Types of Apps: Should I Choose Native App or Cross Platform
If you plan on launching an app, one of the first decisions to make is native app vs cross-platform mobile app development. We made an extensive review of both stacks to help you choose.
The sum users spent on mobile apps exceeded $50 billion in the first half of 2020. With the mobile market on the rise, business owners actively shift to digital and pursue new ideas. They have plenty of factors to consider, and tech stack is a primary concern. So, native app or cross-platform?
To choose between the two types of apps, it’s important to know your business. For example, if you intend to launch exclusively in the US, you will probably need to cover both Android and iOS platforms due to their equal share. Therefore, a cross-platform product will cost much less than two native apps.
There are many more nuances, like time, performance, functionality, maintenance, etc. We tried to gather all of them in the most comprehensive form. Here, you will find a clear-cut comparison table, pros and cons, and a “when to choose” list for each option. Let’s begin with definitions.
What is a Native app?
A native mobile app is built exclusively for a single platform (for example, only for iOS). Therefore, it fully meets the requirements of the chosen mobile operating system. More importantly, it can use all of the phone’s features, like GPS or camera.
They are known for high performance, speed, and exceptional UX. However, native apps are also costly and time-consuming. Generally, it is the best option for complicated, large-scale projects, which utilize many device features. For example, PockemonGo relies on GPS, camera, accelerometer, and AR technology. Other native apps examples include WhatsApp, Twitter, and Snapchat.
What is a Cross-platform app?
Cross-platform apps have a single codebase and can run simultaneously on multiple platforms and devices. Usually, 70-95% of code can be reused for different platforms, which makes development much faster and cheaper (you will only need one app instead of, say, two, for iOS and Android).
This is accomplished by using tools like Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin. However, little parts of code still often need to be developed natively.
Many companies favor the convenience and profitability of this approach, but of course, it comes with flaws. It can be difficult to tailor the app to various platforms at once. Performance and UI/UX can sometimes be at risk, and using hardware (microphone, camera, geolocation, etc.) is limited. However, most apps don’t need hyper-performance and sophisticated functions, and would rather enter the market quickly while saving money.
Native apps vs Cross-platform Apps Comparison Chart
Keep in mind, that this is a simplified picture. For example, native development can be cheaper, if you only need one platform. If functionality is too complicated, many features will require native coding, so your budget will not reduce as much. Also, cross-platform apps will not always take less time, compared to the parallel development of native versions.
Let’s define specifics with this full list of pros and cons for cross-platform and native apps.
Pros & Cons of a Native App
- Broad functionality as you will have access to every API and tool provided by the platform
- Built-in compatibility to use a camera, GPS, touch screen, calendar, microphone, accelerometer, gestures, face id, etc.
- Better store support – easier to publish and rank higher
- Increased scalability due to resource management and the variety of available tools
- High performance due to direct interaction of code and the underlying resources
- High speed and stability because the advantages of each platform are being fully used
- No third-party library restrictions
- UI/UX – users will receive familiar navigation because it’s the same as in device
- Security due to support from app stores; for cross-platform apps it’s harder to cover all aspects of multiple platforms
- Offline mode available, except for specific functionalities
- Updates are faster & it’s easier to implement new complex features like AI
- Tech stack choice will not take time and influence the result as much as in cross-platform apps.
- Costly development – you will need two teams and native app developers charge more
- Time Consuming, because you can’t reuse code
- Difficulties with Updates and Maintenance, two separate codebases = twice as many bugs
- More expensive support because you will need twice more employees for that.
Pros & Cons of a Cross-platform App
- Less costly because there is only one team
- Faster development due to 70-95% of code reusing which also reduces the time required to fix back-end bags
- Larger audience –you’ll establish contact simultaneously on different platforms and be able to increase user base in the shortest possible time
- Updates synchronization over all platforms and devices, a bug in the common codebase will only be fixed once
- Easy app support and maintenance – you don’t have to do double work
- UI/UX consistency on each platform for more coherent brand identity, unlike in separate native apps, where it is complicated to fulfill.
- Slower speed due to the additional abstraction layer and rendering process
- Lower performance – relying on frameworks and plugins instead of full integration with the platform has its limits, although modern products can display nearly-native results
- Limited functionality – no access to device features & all the native APIs, often don’t work without Internet
- Delayed access to new features because you need to wait for your programming tool to develop compatibility with them, unlike native apps
- Still requires some native code for more complex products
- Limited UI/UX without the advantage of having integrated native UX components
- Limited support of 3rd-party libraries
- Lack of flexibility to introduce new, especially complicated features
- More complex interaction with app stores, which takes more time, plus each update must also be authorized before publishing.
Hybrid apps are similar to cross-platform but have more limitations in access to device and platform features.
PWA (Progressive Web App) isn’t a real app but a web page that can act as a versatile application.
No-Code tools for mobile application development – SaaS products to help anyone build an app, but of course, with limits.
Choose native app when
- Your service is all mobile or you plan your app as a business in its own right
- You are a big company with an unlimited budget
- The app is a game with complicated interactions and designs
- The competition in your niche is dense and slightly better performance is an advantage
- The app will use most of the phone resources and services (like GPS, camera)
- You need the widest functionality and complexity
- The highest responsiveness is required
- You have plans for much scaling in a long-term
- The app must be able to work offline
- The app will run on one platform (iOS only or Android only)
- This is a business app that manages a lot of corporate and user’s data.
Choose cross-platform app when
- You need an app for two platforms at a budget price
- Your startup needs to develop an MVP fast
- The app is not a core thing for your business
- You want to quickly test an idea and enter the market
- There are no complicated elements and logic
- You don’t need the highest responsiveness
- You don’t use the device’s functions.
There is no universal answer when choosing between cross-platform and native apps. Yes, some app development companies specialize in native apps and will stress their superiority. Similarly, others will argue that a cross-platform approach will save you from unnecessary expenses.
The truth is, different apps have different requirements, and you should only choose what’s the best for your business. We hope this article helped you navigate this complex topic. If you have any questions left, let us assess your project, for free.