What Should You Choose: Native or Cross Platform Mobile App Development?

Mobile app economy has been witnessing a phenomenal boom over the past decade. According to Statista, the global mobile app revenues amounted to over 365 billion U.S dollars in 2018 and the app market is projected to generate more than 935 billion U.S dollars in revenues in 2023 through paid downloads and in-app advertising. Enterprises should have a mobile application alongside their business websites to gain a competitive edge on the market. However, mobile app market is a crowded space with more than 4 millions apps available for download on Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store combined. Standing out in such a competitive and relentless market won't be an easy task for businesses. And that is why you need to come up with a unique app idea, leverage the right technologies, choose the best development platform and build a highly engaging application to get a solid solid footing in the market. With that in mind, we have created a simple guide that discusses the major mobile app development approaches in depth and how to choose the most suitable approach for your project.

Native Apps and Cross Platform Apps - Overview

Native apps are developed to run on specific mobile platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Software development kits (Android SDK and iOS SDK) and tools of the concerned mobile OS are used during native mobile development . For example, native iOS applications would be written mainly in Objective-C and Swift whereas native Android applications would be written in Java, Kotlin or C++ programming languages. Cross-platform mobile development refers to “the creation of a mobile application that are compatible with multiple mobile operating systems”. Even though, cross-platform app development suffered major setbacks in the past, it has re-emerged as a powerful methodology in recent times. In fact, there are a number of cross-platform frameworks available, such as Xamarin, Flutter, Phonegap, Ionic and React Native. These tools facilitate the development of apps that adapt and follow design and interaction guidelines put forth by different mobile platforms.

Timeframe and Budget

How much money can you spend on the mobile app development? Are you planning to develop a time-critical application? It is essential to define your budget limit and time frame in order to choose the best mobile app development platform. Creating a native mobile application is a lengthy and costly procedure. Since each platform has its own tools and languages, you need to engage different developers, different code bases and different technologies for building native applications for each mobile operating system (OS). And this approach results in higher development costs, longer time to market, increased maintenance and support team issues. On the other hand, if you opt for cross platform mobile development frameworks, developers can reuse code for iOS and Android versions of an application which cuts down development time and effort by a greater extent.

Performance and User Experience

Are you planning to launch a high-performance mobile app for your business? Functionalities, performance and user experience play a key role in choosing the most suitable mobile app development platform. If you want your target audience to enjoy all the functionalities linked to the concerned device completely, then native approach is the way to go. Mobile applications that process huge volumes of data or have a heavily animated UI for game scenarios should be developed in a native mobile platform. Not only native applications can use a device’s capabilities such as Bluetooth, GPS, voice recording, cameras and microphones to the fullest, but also keeps the interfaces and navigation user-friendly and simple to understand. When it comes to performance and functionalities, cross-platform mobile application has limitations. As the complexity of application increases, it would be difficult to manage all the platform-specific features from a single point. Hence, cross-platform applications are best suited for simpler solutions. However, it is easier to achieve native user experience with Xamarin frameworks. Unlike the traditional hybrid mobile applications, Xamarin apps are built by sharing business logic across platforms and creating platform-specific UI. When the UI is rendered with native controls whilst taking advantage of system and hardware specific APIs, the user ends up with a completely native user experience.

Target Audience

While developing a mobile application, it is essential to know your market. Figuring out the target audience for your app helps in defining the functionalities, user experience design and performance. Depending on the most popular mobile operating system among your target audience, you can make the right pick. For instance, the USA has a strong user-base in both iOS and Android platforms. Thus, it would be better to utilize cross-platform frameworks for maximum reach. On other markets, India and China for example, have a clear dominance in Android platforms. In this case, it would be ideal to choose a native Android app development strategy. Conduct a comprehensive market research in order to know your target audience and market so that you can take an informed decision.

Testing and Maintenance

Mobile app market is constantly evolving, and you need to have a precise idea about the future strategy of the mobile app that you are about to develop. If you are planning to release consistent updates, then cross-platform approach would be an ideal choice. Maintenance and updates are easier with Xamarin framework as developers can simply update the source file which will be directly applied to the apps. And considering the fact that cross-platform applications are written with less code, the chances of errors or bugs are lower too.

To sum it up, we can say that the final choice always comes down to knowing your mobile application and its target audience. If you are building a complex, high-performance application that depends on device’s functionalities, then choose native stack. Affordable and fast cross-platform development approach would be perfect for building a mobile application with a reasonable level of complexity and simplistic design.

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