Native, Hybrid, and Cross-Platform Application Development Explained

, Nov 14, 2019

Have a question?

It’s hard to imagine that over a decade ago, users perceived mobile applications as something sophisticated and unusual. With the increasing mobility and improved Internet access, mobile solutions have turned into a global trend. According to recent statistics, Google Store offers over 2.7 million of mobile applications with broad functionality and custom design. They help to track calories, watch your home security, conduct enterprise software management, pay taxes, and more. The average mobile user installs 35 apps on his smartphone and often picks them without any criteria. However, for the business that decides to develop a mobile application, everything is more complex.

After conducting business research and coming up with a unique mobile app idea, the company has to solve a series of technical, financial, and managerial problems related to mobile app development platforms. It’s a complex process that usually starts with determining an approach to develop the application and the choice between a native vs. hybrid vs. cross-platform solution.

To help you with the decision, we’ve prepared an article on native apps vs. web apps vs. hybrid apps. Learn the main differences between these options and choose the best one for your project now.

The Secret War of Mobile Platforms: Native vs. Hybrid vs. Cross-Platform

While tech businesses compete for app users, technology providers compete for tech businesses. This has led to the emergence of native vs. hybrid vs. cross-platform application development alternatives. Depending on the preferences of the customer and project requirements, mobile app development services pick one of these approaches.

Native, hybrid, and cross-platform solutions have a range of subtle differences. Whereas Android and iOS native mobile applications are the reliable classics of mobile app development, cross-platform and hybrid apps are offered as more financially efficient and easy to design solutions. Cross-platform and hybrid app development is considered a cost-effective shortcut with limited functionality.

Read on for native vs. hybrid vs. cross-platform development comparison and detailed analysis of each mobile app development approach.

What is a Native Mobile App?

Native apps are solutions developed for a specific mobile device (e.g., smartphone, tablet, etc.) and installed directly on it. In most cases, they keep working offline and can perform the core functions without an Internet connection. Speaking of native apps, we usually mean solutions for iOS or Android devices since these are the most popular mobile operating systems. Unlike hybrid or cross-platform mobile applications, native apps can be used solely with the system they are designed for. Although this entails additional expenses, such a peculiarity also means greater reliability, higher security, and broader capabilities.

Native Android and iOS Mobile App Development

When a company invests in building a native Android application, most probably, it simultaneously develops an iOS analog. It’s a required step, since today, 22.48% of active devices run on iOS, whereas Android OS accounts for 76.24% users. Although it may be more expensive to manage mobile app development for two separate versions, in the long run, native mobile apps always pay off. As to the technology stack, Kotlin and Java are most commonly used for Android native app development. iOS applications are based on Swift and Objective-C programming languages.

Advantages of Android and iOS Native Mobile Apps

  • Flawless performance. For native mobile applications, a mobile development team uses the core programming language of the selected platform and native APIs. Besides, such mobile solutions are well-compatible with a mobile device itself, which makes them much faster and stable. Native Android and iOS apps have no speed limitations, which is crucial to design solutions with intensive graphics or a large scope of potential users.
  • Reliability and security. Whereas hybrid and cross-platform apps rely on underlying technologies, a native application uses a single platform. This means that native solutions meet the demands of the established quality control system and are less likely to have bugs. When it comes to security, Android, and iOS apps convincingly win in the native vs. hybrid app development competition.
  • Easy integration and advanced functionality. The hardware of mobile devices has numerous capabilities that can enhance your mobile app functionality. With a native Android or iOS app, you can easily integrate with the mobile hardware to use a camera, GPS, bluetooth, or accelerometer.
  • Extensive developer community. The software development process is never easy and may have unexpected pitfalls. Therefore, it’s always better if you can choose from a large pool of qualified developers and constantly keep in touch with the global community. Being the most popular mobile development solution, native apps boast strong worldwide support ready to back you up.
  • Improved UX/UI experience. Since native mobile apps are more easily customized than hybrid or cross-platform solutions, they offer a better user experience. A mobile development team can easily adapt the interface to user preferences and behavioral patterns making it unique.

Drawbacks of Native Android and iOS Mobile Development

  • High development and maintenance costs. Your company will need to develop two equivalent mobile apps. Thus, a native mobile app development means both an extended development team and the increased cost of the project. Besides, once the apps are launched, you will need to constantly update each version and provide maintenance.
  • Increased development time. Since native apps are usually more complex than hybrid or cross-platform, the development process takes more time. For native mobile app development, software engineers have to create two mobile solutions with the same functionality.

pros and cons of native application development

Final Verdict on Native Mobile Application

Taking into consideration all the pros and cons of native applications, software engineering experts recommend to go for native app development, as it provides a lot of opportunities for customization, facilitation, and optimization. These apps guarantee a smooth user experience and reduce the risk of being banned from the app stores. They also have better performance than hybrid and cross-platform apps and allow users to benefit from the full capabilities of the hardware.

Hence, if you choose between native application vs. hybrid application, the development budget may be the only obstacle to building native apps.

What is a Hybrid Mobile App?

The essence of hybrid mobile applications is the combination of a native application wrapper and web components. Based on Javascript, HTML, and CSS coding languages, hybrids behave like native mobile apps. Nevertheless, such an app has only a native wrapper, whereas the data is loaded from the server. This results in a range of problems, such as increased vulnerability and others.

Hybrid Mobile Application Development

The key difference between native and hybrid apps is the availability across platforms. Whereas native apps are developed for each platform separately, hybrid app development is about creating solutions combining several technologies.

This simplifies product maintenance and speeds up the hybrid app development process. As to the working mode, both hybrid apps vs. native apps can perform some of their functions offline.

Advantages of Hybrid Mobile App Development

  • Cost-effectiveness. Hybrid mobile app development may be faster and, hence, cheaper, since you don’t have to invest in two full-fledged apps. Thus hybrid applications may be an optimum solution for companies with a limited budget.
  • Portability across platforms. Your mobile app development team will not have to develop separate apps for each platform. A hybrid app supports the majority of leading mobile platforms with quite decent performance.
  • Shared codebase. Hybrid apps are developed from a single codebase, which makes releasing a new version much easier.

Drawbacks of Hybrid Mobile App Development

  • Limited functionality. Whereas native mobile apps have seamless access to hardware, usage of all the capabilities of mobile devices by hybrid applications is much more complicated and time-consuming to implement.
  • Poor user experience. Remember that the look of any hybrid application is something in between an Android and iOS app. This ensures its portability but considerably harms UX/UI design, as it’s impossible to adapt the app to both platforms.

Pros and cons of hybrid apps development

Final Verdict on Hybrid Mobile Application

To pick between hybrid vs. native apps, consider such factors as cost of development, functionality, and performance. If you want to cut expenses as much as possible, a hybrid platform will be more suitable. But get ready to sacrifice other things.

As to the functionality of a native app vs. hybrid solution, native software development wins. Since native applications are tailored to a specific device and operating system, they can leverage the capabilities of the hardware and provide users with additional features. In terms of performance, hybrid apps are also slower than native solutions for the same reason. The quality of webview that affects the UI display and runs the JavaScript code depends on the device.
The scope of the features will only depend on the type of an app.

A Cross-Browser Solution You Might Be Interested In

Despite being more rarely used, cross-platform development may also serve as an alternative to native apps.

This type of application is developed with cross-platform frameworks and CSS/HTML components. HTML and CSS are used to create design elements, whereas the core of an application is based on JavaScript. Although cross-platform solutions are often confused with hybrid apps, they have much broader capabilities. The thing is that hybrids use the application wrapper for running containers via frameworks, whereas in cross-platform apps, the wrapper includes native components.

Advantages of Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

  • Reusable code. Like with hybrids, cross-platform app developers won’t need to write code for Android and iOS separately. The single code can be customized for all platforms and partially used in future projects.
  • Reduced time-to-market. Since it takes less time to design a cross-platform solution, your team will be able to launch a product slightly sooner than a native app. This makes cross-platform app development a popular option for urgent projects.
  • Native-like user experience. When hybrids are only 40% similar to native apps, cross-platform applications have nearly 80% similarly.

Drawbacks of Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

  • Slow speed. Cross-platform apps are 1.5 times slower than their native counterparts and 2 times slower than hybrids.
  • Heaviness. Compared to native apps, cross-platform use more device resources increasing the load on the hardware.
  • Integration difficulties. Due to the use of native and non-native components, cross-platform applications may have problems integrating with target operating systems.

Advantages and disadvantages of cross-platform app development

Final Verdict on Cross-Platform Development

If you cannot decide on native app vs. cross-platform development, analyze the functionality of the future app. For solutions that require full access to the resources of the phone and responsiveness, build on iOS and Android. If you are ready to put up with a less responsive app that doesn’t have complex animation or complicated logic, cross-platform development will work.

Speaking of hybrid vs. cross-platform, the choice will depend on your expertise. Both options have worse performance and capabilities than native apps. Since cross-platform solutions use a native rendering engine, they provide a closer-to-native user experience than hybrid applications. Their compatibility with the native apps installed on the device is also better. Still, to develop cross-platform solutions, you may need to learn a new language or approach, which is time-consuming.

Summary

In this article, we inspected the main features of native, hybrid, and cross-platform app development. When you select the approach to build a mobile application, always determine the purpose of the app, resources on hand, time, and budget first.

As was mentioned earlier, the mobile applications market is full. Therefore creating an application tailored to the customers’ needs with high-quality user experience and great performance is one of the best ways to win the audience (unless you have an exceptional idea). In this case, native app development would be the most suitable approach.

At the same time, if your business goal is to get the app to the market as soon as possible, then you better opt for cross-platform app development. And the last one, if you have a brilliant mobile app idea but your budget is limited, building the hybrid app might be right for you.

Do you have more questions on choosing the mobile app development approach? Or you want to talk to a mobile development expert? Don’t hesitate to contact us, filling out the form to get free consulting.

Share on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Twitter