In 2022, we have nearly 1.9 million apps offered on App Store and 2.5 million in Google Play. Mobile apps define modern business growth, yet deciding which technology to use is not easy. Before starting the process, you must consider all the available tech tools you can use.
Whatever you decide to develop – a native, hybrid, or cross-platform app – there are always pros and cons, and only your individual needs define what will work best.
Let us start with the chart below as the easiest way to understand what way you should go with your project development.
This post covers the essence of tech like Android and iOS compared to React Native or Flutter. This way, you will develop an extended vision of native vs cross-platform app development and clarify the key differences.
A little introductory basic comparison is here:
|Choose native mobile development if:||Choose cross-platform app development if:|
You’re looking for a project with high complexity
You need to have to separate native Android and iOS applications
You are sure what you want the final product to look like
You consider moving the project to web or desktop applications in the nearest future
You need to take full advantage of the system features provided by a specific platform (Android or iOS)
You just want to create an MVP of your project to test it on the market
You can dedicate a high budget to the platform as the development cost for native apps is usually high
You want to complete your app faster and deliver it in a shorter time than if you would use native app development;You are just starting to work on a large project that will require scalability and adjustments
You have enough time for the native app developers to work on two separate projects
You are just starting to work on a large project that will require scalability and adjustments
With that out of the way, let’s dig deeper and find out where the most significant differences between native and cross-platform applications really lay
For those who are ready to dive deeper, let’s begin!
Native vs Cross-Platform App Development: What’s the Difference?
What Is Native App Development?
Native app development is where you are building a mobile application for one single phone operating system. Generally speaking, it is going to fall into one of the two OSs – either Android or iOS. An Android app is going to use Java or Kotlin as one of its programming languages, and the Apple app is going to use either Objective-C or Swift.
Native apps are known for their superior performance including better user interaction with the device and the ability to utilize all the latest facilities and technologies inside a phone. Because they run locally on the device, they have access to everything available to the device to run. From a customer’s perspective, to get an app onto their phone it’s not going to notice any difference between a native application or a hybrid application. Both these apps will get downloaded from the respective play stores and run directly on the end user’s phone.
Native applications have plenty of pros and cons.
- Designed for better performance. First and foremost it is created for better performance. In the case of both hybrid and cross-platform apps, you have an abstraction layer between the application and the mobile itself. This means that direct performance is going to be hindered. Having a native application is going to interface directly with the mobile phone. It gives you fast superior performance. This is not always noticeable to the human eye. Nor is it noticeable for consumers in all cases. And this is why when companies weigh up when whether they go down cross-platform vs native app development, they often do not choose native app experience. But this is important to know that the native apps will outperform in general all the other apps.
- Following UI/UX best practices. There are many great examples here. But building a native application is going to allow you to use all the tools these manufacturers have given you.
- Full access to device features and capabilities. Pokemon Go was a revolution a couple of years ago. Its creators used all the tools in their arsenal to produce an excellent gaming application that took the world by storm — using both GPS accelerometer compass and many other features of the phone. This means Pokemon Go needed to be developed as a native application.
- Easy to send notifications. Notifications are a huge part of applications and being able to hook into the native notification engine is sometimes a huge benefit. When you are building a native app, you have direct access to the phone and all of its capabilities and APIs. Sending notifications to users means you can piggyback on both systems in both Android and iOS, and therefore it is very easy for you as a developer to send notifications within the phone. Now both hybrid and cross-platform apps can also hook into these native notifications but they are not precisely the same. They naturally have an intermediary that’s working in between them. Therefore, the notifications while being almost the same can have some notable differences depending on how they are implemented.
Native App Development Toolsets
Imagine you want to build a native app. Let us talk about the tools you need for that. For iOS, it is a program called Xcode. As we already mentioned, these programs are generally built within Objective-C or Swift and SQL platform sits on top of the iOS software development kit. This is a single integrated development environment created by Apple to produce the best apps for Apple.
Android is a similar boat. You are going to use Android Studio to build your native app in either Java or Kotlin. Again, this is a bit of an ecosystem that Google has put together, enabling Android developers to create the best Android apps for their Android phones.
The software development kit (SDK) that we have mentioned before, is essentially allowing all the functionality of the phone to be exposed to the developer. These SDKs are built custom by both Apple and Google and allow you to hook directly into their SDK, and thus into their phones, to drive native application development.
Some Important Aspects To Keep In Mind
Mobile native vs cross-platform. Let’s look at a few considerations for building a mobile app and how those relate to a native app development.
- First, Speed To Market. If you are targeting both Android and iOS, building two native apps is going to take longer and therefore we’d suggest either a hybrid or cross-platform app development. But if you are only concentrating on one platform, building a native app is only going to take slightly longer pending your technical skill available than if you built in one of the other paradigms.
- The Concentration Of Your Audience. Where is your audience based or if you are building an internal app for your company, what sort of phones does your company issue? if your audience is on iOS then you want to build an iOS app. At this point, the savings of building both a hybrid and a cross-platform app start deteriorating, and if you want the best performance and the best outcome building a native app is probably the best for you. On the other hand, if your audience is split across both platforms, then the native app may not be the best option, because you are going to run into the trouble of duplicating your code and doubling up the effort. That moves on to our final point here.
- The Cost. it is important to note that mobile apps are not a small undertaking and they do take quite a significant amount of costs to build. Not only is our initial build sometimes substantial but their ongoing maintenance and updates also take significant time. Mind that if you go out and try to build two native apps, you are going to have twice the amount of maintenance and cost to maintain them in the future.
Again, if you want to have the best performance and the best outcome for your customers then this might be the way you do it. But having said that hybrid and both cross-platform apps can produce similar outcomes for a much reduces cost base. Pondering on the cross-platform app development vs native dilemma, it is just knowing where your audience is, what your budgets are, and what your time to market is when deciding on the best way to deliver your application.
By the way, talking about budgets, and revenues: an encouraging chart for you.
Chose Native If…
All in all, when you do choose native application development, there are three key points you must be sure of.
- First, you have the budget and top-notch resources available to you to produce the best app outcome you can. Therefore, native app development can be good for you.
- Secondly, you require expensive access to the hardware on each of the phone systems including fingerprint scanners, GPS accelerometers, compasses, etc. Keep in mind that a lot of these are exposed to these hybrid and cross-platform apps. It’s only some of the edge cases that you need to be careful of in order to access them via a native endpoint.
- And thirdly, you want to produce a superior application that generally leads to more interactive graphics. Games are always to be built as native applications. Because they are so interactive, and they need to use the GPU, whereas a B2B product or B2C product, which is simply out there to take data and send it back to a web app may not be the best use of your time to build a native app.
What Is Cross-Platform App Development?
Now let’s get more into detail about the other app development format, their main advantages, and the best tools. And a bit of history first.
It has been around 30 years since mobile apps appeared. In their very infancy, they all started with IBM. Probably, one of the biggest breakthroughs in this field was the release of Blackberry in 1999. One of its key features was its query full-sized keyboard. It was targeted at emails and productivity. Because of that, it had some of the first mobile applications in the form of email apps.
Fast forward to years the 2000s, around 2007 Apple released an iPhone. At this point, they released the Apple AppStore, and then later in 2008 Android was released with its Google Play app store. They are still the main two app stores to get a mobile app, and iOS and Android are the two main players in the market. They both pose different challenges – two code bases and two styles of apps. Two different roads and styles and you have to decide which way to go. Cross-platform mobile development vs native is an understandably challenging choice.
There are two key ways here:
- Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
- Cross-Compiling Software. An app that is pre-compiled in one language and then will be compiled into one or more languages after that.
It is important to know that the standard operations of building any application are roughly the same. There‘s still underneath the back end, you are still going to need to do programming. Here we are focusing on the core functionality of the mobile app and how that can easily get on the Apple and Google ecosystems.
In the case of PWA, it is essentially a web application that you can save as an icon on your smartphone. These aren’t technically released through any of the app stores, they act very similarly to how normal or native apps will react on your phone. A progressive web app is simply a website that you go to and save down to your home page and then launch it as any other app. The difference here is in the following: it is not actually running as a local native app on your phone and, therefore, there will be limitations on what you can and cannot interact with on the phone itself.
Google is a dominant player pushing progressive web apps, and there is plenty of documentation on the web around PWAs. You should have a look at that as the first point of the call because generating PWA essentially means that you are only going to have to build one web application and it can become a mobile app.
If you have decided to go down the route of releasing a mobile app, either native or cross-platform. One of the ways you can do this is through
While Apple and Android look similar on the surface, they have very different design principles underneath. Apple uses the achievement interface guidelines while Google uses its material design. It is also important to know there are far far more Android devices out there than there are iOS ones. And this is because Android is a standalone OS that any phone manufacturer can use whereas iOS is locked down to only Apple hardware. And this means generating apps for iOS is way simpler. You have fewer phones to support, less resolution, and less functionality. With Antìdroid, on the contrary, you have a much wider market of handsets that potentially the application can be used on.
Your Audience To-Be
The following questions are crucial when it comes to the cross-platform vs native choice. Where is your target audience? Which platform is preferred by your potential users? If it’s an internal use company application and you have a company issue, Apple phones, you can get away with only developing iOS. When you are going out to the public, then, no doubt, you are going to have to cater to both scenarios.
Cross-Platform or Native App Development?
What type of app are you going to create? Is this a simple productivity app or a gaming one? Does the platform support your functionality?
Internally, in your programming division, do you support a programming language better than another? Obviously, iOS develops in the Swift language whereas Android is developed in Java, so potentially internally you have got a skill that is already aligned to one of those stores. Therefore, that will be a recommended decision to go with but keep in mind that, if your target audience is not aligned with your skill set, you may need to get more help or some extra contractors. They will be delivering the application.
Here in ZenBit, we chose React Native development, the programming language of famous brands like Instagram, Facebook, Bloomberg, Wix, Walmart, and many others. RN boasts more than an 85% satisfaction rate compared to other frameworks and offers a lot of precious features such as code reusability, cost efficiency, security, and community support.
We all know that Apple is an expensive product, and therefore its users have more disposable income. Overall, there is more revenue generated on apps for Apple compared to the Google Play store. But again, this is going to come down to your target market and where they live, and what is rational for the app. A simple game site you want everyone to download is very different from an internal company app you are trying to develop. At the end of the day, selecting which platform to go with your mobile app – native vs cross-platform – is a challenging decision and there are conflicting reasoning why you’ll go with one or the other.
Two different platforms require different languages and separate code bases. Building a cross-platform app means you have a single code base with a single language. Therefore, you can focus on both apps equally and spend far less time developing your product. Up to 50% can be saved by using a cross-platform app development approach. It is like having to build one application instead of two.
Contact our team to discuss it during the discovery phase in your software product development, this way, you get more confidence in the right choice.
Pros And Cons
All in all, let us sum up the benefits of going down the cross-platform development route together with some of its drawbacks. Talking about mobile development, native vs. cross-platform, it’s not about which method wins, but rather which one suits your main goals and requirements.
- Developers love the code reusability features between iOS and Android. In the case of native web development, it is not an option at all. Huge time and money savior.
- Fast speed to market. One team and one project cover two markets at once instead of two separate investments, efforts, and workflows.
- Cost efficiency and budget savings of up to 30-40% compared to native.
- Consistent UI/UX is out of the question in modern cross-platform tech tools. React Native allows you to create a mobile app that can run across various device platforms excellently. Find out more on this topic in our case study here.
- The rising popularity and promising future for talent as well as the growing interest among companies and startups.
- Wide users reach during the stage of testing. Reaching more users leads to creating a product that will be highly relevant and effective.
- Performance is not as fast as we may want. As we’ve mentioned before, native apps run better overall.
- Code adapting issues. Adjusting to each platform may often affect functionality negatively. This is all about the developer’s extra efforts and cool skills.
- New features and updates, naturally, come later than in the case of a native app.
The Most Popular Cross-Platform App Frameworks
Frameworks help to get the app development job done, making things simpler and easier. In this section, we’ll name the top ones you can use for your project.
A mobile app framework is like a pre-made package, software that can be used for your creative needs so that you do not waste time reinventing the wheel. If someone has already coded something you need and made it available for free, why not use it to make your processes faster? It is a precious collection of tools that can help you create a mobile app rather than doing everything from scratch.
However, before choosing a framework, you should be fully aware of your app requirements. Because every framework comes with its individual and special qualities and features. Some focus on cross-platform apps, while others are aimed to give your app a very native-like look and feel, like one of the benefits of choosing React Native.
- Google’s Flutter is extremely helpful in creating cool native apps for web and mobile devices. Developers love its hot reload feature, rendering components, customizable widgets, APIs, and more.
- Ionic is rich in tools for building intuitive cross-platform applications as well as web apps. Pre-designed platform-specific UI components in their native component library for building a pretty interface. Node.js is the main player here.
- Simple, touch-optimized JQuery Mobile is based on HTML5. With a single code base, it creates apps for both main platforms plus Blackberry, Windows Phone, and more. Moreover, developers can build their own theme with the ThemeRoller tool without having to right code for it.
Mobile frameworks are a great way to launch an app on all the major platforms. Therefore, expanding your audience reach while also saving your time and money on app development. Which one would you choose? Our team will gladly discuss it with you and share an expert piece of advice. You are always welcome to leave us a message or call!
Native vs Cross-Platform Development: How The Two Styles Differ?
For your convenience here, in the picture below, we picked up the key differences between the two methods.
While the first one, cross-platform, is focused on building a product that can suit either iOS or Android though the code is one for both, the native is all about being exclusive and created for a particular platform.
On the left, we have code reusability, and on the right – speed and performance. Faster launching and budget savings on one hand and maintenance stability together with maximum hardware functionalities on the other. Prospects for talent and the future are opposed to the application of strong security. Broad market reach in the initial development stages – to highly specialized creators. What does your business need more? The choice is very individual.
Our Opinion. Cross-Platform vs Native
Cross-platform apps are really good these days, being able to do almost everything a native app can do. But there are a few things that it cannot do. So if you are about to push the boundaries and need the native features of the phone you might have to bite the bullet and go with a native app. It is worth listing these features upfront and checking this with the platform you chose, and making sure they can either be supported natively or you can do it in a cross-platform.
If you still feel unsure and need more knowledge and advice based on your individual needs, please contact our experts for a free consultation.
Cross-Platform vs Native Application. Conclusion
Mobile apps are here to stay. Everyone uses phones more and more and more apps are being produced every day. When developing a native application it’s crucial to understand that they give you superior outcomes, you’ll be able to use more of the device itself, and they will cost more overall, they will be unable to support more than one platform, and they will have a longer time to market. It’s really about weighing up between these options which way is the best to go.
When you use a hybrid or a cross-platform one, you do not have the in-house resources of a dedicated iOS or an Android developer but do have a technical team that potentially can put together another web app in the form of a hybrid or cross-platform app. You want to try and save costs while not always cutting down on performance, you have a very short development time, and therefore you need to get to market quickly, a hybrid or a cross-platform format will be perfect here. And finally, if you are doing any business-to-business or business-to-consumer app, or selling your app to the customer at the end of the day in some sort of B2B or B2C play, then a cross-platform or a hybrid app will be better for you. Whereas if you are building a game, you are going to go down the native app route.
Here, at ZenBit Tech we help brands grow and evolve by building both cross-platform and native applications and if you need any assistance in going forward with your mobile app development, feel free to contact us. Or maybe you want to discover more about databases for React Native? Native app vs cross-platform, cross-platform vs multi-platform – our team will help you choose the right option for you!