Should I choose cross-platform app development over native apps?

Mobile Applications

Should I choose cross-platform mobile app development over native apps?

Deepak Sinha

January 3, 2020

Should I choose cross-platform mobile app development over native apps?

Today, the market scenario is heavily driven by the user perspective. According to recent stats, 65% of online shoppers use a shopping app to receive exclusive discounts. The stats make it quite evident that the apps have become an undeniable part of the ecosystem that fuels business growth.

The app development world seems to be divided between whether to offer businesses a responsive website, a native app, a cross-platform app or a web app. But here we have seen that cross-platform mobile app development has gained some traction lately. 

Apps have become an integral part of our lives. We start our day with an app buzz and end up spending 48% of our mobile usage time on social networking, music and gaming apps. The Google Play Store is literally brimming with competitive apps (2.6 million as of December 2018) and the infiltration is not showing any signs of slow down. The worldwide mobile app market is projected to hit $935.2 billion in revenue by 2023.

Cross-platform app development is not unheard and comes across as a panacea for multi-platform mobile platform challenges. They offer supreme performance with just the effort of writing a common code that can be reused for other platforms also.

This article is a comprehensive reply to the unanswered question – “Where does the difference between a native app and a cross-platform mobile app development lie, and how to develop a winner cross-platform app?

Difference between native apps and cross-platform apps

As you may already know, the main challenge developers face with native apps is having to write separate codebases for each platform they wish to target. The cross-platform mobile app development offers a productive alternative to sticking to the native SDKs without actually sacrificing any aspect of user experience:

Operational difference: Mobile apps are generally categorized as per their baseline development strategy – native app or cross-platform apps. A native app is operable only on a mobile platform for which it was built but a cross-platform app can be downloaded and used across multiple platforms.

When a native app has access to native resources of the device like camera and GPS inherently, a cross-platform development app to access these native resources. Essentially it acts as a web app.

Development basics: The code of each native mobile app is written from scratch as each mobile platform supports a particular IDE. Native app development requires tremendous effort when the business intends to target multiple mobile platforms. Cross-platform apps always share a common code base that expedites the cross-platform app development process.

Advantages of cross-platform mobile app development

The best part about cross-platform mobile development is your team is already ready, to begin with, it. With the simple basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, the existing team can start working on cross-platform development. Here are some advantages of cross-platform app development frameworks:

Short development cycle: In the cross-platform mobile development scenario, since a single code base is used for multiple platforms, it offers an opportunity for the developers to reuse almost 50-80% of the code. Such a change shortens both the development and deployment time hence the app market time goes down considerably.

Cost Cutting: As the code is reused, it cuts the time which translates into money. Such usage of code saves the cost of development and gives the app an opportunity to reach a wider audience. It also optimizes resource utilization bringing down the development cost further.

Quick MVP: Minimum Viable Product has become an important part of the development environment. As there is a centralized effort, the MVP launch effort is significantly reduced. The common code base can be used to deliver an MVP then the subsequent features can be added.

Code duplication: A lot of fragmented code is being generated because of the development of native apps. With cross-platform apps, a single code is written which is reused and the debugging effort is also put in the only code base.

Ease of Integration: It is easy to support cross-platform integration using the cloud environment.

What is the core of cross-platform app development?

Tremendous technology advancement has taken place in the mobile app development zone. The cross-platform mobile development is primarily driven by HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. The wonders they have done together have taken the app development landscape by a storm.

Frameworks that support cross-platform app development

The open-source advantage of HTML ensures the cross-platform mobile development scores better in the below areas:

  • Open-source code
  • Active community support
  • Clear and fair documentation is feasible
  • It offers a full array of development tools
  • 360-degree support to cover all aspects of app development
  • Codebase makes the app capable of accessing the native device
  • Many times developers come across proven and tested pieces of code

React Native: Learn Once, Write Anywhere

The popularity of React Native can be assessed by the decorated list of apps that use it. Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Uber, Flipkart, Skype, Amazon Prime, and Microsoft OneDrive uses React Native to render its services across multiple platforms.

It is a JavaScript code library than was release to the now active community in 2013. The development using React Native is very fast and the developers receive tremendous support from the open-source community.

Advantages of React Native

  • Popularity - React Native utilized JavaScript so if you are using React Native for cross-platform app development you have enough talent available in the market for the skill you need.
  • Code efficiency - The React Native UI components can be applied to the code which avoids the need for rewriting the code.

Also Read:
Why is React Native the future of mobile app development?
9 most popular mobile apps built with React Native

Xamarin: Trusted by Enterprise

Xamarin gained significant popularity among the developer community as with Xamarin at the core, the bugs can be avoided bringing the cross-platform app development time down significantly. As the code is reused, the bug multiplication and introduction of new bugs both are controlled.

The app code is written once and reused across multiple platforms which eliminates any chances of introduction of platform-bugs.

As a cross-platform app development tool, Xamarin allows developers to use C# and native libraries with .NET. As the tool is completely integrated with the SDK of multiple mobile platforms, the developers can use commonly available APIs to access native features. At no point does the tool compromise with the performance of the app.

Advantages of Xamarin

  • Best native UX - The UI toolkits of Xamarin can be used to create apps that mock the native experience, and which feels appropriate to the users.
  • Right for large enterprises - Xamarin is a perfect use case of C# and .NET framework wrapped together. The presence of .Net makes it capable of using Microsoft tools making it an enterprise-ready tool to support cross-platform development.

Flutter: Beautiful native apps in less time

Built by Google, Flutter takes cross-platform development to the next level. First released in May 2017, it is at the very forefront of technological development and quickly gaining speed in the developer community. It is in close proximity to the “code once, deploy twice” phenomenon, completely sidestepping native platforms.

Flutter works by compiling Dart source code to native code. An interesting feature of this high-tech tool is called Hot Reload with which changes to the source code of an application can be directly injected at run time, saving one the trouble of recompiling the entire app. It retains the state of the app; therefore, you can code and interact with the app simultaneously.

Furthermore, Flutter app development provides a shared code for platform-specific features such as Android and iOS’s UI design, as well as the option to build plugins. These platform-specific APIs and SDKs can be used natively.

Also Read:
Should I choose Flutter for mobile app development project?
Flutter vs React Native – Which is better for you?

Appcelerator Titanium: Create transformative mobile experiences

Titanium was introduced as a cross-platform tool which slowly evolved into a tool that currently supports iOS and Android native for all kinds of cross-platform apps development also. With JavaScript as the core language, at the time of use, the codebase is compiled into native code to enable the usage of native features.

Titanium and other cross-platform development frameworks differ from the perspective of the browser engine for UI. The Titanium code uses APIs so that its UI elements are converted to native UI elements for a more refined native experience. The Titanium-based cross-platform apps are more fluid and responsive.

The active developer community helps expedite the rollout of apps as the documentation is available in detail. The dependency of the tool is primarily on the APIs making it a very general tool for App development. It is missing a core strength.

Titanium provides its support to iOS and Android but puts a limit on the native features it can access.

PhoneGap: Build amazing apps powered by open web tech

PhoneGap is basically a web platform. It uses JavaScript to use the native features of mobile devices. The developer community considers it a distribution of Apache Cordova. Using the standards of cross-platform mobile development, PhoneGap replies on API bindings to access the native features without any performance barriers.

PhoneGap is popular for its customization capabilities. A highly experienced developer can make a very user-friendly app using PhoneGap. The newbies may find using PhoneGap to its maximum potential little tough. Another advantage of the tool is that it is actually compatible with too many platforms like Android, Windows, BlackBerry, iOS, Symbian and more.

Wrapping Up

The pace at which the app development landscape is changing, it is difficult for the developers and business to match it. However, after a lot of analysis, it seems the cross-platform apps can be leveraged more to deliver the desired ROI as the development time and cost is much lower than the native apps.

Although the native apps win over cross-platform mobile apps on various aspects, the choice is primarily driven by the time and money that is at disposal. The guide laid the advantages of how cross-platform tools can be used, the ball is in your court now.

Deepak Sinha

Written by

Deepak Sinha

Deepak is a hands-on Technology Leader with expertise in designing software solutions for various successful projects for multinationals. He has total experience of 15+ years and has worked on all the phases of application development and has good experience in open source and mobile technologies. He is passionate on new Technologies and has strong interest on Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence etc.