Native vs Cross-Platform Development 2019

With articles like A Simple Guide to Hybrid and Cross-Platform Mobile Apps and A Simple Guide To Native Mobile Technologies, it’s time to wrap up the two distinct paths one can choose when developing modern applications in 2019. That is, applications that are compatible with phones, desktops, watches, foldables, VR/AR devices or any other device the future might bring for all of us developers to deal with!


Before diving in, let’s just recap what native and cross-platform development entail.


Cross-platform development

Building a cross-platform application is a fancy way to say that you develop an application using an intermediate programming language like JavaScript. Then, you will use a wrapper for native apps so your JavaScript application can run on Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows or another operating system. There are multiple frameworks that can pull this off, most notably Ionic, React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter.


On the pro side, cross-platform apps have a similar look and feel to a native app, making it very hard to differentiate visually between them. Furthermore, it is possible to share code for app development on multiple platforms. The time required drops dramatically when you build on only one codebase. This is what makes cross-platform apps cost-effective for both development and maintenance. Additionally, a cross-platform app can even access the device’s hardware to almost the same extent as native apps, making it both flexible and scalable.


On the con side, interface customization is sometimes tedious and is completely dependent on the framework (Ionic, React Native, etc) that developers used to create the cross-platform application. What’s more, the performance is not always as good as native apps. That is because the intermediate programming languages lag and has its own performance cost.


Native development

Simply put, building an application natively is when you use the same programming language to build the application, as the OS you want it to run on. For example, Google’s mobile operating system – Android – is developed in Java. So, if you want to develop a native Android app you will code in Java.


On the pro side, native applications are faster and have a similar native feel as other applications running on the device. That is because there is no need to use a wrapper like cross-platform applications to interpret or translate from one programming language to another. In addition, the UI of native apps is almost always in accordance with the design language of the operating system they are built for. That is because they have direct access to the operating system’s APIs.


Native apps are also typically more scalable. This is because the apps can use the underlying hardware (accelerometer, GPS, etc) far more effectively. This often makes native apps more future-proof. Speaking of hardware, native applications have no limitations when it comes to using phone hardware. If required, native apps can access features like USB input, memory management, complex networking, etc.


On the con side, native applications have higher maintenance and development cost associated because they are built for different operating systems. In other words, developers build and maintain applications on multiple codebases. For example, a native iOS app cannot run on an Android phone and vice versa. In addition, no code is shared between the versions of the apps for the different operating systems. Therefore, native apps are more time-consuming and costly.


When to use Native and when to use Cross-platform frameworks?

Every time you choose to do something, you also choose not to do something else. All the development techniques and methods have their pros and cons. So, the best option for you is entirely dependent on your project. When you decide what is right for you, Wiredelta splits between the following three considerations:

  1. One vs multiple platforms
  2. Price
  3. Technology


1. One vs multiple platforms

In order to decide which direction to go when choosing a coding framework for your app, you just need to answer the following question:


Is it crucial for your business to be available on multiple operating systems, or are you more niche-focused building an exquisite experience for each operating system?


If it is important for your business to have an application that can run on different operating systems then the answer to your problems is cross-platform application development. It gives you the convenience of developing on just a single codebase that you can then deploy to any operating system.


Contrarily, if your target group consist of people using predominantly iOS or Android devices, then you should focus on native app development. In this way, you will be able to create a superlative user experience.


2. Price

As we already concluded, native development is more expensive than cross-platform when it comes to developing, testing, launching and maintaining an application. But there is, of course, a reason for that. High quality always comes with a higher price tag.


That doesn’t necessarily mean that cross-platform app development should be underestimated just because it is the cheaper option. Most of the time, it is not even possible for the user to distinguish if the app uses native or cross-platform frameworks. Many companies decide to go cross-platform and then invest the money saved to build out more features for their users, faster.


3. Technology

You need to make sure you have the people to support whatever technology choice you make, both now and in the future.


If you have developers that can work with native programming languages like Java/Kotlin for Android or Swift/Objective-C for iOS development, then great, you should definitely consider going native. If you have developers – or access to developers – that are familiar with cross-platform frameworks such as Xamarin, Flutter, React Native, Ionic, etc, then you should consider going with a cross-platform framework.


In other words, it all comes down to the people you work with.


At Wiredelta® our weapon of choice is cross-platform development as it is fast, cost-efficient and enables our developers to be truly full-stack. We are well versed in Ionic and React Native mobile apps, but Flutter and PWAs are not challenges that we would avoid. So if you have a project you want to start, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.


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