Check out this explanation of Native and Cross-Platform App Development.

Native and Cross-Platform App Development Explained

When a company wants to break into the application market, they’re actively boosting the contact points that they have with their customers. With that objective in mind, it doesn’t make sense for a business to stick to developing only for the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. Yet, developing native app architecture for each of these environments can create huge overhead costs.

Focusing on native development for both environments often leads to a more comprehensive and tailored solution. And, considering the split of 32.1% and 67.2% of users that have iPhones vs. Androids, the market of each is simply too big to just overlook. Due to this, developers are looking for ways to increase development speeds without incurring massive additional costs.

Instead of creating two separate applications, many businesses are starting to use cross-platform development. By using this architecture, businesses can create a presence on the iOS and Android markets simultaneously.

In this article, we’ll outline the major differences that developers will find between native and cross-platform app development. We’ll touch on the benefits of each, while also outlining some of the drawbacks. Let’s jump right into it.

What Is Native App Development?

Native app development is where an application is created specifically for one platform. The vast majority of the time, due to the Duopoly over this market, the platform in question is either Android or iOS. While native app development focuses on one environment, it doesn't mean that they are only going to move into one of these markets.

Often, companies that opt for native app development still want to bridge into as many ecosystems as possible. The only difference is that they’ll be hiring different teams to head up the app development for each system they deal with.

There could be several processes for this:

  • Dual Development - Two teams are hired that both separately work on the application. They’ll have designers and project managers that communicate between the teams to make sure that the final product is similar for all users.
  • Iteration - Once a company has finished one app system (normally Android first, as this has the bigger market share), they then iterate the app into the iOS environment. They’ll use core pieces of their code to rapidly push into a new market, helping to speed up the development process.
  • Pathway Development - This is where a team of developers creates one app from the ground up. Once completed and launched, they then move on to developing for the other platform, once again starting from the ground up.

Native app development was the typical operations method for developers for quite some time. However, the popularization of cross-platform development is starting to change all of that.

What Is Cross-Platform App Development?

Cross-platform development is where developers build a single application that can integrate and be released onto a range of different platforms. Instead of having two different projects, a cross-platform development will have a single source cord that works for both iOS and Android.

A cross-platform app will work from a single code base, yet will deploy onto multiple platforms. The practice of building cross-platform apps has moved to the forefront of the industry over the past few years.

Most of the time, teams of developers will use real-time databases to power their applications. Often, solutions like the Apache Druid architecture will be used to ensure a consistent user experience across different UIs. These are then combined with cross-platform mobile app frameworks, like Flutter and React Native.

What Are the Different Benefits of Native App Development Compared to Cross-Platform App Development?

Both native app and cross-platform app development are able to excel in a range of situations. Most of the time, end users will never be able to tell the difference, meaning the decision comes back to your business and team of developers.

To help you see which is right for you, we’ll move through the benefits of each system.

Benefits of Native App Development

  • Access to New Features - When Android or iOS environments come out with new updates, which they regularly do, apps are able to enhance their offerings. Developers are able to integrate new features as soon as they’re released to the system.
  • Customization - When balancing two environments at once, developers are limited to a smaller range of customization features. Native apps, on the other hand, allow developers to customize absolutely everything. Without having to worry about compatibility, developers will often be able to create a much more specific UI and UX due to their available access to interface components for customization.
  • Performance - Considering that native apps are constructed specifically for the environment that they’re launched into, often have a much higher performance threshold than cross-platform apps. Built for one environment, they can access APIs that are optimized for specific systems and screen sizes. Equally, native apps are often a lot smaller, meaning that they’re faster to download for the end user.

Benefits of Cross-Platform App Development

  • Reusability - Sharing a single code base, cross-platform development has a high degree of code reusability. There is less time, effort, and overhead involved with planning and developing two different apps, as you have a shared pool between each one of them. Once launched for Android, users can compile the app and already have the vast majority of code ready to go for the iOS launch. This completely smooths out the development process.
  • Time-to-Market - When developing a single code base for your applications, you have much less work to get through than when developing two completely different applications. This will result in a much faster TTM, which especially benefits companies that are in a time crunch.
  • Cheaper - Cross-platform app development can cut app development costs by upwards of 30%, ensuring that your business doesn’t have to spend as much to get your apps on both the Apple App store and Android store.

Final Thoughts

Both native app development and cross-platform app development come with their unique range of benefits. While native has been the go-to solution for several decades, cross-platform is quickly becoming the industry’s #1 choice.

That said, there some certain disadvantages to cross-platform app development that native developers won’t run into. Depending on the main objectives of your business and your timescale, budget, and goals, you might end up opting for native development.

Whichever one you opt for, you’ll still be able to create highly-functional apps for several mobile environments.