A native app is an application built completely using technologies native to a particular operating system, most commonly, Android or iOS. As these two platforms are the most popular in the global mobile market, we won’t discuss other platforms such as Windows and Blackberry.
Say you have a brilliant project idea in mind and can’t wait to see your perfect app in a mobile store. But before that, you would probably come across a dilemma between native and cross-platform apps. Should you concentrate on one platform or submit it to both stores? If you choose cross-platform, will your app perform equally well both on iOS and Android?
As a web and app development company that has more than 8 years of experience, we can shed some light on native versus cross-platform problem. At first, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of building native and cross-platform apps and then study a case of moving from cross-platform to a native solution.
- Native look and feel. The app will give users a seamless user experience (UX) and won’t look buggy and alien on a device.
- Easy approved by the store. Apps that have problems with speed and native look can be rejected by AppStore or PlayMarket.
- Full hardware integration. Native apps can interact with a wide range of hardware including location, camera, accelerometer, speakers, etc.
- Easy to fix. If something is broken in a cross-platform app it will affect both platforms, unlike native apps which exist independently.
- Easy to follow design guidelines. AppStore and PlayMarket have different guidelines and it’s a hard job to follow both of them simultaneously.
- Targeted audience. If the target audience is Android or iOS users only, there is no need to reach both audiences with a cross-platform app.
- Easy start. Sometimes it makes sense to start just with one native app and expand into another platform after collecting user feedback.
- Time-consuming. Building two apps for different platforms requires around 30% more time than just one cross-platform app.
- More expensive. Building a cross-platform app often requires a smaller budget than when building two native apps.
- Must be updated for every platform. If an app needs to be updated, changes should be made to both apps on each platform.
- Suitable mostly for big software solutions. Building two apps probably won’t be as beneficial for small projects as for the bigger ones.
- Faster time-to-market. Building one cross-platform app will take less time than building two independent apps.
- Cheaper in development. If the budget is not large enough to build two native apps, maybe it’s reasonable to develop one cross-platform app.
- Wider audience reach. Cross-platform apps can reach a broader audience than one native app, though it probably won’t give users a seamless experience.
- Good choice for lightweight apps. If the app architecture, as well as the user interface (UI) design, is simple it may be a good idea to build one app for both platforms.
- Can be rejected by the store. If the app either has a slow performance or it’s UI contradicts guidelines, it won’t be accepted for publishing.
- Bugs affect both platforms. If something is broken or there is a bug in the code, it will affect the app both on Apple and Android devices.
- Limited hardware integration. Cross-platform apps do not have the same ability to interact with the device’s hardware as native apps.
- Performance challenges. The inconsistent communication between native device and non-native app components affects the app performance.
- Lower position in stores. Both AppStore and PlayMarket give preferences to the native apps and rank them higher in the store.
A client came to us with a problem of a slow app and a UI design far from being perfect. After testing its API our programmers came to a conclusion that the application’s back-end had a high performance but when it was interpreted on a device, the loading time increased by two times. For, example, the average screen loading time, which was between 417 and 994 ms when testing the app’s API, raised to 2-3 s when testing its front-end correspondingly. Usually, this data shouldn’t very much. Developers quickly identified that the application had integration challenges with its target operating system. The inconsistency between device and app components affected the GUI (graphic user interface) which resulted in poor UX.
The solution proposed to the client was the development of new native front-end solutions for iOS and Android while leaving the back-end as it was. The client accepted the proposal, which marked the beginning of our good cooperation. As a result of designing the UI from scratch, the app provided users with a seamless and clear experience, while skipping to native technology made it fast and efficient. And speed is something that shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to a mobile app nowadays as users expect it to load and perform tasks instantly.
As we can see, the desire to save time and money when developing mobile apps sometimes may lead to unexpected results, such as unforeseen expenses and time delay. The decision on the technology should be taken very seriously and be based upon thorough market research and analysis. If the research has shown that the target audience is either Android or iOS users, it would probably make sense to build a native app for only one platform. But often it is more reasonable to build native apps for both platforms in order not to miss any opportunities.
To sum it all up, the choice of technology for the project depends on your business goals and needs and what suits in one case, may turn the project into a disaster in another. The only thing that stays constant is that fast and efficient applications, that provide users with ultimate and seamless experience, are the highest priority when developing mobile apps.