Claiming that native apps are superior to cross-platform ones is no different than saying that a shovel is way better than a rake:you can hardly dig the hole with the latter and would probably feel dog-tired loosening the soil with the former. These tools are used for different purposes and in different situations, and in the same vein, native app development may be perfect for one project, yet absolutely pointless for another one.
Understanding what kind of app development is right in what scenarios helps to select the approach that would allow you to meet your unique business goals. The JatApp team has put together all pros and cons of native and cross-platform development approaches, as well as prepared relevant insights about their use cases to help you make up your mind.
But let’s start with the definition to make sure we are on the same page.
What is a native app development?
Native app development refers to the creation of a mobile application exclusively for one platform (for instance, only for Android). These applications are developed with the help of programming languages that are specific to the selected platform. For example, you can build a native app for iOS using Objective-C or Swift, or write a code in Java or Kotlin to create an Android app.
What is cross-platform app development?
Benefits of native app development
Developing native apps is a smart move when you need high performance, access to device hardware features, and more intuitive UI design. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits to better understand why native app development has won the hearts of many software engineers and business owners.
Native apps tend to be highly responsive and fast because they are created using the targeted platform’s programming language and application programming interfaces (APIs). The device stores native software, so that users can take advantage of its full processing speed. When end-users interact with the application, visual and content elements are already stored on phones, which considerably reduces the load time.
Access to device features
Native apps can access the device hardware, like camera, GPS, microphone, and so on. This makes them considerably faster in execution compared to cross-platform applications, which, in turn, leads to better user experience (UX).
Moreover, app testing becomes a breeze due to a large number of built-in testing tools. Remote error monitoring enables the development team to timely detect and address the causes of these errors, so that users can enjoy an efficient and bug-free solution.
Native software ensures better data protection compared to cross-platform solutions. Native applications are created for one platform only, which means the data is encoded within a single infrastructure. This helps to reduce security vulnerabilities and risks. What’s more, native app developers use a platform-specific programming language, which improves the level of app protection, making hack attacks more challenging.
Downsides of native app development
With higher performance and native UI/UX design comes higher expenses and more time needed for development. These are the main drawbacks of the following approach.
Developing a native app doesn’t come cheap. If you’re looking to create an app for both Android and iOS, you’ll have to hire two different development teams to build the same features for different platforms. This would translate in additional time and, consequently, may significantly increase your expenses.
Unlike cross-platform, native app engineers can’t reuse their code for different platforms. The only exception is Kotlin, where programmers that can utilize the same code for Android and iOS. Still, as a rule, if you need Android and iOS versions of an app, your teams will need to spend more time writing code in different programming languages. As your software developers are expected to use different tech stacks, they will naturally need more time to complete the project.
Benefits of cross-platform app development
Cross-platform also has a number of tangible benefits. Let’s discuss some major pros of this development approach using Flutter as an example. Also, in case you want to learn even more about this framework, we have a whole article dedicated to Flutter.
Hot reload refers to the feature that allows Flutter programmers to change their code and see the results in real time. In other words, they no longer have to reboot the app to observe changes they made. Hot reload is particularly useful when developers and designers need to experiment with new features. Whether it’s to color the button or make the icon bigger, it’s both fast and convenient to realize the most daring ideas with hot reload.
Hot reload feature
When it comes to creating an appealing and engaging app design, Flutter widgets come in handy. The framework offers platform, interactive, visual, and structural widgets. Notably, they perform a variety of functions, from bringing animation to your solution to offering convenient layouts to managing images and icons. App developers can also change and customize these widgets to better meet app design requirements. The result: less time spent on app development.
A Flutter app’s widgets
In our highly competitive business world, releasing the product to the market faster can help you stand out from the competition. With Flutter, you can substantially speed up the development process compared to building a native app. You can save time not only because your team has to create just one codebase for multiple platforms, but also because different Flutter features make implementation of the project way easier. For example, hot reload enables programmers to cut down development time by up to several weeks, as they don’t need to perform reviews of changes.
Dart, a language used for building Flutter applications, has simple syntax and a large collection of libraries, which also helps to reduce time-to-market. In addition, software testing usually takes less time, as teams would need to work on a single code only.
Downsides of cross-platform app development
The Flutter framework is relatively new, which means that there’s a lot of room for improvement and growth. Let’s shed some light on the flaws of this cross-platform technology.
Lack of third-party libraries
Third-party libraries help coders automate software development, so that they no longer need to build everything from scratch. More importantly, these libraries offer pre-tested tools, which also facilitate the process of building a new solution. However, as we mentioned before, Flutter is a relatively new framework, so finding a necessary package can be quite a challenge.
Larger app size
Users’ phones have limited storage space. You don’t want to make your customers choose between their precious photos from the last trip to Paris and your application. To reduce the size of the solution, Flutter engineers use fewer libraries, refuse from animations, or compress images. Even though Flutter apps usually have smaller size than their direct competitors, React Native and Xamarin, its in-built widgets considerably increase the app size compared to Java and Kotlin applications.
Lack of Dart developers
Finally, there are not many Dart developers available on the market. That’s why you risk spending a lot of money for each day of an unfilled job position. Moreover, since there are not many vacant candidates to choose from, there’s no guarantee that you will be able to find a specialist with necessary skills and experience.
Things to take into account when making a choice
After reading some pros and cons you’ve probably understood what to expect from both approaches. But if you still can’t decide what option is a winner, you should pay more attention to your business goals and project requirements.
The app complexity heavily depends on the number of third-party integrations and features. As a rule of thumb, the more technology you need for your project, the more complex the solution will be.
Support of a native app with many features becomes much easier, as developers can quickly make changes to the code. By contrast, with cross-platform development, when something breaks down, chances are that there will be errors on both platforms.
Meanwhile, it’s essential to make sure that app performance lives up to your expectations. A native app development approach helps to deliver a high level of performance. If you need complex solutions that have “heavy” graphics and animations or your business revolves around a mobile app, you should consider native development.
Cross-platform mobile development tends to be cheaper than native development, as software engineers need to write a codebase only once. If you’re a small start-up with a limited budget, cross-platform apps can be your go-to solution. You can save up to 40% with this approach.
If you decide to build a cross-platform app, you should mind, however, that extra costs may snowball. As the framework is relatively new, you may waste much time searching for tech talent and spend a lot of resources to maintain your solution.
If you’re looking for seamless and interactive user experience, native development is the answer to your request. As we noted earlier, native app engineers make use of native UI and UX elements of the respective platform. Since Android and iOS users are familiar with the nuances of their operating system, they don’t need to learn how to use a native mobile application and therefore can concentrate on the task at hand.
When comparing cross-platform and native app development, you need to think about your unique business goals, resources, as well as customer expectations. Whether you go for a native or cross-platform app, you need a reliable software vendor to turn your project ideas into a modern and engaging product.
JatApp has been developing both native and cross-platform solutions since 2015 and we have more than 100 iOS and Android apps developed behind our backs. Our engineers have been recognized as top specialists in mobile app development according to Clutch. What’s more, our customers are happy that they’ve chosen our company, which is reflected in the 99% satisfaction rate.
If you want to cooperate with our company, feel free to get in touch with us to discuss project details.