The mobile app market worldwide has undergone countless major changes in the past few years. In 2017, 99.6% of all smartphones ran on either Android or iOS. Companies treated mobile apps as channels for enhancing brand awareness and not as a business of their own. Today, with the ever-increasing adoption of messengers and AI solutions such as chatbots, experts even question the future of mobile apps. Amid the chaos and controversies, the mobile app development argument of “native app vs cross platform” is hotter than ever.

So, should your company use a cross-platform application or invest in a native one? This article highlights all the pros and cons of both cross-platform and native app development to help you make your choice. The article also underscores the key differences between native applications and cross-platform applications while explaining why it might not be a good idea to go hybrid.  

So, let us dive right in and check it out!

Native Vs Cross Platform Apps – Key Differences

A native mobile app can be defined as an application that meets all the requirements of a specific operating system through the use of its SDK, gear, hardware memory and other kinds of applications that are installed on a particular device.

The benefits of native mobile apps comprise:

  • High performance
  • Greater app store visibility
  • Ultimate user experience

A cross-platform app can be defined as a mobile app that is compatible with many operating systems. Therefore, it can run on any tablet or smartphone. 

The two different types of cross-platform mobile apps include:

Native Cross Platform Apps

In this type of cross-platform mobile app, each operating system comes with its own SDK as well all the major tech stack such as Swift/Objective-C for iOS app development and Java for Android. However, an experienced mobile vendor can build a unified API that runs on a native software development kit as well as uses the same codebase for iOS and Android apps too. Native cross-platform apps are mostly built using Appcelerator Titanium, Xamarin and React Native.

Hybrid HTML5 Apps

Even though mobile apps are mostly designed for tablets and smartphones, backend serves (either cloud-based or on-prem) handle application logic. Moreover, since both Android and iOS SDKs feature a number of advanced web components, it is common for skilled software engineers to utilize WebView in order to build parts of a GUI (Graphical User Interface) application with CSS, HTML5, and JavaScript. In this regard, the most well-known hybrid app development framework in the present times is Apache Cordova that was earlier called PhoneGap.  

The Top Tools For Cross Platform Mobile App Development

Xamarin, Unity, and Apache Cordova account for a total of 70% of the tools market of cross-platform app development.

Xamarin

Xamarin has been built using .Net and #C. This tool enables developers to reuse code as well as goes a long way to simplifying the entire process of building dynamic layouts in iOS. That said, some UI components cannot be used on MonoDroid and MonoTouch since they rely on iOS/Android-specific features. Need help with Xamarin Mobile App Development? Click Here

Apache Cordova

The tech stack of Apache Cordova features CSS3, JavaScript, and HTML5. This framework offers access to the in-built accelerometer, GPS, file storage, notifications, media, and contact data of a smartphone. This tool also boasts of a number of benefits, including a relatively simple API as well as the chance to use any JS framework. That said, the platform also visualizes the UI of an app through a web browser. This might result in lags. In addition to that, a few of the plugins of Cordova are dated. Hence, often, developers must write custom ones right from scratch. 

Unity

Another popular mobile app development tool is Unity, which allows software engineers to build high-quality 3D/2D apps (mostly games) for distinct platforms such as iOS, Windows, Xbox, and Android. Moreover, Unity, along with Unreal Engine, is regarded as one of the most premium tools to present 3D content. This solution comes with many free plugins and also supports developing custom shaders. That said, Unity definitely has a steep learning curve. Moreover, its compilers are not the best as they are not very well-optimized for ARM processors. 

It is also pertinent to mention here that the popularity of cross-platform app development in the present times is because of the increasing demand for mobile business apps. Moreover, when shorter deployment time and efficient resource utilization outweigh UX, cross-platform makes quite some sense. 

React Native

React Native is an open-source mobile application framework created by Facebook. It is used to develop applications for Android, iOS, Web, and UWP by enabling developers to use React along with native platform capabilities. Here is a good video that explains what is react native? Click Here to Watch the Video

React components wrap existing native code and interact with native APIs via React’s declarative UI paradigm and JavaScript. This enables native app development for whole new teams of developers and can let existing native teams work much faster. React Native combines the best parts of native development with React, a best-in-class JavaScript library for building user interfaces. Use a little – or a lot. You can use React Native today in your existing Android and iOS projects or you can create a whole new app from scratch.

Pros And Cons Of Going For Cross-Platform App Development

The pros of going for cross-platform app development consist of the following:

Cost-Effectiveness

Creating a native mobile app costs at the very least $10,000. Multiply this cost by two (Android and iOS) and then add 30% because Android Dev is more expensive. You will then get the approximate cost to launch an app on both Google Play and the App Store. 

Shorter Development Time

Given that you select the right tech stack as well as plan your project properly, your vendor is likely to reuse till 80% of the original codebase.  

Updates Synchronization 

It is no secret that successful app publishers usually roll out updates up till 4 times monthly. Therefore, maintenance costs can potentially consume a big part of the total app revenue. This is where the cross-development platform proves to be a winner.

Exposure To Countless Users

The majority of the cross-platform apps run on iOS and Android, both in addition to Windows, Tizen, Linux, and even Symbian. 

The cons of going for cross-platform app development: 

UX Issues

Meeting the UX requirements of both platforms can prove to be quite challenging. Apple is quite notorious when it comes to its Human Interface Guidelines. The company turns down mobile websites that are wrapped in native containers. That said, it is poor UI design and bugs that account for nearly 20% of the total App Store rejections. Therefore, given that you address a dependable mobile app development firm, your HTML5 app is most likely to receive the green light.

Performance Issues

The computing power of smartphones is fairly small. On the other hand, the rendering of heavy UI components such as CSS and HTML5 takes a significant amount of CPU/GPU resources. Furthermore, it may even increase the response time of an app. 

Final Verdict – The Choice

Choosing between a native app vs cross platform app depends, to a large extent, on the intended feature set as well as the scope of application of an app. This means that if your mobile app becomes a business of its own such as healthcare and fitness or one of those famous face-morphing apps, selecting native app development is an obvious choice. On the contrary, companies that are looking to create an informative/content distribution app, cross-platform development might be perfect for them.

It is known that in 2012, the largest social networking company Facebook replaced its HTML5 app with a title of native iOS and also labeled its hybrid endeavor to be the biggest mistake ever made by the company. The company obviously has absolutely nothing against HTML5. That said, it failed to meet the mobile app requirements of the company. This is precisely why you must always consider consulting an experienced vendor as well as planning your mobile app strategy thoroughly to avoid making the same error in judgment.