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Native App Development or Cross-Platform App Development: Which Is the Best Option for You?

When it comes to mobile app development, developers have to make a lot of choices right from the concept, including the look and feel of the app and the way it is promoted.

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One such decision that has a significant impact on the way your app works is the platform to develop your app. You could either develop a native app for a particular platform or create a cross-platform app that can be downloaded and installed onto a variety of mobile platforms.

Both native app development and cross-platform development have their own merits and demerits. The best option depends upon various factors, including your needs.

So, here is an overview of both modes of development to help you choose the right option for you.

Native App Development

Native apps are those that are tailored to one specific mobile platform, such as iOS, Blackberry and Android. They are typically developed with the help of the formally prescribed development tools and languages that the target platform supports.

For example, XCode and Objective-C are used for iOS apps and Eclipse and Java are used for Android apps.

Some of the pros and cons of native app development are given below.

Pros

  • Native apps provide better performance, look and feel.
  • Native app development lets you take advantage of the new features and platform-specific features provided by the underlying OS. They can support features like fast and fluid animations, full access to phone hardware, multi-touch APIs and all the latest APIs.
  • Native apps have a better user experience and are easy to use.

Cons

  • Building native apps is not easy because the code is written for a specific platform and is usually not shared.
  • The development process can take a long time for complex apps.
  • Native app development can be costlier; for example, to develop iOS apps you have to make an investment in a Mac PC and have a paid iOS developer account.

Cross-Platform App Development

When you develop a single app and want to deploy it to multiple platforms without making changes to the code base, you can go for cross-platform app development which is also known as hybrid app development.

It lets you write apps in one language and then translate the apps to the machine code depending upon the target machine. It follows the “write once, run everywhere” philosophy which lets developers create apps quickly.

There are also slight variations within the cross-platform approaches. The first approach is a complete cross-platform approach where you create mobile website apps using HTML.

This approach is popularly known as hybrid app development and it lets you share code between the different platforms and lets you save a lot of money.

However, this type of development makes it hard to include platform-specific user experience features and the performance is slow since the JavaScript code will run sandboxed in a web view.

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Source: Flickr

Hence, you have to be extremely careful about including high-end graphics, animations, pictures and other performance-related functions. The second approach lets your app have a cross-platform core that interacts with native views.

The code is written in such a way that it has a well-defined interface to reuse the code and access the information on different platforms. This approach lets you have a native UI/UX and provides the cross-platform functionality.

Cross-platform apps can be built using frameworks like PhoneGap, Titanium, Xamarin and Corona. These frameworks provide the necessary APIs to make your app work on different platforms.

Pros

  • Cross-platform apps are easy to develop, have a lot of support and are inexpensive.
  • This lets you reuse code.
  • The time taken to develop apps for multiple platforms is drastically reduced.

Cons

  • These apps have limited functionality, including limited graphics, and performance issues.
  • It is not suitable for using in-built components and platform specific UX provided by the underlying OS.

Comparison of Native App Development and Cross-Platform App Development

No single mode of development suits all cases. The general consensus is that cross platform is your best option, if you want to prototype and launch a simple app in various platforms, and that native development is the best choice, if you want to exploit all the features provided by a particular platform and provide a high-quality and high-performance app.

Here is a comparison table to help you visualize the differences between the two approaches.

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Which mode of development do you think suits your needs? Do mention your thoughts and give feedback in the comments section.

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