Native vs. Cross-Platform App Development: How to Pick?

18 November 2021

Deciding between native and cross-platform development is always a challenge. Read this guide to make this choice confidently!

In 2017, we at Intellectsoft had a customer who asked to make an MVP (“minimum variable product”) on Flutter, a commercial cross-platform app development kit from Google.

The decision to invest in MVP is a common stage in software development, serving as a proof-of-concept and an early app version with the main features included. Our task was to create an MVP to show off to competitors, not accelerate the development process or cut expenses.

Flutter was new to the market, so the app development experienced inevitable challenges. In conversations with the client, we mentioned the rawness of the development language, problems with possible scaling, and lack of tech talents acquainted with this development platform. But the customer still wanted to try.

Unfortunately, all the predicted challenges came to light. The project was hard to scale and lacked the required resources due to low business priority.

For Intellectsoft, the takeaway from this case is straightforward: technology is not an end in itself. The well-built development strategy brings business benefits. And so, the choice between native and cross-platform tools depends on your business aims too.

5 Main Differences of Native vs. Cross-Platform App Development

Responsiveness. Since native code accesses the device’s internal resources directly, native apps generally demonstrate better performance.

Value-for-money. Cross-platform apps are made faster and cheaper.

App stability. In a long run, native apps demonstrate more stability and work well for long-term projects.

UI/UX design. Generally, native apps are more attractive and effective in terms of user interface and user experience.

Safety. Native app development deals with encrypted and obfuscated infrastructure, while cross-platform apps need extra measures to ensure security.

What Is Native App Development?

This type of app development deals with the platform’s native language and native APIs/frameworks to link to internal functions, meaning Java or Kotlin (with its JDK) for Android and Obj-C or Swift (on its SDK) for iOS.

Thanks to these specifics, native apps provide a better user experience, demonstrate higher performance, and can be personalized. Moreover, access to the devices’ features allows building complex yet stable and secure functionalities.

7 Advantages of Native Development

Smooth work. Native technologies connect with the device’s functionality, which makes processing fast and steady.

Compatibility. Thanks to seamless integration with hardware, native apps can take photos, track locations, and add events to the calendar.

Safety. The minimum of layers and technologies make native apps secure.

User experience. In terms of UX design, native apps can have sophisticated layouts, greater personalization, and engaging animations users like.

Easy-to-use SDK. For developers, native app building possesses numerous tools that make the process faster and cheaper. In this regard, software development kits are extremely helpful and streamline the development process with up-to-date and mostly ready for implementation parts of code and libraries. In case something is not clear, it’s easy to find and understand the technical guides and official documentation.

Optimization. Native apps don’t overload the battery with complex processing, and users can use them longer.

Maintenance. Updates like AI, IoT, and adding extra features and easy to implement on native apps.

3 Disadvantages of Native Development

Expensive to start. Although native apps possess value-for-money in a long run, the initial cost of their development is high. Each platform requires separate investment, and the development expenses are generally 30-40% higher than going for the cross-platform app development option that covers all the devices at once.

Time to market. Native development is complex and requires more attention on each stage, which delays the date when the app is ready to launch.

Different codebases. Android and iOS app development are completely different, and the developers need to duplicate each feature by using two separate codebases. Because of this, native app development requires two separate teams at times.

Best Cases of Native Apps

Thanks to its benefits and efficiency indicators, native app development is highly popular these days. You can find native apps among games, messaging platforms, and navigation tools.

Among the loudest examples of native apps, there are:

Spotify
Waze
WhatsApp
Pokemon Go
Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg initially invested in a hybrid app, but soon recognized the mistake and build a native version for iOS)

What Is Cross-Platform Development?

You need a single database to build a cross-platform app running on several devices. Due to this advantage of repurposing, the development itself becomes faster and cheaper. The majority of code, meaning 70-95%, can be reused in another platform, which makes building for Android and iOS smooth.

In this regard, React Native, Flutter, Ionic, and Xamarin cover the most tasks for both operating systems. According to Statista, Flutter is the leading framework for cross-platform development, covering 42% of the market. Next is React Native, possessing 38%. The full picture is shown in the table below.

Source: Statista

4 Advantages of Cross-Platform Development

Repurposing of code. Cross-platform apps are easy to adapt to multiple devices thanks to 80% of code that can be reused.

Cost-effectiveness. Cross-platform development cuts costs and saves time on the development stage, compared to native development.

Fewer developers are needed. The development is not complex, so you won’t need to recruit separate teams to build Android and iOS apps.

Access to a broader audience. Cross-platform apps are the best option to showcase your app to more people and/or the new market.

4 Disadvantages of Cross-Platform App Development

Unstable performance. The general usability of the codebase comes at its cost. The lack of specification sometimes causes delays.

Simplified UX. Compared to native apps, some features and layouts are unavailable for cross-platform apps. In this situation, the elaboration on the cross-platform user interface is very important for getting satisfactory results in terms of user experience.

Relying on external libraries. As there is almost no support to SDKs, developers can face difficulties in integrating new features.

QA is a must. Without several rounds of testing, cross-platform apps are likely to disappoint users with numerous bugs, safety issues, and incompatibilities.

Best Cases of Cross-Platform Apps

Many famous brands go for cross-platform app development when there’s no need to concentrate on a single platform. Among the well-known examples, there are:

Mozilla Firefox
Google Chrome
VLC
Adobe Reader
OpenOffice

How to Choose between Native and Cross-Platform App Development?

After clarifying the key features and functionality behind each development type, the question of picking the most appropriate one is easier.

Factors to Consider Native Apps:

Mobile-first service
Plans to make money with an app
Strong competitors in the niche
Your business is big
Your app is a game
Your app will have complex features and needs access to the device’s hardware
You care about top UX

Factors to Consider Cross-Platform Apps:

Minimal budget for development
Need to enter both Android and iOS
Testing ideas
Quick launch to market
You are a startup
You build an MVP with minimum features

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