Native, Hybrid, Cross-Platform, and Xamarin Application Development Explained. What Mobile Software Should Your Company Choose?

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 applications with broad functionality and custom design. They help to track calories, watch your home security, conduct enterprise software management, pay taxes, and more. Whereas a user just has to pick the most suitable mobile application, for modern businesses everything is much more complex.

When a company decides to design an application, they have to solve a series of technical, financial, and management problems. It’s a complex process that usually starts with a single question: Which type of mobile applications do we need? Most mobile app development services offer to choose from native, hybrid, and cross-platform solutions that 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 economical and easy to design solutions. Still, everything has a price. Read on for a detailed analysis of each mobile app type.

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.

  • 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.
  • Offline work. Compared to web apps that run only when users have Internet access, native mobile solutions can work offline. They don’t need to connect to a webserver to provide basic functions. It’s a critical benefit if potential users want to use an app without paying for mobile traffic, somewhere off-the-beaten-track, or in an airplane, for example.
  • 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 cost. Your company will need to develop two equivalent mobile apps. This means both an extended development team and the increased cost of development. 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. Software engineers have to create two mobile solutions with the same functionality.
  • Additional testing. Similarly to the development time, native mobile solutions also take longer to test. QA specialists have to check applications on several platforms to ensure their seamless performance.

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 smooth user experience and reduce the risk of being banned from the app stores.

Hybrid Mobile Application Development

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, offline work limitations, and more.

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, hybrid applications cannot use all the capabilities of mobile devices.
  • 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.
  • Offline work issues. The web component in hybrid applications requires constant internet access to connect with the server. Hybrids can operate both online and offline only when they don’t need strong database support.

 

Cross-Platform Application Development

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.
  • 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.

 

Xamarin Mobile Applications as a Cross-Platform Alternative

As it was already mentioned, there are numerous frameworks for building cross-platform applications with Xamarin being one of the most popular. It allows creating core logic in C# complementing it with .NET and Visual Studio components. Depending on the client’s needs, a mobile software development team can design apps for  Android, iOS, macOS, tvOS, and Windows. The best thing about Xamarin is that this framework is free and powered by Microsoft, which means reliable support and high-quality standards. Nevertheless, before starting Xamarine-based mobile software development, make sure to consider its flaws:

  • Xamarin doesn’t save more time than native mobile app development. Xamarin.native requires proficiency and separate coding on both platforms, so the fact it is C# does not help much. You just use C# wrappers over iOS/Android native API. Besides, Xamarin forms have quite limited capabilities and are good for prototype design only.
  • Stability issues. Such cross-platform apps are less stable than native and are more prone to bugs and crashes.
  • Delayed updates. After an iOS or Android update is officially released, Xamarin will need some time to introduce it.
  • Third-party library limitations. Some libraries are simply not available on Xamarin. It may come as a surprise at the last stages of a project, significantly increasing the cost of development.

Regardless of your company size and business domain, application development is a crucial step. Don’t hesitate to contact us, filling out the form to get free consulting.

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