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Native vs cross platform mobile development what is better?

As of March 2017, the total number of mobile applications available at two major app stores reached 2.8M and 2.2M at Google Play store and Apple App store respectively. Furthermore, Statista foresees that the projected mobile app sales will skyrocket to about 190BUSD by 2020 with games accounting for more than half (105.2BUSD) of projected revenues.

To top it off, Facebook made the headlines as its Messenger reached its absolute hot in October 2017 becoming the most downloadable app across the US.

Depending on your business goals and budget at hand, you can consider a few ways for mobile app development. Let’s deep dive and find out what the different types of apps are there trending on the market.

This snapshot from Statista is just for your ref:
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Native App Development

Tailored specifically to a certain app store, native application development is an industry standard for mobile app creation. Native applications are written for either of mobile operating systems being it Android or iOS. If your app has tons of animations (images, audio or video) and requires building a smooth, highly responsive user interface, then going for native should be the best fit.

Pros of Native App Development:

  • Native applications can relatively easy work with native APIs of a device e.g. camera, geolocation, in-app purchases, or push alerts due to full integration with mobile devices. If your end goal is a game or a high-performance application, native apps will give you a feather in your cap;
  • When creating a native app for iOS, you have plenty of perks that allow you using many resources, development tools, and support materials to sail through mobile development project: Apple is on a mission to flourish their brand even more so the company makes their UI libraries available to help you with heavy lifting.
  • Often times, native apps do not necessarily need an Internet connection to function. It is certainly a great advantage native apps have over hybrid ones if a user has no access to WiFi or mobile data.

Cons of Native App Development:

  • If you plan to generate revenues from both Apple and Google Play stores, you’ll need to spend time (read money, too) on creating an app for each of the platforms. Larger headcount of your team means more billable hours that you’ll have to pay for from your pocket. And another thing: some of the functionality might be first available for iOS and only later on launched on Android unless you do all in sync and parallel the app development for both the stores;
  • Native platforms have their own set of rules and restrictions you’ll have to abide with and not only. The knowledge of your team members might appear quite limited unless they spent hours on mobile development exclusively, so mind the learning curve that might be not that smooth and generate higher expenses for your wallet;
  • Since iOS, Android as well as other operating systems are locked to proprietary tool suite, you’ll not be able to transfer the hard work from one platform to another: e.g you’d be required to define individual layouts separately.

Cross platform app development

Developing cross-platform apps is like being a Jack of all trades. This type of mobile applications is created for all platforms at the same time and can be adapted to all major gadgets. To keep it simple, in cross platform development with the help of HTML5 and JavaScript developers are able to create some sort of ‘mobile web pages’, separate page templates that are bound together by tools like Xamarin Studio, PhoneGap or Qt among others. Cross-platform apps use a browser engine to function.

Pros of Cross-platform app development:

  • Quick to create, for example, if you’re looking for a way to test the waters with your prototype. The best part is that you can later reuse the code you create with thorough planning. A cross-platform method is relatively inexpensive if you compare it to a native app development process where you start from ground level and create an app for each platform;
  • Cross-platform development helps programmers concentrate on one single code base that can run on multiple mobile platforms. One code means easy bug-fixing across all the stack. Moreover, as a byproduct, you get your app in front of a larger audience of key users quickly.

Cons of Cross-platform app development:

  • The app creation is rapid, but the ability to interact with the device’s hardware, features and services is tricky;
  • The app performance might not be great at all times and cross-platform apps drain the phone battery faster
  • Look and feel of a cross-platform application will need to be combined into one which could be quite challenging when you need to account for both iOS Human Interface Guidelines and Android Design Guidelines.

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Hybrid app development

Hybrid app development combines best of both words and unites the cross-platform capabilities of JavaScript to deal with the content of your application and create the native-like menus and other interface elements that need high responsiveness and performance. When choosing a hybrid mobile development model, you can save up on resources required to build an app and reduce the time to market while still being on a budget.

Pros of Hybrid app development:

  • Short learning curve or none at all is definitely a benefit of this type of development for your team does not need to master any platform-specific programming language to create a hybrid application;
  • Since you don’t have to develop a separate app for each platform, you save up big bucks by tapping into both iOS and Android simultaneously;
  • As the application evolves, specific screens can be upgraded from cross-platform elements to native.

Cons of Hybrid app development:

  • There are several layers of abstraction in hybrid apps, so with some functions, they may work a bit slower than native ones;
  • While your engineers won’t have to learn any additional programming skills, development of hybrid app still requires extra effort to replicate the native look and feel;
  • UI can affect the performance of a hybrid app. No doubt, you can use CSS to smoothen the edges but it’s unlikely to help with viewing an animation, for example.

These are just some handy tips to give you an idea of what might work best for your mobile development endeavor. It’s wise to use this high-level observation together with insights from a technical subject matter expert to weigh all the options at hand and plan out the app development process carefully.

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