Before we start discussing cross-platform solutions, make sure that you clearly understand the difference between cross-platform frameworks and native development.
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What are the native apps?
Native applications are developed for a specific hardware and software platform. These applications are written in languages created for this platform.
Both iOS and Android have their SDKs and their technology stack, tied to a specific programming language. For example, the native languages for Android are Java and Kotlin, for iOS, respectively, Swift and Objective-C.
Native applications are created specifically to run on the target platform – with support for all the native technologies and hardware capabilities of that particular platform.
What are cross-platform applications?
As the name implies, cross-platform involves the creation of applications that can run on various operating systems. After writing the application code, it can be deployed on different devices and platforms without worrying about incompatibility issues.
This is a universal approach that is widely used to save development time and money. Often, specialized cross-platform frameworks are used for this.
Is it worth it to spend money on developing two native applications that are ideally suited to each platform, or does it make sense to save resources and get one cross-platform?
The following are the Pros and cons of each of these approaches.
Pros and cons of the native approach
Pros of native applications
- High performance: Since the technologies used to develop platform-dependent applications are directly related to this platform, native code has direct access to all functions of the operating system.This simpler interaction of the application with the native functions of mobile devices increases the overall performance of the application, especially when presenting graphic or multimedia content.Consequently, creating loaded applications using native code can reduce response time, the likelihood of crashes, and freezes.
- Maximum use of platform features: Native applications are conceived and developed to solve specific problems on a particular platform. This leads to better matching of application capabilities to the hardware capabilities of devices, including Bluetooth, NFC, camera, GPS, etc.This compliance is necessary when the application must use data such as physical and geographical location, etc.
- The best user interface: Since native applications directly integrate with the mobile operating system, perceiving and using all the available hardware features, users can navigate the familiar interface without much hassle, which leads to positive user experience (UX) and stable reuse.For example, now, with a large number of different screen resolutions for smartphones, it is essential to have an application optimized for such a screen so that it is convenient for the user to use this application.
- Better positioning in application stores: The quality of user experience is an important ranking indicator in application stores. If the application has a high rating of user experience, it will be more highly rated by the application store, which leads to more recommendations for different audiences and an increase in revenue from the application, respectively.There is an assumption that in application stores the ranking mechanisms themselves will better represent the applications that are native to the platform, because of their higher performance and ease of use.
Cons of developing native applications
- Expensive and time-consuming development: Without a doubt, the creation of separate applications immediately for each of several operating systems can significantly extend the development process. The same program code cannot be deployed on different platforms, and programmers will need more time to convert and rewrite the code, which increases development costs and time.If a company wants to create separate applications for each platform, it may be forced to hire additional specialist programmers. For example, one developer will focus on developing applications for iOS and another on developing applications for Android, which further increases costs.
- Incompatibility with another mobile operating system: You will have to agree in advance with the inconsistency of your application with other operating systems. The developers use a language specific to the operating system while developing an app: for example, Objective-C or Swift – for iOS, for various mobile devices based on Android – Kotlin, and Java.In this context, the native application, which was initially written for iOS, will not be compatible with Android devices and vice versa.
- Missed Opportunities: Developing applications that target only one platform can lead to missed opportunities. A deliberate reduction in the target market may result in a loss of revenue.
Pros and cons of cross-platform applications
As the name implies, cross-platform entails the creation of applications that can run on various operating systems. After writing the application code, it can be deployed on different devices and platforms without worrying about incompatibility issues. This is a universal approach that is widely used to save time and money.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using a cross-platform approach in developing mobile applications.
Pros of cross-platform applications
- One code is available for reuse on other platforms: The main advantage of cross-platform development of mobile applications is the fact that the same code can be used on different mobile platforms. Unlike developing a native application, a cross-platform application does not require the use of a separate technology stack for each operating system.Code reuse makes it easy to deploy the application on another platform, as the application features implemented on one platform will work on other platforms.
- Development of cross-platform applications is cost-effective: One team can perform the desired idea on all platforms at once, using a single technological stack. This results in lower resource costs.
- Simple and quick deployment: Cross-platform application developers do not need to learn several technical stacks of different platforms before creating their applications, they need to master one development stack, and its application features well.Since there is no need to create different codebases, initial deployment on target platforms is much faster.In addition, future changes to the application can be performed simultaneously, without making individual changes on each platform.
- Cross-platform applications cover a wider audience: Cross-platform applications offer developers more opportunities to reach a wider audience, since such applications reach users of all types and mobile devices, regardless of their operating system. This is significantly more cost-effective for a business than having only one platform.
- Cross-platform applications allow the same interface and UX: While performance is essential for any mobile application, its appearance (UI) and feel (UX) are just as important. Using a single standard team of developers and a single code allows companies to use the same appearance of the application on all platforms. That is, the same user interface and UX will look the same on all platforms.
Disadvantages of cross-platform application development
- Cross-platform applications are not as flexible as native applications: Although the tasks of the application will be implemented on all platforms, most likely, you will not be able to adapt the ready-made application to use the maximum capabilities of each platform. Working with a unified technology stack will not provide the same configuration and optimization flexibility as an application of a technology stack, individual for each OS.
- Cross-platform applications do not work as well as native applications: Using one universal technology stack sacrifices flexibility. However, a loss of development flexibility will mean a loss of ability to improve productivity. Since cross-platform applications give up some flexibility, these applications will not work as well as native applications.
- Possible UI mismatch in different platforms: Appearance of the application interface and proper UI settings to match functionality in both systems can cause problems. For example, each system has its own requirements for the design of UI elements. In some instances, these requirements may be mutually exclusive.
- Sending cross-platform apps to their respective App Stores can be tricky: The mechanism for adding your cross-platform application to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store will be different. The requirements of these app stores for the products presented by them are different. Passing all the checks and following all the rules to comply with both stores will cause certain difficulties.
To summarize. Let’s try to narrow our rather difficult choice between native development and cross-platform.
Pay attention to the promotion strategy of the application and its intended functionality. If you immediately need to reach a larger audience and the application’s functionality is not complicated, it’s easier and cheaper to use a cross-platform approach.
If your application needs to use the specific features of the platform, while there is no need for the simultaneous presence of both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, develop a native application for the chosen platform.
And if your successes show you that you can capture a new market – you will already have funds for development for the second platform. Other intermediate options will be compromises and may tip the scales to both native and multi-platform solutions.
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