
Native Apps Require More Efforts
Reaching as many customers as possible should be a priority if you want to sell a product. Such a well-known economic principle, when applied in native app development, may not be the best solution.
As mentioned earlier, if you'd like your device to be a native operating system while also being available on various platforms, you'll need to create two separate programs.
Thus, you must create multiple code bases for each OS. This usually requires the formation of separate teams with specialized knowledge. Each group will go through the same stages as the other, requiring more effort to make both apps similar.
Higher Costs Involved With Native Apps
Another significant disadvantage of native apps is that they require an evenly costly recovery phase, increasing the overall development costs.
Many developers overlook that software costs continue once the app is released. Besides, even though most of the work is completed during the app's maintenance stage, maintaining and updating numerous native apps is even more expensive.
Because of this, cross-platform apps are less likely to encounter this issue. They can be easily modified once-and-for-all because of their same codebase for different mobile operating systems.
Developing Native Apps is Time Consuming
Programs designed for a specific operating system perform better. However, this requires a great amount of time for each project's phases. As a result, if you're developing operating system software for each device, it'll take approximately twice as long.
Because of this, native development may not be the best option for your app. Hence, it is important to investigate thoroughly before selecting native development. Otherwise, a wrong decision can result in massive failures and even economic collapse.
Which One to Choose for Your Next Project?
Before discussing which one is best (native app development vs. cross-platform, it is important to know what they have to offer.
Cross-platform development is creating an app that works across multiple platforms. It allows you to write code once and reuse it across multiple platforms.
On the other hand, native app development creates a different app for each operating system. Though it might take more time and effort, native apps are more secure and fast and feature a higher user experience.
Still, the conflict between native apps and cross-platform app development has caused much confusion in the app development niche. So, let's find out when you should choose a native or cross-platform app for your next project!
When to Choose a Native App?
Native apps are an excellent choice for business owners who want to build a comprehensive app. Because they can use all the smartphone's characteristics, they are perfect for creating complex high-end apps.
However, native apps take longer to develop and are more expensive. So, if you're not rushing to release your app as a company owner, you should consider native app development.
Moreover, native apps are an investment for a lengthy period. They have chances to become more popular because they offer a better experience for users. In the end, native apps can also pay off handsomely if you have a particular audience you want to engage with.
When to Choose Cross-Platform App Development?
Higher deliverability becomes a priority if you provide services that require many customers daily. To ensure that your customers are getting all they require on time, cross-platform development is the best approach.
Cross-platform programs are simple to use. They offer the same features on multiple mobile platforms, which makes them a better option for a small company looking for optimum benefits with low investments.
Besides, cross-platform development is simpler to build and maintain. This makes it a better alternative if you are an IT business owner with restricted time to dedicate to app publicity.
What to Consider When Choosing an Approach to Build a Mobile App?
Once you decide which approach to choose for building your app (native app development vs. cross-platform), the next step is to simplify your idea. You can start by considering answering the following questions:
- Features to Add: What features or services do you want to provide through your app? What will be your app's best features to market later?
- Free vs. Premium: Are you planning on developing an app with free services? Or will there be a premium version with advanced features for enhanced user experience?
- User Interaction: How much user interaction do you want in your app? Should users be able to input, modify, erase, display, or share data in your app?
- App Interface: How do you want to design your app's interface? Remember, the first impression is important; a simple interface with prominent buttons will enhance the user experience. However, you can also consider other ways to customize your app's interface, like complex or animated.
- Interface Tour: Do you want your app's interface to interact with users and guide them through the basic features of the app?
- External Guideline Links: Will your app be easy or complex to understand and use? If it is complex, do you plan on creating external links to your app for guideline blogs or common FAQs?
- Web Version: Will you look forward to diversifying your app with a web version? This factor applies to both native and cross-platform apps, as you can always build a web version of your app in parallel to the mobile app.
- Target Audience: Have you finalized your target audience? How would you classify your target users (like through their age, usage, or like geographic, demographic, psychographic, and behavioral factors)?
- Time: How much time is needed to develop one cross-platform or two native apps? When do you plan on releasing or marketing your app?
- Budget & Costs: Do you have enough budget to fund your app development needs? Not to forget hiring development teams and marketing expenses afterward. You should also consider the management and upgrading costs involved.
Once you answer all these, you'll have the basics of your app and business strategy ready!
In a nutshell, the primary difference between a native and cross-platform development app is the intended operating system. A native app is designed for a particular OS, such as Android or iOS, while cross-platform apps can work on more than one system.
While the native app has one fixed code base for each OS, it is more appropriate for a long-term release. Similarly, cross-platform apps have one codebase that works for different operating systems. They are more suitable if you are facing time restrictions for app release.
Security, performance, and scalability are three important factors when building an app. It should be able to deliver the best experience to its users with frequent updates and backups.
Such an excellent user experience is only possible when developing teams are highly skilled. If you are looking for such experts, React Native can be your ultimate solution!
With more than 230+ tech leaders and a long list of successfully designed applications, you are welcome to explore the following benefits of React Native:
- high performance
- modularity & stability
- easy debugging
- time savings
- cross-platform development
- personalized UX
- one team dedicated to multiple platforms
- native look and visuals of your apps
Sounds exciting, right? Feel free to reach out and our team will be happy to assist you!