Every developer has found out the hard way how it is troublesome to opt for a native or a cross-platform for mobile development.  Indeed, in a search for an optimal solution, it is easy to get lost in details and discrepancies. For this reason, the following article will save your trouble and clear up short and succinct what is a native and a cross-platform app and which strong and weak points they have.

What is a native app?

Without going into details, a native mobile app is a software programme developed explicitly for one specific platform and installed on the mobile device. Its development process implies using a native programming language (Object-C or Swift for IOS, Java for Android) along with SDKs for a particular platform. In fact, native applications take the priority of utilizing inbuilt features of the chosen mobile operating system. For this reason, native apps can boast with the most vibrant user experience, beautiful presentation, and exceptional performance as well. The benefits of native applications, however, move beyond the above-noted features.

Native app strong points:

 

  • Easy incorporation with native features

 

A native app is the best option for seamless operation with in-built device features such as a camera, a contact list, a GPS, etc.

 

  • Light-speed performance

 

Using native features of a particular device guarantees bug-free and fast performance of an app.

 

  • Integrated and smooth look

 

iOS and Android require different approaches to UI/UX development paradigm. As a result, a lot of functions are peculiar for each platform. Thus, if you want to gain a really smooth look, using native OS features is a must.

 

  • Offline mode

 

Unlike any other app, a native one can run without the Internet connection.

 

  • Support from app stores

 

Before launching, an app needs to get an approval whether it meets the app store’s requirements. In such a manner, when a user downloads a native application from the AppStore or Google Play, he/she is sure about its safety and security.

Nevertheless, being platform-dependent, a native app development entails several tech issues.

Native app weak points:

 

  • Heavy expenses

 

Any native app requires building a separate app version for each mobile platform. This way, such peculiarity of native development tends to be worth a hefty sum.

 

  • Time-consuming factor

 

Building several versions for a native app is a laborious and a long-term process which also depends on the time for drawing confirmation from an app store.

 

  • Maintenance complexity

 

With every upgrade in the platform, the scope of work for developers steadily rolls up. This way, they have to make several testings separately for each platform to handle any compatibility issue.

Tools for native development

After all, to provide a conceptual overview of the native app development, it also is worth mentioning its primal tools and libraries.

Being a closed, secure ecosystem, Apple has a native IOS framework, called Cocoa Touch. In fact, there are also other libraries and tools for different purposes in IOS development. Nevertheless, such library as UIKit is known to be in requisition for building IOS app infrastructure. It comes with Cocoa Touch and provides such native UI functionalities as animation and drawing support, text management and display, accessibility and app extension support, resource management, search support, and many others.

When it comes to the native mobile app development frameworks for Android platforms, there may be some contradictories. Since Android is an open-source mobile operating system, the most frameworks and libraries for Android are used for cross-platform development, too. For this reason, it is irrelevant to name such tools as Android native ones.

What is cross-platform development?

The mobile development market tends to develop exponentially. In fact, the lion’s share of such growth is associated with Android and IOS cross-platform development.

The meaning of cross-platform development shouldn’t be underestimated. The following approach enables users to have access to the service on several mobile operating systems. In such a manner, such app compatibleness contributes a lot to the saving considerable development costs and time.

The cross-platform definition is incomplete without pointing out its types with their pros and cons.

#1 Web

Web applications work in a similar way to the standard web application but with one distinctive feature. They have a mobile app look and a native-like interface. As a rule, web apps deal with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to fit most mobile browser confinements.

Since such apps function within a web browser only, their scope of in-built features is strongly limited. Thus, a web app cannot impress with the fullness of the UI and UX as a native one does. Besides, this app type requires a constant internet connection to provide a user with the access to the content. In fact, making a web application a native-like does a hard way for developers. For this reason, they tend to switch to a native or hybrid type of applications.

Web app pros

 

  • Resource-light development
  • High-level skill set is not required
  • Overall simplicity in maintenance
  • Common code base
  • Compatibility with various devices along with their older versions

 

Web app cons

 

  • Operability in web environment only
  • Limited scope of features
  • Poor UI/UX
  • Lack of offline operation
  • No quality control system
  • Security issues
  • Not listed at app stores

 

 

#2 Hybrid

Broadly speaking, a hybrid app is a middle path between going native and web. With a hybrid app, you can use a single code base that allows you to add new functionalities to any version of the app. It means you don’t have to replicate every new feature separately for each platform. In such a manner, a hybrid app is much easier to build and needs less maintenance than a native one. This is the core difference between a native app and a hybrid app.

This kind of apps implies deploying web applications to the functions of the native platform. It is possible to implement with the help of the tools offering a wrapper technology. They allow putting a web application into the native shell that provides constant access to the native platform functions.

Top tools for cross-platform development

Any cross-platform application requires a development framework or tool that will bridge the platform and the access to native features. Using such functional is essential for building a user-friendly hybrid application.

Such frameworks as PhoneGap, Xamarin, Sencha Touch, Monocross, and Appcelerator rank highly among all cross-platform tools when it comes to a seamless mobile experience.

PhoneGap

PhoneGap  uses a native app container to package an application. In this way, JavaScript gets access to device-level APIs. With the help of PhoneGap, you can create a hybrid app which deploys a single code to various platforms.

Xamarin

Xamarin makes possible to develop a native-looking app for several platforms with the C# shared codebase only.

Appcelerator

Appcelerator provides you with a web content in the native application by deploying a JavaScript code base.

Monocross

Monocross requires only C# and .NET compatibility to build a splendid application supported on multiple platforms.

Sencha Touch

Sencha Touch offers built-in native-looking themes suitable for most platform. Using this tool, you can develop a native-like HTML5 application with the help of the JavaScript.

The following table lists off languages and platforms supported by cross-platform tools mentioned above.

 

PhoneGap Appcelerator Xamarin Monocross Sencha Touch
Platform support Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, WebOS iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows Android, iOS, Windows Android, IOS, Windows, BlackBerry, Tizen
Language JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3 JavaScript C#, Xaml C#, .NET, Mono JavaScript

 

Hybrid app advantages

 

  • Quick and cost-effective development process

 

To build a hybrid app you don’t need to hire a large development team. Moreover, you don’t have to build separate app version for each platform. All of these factors will contribute to the time- and cost-effective development process.

 

  • Less technical demands

 

Hybrid app development doesn’t require to have a command of the specific Android or IOS languages. Indeed, with the help of some frameworks, C# can be sufficient enough to build a native-like app.

 

  • Compatibility with BYOD program

 

If your company has a BYOD policy, a hybrid app is smart solution. You won’t have issues with app compatibility on various devices since a hybrid app is designed to run on several platforms simultaneously.

 

  • Options to package

 

A hybrid app can be packaged both locally and on server side. This peculiarity makes the app operable in online and offline modes.

 

  • Interoperability with short release cycle apps

 

With a hybrid app, users can get updates while navigating through the app without visiting an app store. This comes useful for minor updates that are loaded right away from the server.

Hybrid app disadvantages

 

  • Flawed UX

 

A hybrid app cannot offer a fully native-like experience. A hybrid app doesn’t have access to all native features only which are essential for apps impeccable functioning. In fact, when an app doesn’t make a great first impression, this application is likely to be deleted after a while. For this reason, it is a big challenge for developers to implement a flawless user experience with the help of specific tools and code.

 

  • Performance and efficiency issues

 

Since a hybrid app cannot offer a smooth native-like experience, it tends to be less refined. This may cause some performance lags in high-performing applications. Moreover, hybrid apps have slow performance and page transition, as well as depend on browser speed.

Summing up

Feature Native Cross
Web Hybrid
Platform-independence + +
UX richness + +/-
Effective presentation + +/-
Maintenance + +
Performance +
Offline mode + +
Security + +
App store availability + +
Development time + +
Development expenses + +

 

Choosing the right development platform for Android or IOS may seem quite challenging for you. The following table summarizes the core points of each platform to help you get your wits about the best one.

We hope this general overview of native and cross-platform applications will come in handy for everyone who seeks for an ideal solution for mobile app development.