Native or cross-platform mobile app: how to choose which one to develop first

6 min read

Today people spend a lot of time in front of the screens of their mobile phones and tablets, and this fact has to be taken into consideration by any entrepreneur, regardless of what is his business based on – sales, services or something else.

In this article, we try to help to understand the difference between two types of mobile apps – cross-platform and native, and which one is preferable to be chosen as an instrument for your business, taking into consideration several criteria.

What is native application?

As a good examples of the native applications can be taken pre-installed programs on your mobile device, which you meet from the very first day of use.

There are specific programming languages to be used for writing a code for native applications. Developers that working with iOS platform can use Swift or Objective-C, for Android there is only one option – Java. Using this languages make possible for applications to access to all hardware resources of the mobile device, to all its parts, like camera, microphone or speaker, and to all services, like notifications, accelerometer or geolocation.

What is cross-platform application?

Cross-platform app has some similarity with a web page.

The main tool that is used to create cross-platform applications is markup language and styles, the same ones that used to create mobile sites. It makes sense, because what else is the content of Internet if not the web pages. Such applications are written to function on all platforms at the same time, and adapted to most devices, because for their work, the browser is mainly used.

Mostly the cross-platform apps are being created using PhoneGap. This framework’s main feature is that it grants to apps an access to the most part of the resources of the platform. There are also available such technologies as Xamarin or Unity for cross-platform development, but they are not so popular for application development as web technologies.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches?

It is important for the customer to know the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and to make a choice without an overstated expectation. Let’s compare both approaches by a number of criteria.

Dependence on platform

One can think that the cross-platform application feels itself with the same comfort on any platform, including the least known ones. However, for this belief to meet the reality, an additional programming might have to be done for each platform. In the case of native applications, you can count on their excellent work, but for each platform, its own version need to be developed.

Design of the user’s interface

It is impossible not touch the guidelines in the context of developing mobile applications. Guidelines are instructions from platform manufacturers for mobile application developers, designed to adjust their design and functionality to standards. Guideline is the foundation on which the psychology and comfort of the platform users are based. Simply put, the interface elements have the usual appearance and layout.

Native applications are created in the language that has all the tools necessary to make a familiar interface. Another situation is with the web technologies: to make a cross-platform application similar to native one, you will have to do your best. Сross-platform frameworks help to imitate with some degree of certainty the native interface, but mostly the responsiveness, speed of animation, effects, and design will be different. The following paragraph is devoted to this.

User experience

User wants from the application he installed to work smoothly. When he undertake any action, he expects immediate response from the app, would it be animation or scrolling the text. Delays are irritating and deteriorate the user’s experience and impressions from using the app. Cross-platform applications in this regard are much inferior to native. Directly speaking, they lag, and this is their main problem.

Also, the user is sure that each element of control, each icon will have a standard view and position on the application screen. For different platforms, these standards will be different, and if a cross-platform application is made on iOS, it will bring discomfort to Android users, and to the contrary.

Security

All popular browsers use HTTPS a standard secure data transfer protocol. But if you require a special level of encryption, the solution to this is the developer’s task. To ensure reliable data protection is possible only with native development, as it is connected with mathematics, and such operations require the most efficient use of hardware resources.

Maintenance and Support

You will need two different specialist, one for each platform, to provide a maintenance for a native application. With a cross-platform application, one developer can manage everything.

Summary

It is better to prefer native development if:

  • total access to all resources and services of the mobile device is necessary;
  • responsivity of the application is crucial;
  • the application must be able to work offline;
  • maximum hardware usage is required.

Your option is cross-platform development, if:

  • low responsiveness is not such a big disadvantage;
  • complex animation and calculations does not supposed to be executed by the app;
  • constant Internet connection is required;
  • quick enter to the market is the main goal;
  • you want to transform your website into the app with a minimal expenses.

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