Native or Cross-Platform Development?

When it comes to mobile app development, everyone faces the same question: native or cross-platform?

The choice was not always difficult, since, in the early days of mobile app development, native was the only way to go. Developers typically had to write their app for both iOS and Android separately (if they wanted it available on both platforms). Later, cross-platform tools emerged, but they often left a lot to be desired, in terms of user experience. They’d run on both platforms, but didn’t look “quite right” on either. Now, several cross-platform development tools like Flutter, .NET MAUI and React Native provide developers the opportunity to write code that can run on both, with high-quality look-and-feel. This has contributed to the explosion of mobile app development and the wide availability of applications across Android and iOS (and even other operating systems)

The choice of whether to build your application so that it can run across multiple platforms or tailor it to an operating system’s native platform is not always straightforward. The convenience of cross-platform development may be outweighed by the precision of native. Read on to better understand each development strategy and how to select which is best for you. 


Cross-Platform Development

Cross-platform development refers to building an app based on a single source code that can be run on multiple platforms. This saves time and money since you can create a viable product with one team, one codebase, making it ideal for start-ups and small companies. Below are more reasons to consider cross-platform development, as well as some drawbacks. 


Pros and Cons of Cross-Platform Development

Easier Development and Broad Deployment

The benefits of only having to write code once are obvious: you save time, manpower, and ultimately, money. But the benefits trickle down further when you consider one source code means also cutting down on testing and QA (since there is only one codebase to review). The technology used for such development is also relatively common, making it easy to learn and develop.

Cross platform development allows you to enter the market with a broader reach since you can deploy across multiple platforms from the go. This will help you develop a userbase more quickly by delivering your MVP to market much faster – another reason cross-platform is particularly favorable for startups. 


Reduced Application Performance

The biggest drawback of cross-platform development is that it is not quite as optimized as native development. While you can still develop a high-quality app with cross-platform frameworks, the application size can be larger, and potentially slower. It can also take longer to update the application and keep up with new features rolled out by different operating systems. Each platform requires one or more development cycles to support new features introduced by an operating system update. 


When to Choose Cross-Platform Development

Cross-platform development is a good choice if you are a small business or start-up trying to break into the mobile app world. You can develop an app with similar functionality to a native app at a significantly reduced cost. Even if you have some cash to burn, you may still choose cross-platform development for convenience if your application is not overly complicated. Without complex animation, logic, or requirements, you may not need the technical advantages native app development would provide.

It is also possible to use cross-platform development as a stepping-stone. Releasing a less-optimized version of your application first across platforms can allow you to build a large user base, collect data and perform testing, while you generate revenue or add users. Then, you can use that revenue to re-develop your application in native platforms, taking advantage of the functionality and performance that comes with native development. 


Native Platform Development

Native development refers to building an application specifically for one platform, such as iOS or Android. These applications can only be run on the specific platform it was designed for since it was built with programming tools and languages exclusive to that platform. Native platform development is more tailored and often yields enhanced performance and user experience. It can be costly, though, so read on to determine if native platform development is right for you. 


Pros and Cons of Native Platform Development

Enhanced Application Performance

Native apps can deliver better performance and speed since they utilize the same base technology. This can open doors for enhanced UX, blending well with the platform and utilizing any API or tool the platform offers. Working within the native platform gives programmers access to broad functionality which may not be available in a cross-platform language, which in turn can make their applications more usable or scalable.

Additionally, apps built in the native environment can rapidly take advantage of new features and tools released by the platform, allowing them to stay on top of trends in technology and development. Altogether the benefits of native platform development can be seen in the overall performance of the application. 


Difficult and Costly to Develop

The downside of native apps is that they are costly. In order to launch on multiple platforms, you need multiple development teams and testers working on multiple codebases. Since it is specialized, the development technology can also be more difficult to learn or work with for inexperienced developers. This is one of the reasons it is most frequently utilized by larger companies. 


When to Choose Native Platform Development

If you have the cashflow and bandwidth to take on native platform development, you could be rewarded with enhanced performance and optimized UX/UI. This often results in higher rankings on the app store since customers are so satisfied, so it can be a worthy investment beyond high quality functionality.

However, native platform development does not have to be limited to big companies with money to burn – smaller companies may choose to use native platform development if they wish to target just one platform. For example, in the US, iOS dominates the mobile market, so a small US-focused company may choose to start with just a native iOS application. As mentioned above, it is also possible to reinvent cross-platform apps in native platform development after they have gained some traction. 



Ultimately, the choice between native and cross-platform development is about priorities. The advantages of cross-platform apps fall on the development side, while the advantages of native apps fall on performance and User Experience. Consider not only what you want to get out of the application, but what makes sense for your development team and business.

In general, cross-platform development is easier to get involved in and is a great way to quickly reach more users. It’s great for startups and generally holds its own against native apps. However, once you have developed a strong user base, technical skills, and finances, it may be worth branching out to native development to bring your application to the next level.

If you are satisfied with performance and do not require advanced technology to provide a strong user experience, your application could happily live out its days as a cross-platform application. But even if you have the resources and the skills from the get-go and find high-performance, exclusive hardware features, and trend-adaptation critical, it could be worth starting off with cross-platform development in order to get to a broader market more quickly. 


Let Calavista Help

Calavista Software has experience in mobile application development and can help advise you of your decision or simply develop the software on the platform of your choice – we can work with virtually any technology, with extensive background in tools for both development styles. Email for more information.

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