In this article we will try to find what is a native application, a cross-platform mobile application and what is a difference. So, during the last few years mobile market mainly divided into several two players and platforms: iOS and Android. To add to these, there are Windows 10, Blackberry (and not yet, but promising Ubuntu touch). Not such a big deal, but still the question is: native apps or cross-platform apps. In this variety of questions you may face two major questions:
- Should you build a native mobile application for every platform;
- Should you instead take a look onto the cross-platform interpretation of the app.
What is the main character of each solution
Before the discussion, we must be sure that all the terms about the difference between these various ways of mobile and web development are understandable and clear. For simplicity, let’s look clearly at each of the two presented solutions.
Native app (NA) – application, that users got on their devices (tablets, phones, watches and other). For the user there is no much difference (in most ways) between the cross-platform app vs native or even web app, but the devil is in the details. Building mobile application allows better user experience, friendly interface and better performance.
Let’s see some common benefits:
- Offline mode. Unlike the HTML5 cross-platform app, for example, the native app can work without connection and show user-required content in offline mode;
- Security and user data safeness. Different platforms often use several encryption algorithms and cryptography, keeping the data safe from evildoers;
- Performance. Native SDKs and APIs cause best performance, fast response and the like. This is where user experience improves, and also it allows to comprehend complex navigation, greater design and simple content searching. In fact, new features and functionality can be implemented easier and in a more accurate way;
- Hardware support. Hardware-dependent features like Force Touch, gestures, NFC and navigation are far easier to realize with built-in mechanisms;
- Ecosystem. Not a secret, that today native platforms are becoming fragmented and tech headliners are trying to build own ecosystem with all devices and application support. For example Google Gmail API that allows to be in touch with your business even from smart watches.
Looking good, but the only fly in the ointment being the fact, that everything has another side. Native applications also got a disadvantage – NAs are not portable and not cross-platform. This means that if you want release both Android and iOS apps, you must hire two developers and build separate apps (though they can utilize same server side), because Android programs will only work on Android devices, and vice versa. So, it will cost somewhat more in terms of time and money.
Cross-platform app (CPA) development (in addition to web development) is an attribute arrogated to software or methods and apprehension that are executes on various platforms. For example, these applications may run on Android, iOS, Windows devices. There are several ways to die trying: mobile cross-platform (using frameworks), mobile site (HTML5) and hybrid (mobile website + native app for every platform). But they all have similar pros and cons.
- Time. Only one conception needed along with development time;
- Costs. Your expenses are initially less, due to the number of platforms you develop for;
- Skills. CPA development decreases the range of required skills and amount of developers.
However, you may spend a lot more than expected in long term because CPA development is not that good in the area of user experience and fast updates. Also, some frameworks have a high entry barrier and in the end you may get poor performance, less interactive interface and limited app functionality options (plus app is not accessible offline). Even though, such giants as Facebook, Twitter, and others, used native application despite the cross-platform apps. Yes, native apps are quite hard to maintain because of separate platforms and SDKs, but this gives much more advantages like: security, great user experience, hardware support and different analytical issues.Today you may disappoint users only because your app loads for a few second longer and this could be the main fact your magnificent app has low success rates at the market. There is no perfect solution for everything, but there is always an option. Everything depends on you needs.