It’s usually the first question to pop up when mobile development projects begin their initial pre-planning phase, whether to build the interface as a cross-platform app or a native app. As a developer, they will need to take a step back and think through a few considerations prior to developing the software.
The article below examines the pros and cons of Native versus cross-platform application development in order to help decide which is the best approach to take for your mobile project.
Native Application explained
Native apps are written in a programming language that is platform (think iOS or Android) specific. For example, Objective-C or Swift is the programming language most used for iOS (Apple devices), and Java is the language used for Android devices (Samsung, Pixel, OnePlus, Moto)
Cross-platform Application explained
As its name implies, a cross-platform app is a mobile app that combines a local programming application (a Native “wrapper”) to run a web application inside of it. This means that web applications are able to run on a mobile device and have access to some of the device’s features such as the camera or GPS functionality.
Third-party tools (e.g., Flutter, Apache Cordova, Ionic, etc.) have come along to create cross-platform applications to run on iOS or Android systems.
Progressive Web App (PWA)
In short, a PWA allows you to install an application directly from the browser window and works much like a native app with similar offline capabilities.
It delivers a native app-like experience to app users, using current web capabilities. These apps are deployed to servers, accessible via URL-s and are indexed by search engines. All the criteria to meet PWA standards.
Why choose a Native App
Among the advantages, Native apps excel in:
- Native SDKs allow access to most device features without the complexity of dealing with individual native plugins. The SDK gives access straight out of the box on new devices.
- Fewer dependencies on open source libraries and platforms like Ionic and Cordova.
Drawbacks to Native Apps
- There is a separate development time (effort) to code for each platform on the market. This includes development for each version of each mobile platform.
- Each platform has its own release cycle, which will add to development time and cost.
- Because of the existing variations in the code base, releasing the same feature in all platforms, concurrently is a major challenge.
- Eventually, you will need different skillsets to develop and maintain the same application on each platform, ultimately adding to the overall cost.
Choosing a Cross-platform App
- The convenience of all platforms being written using a single code base. This means your developers will write one code, and it will run anywhere, unlike the Native app having to change for each platform.
- Using one development team to deliver the app that is platform agnostic, including the website, as it runs using web technologies.
- The developers have options as the same app can be run on a browser, much like any website or run as a PWA (Progressive Web App).
- Aside from the HD graphical resolution, cross-platform apps have the same performance acceleration (hardware-based) as native apps
- Offers identically the same user experience (UX) across all platforms regardless if the user moves from device to device or browser to browser.
Drawbacks to Cross-platform Apps
- As noted earlier, for most applications, performance remains the same as native apps. Lower than average performance does occur with 3D, HD games, and high graphics-oriented requirements, for example.
- Cross-platform apps are great to be able to access all the essential features like touchID, media, etc. but they are dependent on native apps regardless. On occasion (more often than not), a device feature will not be available as readily as a native plugin. Developers would have to write their own, but this will add to the overall cost.
- There are dependencies on a variety of libraries and frameworks (e.g., Cordova, Ionic, etc.), which must remain in sync with the latest platform changes, versions, and releases.
To Meet PWA requirements
- Progressive – it has to work for every user. Regardless of browser choice it must be built with progressive enhancement as its core tenet.
- Responsive – It must fit all form factors, desktop, mobiles, tablets or any new display coming on the market.
- Connectivity – Enhanced with service workers to compensate for offline or low latency quality networks
- App-like – It must use the app-hell model to provide app-style nav and interactions
- Always fresh – Must always be up to date using service worker update process
- Safe – Delivered via HTTPS to stop prying eyes and to ensure content remains secure and untampered.
- Discoverable – Must be identifiable as ‘applications’ according to W3C documentation
- Re-engageable – It must make re-engagement easy using features like push notifications.
- Installable – It must allow users the ability to retain apps that they find practical on their home screen without the need of going through an app store.
- Link-ability – The app must be shared easily through a URL and designed not to be a complex installation.
How Ignite can Help Your Project Development
One of the programming languages used by our team is Flutter, created by Google, based on their Dart programming code.
Flutter enables a smooth and easy cross-platform mobile app development. You will not need to develop an iOS and Android app separately. All you need is the one codebase for both platforms.
This increase in productivity comes from Flutter’s “hot reload”. Together, this process allows developers to see changes they make to the state of an app in less than one second, and changes to the app structure in less than ten.
By using the same app for both platforms, it will require significantly less testing. The Quality Assurance process will be faster. With only one codebase used, the developers are only required to write automatic tests only one time.
Your new app will look the same, even on older, previous versions of Android and iOS systems. There are no additional costs for supporting older devices. Flutter runs on Android Jelly Bean or newer, as well as iOS 8 or newer.