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Cross-Platform vs. Native App Development

The question of whether to build native or cross-platform mobile apps is a hotly debated topic as mobile continues its dominance in the tech sector. Businesses looking to create mobile apps face an important choice — build platform-specific native apps tailored for iOS and Android or cross-platform apps that function across operating systems. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. Both approaches have pros and cons that must be weighed against business needs and resources.

This article explores native app vs. cross-platform development approaches, helping you make an informed decision about the proper application development path for your company.
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Introduction to Native and Cross-Platform App Development

Before weighing the native versus cross-platform decision for mobile app engineering, it’s helpful to clarify what each approach entails.
Native app development refers to building apps customized for specific platforms — think Android or iOS. For Android, developers often use Java or Kotlin, while for iOS, they use Objective C and Swift. Engineers design different codebases for each platform, allowing them to improve the app’s speed and user experience while adhering to the specific features of each platform.
Cross-platform app development, in turn, involves using a single codebase to extend app accessibility across multiple platforms, employing unified development tools like React Native, Xamarin, or Flutter. This method is preferred since it is less expensive and takes less time to create.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Native and Cross-Platform App Development

In the field of mobile app development, creating both native and cross-platform mobile applications provides distinct benefits.

Advantages of Native App Development

Several features distinguish native app development:

  • Separate codebases for easier debugging. The division of apps into distinct codebases significantly enhances the debugging process. Isolating issues to the specific codebase for each platform allows developers to pinpoint and rectify problems efficiently, contributing to a smoother development journey.
  • Great user experience. Native apps stand out by seamlessly leveraging platform-specific features and functionalities, enabling effortless use of built-in device capabilities like GPS, camera, contacts list, calendar, push notifications, and more. This inherent ability contributes to a superior level of usability, enhancing client satisfaction and retention significantly.
  • App stores’ support. Since native apps get priority access to the most recent platform-specific features and APIs, distribution and monetization on app stores are streamlined for them.

The bottom line is native apps reliably provide the fastest, most integrated, and visually appealing user experiences compared to cross-platform approaches. Still, cross-platform apps provide several options native apps can’t boast.

Advantages of Cross-Platform Development

Cross-platform app development influences on project efficiency and resource management:

  • Reusable code. The core of cross-platform development is code reusability, which has considerable economic benefits — engineers may reuse up to 80% of the code. This way, businesses can optimize resource allocation by reusing code parts between platforms.
  • Lower cost. The cross-platform app release is inherently cost-effective, driven by the reuse of code and, thus, expedited development cycles. The ability to share a substantial portion of code, including backend components and various UI levels, underpins the cost-efficiency.
  • Lower development time. Leveraging code reuse and, thus, avoiding duplicate work for platforms are the main drivers allowing cross-platform development to be faster than building native apps.

The benefit of affordable cross-platform development is a persuasive reason to choose this method when developing mobile applications.

Disadvantages of Native App Development

There are various significant issues to think about while selecting native app development:

  • Higher development cost. Maintaining separate codebases for Android and iOS necessitates different development teams, leading to higher prices.
  • Longer development time. Native app production typically takes more time to create and update.
  • Synchronization challenges. Synchronizing features and bug fixes across different platforms can be challenging. Coordinating the implementation of new features and bug fixes simultaneously across platforms can create logistical challenges due to differences in coding languages, platform-specific requirements, and version control.

Disadvantages of Cross-Platform Development

Cross-platform app development comes with its share of challenges, too:

  • Poor performance. Cross-platform apps may suffer from performance issues due to an additional abstraction layer and code non-optimized to a specific platform.
  • Limited access to device features and APIs. Cross-platform apps often need to catch up in accessing new features, especially for less common or specialized functions.
  • Limited pool of cross-platform developers. Finding qualified programmers may be difficult since it necessitates competence in cross-platform frameworks, knowledge of platform-specific oddities, and the ability to combine code reusability with the requirement for specialized solutions.

Evaluating compromises in light of project objectives is essential for identifying the best method.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Native and Cross-Platform App Development

 

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Consider the following factors when comparing cross-platform vs. native app development approaches:

  • App resource and service access. If your application requires full access to the phone’s resources and services, particularly for tasks such as accessing hardware components, native application development is the preferable choice.
  • Responsiveness. For developing the most responsive mobile application that fully uses the mobile phone’s hardware capabilities, native development offers the best path.
  • Future updates and enhancements. If your goal is to have software that can be easily updated and enhanced with new features in the future, native mobile app development provides the mobility and control you need.
  • Cross-platform development acceptance. If you’re ready to sacrifice app responsiveness for faster development and lower costs, a cross-platform mobile app is the way to go.
  • Complexity and logic. Cross-platform development reduces the creation process for programs that do not require elaborate animations or extensive logic.
  • Testing in the app market. When you have a short window to test an idea and hypothesis in the app market, cross-platform development allows you to develop and deploy the app faster.

Companies like Sigma.Software offer expertise in both native and cross-platform development to support your business needs and streamline the development process.

Best Practices for Native App Development

Certain recommended practices are vital for attaining success in native app development.

Adhering to App Store guidelines

Some of these practices include ensuring your app follows responsive design principles and the other platform’s design guidelines. For iOS, refer to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines, and for Android, Material Design.

Staying up-to-date with platform updates

Keeping your app up to date is critical for maximum performance and user happiness in native app development. To accomplish this, follow these steps:

  • Follow Android and iOS development blogs and release notes to remain up-to-date on new features, updates, and guidelines.
  • Apply advised optimization suggestions as soon as possible to improve app speed and responsiveness.
  • Be aware of API deprecation alerts so that you can make timely changes when a platform stops supporting certain APIs.

This process guarantees that your program is compliant, efficient, and capable of offering an excellent user experience.

Using platform-specific features

Native applications have access to platform-specific functionality built into the device. For iOS, this may mean implementing Face ID for secure app access or integrating with Apple Pay for quick and fast purchases. Another example is Handoff, which allows users to transition between devices (e.g., iPhone to iPad) and continue tasks within your app effortlessly.

Android users benefit from features like Google Assistant for voice commands and fingerprint unlocking. Such integrations help the program feel “native” to the user’s device, lowering the risk of uninstalling.

You can also consult with some of the best React native app development companies on how to architect your app properly. They can provide guidance on structuring your code and components to maximize reusability.

 

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Best Practices for Cross-Platform App Development

As to cross-platform apps — several key best practices of development can make a difference.

Proper testing

When building an app that runs on multiple platforms like iOS, Android, and the web, testing can become more complex compared to a single-platform app. The app needs to be tested on real devices for each platform to ensure it works properly and looks good. For example, testing an iPhone, Android phone, and desktop web browser.

In addition, if the app uses device features like the camera or GPS, these need to be checked on each platform for proper integration.

Maintaining a readable code

When building an app for multiple platforms, the code can get complicated fast. Parts of the code are reused across platforms, while other parts are unique. When code is hard to read, it takes more time for developers to update, fix bugs, or add features. Plus, onboarding new developers onto the project is harder, too.

Maintaining readable code means:

  • Using clear, descriptive naming for variables, functions, classes, etc.
  • Structuring the code in a logical way that’s easy to follow
  • Adding comments to explain parts that may be confusing
  • Avoiding duplicated blocks of code when possible

Selecting the right cross-platform framework

Based on a 2022 Developer survey, Flutter emerged as the most popular cross-platform mobile framework, with 46% of developers adopting it. The reason is it enables rapid development and a quick reload capability, allowing real-time code changes, and making the process extremely efficient.

Kotlin is another choice for cross-platform development, as this framework allows you to share code between Android and iOS, which reduces redundancy. Developers can access user interface components, including the most recent UI frameworks such as SwiftUI and Jetpack Compose.

Xamarin supports the usage of the.NET BCL, providing access to a wide range of tools, libraries, and capabilities. Forms and platform-specific UI components are available across several operating systems. Xamarin has a global network of supporters and is especially popular among C, C++, and C# developers for producing cross-platform mobile apps.

A well-chosen framework ensures your project’s success and aligns with the best cross-platform app development practices.

Conclusion: Making the Right Choice for Your App Development

Choosing native and cross-platform app development is essential and should be coordinated with your business objectives. Consider the trade-offs and advantages of each approach and make an informed decision to create a successful mobile app for your target audience.

IEMA IEMLabs
IEMA IEMLabshttps://iemlabs.com
IEMLabs is an ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 9001:2015 certified company, we are also a proud member of EC Council, NASSCOM, Data Security Council of India (DSCI), Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The company was established in 2016 with a vision in mind to provide Cyber Security to the digital world and make them Hack Proof. The question is why are we suddenly talking about Cyber Security and all this stuff? With the development of technology, more and more companies are shifting their business to Digital World which is resulting in the increase in Cyber Crimes.
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