Making decisions about your mobile app development project is quite a responsible task. In our previous post, we’ve already discussed the matter of picking technologies for the backend development, and now we’d like to provide a handy guide about how to choose the appropriate development approach for your project: native, hybrid, or cross-platform, so that you can make up your mind about the optimal alternative to meet your requirements and business objectives.
Since each approach has its own specifics, we will focus your attention on the main factors that can influence your decision-making as well as further describe the essence of all three development types and investigate their advantages and disadvantages.
Decision Criteria in Brief
Before proceeding to consider each development model in detail, we’d like to draw your attention to the factors that will play a decisive role in choosing the required approach.
Thus, as the project investor, you should answer the following questions:
- What devices does your target audience mainly use: iOS, Android, or both?
- What devices will your application run on: mobile or web, or both?
- What functionality will your app have?
- What is the preplanned budget for your project?
- What timeframes do you allocate?
- Do you plan to scale or redesign your mobile product in the future?
- What industry does your project refer to?
Once you get clear answers to all these questions, you’ll approach the matter of the choice with even greater understanding. Now, let us vividly explain what to expect from each development approach.
Native App Development
Speaking of native development, we refer to applications that are built exclusively for a certain platform, iOS or Android, meaning that the choice of the platform defines the set of tools and languages for further app development.
iOS native apps are developed in Swift and Objective-C, while Android native apps are built in Kotlin and Java, so making use of these acceptable languages ensures a perfect match between the apps and platforms, including maximum adaptability, flexibility for updates, scalability options, and great user experience.
Functionality: Native development in Android or iOS is a guarantee that your mobile product can obtain ample high-quality functionality with numerous features as well as easy access to native APIs and platform-specific functionality of your smartphone.
Design & User experience: Native approach provides more opportunities if you plan to delight users with a more sophisticated UX/UI with a beautiful interface.
Performance: The trademark of native apps is their flawless speed, performance with minimum glitches, and seamless maintenance due to the ideal compatibility to OS.
Scalability: Native applications tend to be more scalable as they make more effective use of the smartphone hardware.
Security: Since native apps can leverage the in-built security features of the operating system, they boast higher levels of security compared to other development approaches.
Development speed: If you plan to realize a large and scalable project, native development is a 25-30% faster option, as, unlike the hybrid or cross-platform approaches, in native development you don’t need to invest extra time in adding special native plugins to access a device's hardware features or fixing bugs.
Code reusability: As the unique codebases are developed for each platform, iOS and Android separately, the code can’t be reused between platforms.
Development costs: Higher development costs compared to hybrid and cross-platform approaches because you’ll need more developers to realize the project (separate teams of native developers for iOS and Android instead of one for hybrid or cross-platform development).
All in all, if you are planning a complex and scalable project that will be 6+ months long, native development is a great option for all industries, from complex entertainment projects to highly secured banking apps, as it can ensure the best value for money, superior quality, and great user experience. However, this development approach is suitable only for mobile applications.
Hybrid App Development
This approach is based on building apps for multiple devices, including mobile (iOS and Android) and web, by writing a unified codebase in one programming language. Nowadays, when adverting to hybrid development, many people refer to the Flutter framework among others, and it’s justified.
To tell a few words about the Flutter framework, this technology, created by Google, is quite a promising tool that is on rise nowadays. Started as an open-source mobile UI framework, now Flutter supports both, mobile and web development, and boasts its great customization abilities and fast rendering.
In fact, the hybrid approach enables developers to convert the common code into a platform-specific app, providing a native-like user experience. Hybrid development becomes a real trend due to its cost-effectiveness and fast completion speed as it is enough to create a single codebase and adjust it to various platforms.
Development speed: If the project is simple and has limited functionality, the development speed is twice faster than in native development which is achieved due to the fact that the app is developed once for several platforms. If it is a large-scale project, the development speed is approximate to native.
Code reusability: The developed codebase can be adjusted for multiple platforms, including iOS, Android, and web.
Development costs: In case you plan a short-term project for up to 3 months, the development costs will be twice lower compared to the native approach as fewer developers are required. If the project will last 6+ months, the costs will be approximate to native.
Design & User experience: Hybrid approach provides ease of UI creation and the end-product ensures a native-like experience in terms of UX/UI.
Performance: The overall performance tends more and more towards native.
Functionality: Hybrid apps provide great customization capabilities and broad functionality features, close to the native experience.
Scalability: Hybrid apps are well scalable just like native apps.
Compatibility issues: To provide a native-like performance, it is needed to write native plugins that would provide support of the native functionality of both iOS or Android platforms. This can increase the development costs and time in some cases.
Immaturity of development patterns: Flutter is an immature framework with limited documentation for developers, compared to the ample variety of native tools and libraries, so there are not many Flutter experts yet.
Hybrid development with Flutter is a promising approach that combines the best aspects of native development like seamless user experience, ample functionality and design opportunities, and scalability options, all multiplied by rapid development pace. This approach will suit those who plan to build apps for any industry, not only for mobile but also for web platforms simultaneously.
Cross-Platform App Development
Cross-platform development is more similar to the hybrid approach due to its high development speed and suitability for multiple platforms, including the web. However, this development type is usually used for building simple apps with minimum features on frameworks like Ionic, Apache Cordova, React Native, and Xamarin as it can’t provide solutions for complex functionality with spotless UI, a great app performance, a lot of scalability options, etc.
Development speed: Unlike native development, the application is built only once for all platforms which helps to speed up the development process by 2 times.
Code reusability: Cross-platform development results in the creation of a reusable codebase that can be adjusted for multiple platforms.
Development costs: As in the case with the hybrid approach, lower expenses are required if the project is small and implies simple functionality. But if the project is large, the development costs may be even higher than in the case of native development as you’ll need resources for writing native plugins and debugging.
Functionality: By means of a cross-platform approach, you may build only simple apps with limited functionality that have few opportunities for further scalability.
Design & User experience: Same as in the case of functionality, cross-platform apps won’t support sophisticated graphics.
Performance: Cross-platform development showcases lower performance as well as common bugs compared to other development approaches.
Compatibility issues: To support the native functions of each platform, developers need to spend extra time on the development of additional native plugins.
This model ensures the fast and cost-efficient development process and provides the ability to create simple applications, mainly small shopping apps for e-commerce. However, if you plan to build something scalable, cross-platform development is not your option.
On a final note
Though native development is an indisputable leader in terms of great customization opportunities and high quality of the end-product, depending on your project size, budget, timeframes, and platforms, it is reasonable to consider alternative hybrid and cross-platform approaches that also offer competitive quality, lower costs, and faster development speed.
At Touchlane, we always pay close attention to the needs of our clients, thoroughly analyzing all pros and cons, taking into account all risks, and offering the best value for money.