Native vs. Cross-platform is an age-old debate. It is a debate that has kept the tech community divided for years. Many claimed to have found the ultimate answer but both cross-platform and native app development technologies are in a constant state of evolution. And due to this changing nature of technologies, it serves to revisit these topics from time to time to find out which of these options is currently in the lead.
Both the native and cross-platform apps have a dynamic list of pros and cons. These factors can affect everyone involved with the app, including the app owner, the app users, and the app developers.
Now, app developers have preferences based on the technologies they are most comfortable with. Today, however, we will limit the scope of discussion to app owners and users.
So, let’s start with the basics.
Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are by far the biggest and most popular mobile platforms in the world. According to stats, a majority of the global market is captured by Apple and Android stands second.
The US, for instance, has a bigger iOS market share i.e. 56 per cent compared to 43.5 per cent of Android. Not to forget, there are other smaller platforms such as Windows.
This means if you choose your app simply in the global data, you might lose an important target region. That is why you need to choose your app platform wisely. You need to know where your audience is and build your app’s presence on each of those platforms.
Now there are two ways to do that - you either build a native app for each platform or create a single cross-platform app supported by multiple platforms.
Let’s take a look at how this decision will affect your app:
Native apps are developed exclusively for a specific platform. These apps are developed in a language compatible with the platform. Apple, for instance, prefers Objective C and Swift for iOS while Google favors Java for Android. Using these acceptable languages, developers can make better use of the innate features of these platforms. A native app developed for Android will not function on iOS and vice versa.
Cross-platform apps are compatible with multiple platforms. Due to the market share of Android and iOS, most cross-platform apps are limited to these two operating systems. These apps are developed in HTML and CSS since these standard web technologies are platform independent. There are several cross-platform application development tools that allow developers to create these apps with little trouble.
Now that you know the difference between cross-platform and native apps, let’s see how they compare.
Native apps make the best use of resources and utilize the platform’s capabilities up to its full potential. This means native apps are high performing apps that are fast, responsive, and less likely to crash. If the developers have enough knowledge of the platform they are working on, they can optimize native apps to highlight the best features and capabilities of that platform.
Cross-platform apps are often plagued with performance issues. Since they are the built-on one-app-fits-all approach, it is not unusual for these apps to act out on certain devices.
Native apps can make use of the device’s native feature, especially with iOS, which runs only on Apple’s proprietary devices. Another great advantage of native apps is that they allow offline features, which is something not easily possible with cross-platform apps.
Cross-platform apps cannot utilize the native features of the device because they have limited access to the API. Since they are developed for different devices with varying features, developers usually avoid making assumptions about the available features.
Native app development takes twice as much time as cross-platform apps. The cost is also higher since it usually requires building more than one app. Maintenance is equally time-consuming and costly, as the developers have to identify bugs and problems for each platform and create different updates accordingly.
Cross-platform apps are relatively cheaper in terms of development and maintenance. You are investing in a single app and that is all you will have to maintain. However, sometimes, the higher number of issues and bugs outweigh this advantage.
The importance of user experience is increasing by the minute, which is why it is the most essential thing that you must ensure in your app.
Considering the above stats, this one really is a no-brainer. With better performance, higher speed, and better device utilization, native apps offer a tremendous experience. Designers and developers have more creative freedom to create good-looking apps and smooth functioning apps. Native apps are not just responsive but also intuitive.
While developers can create equally intuitive cross-platform apps, such features often come at the cost of speed. It is difficult for the developers and designers to simultaneously fulfill all the UX requirement of multiple platforms. Overall, cross-platform apps do not deliver a desirable user experience.
Native apps seem far superior in terms of performance and user experience. This is enough to make them the winner. However, let’s not forget that the choice truly depends on your application. Simple applications like games and content distribution apps are usually developed as a cross-platform app while apps with specific features are native.
Cross-platform is also preferred for B2B apps where deployment time is of utmost importance. Many small businesses also opt for cross-platform due to their limited budget. However, compromising performance and user experience for the sake of savings is often counterproductive.
It is important for you to choose a platform that meets your needs, requirements, as well as your target audience, needs to create your winning app.