So, you’re currently explaining to some software company the features you need in your mobile application, you’ve given them your requirements document and, from a business perspective, you’ve probably thought everything through, right?
They tell you it’s all doable based on what technology they will use then they pop the question: “Do you want your mobile application to be cross-platform, hybrid or native?”
Confused? understandably so, but not on our watch. We want to help you pick the best technology to go with, taking into consideration your timeline, budget, and requirements.
Whether you have quite the technical background or not, you will learn everything you need to know to make your decision on whether you need a cross-platform, hybrid or native mobile application.
Native Mobile Applications
What are they?
Building a native mobile application, simply, means building the software application using a programming language native to the operating system.
Such mobile apps can use the device’s software and hardware to provide powerful features. If you want to create mobile applications accessible by both Android and iOS users then you will actually be building two mobile applications, one for each device, otherwise, your application will only appear in either the App Store and Google Play, but not both.
Native mobile applications' tools, languages and technologies...
Native applications for iOS are often built using Swift or Objective-C, meanwhile native applications for Android are built using Java code or Kotlin.
Because native apps are written using a language highly compatible with the operating system, each application will be able to utilize the device’s built-in hardware and software to create outstanding features.
This means you will have a wider pool of features to choose from when building your application. An example of the features such apps could have direct access to is the Camera & Microphone, GPS, offline access, and much more.
It’s no secret, as well, that when it comes to app performance and user experience, native mobile applications stand undefeated.
Native mobile applications require nearly double the time to be built and of course building two code bases means needing more resources; a team specialized in iOS and another in android, this leads to a highly expensive cost.
When should I choose to develop a native mobile application?
Plenty of things play a role when deciding to go with a native mobile app. You probably have a rough idea of the features you’d like to include in your software project, first, find out how technically complicated they are if implemented, this will help you identify whether you can make use of other technologies or if your features restrict you from choosing a different approach.
You also need to ask yourself how much you are willing to spend on great performance and user experience. We recommend you go with building a native mobile application if you think a great user experience is essential to your project.
As mentioned earlier, creating native applications also means creating more than one application, each one with a code base of its own. This means nearly doubling the amount of resources, project durations and of course expenses.
If you’ve already set a long project duration and acquired the dedicated budget for it and everything mentioned earlier also checks out, go for it!
Hybrid Mobile Applications
What are they?
Hybrid mobile applications' tools, languages and technologies...
Hybrid mobile applications can help you target a wider audience, their code is reusable and can be read on web and mobile applications. Because they do not restrict you to one device, you will be able to create an application for all mobile device users. Hybrid mobile applications are also the cheapest to build and the easiest to maintain, because unlike with native mobile apps, you are building one application for all platforms.
These applications do not have direct access to each device’s hardware and software, it requires plugins and a more thorough understanding of how to mesh the software applications together. This means that unlike Native applications they are highly dependent on opensource libraries and frameworks.
There is also a reason why they are cost-effective; you create one codebase but at the expense of the applications User Interface & User Experience capabilities. If your solution’s scope of work includes plenty of technically complex requirements and major animations, it’s likely that hybrid applications won’t be the best match.
When should I choose to develop a hybrid mobile application?
Hybrid Applications may restrict you from scaling up and growing your solution since you will have limited access to features, except when using UI libraries and plugins, however, they truly are cost & time-effective, and they do not restrict you from targeting an audience based on the device they use. So, if you want the faster and cheaper option and aren’t prioritizing the UX & performance, Hybrid Apps are the ones to go for.
You may also want to consider creating a hybrid app if you wish to create a Minimum Viable Product to test the market before building the right solution and releasing it.
Cross-platform Mobile Applications
What are they?
There is an on-going debate about whether or not cross-platform applications should be defined as their own sort of applications or if they should be listed under hybrid applications. That’s because unlike native apps, when developing hybrid & cross-platform apps, you are building one application for multiple devices. They are also both dependent on open source frameworks and libraries, but, unlike hybrid apps that have no access to the operating system’s hardware and software, cross-platform application have a some sort of access to them.
Cross-platform mobile applications' tools, languages and technologies...
Cross-platform mobile applications are built using tools such as React Native, Flutter and Xamarin.
Cross-platform apps are similar to Hybrid apps in that the code is reusable and shared in both Android and iOS, but Cross-platform development provides a native look and feel to the application. Such application’s UI can compete, to an extent, with that of a native app, making it hard to tell between a native application and a cross-platform one. In addition, because their codebase is reusable, this makes them cheaper than Native apps.
They can also process more complex features than hybrid applications without the need for plugins as much.
Just like hybrid apps, building a successful cross-platform application is highly dependent on open source frameworks and libraries. In addition although their User Experience could be great, it’s likely that bug fixes and rewriting code will be time-consuming unlike with Native Applications. For example, a developer of yours may face an issue with package compatibility and if s/he isn’t an experts in using React Native, this may negatively effect your development as s/he works on debugging the application.
When should I choose to develop a cross-platform mobile application?
If you care about your application’s quality performance & User Experience, and wish to increase customer satisfaction, yet you still want to go with a more cost-effective and less time consuming solution than Native Apps, then Cross-platform mobile application development fits your project best.
You can also use this sort of application to test out your audience in an MVP, and unlike hybrid applications, you have the opportunity to scale the application in the future even if you ended up adding a few complex tasks to the project. Cross-platform applications are neither the most cost-effective, nor the best performing applications but they are the jack of all trades; they provide a good middle ground between hybrid and native mobile apps.
Examples of native, hybrid and cross-platform applications
If you’d like to review firsthand the differences between the previously mentioned technologies, we have listed for you here a few examples of famous application that you can download and check out:
- Pokémon Go
- iPhone build-in apps
- Just go
- Ads Manager
Many factors play a role in helping you determine the type of development approach you should take in mobile application projects. Set down you budget, timeline, and audience then try to see which technology would best suit the UI/UX and overall Performance quality you would like to have for your mobile solution.
If you have already signed with a software company, consult your project manager, if not, we would be glad to offer a free consultation, in which we explain further what type of mobile application would fit your business requirements best!