Native or Cross-Platform mobile app development?

Mobile app development

 

With our world becoming increasingly smartphone-friendly, mobile apps continue to attract more buzz than ever before, which in turn has lead to the boom of the mobile app development industry. From on-demand services to gaming, we now live in an age where pretty much anything is available at the palm of our hand – via a mobile app, of course.

With up to 2.5 billion people projected to use smartphones in 2019, it’s quite obvious that the usage of these devices is a trend which, although prevalent for the past decade or so, will continue to dominate both in the near and distant future. As a result, businesses are keen to jump into the bandwagon of digitizing their businesses, but more specifically, take advantage of the smartphone penetration that is still on the rise, on a large and very much global scale.

Software and mobile app development are intricate areas of expertise no doubt, which present numerous facets that need to be considered before, during and after the process. For now, we focus on analysing Native and Cross-Platform methods of development – and why specifically, the former is better than the latter.

But first things first…

What is Native application development?

Native application development consists of building a custom app for each OS provider, by using its designated programming language. This means that an app needs to be developed for each OS provider – all from scratch. Building a Native mobile app involves adhering to each OS provider’s UI guidelines, to ensure that the app doesn’t just work smoothly over that OS, but delivers a superior user experience.

Android and iOS dominate the market sector of mobile OS providers out there. This means that Native mobile app developers generally need to pay the bulk of their focus for creating apps that run efficiently over these two OS providers alone.

What is Cross-Platform application development?

Unlike its Native counterpart, Cross-Platform application development uses one common programming language to build an app – which is then pushed out onto varying mobile OS providers, and subsequently, smartphones. This means that developing a single version of an app is sufficient, as opposed to multiple versions for each OS provider.

Cross-Platform application development is usually facilitated through third-party tools that feature a stack of necessary programming languages, such as HTML, Java and CSS.

So what makes Native app development better than its Cross-Platform counterpart?

It is easy to assume that Native app development is bound to be more time-consuming and painstaking than Cross-Platform app development, owing to obvious reasons of building the same app multiple times. Add to that the aspect of twice the troubleshooting and maintenance; if a bug is present in one app version, the same needs to be checked for in its sister version, and eventually resolved two times.

On the outside, Native app development seems to exhibit some disadvantageous traits. But is it really so? While it is true that building a Native app would consume more time than a Cross-Platform one, there are numerous advantages which render the former to be far more superior, and ultimately worthy enough for businesses to invest their time and patience into.

Here are the best ways that Native app development trumps Cross-Platform creativity, to deliver optimum ‘quality over quantity’.

  1. Stellar UI and UX

The biggest pro when it comes to Native app development by far, is the quality of output. This primarily refers to excellent user experiences, as the interface of each app has been custom-made to suit the OS it inhabits. While it is much easier to follow UI guidelines laid out by an OS provider through Native development, it is also convenient to access in-built system features – and integrate them into the app for enhanced quality.

Yes, third-party tools that facilitate Cross-Platform app development can offer APIs to suit the app you’re building. However, this may still be compromised as you will not be able to get something that perfectly blends in with the workings of the OS. This can further impede the quality of performance, which in turn, affects how satisfied your users will be upon using the app.

  1. Seamless hardware integration

Through Native app development, other in-built features within the OS and smartphone can be directly accessed. This makes the app perform much more efficiently, as opposed to apps built via the Cross-Platform method – as an intermediate system is required to access these features. This can impact speed and performance, making the app feel cumbersome to use.

For businesses that are looking to sell a product or service, this is a key factor that should influence their decision on choosing to develop their app the Native way, instead of Cross-Platform. For example, if your taxi app takes a long time to load its map, identify your user’s location and hail the nearest cab, consumers are eventually going to feel frustrated, and abandon your app.

  1. Higher approval rates and recognition

Each OS provider features its own set of UI guidelines, which if followed, will lead to your app being approved for access and use. By going Native, it is possible to stringently adhere to all guidelines mentioned – something that is impossible if you’re developing a single app through Cross-Platform software development.

Hypothetically, even if your Cross-Platform app is accepted by the App Store or Play Store, it is highly likely that it may not receive as much recognition as an app developed exclusively for iOS or Android. This is because each OS provider scrutinizes the how well their UI guidelines have been adhered to, and if there are gaps which haven’t been filled, there’s a good chance that they may be placed on the backburner.

With a Native mobile app, this is something that you need not worry about; your app will automatically be given priority by Apple or Google themselves.

But what about the cons of Native app development?

You must be thinking how some of the obvious pros of Cross-Platform app development (and cons of Native app development, of course) can ever be ignored. After all, isn’t the Cross-Platform way of developing apps significantly cheaper? Or how about saving all that precious time that is otherwise wasted in formulating multiple copies of the same app – and then troubleshooting it in the same way?

There’s no doubt that developing an app the Native way will cost more money and time, but it’s important to realize that Native app development is here to deliver quality over quantity. What’s more, in an age where millions of apps a.k.a options exist, users are rendered spoilt for choice. This means that it is absolutely imperative to ensure that your app (and brand) stands out – else you lose out to your competition immediately.

Speaking of the ‘do-or-die’ situation in retaining customers, here is some more food-for-thought, and the debunking of certain misconceptions that surround Native app development.

  1. It’s too expensive

While developing an app Natively will surely cost more, it is done in the interest of delivering an app that is highly engaging, feels familiar and is simple to use. With today’s consumers having a wealth of options to choose from and with the digital space giving every user the freedom to be their own advocate, an excellence in quality is the only differentiating factor that is going to attract users towards your brand – and tell others how awesome you are.

Although Native apps are recommended mostly for larger businesses who have the budget to afford them, it’s not surprising to see start-ups build bespoke and streamlined Native apps – all for the sake of quality. Take the industry of software development in Sri Lanka, for example. As boutique digital agencies sprout here and there, owners are willing to pay extra for incredible performance, and more so ever – a user experience that is extraordinary.

In fact, it is a recent trend that UX designers want their creation to focus first, and merely, on generating outstanding user journeys – without having business development teams pitch in and alter user interfaces to suit sales targets and bottom line growth. As ironic as this sounds, it is a trend that is gradually gaining momentum, and is something that is fuelled by apps that deliver nothing but the very best to its users. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see more and more business owners resorting to Native app development for optimum quality, despite the high cost.

  1. The development cycle is significantly longer

With all due consideration to creating an app multiple times for varying OS providers (each of which have their own set of guidelines, that too), undergoing Native app development is something that cannot be done in short notice. However, it can be strategically expedited, with the likes of Agile project management.

If managed as per an Agile approach, working prototypes of the app can be initially released, and updates can then be introduced gradually; something that leading brands and app developers are already doing. This is why certain features are available much earlier over an iOS app, than an Android one. In addition to that, developing a Native app through Agile project management can also help identify glitches early on in the process, which helps to fine-tune the app.

Therefore, deploying the Native means of building your app doesn’t have to be at the expense of a long timescale; wisely managing the project such that it delivers a working product is key.

  1. Multiple codes need to be created and maintained

Preparing several codes, all for running the same application can seem like a daunting task. However, if you once again consider the qualitative approach Native app development always aims to take, it is easy to see why additional effort and time will be required on the part of your development team.

On the flipside, there are instances when custom code will need to be prepared even whilst partaking in Cross-Platform app development – as one code shall just not suffice. This is turn leads to an equal amount of effort, time and money being invested into the creation of your mobile app, thereby rendering the ‘single code’ mantra futile.

  1. Troubleshooting and maintenance takes extra effort

If multiple versions of an app have been formulated to suit varying OS providers, it’s natural that all troubleshooting, updates and maintenance will have to happen as many times as the number of versions that exist. This feels tedious once again, but bear in mind that performing bug fixes and updates over an app that has been developed the Native way will be much easier, owing to direct integration with the technologies associated to the OS.

This also applies to the scalability quotient of your app. Native apps are easier to scale, and also deliver enhanced results as each upgrade is carried out in consideration to its operating system’s guidelines, and by directly accessing its suite of in-built features such as camera, microphone and GPS.

Last but not the least, OS providers will be encouraged to offer in-depth support to apps that have been designed as per their specific UI guidelines. In conclusion, this is a win-win for Native app developers, in spite of having to repeat the same steps multiple times.

Summing it all up…

Regardless of its demands in terms of budget, time and expertise, Native app development is a sensible option that is assured to deliver superior quality results. Exceptions include basic applications which require little to no in-built feature integration, and are less complex – but don’t form the vast majority of apps.

In an era where choices are abundant and it is all the more easy for businesses and their brands to fall into oblivion, it’s only wise to focus on quality that’s nothing short of the very finest – something that Native app development can successfully deliver for your mobile app. Memorable user experiences are what keep customers coming back for more, and considering the high value that reviews and recommendations are given today, making sure that your app is unique in concept and effortless to use isn’t optional, but essential.