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Briefly about Native VS Cross Platform mobile applications
If you’re unsure if your next mobile app should be native or cross platform, you’ll find this article quite helpful
You’ll learn about the advantages and disadvantages of both techniques and which one nearly always provides a superior customer experience
Table of Contents
Let’s get started!
Your App’s Success Depends on Your Customers’ Satisfaction
Prior to discussing Cross platform vs. Native Mobile Apps, you should be aware of one thing: mobile phones are extremely personal gadgets
Have you ever lost your phone and thought, “Oh well, I’ll find it another time”
In general - I am confident you didn’t. When you lose your phone, finding it or getting a new one is your top priority. There are no other priorities to be concerned about at this time
Each day, you have your mobile device with you. Furthermore, if the phone is continuously with you and you need answers quickly, you need it to be responsive and trustworthy. All smartphone users have these expectations
Customers and staff alike have little patience for poor user experiences.
When it comes to mobile, nothing else matters more than the user experience you have. Because cross platform applications might not perform as well as native apps, if you decide to go with a cross platform, be aware that your users’ experiences will be negatively impacted by this
Despite the many advantages of employing cross platform app, the customer experience for mobile devices should be the most important factor to consider. Indeed, one of the most critical decisions a business must make when developing a mobile app is which strategy to use. Your users will be impressed and intrigued by a totally native application that interfaces with their preferred platform (Android or iOS) if you design it
Would you want to design a Minimum Viable Product and make a cross platform app that can be deployed on several platforms quickly?
With this approach, it is more likely to provide a subpar user experience and not the best performance since platform-specific aspects are ignored
Innumerable papers have been written on the subject of Native vs. Cross platform, a bunch of things to conclude:
- Cross platform apps are already common
- Each strategy of development has advantages and disadvantages in equal measure
- Even one source states that one may come up with a definite answer in just five minutes
Whatever decision a firm makes, it is critical to recognize what tradeoffs and obstacles it will face down the road. Here, we’ll iterate over some major points to compare by each of the two types of development: Native vs Cross platform, such as website performance, end user experience, speed to market, release cycle length
Despite the larger initial expenditure, most organizations will benefit of adopting native rather than cross platform in the long term, notwithstanding the disparities between the two development frameworks. For the MVP or the apps looking same both platforms our recommendation is definitely Flutter and cross platform
A Quick Overview of Native and Cross Platform Apps
Native apps designed particularly for mobile devices and their operating systems (consider Objective-C language or Swift for iOS versus Java or Kotlin for Android)
As a result of the app’s development in a mature environment, it not only performs better but also “feels right” in the hands of the user, due to UI/UX decisions
When an in-app interaction “feels correct,” it implies that it matches the appearance and feel of the majority of the other native applications on the device. There is a greater likelihood that the app’s user will become familiar with its functions sooner
Last benefit that native programs offer is their ability to take advantage of the device’s built-in capabilities (GPS, address book, camera, etc) in a more efficient manner. For sure, cross platform frameworkds like Flutter can do that effectively as well, but as an engineer I’d like to have some space in terms of decisions I can make. It’s always good to have as low access to your OS API as possible
For the most part, native apps follow the OS’s rules because they are created specifically for that OS
At their essence, cross platform apps are working in some other way, trying to create a top-level bridge so that you can compile for both platforms
They appear and feel like a native app, but they are really powered by a code which is compiled from mostly JS
To accept limitations or to invest more resources, that is the question
Mobile apps are typically built by businesses that are either trying to keep up with their competition, or that have discovered a previously unexplored commercial potential
Decision makers, for whatever reason, need the app to be constructed and delivered as soon as possible. It’s a well-known fact that in order to meet a deadline as quickly as possible, it’s common make tradeoffs and make snap judgments. While both cross platform and native techniques have their merits, there are a few things to keep in mind before moving on
It is best if a company can wait six months or more before launching an app to use a native method. Since software engineer has full control over the OS and not much is delegated to framework, the most Control over performance, security and user experience - you have full control over that with native. Please, notice that the most not equal to the best, since working with native required deep nuance knowledge
For short-term projects, like MVP or apps which doesn’t have to look natively, cross platform apps and Flutter especially may be a preferable option since there is a shared source codebase. They can be distributed on several platforms, and the development time and effort are significantly less than that of native applications.
However, let me reiterate my word of warning once more:
If you don’t meet your user’s expectations, they’ll go elsewhere. In the end, they don’t care what your team chose. When customers first launch the app, they WILL be looking for ease of use and rapid response time. Having a mobile presence doesn’t ensure the success of the mobile app, but getting out the door does. Companies with a mobile application must continually consider the two primary boosters or detractors of their application: speed and user experience, as mobile app usage has surpassed traditional surfing channels (desktop/laptop). Aside from a few minor exceptions, the native app strategy wins both in terms of performance and user experience when it comes to app creation
Flutter doesn’t have performance issue and developed by Google. Read our related article about Why Flutter is the best for MVPs
The Importance of Optimizing Your App’s Performance
In terms of performance, even the biggest fans of cross platform apps must concede that native apps win the battle
By its very nature, a native app is more responsive than a third party app. That’s because it is using OS abilities directly, when most of the cross platforms - should do that through the proxy code. An advantage of a native mobile app is that there is more control over content, structure, and graphic components on the user’s phone
A cross platform app, on the other hand, most of the time, just has a wrapper (which may or may not be programmed in optimal way)
Server requests (i.e., how many calls been made to one server at once) and load balancing requests (are mobile devices pinging servers that desktop/laptop clients are using, or do they have designated servers) are two significant factors that may have an influence on overall app performance in this situation, since most of the cross platform app are single-threaded. With that being said, it’s pretty hard to achieve true parallelism
According to experts, cross platform apps suffer in the performance battle despite their best efforts
84 percent of users believe performance to be an important or very essential aspect in their decision-making process
User experience is a critical factor in the native vs. cross platform debate. In order to be a success, an app’s user interface must be first-rate
Many business leaders (and some still do) vehemently disagreed with this statement twenty years ago, and for good reason. It wasn’t a differentiation at the time because most websites at the time had bad user experiences if we measure with modern standards. Take a look at the websites of companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo 20 years ago, for example
Today’s software development, on the other hand, is all about the end user. In the reality, this is the ideal frame of mind for a business to adopt:
In order to achieve a result, how can I make my user think they’re in a new app without ever letting them know?
The thing is - users of mobile devices have an easy-to-understand mentality
When they first got their hands on their phones, they had to overcome a high learning curve, and that process was not really smooth. Users don’t want to have to learn new functionalities for other apps once they’ve mastered the basics of their gadgets. Modern users just want to continue using their phone in the manner in which they expect all of its apps to behave in terms of navigation and interaction
For Android, this implies that the application’s controls and interactions, as well as visual cues and gestures, must be flawlessly integrated with your platform’s rich style guide of Material Design
90% of consumers will have a negative reaction to the app, whether it is never using it again or moving to the mobile app of a rival, providing a low rating in the AppStore, or many other things. The user experience trade-off between native and cross platform alternatives must be understood in order to make an informed decision
An operating system native application, as seen above, is one that is optimized for that operating system. When a business decides to create a brand new mobile app, the user experience tailored to the OS is vital to the app’s success
When opening a cross platform application, the app WILL be used on any device, regardless of it’s an Android or iOS. All you need is one user interface. Because you don’t have to maintain two code bases, you save time and money. With only one code base to maintain, cross platform apps developed more quickly and cost-effectively
The user’s experience is a trade-off
There is an inherent difficulty in creating a cross platform software that caters to both the iOS and Android user bases, even if you’ve outsourced or developed on your own brilliant UI/UX design
To the point where, from a design standpoint, each decision becomes a compromise that has to be balanced against other strategic and tactical aspects, their style standards are just too different
Internal plans and release cycles of a corporation should also be considered while deciding which technique to employ. Questions list:
- What is your approach to the creation of mobile applications?
- Is your mobile development program agile (i.e., releasing functioning software at short, regular intervals) or waterfall (i.e., with a turn around time of many months)?
How App Updates Affect Native & Cross Platform Approaches:
Since the frequency you aim to bring items into production has an influence on way to deliver and whether the user needs to take action to notice changes, this is important factor
There are some advanced tools for the Android for e.x which allow it to update app by a portion. Of course the initial code base should be designed in a way to support it, still, this feature is present in native apps
A cross platform application doesn’t have this feature, unless you are updating a custom native module (yes, they support it), but that’s really tricky and not common. Though, again, you are saving money on single codebase and maintenance is cheaper
Native offers several benefits that aren’t currently covered by the cross platform way of development while making a decision on whether or not to go native.
Cross Platform development, on the surface, appears to be a great idea for a small or UI-trivial products
Because of this:
- Single codebase
- As a result - lower budget but still multiple platforms
- Team proficiency is a key factor to whether it’d be smooth or not in production
- For some frameworks, like Flutter, same look for both platforms
- Bugs fixed once, fix applied on both platforms
It’s no secret that cross platform programming is all the rage these days.
But, there are few opposite arguments:
- Native app has more control so might be more customizable
- Native app looks natively to the user
- If you are working on specific software like USB connection or admin app - with cross platform you can’t achieve that
- With a native app, the app’s performance and user experience are clearly superior
If in your case short-term benefits of using a cross platform method may outweigh its long-term drawbacks, that should be your decision. But don’t forget to ask you experts
Is It Necessary to Create a Cross platform App Right Away?
The most common misunderstanding among executives is the idea that an app must be offered on both Android and iOS at the same time.
Although having a presence on both platforms has its benefits, is it absolutely necessary to do so immediately? Take Instagram as an example. Two years to build Instagram’s Android app. It’s been for two years already on the iOS!
The Only Situation in Which a Cross platform Web App Makes Sense
Consider developing a cross platform app if:
- You want a shared codebase
- You need to construct an app in less than four months and you want to test a restricted private market on the feasibility of the app. If the test succeeds, you should switch to native code as quickly as possible and share it with the public. Your time and money are safe if it fails
- Performance at the time being is not a blocker and can be optimised as you move forward
- No preferences on precise look according to platform styleguide. Or you are considering same UI/UX for both platforms
In the end, the bottom line - a company will gain the most from a native strategy in a long-term, but each technique has advantages and disadvantages
This topic is still important since both Cross platform and native systems have apparent advantages and limitations. Due to the ease of updating, the availability of resources and the lower (initial!) budget expenditures, Cross platform applications have a number of votes for them
A disadvantage of Cross platform apps is that they might run into performance issues and be not as customizable as native ones due to lack of OS-level control
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