Native vs. Hybrid vs. Cross-Platform: Which is best?

1 year ago
Native vs. Hybrid vs. Cross-Platform: Which is best? Image

Your company has an exceptional idea for a new mobile app—now it’s time for you to share it with the world. Which is the best choice for your app: native, hybrid, or cross-platform app development?

Deciding which platform to use can be daunting, but we’re here to simplify the process and save you valuable time.

According to Statista, in 2023, the annual number of app downloads is expected to surpass 299 billion and generate more than 935 billion dollars in revenue. And according to Data.ai, people spend 4.8 hours daily on mobile devices, making mobile applications attractive to all kinds of businesses.

In a highly-saturated world of mobile app development, there are three main options: native, hybrid, and cross-platform. Each approach has its unique advantages and disadvantages. The best option for your app depends on various factors, including the nature of the project, target audience, budget, and timeline.

This article will explore the key differences between native, hybrid, and cross-platform mobile app development and provide insights into which option might be best for your business.

Native Application Development

Native Application Development

A native mobile app is developed for a particular mobile platform using the platform’s native programming language. Native apps offer stellar performance and a smooth user experience because they are optimized for the device’s specific mobile operating system, hardware, and software features. Native apps are also known for their ability to integrate with the mobile device’s hardware features, such as the camera, GPS, and sensors.

Native development solutions offer superior design, performance, security, and compliance. You should consider using native development for building complex apps or for an application where heavy data processing is to be expected. Due to the platform’s core development language and APIs, native apps possess superior performance and intuitive UX.

InspiringApps developers have extensive experience in native app development using Java for Android and Swift for iOS app development.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of native mobile app development.

Native mobile apps

Pros of Native Mobile Apps

  • Offline functionality: Native users will have access to your app online or offline—making your app easily accessible.
  • App complexity: Native apps are fast and responsive. Is your app complex, with advanced features heavy on data processing? Native development solutions offer speedy performance and great UX.
  • Quality UX: Native development offers intuitive and customizable UX that makes the flow of the app feel natural and seamless.
  • Access to native features: With accessibility to the device’s complete feature set, native apps offer enhanced experiences for users—because they can reach and interact with all functions on the device.
  • Hardware access: Apps that have the ability to directly access file systems, cameras, microphones, proximity sensors, and other hardware specific to mobile operating systems may provide better functionality and performance.
  • App security: Native development is ideal for app security because they have tools for creating built-in security features, such as intelligent fraud detection and file encryption.

Cons of Native Mobile Apps

  • Costly: Building native apps can result in a larger expense when planning to launch an app to Google Play and the Apple Store.

  • Time-consuming: Native app development can be time-consuming because your source code requires separate development for each platform, which can be costly and time-consuming.
  • Customer reach: Native apps are only available for download in platform-dedicated app stores and cannot be promoted on multiple app stores—thus resulting in less customer reach.

Examples of Native Mobile Apps

Some popular examples of native mobile apps include:

  • Waze
  • Spotify
  • WhatsApp

Native App Development Tools

iOS Development

There are several native app development tools available for iOS, including:

Android Development

You can develop native Android apps in Java, Kotlin, Scala, and C++ programming languages. Google provides native developers with advanced Android development tools, such as:

Hybrid Mobile App Development

Hybrid Mobile App Development

Hybrid development involves building an app using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and then wrapping it in a native shell. This approach allows developers to create apps that work across multiple platforms with a single codebase. However, since an app relies on an embedded browser, it may lead to slower performance and lack of harmony on the user interfaces on different platforms.

You should consider choosing hybrid development if you want to create an app quickly—it can be cheaper, faster, and more efficient.

Hybrid Mobile Apps

Pros of Hybrid Mobile Apps

  • Easy maintenance: Building an app across multiple platforms allows you to test and update apps simultaneously—allowing for easier maintenance.
  • Quick launch: Using a hybrid app development framework could result in a shorter wait time to get your app on the market.
  • Cost reduction: Because you only need to develop a single codebase, you can rely on one team of developers to create an app, which can be more cost-effective.
  • Improved UI + UX: Hybrid apps have the benefits of native and web apps while offering an enhanced user experience.

Cons of Hybrid Mobile Apps

  • App vulnerabilities: Hybrid apps are more vulnerable to security threats due to running on web-based technologies.
  • No offline support: There are no offline support capabilities.
  • Performance: Some hybrid solutions combine native and non-native components, which makes the code more complex and may affect the app’s performance.

Examples of Hybrid Apps

Some popular examples of hybrid mobile apps include:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Gmail

Hybrid App Development Frameworks

  • Ionic
  • Apache Cordova

Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

Cross Platform Mobile App Development

Cross-platform apps are built using a single codebase that can run across multiple platforms, such as iOS, Android, and Windows. They use frameworks such as Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin.

You should consider a cross-platform approach if your app concept is relatively straightforward because cross-platform apps tend to lag in performance and UX.

Cross-platform mobile development has incredible value because you don’t have to hire separate developers for each platform—everything is built in one framework (e.g., React Native). By streamlining app development across multiple platforms, cross-platform frameworks can reduce expenses, save time, and get a better return on investment.

Cross Platform App Development

Pros of Cross-Platform Apps

  • Single codebase: Updating a cross-platform app is easier because you are dealing with a single codebase.
  • Code reusability between iOS & Android apps: Code built is reusable across platforms and allows you to use a single codebase on multiple platforms.
  • Faster development time: Using a cross-platform framework will result in reusable code and, thus, faster development, enabling you to get your app on the market in less time.
  • Easier maintenance: Cross-platform solutions are easier to maintain because app updates and changes can be made to the codebase, which applies to all platforms.

Cons of Cross-Platform App Development

  • Complex integrations: Cross-platform mobile development does not offer platform-specific features—developers may find it challenging to integrate cross-platform apps into local settings.
  • Delayed features: While new software development kit (SDK) releases include new updates and features, cross-platform frameworks require a separate update to access new features.
  • No offline functionality: There are no offline support capabilities.
  • Increased security configurations: Cross-platform applications are more vulnerable to security threats due to running on web-based technologies.

Examples of Cross-Platform Mobile Applications

  • Skype
  • Walmart
  • Airbnb

Cross-Platform App Development Frameworks

Selecting Your Approach To Build a Mobile App

Development Time & Speed to Market

Developing a native application requires teams of developers with specialized skills for each platform. This can be time-consuming and expensive. When you have a tight timeline, cross-platform and hybrid apps are the way to go. Native development tends to be a more lengthy process due to having to create different versions of the app and a separate codebase for each platform.

Development Cost & Budget

Your business priorities, budget, and project scope will play a significant factor in which developmental route to take. If your company has a limited budget, hybrid and cross-platform approaches will best fit your needs; a single codebase saves you money by allowing you to reuse code for future use.

Security

Mobile applications can get targeted with security threats—putting the user’s data and privacy at risk. Native development is ideal for app security because they have tools for creating built-in security features, such as intelligent fraud detection and file encryption.

Performance

Some apps are high on data and have heavy computing requirements. When looking for speedy performance, opt for native development. Native app development provides users with an intuitive UX, natural features, and familiar buttons and actions.

Complexity, Custom UX, or Consistency Across Platforms

For complex mobile applications and customized UX—native development is ideal. Native app development offers smooth performance and UX that surpasses hybrid and cross-platform development.

If your app requires access to device-specific features, like the camera or GPS, then a native application may be your best bet. While hybrid and cross-platform apps can access some device features, they may not be able to provide the same level of functionality as native apps.

Conclusion

When developing a mobile app, the choice between hybrid, native, or cross-platform framework depends on various factors. Native apps are built for a specific platform, making them highly responsive and offering a seamless user experience. However, they can be expensive and time-consuming to develop.

On the other hand, hybrid apps are easier and faster to develop than native apps. However, hybrid apps may not always be as responsive as native apps, and that can lead to lower user satisfaction.

Cross-platform apps, on the other hand, allow developers to write code once in Xamarin, Flutter, or React Native and deploy it across multiple platforms. They are more cost-effective and faster to develop than native apps while still delivering a great user experience. With cross-platform apps, businesses can reach a broad audience and save time and money on development costs.

In conclusion, the choice between hybrid, native, and cross-platform depends on your specific business objectives. While native apps offer a superior user experience, they can be expensive to develop. Hybrid apps are faster and easier to develop but may not always offer the same level of responsiveness as native apps. Cross-platform apps offer a cost-effective and efficient solution that can help businesses reach a wide range of users and save on development costs. Ultimately, the ideal choice depends on your business requirements, budget, and timeline.

FAQ

Native, hybrid, and cross-platform app development: what are the key differences?

Native, hybrid, and cross-platform mobile apps differ in UX, UI, development speed, code base, app development costs, time to market, and other factors. Native programming languages cannot be streamlined across platforms, while hybrid and cross-platform can.

Native app development refers to the process of building apps specifically for a single platform, such as iOS or Android.This mobile app development approach involves using the core programming languages and tools that are specific to that platform, such as Swift or Objective-C for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android.

Hybrid app development, on the other hand, involves building apps that can run on multiple platforms using a single code base. This is typically done using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, which are then packaged into a native app wrapper that can be deployed on various platforms.

Cross-platform app development is similar to hybrid app development in that it involves building apps that can run on multiple platforms using a single code base. However, cross-platform development typically involves using platform-specific languages and tools that are compiled into native code. Cross-platform development can improve performance and a more native-like user experience than hybrid apps.

Native, hybrid, or cross-platform: which app development method is best for my mobile app?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best approach will depend on the specific needs and requirements of your mobile application development project. Each development approach has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the decision will ultimately depend on factors such as your app’s unique specifications, needs, and goals. When deciding among the respective platforms, consider user experience, development time and cost, desired app performance, required platform support, range of app functionality, maintenance costs, and complexity of updates.

Innovation Within Reach

​​Innovative functionality and design are within reach. Whether it is a complex data solution, a custom integration, an internal app for employees, or an app that will deliver messages to the Moon, InspiringApps provides intelligent digital products that delight clients and end users with transformative results.

Let’s move your business forward together. Speak with our experts in enterprise solutions.

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InspiringApps: A Business Perspective on Building Mobile Apps was written to help you evaluate ideas and turn the best ones into a genuinely successful app for use within your company or for consumer sale.
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