In your quest for a mobile app developer, you’ve likely come across the terms “cross-platform app development company” and “native app development company.” We want to say that choosing an app building approach is a simple task, but we’d be lying, and that’s never a good start to a relationship.

Do you know that:

  • Over 250 million apps are downloaded daily? That’s like every person on the planet downloading at least one app in any given month!
  • Experts predict the annual number of app downloads worldwide will total $299 billion by the end of 2023, an increase of nearly $25 million over 2022?
  • More than 100 billion apps were downloaded for the first time in 2021, and that number’s expected to reach 200 billion by 2025?

No matter how you look at it, that’s a boatload of downloaded apps!

When the iOS App Store launched in 2008, it featured a measly 500 apps. Today? People can choose their gaming, streaming, and social media preferences from more than seven million apps across Android and iOS platforms.

And that brings us to the purpose of this post.

The unvarnished truth is there truly aren’t “good” or “bad” app-building options. Native and cross-platform app development are both solid choices, depending on your deadline, budget, and other factors.

Ultimately, the best approach is the one that’s most relevant to your project.

What Is the Difference Between Native and Cross-Platform Apps?

The most significant difference between native app development and cross-platform development is that native apps are built with non-reusable code, and cross-platforms have reusable code. Put another way, native apps are designed for a specific operating system, be it Android or iOS; cross-platform apps can be used on multiple operating systems.

When choosing a platform, you’ll want to take into consideration things like:

  • Ease of development and testing
  • Time to market
  • Customizations
  • Performance
  • Cost-savings
  • Security and maintenance
  • UX or user experience
Graphic of people working on native and cross-platform app development
Native Vs Cross-Platform App Development

What does this mean for your app aspirations?

While both technologies are practical, each has distinct qualities that apply to individual demands and project scope. Based on planned features, the app’s purpose, your audience, and your budget, it might be best to choose one approach over the other.

Cross-Platform App Development Services and Considerations

Some engineers refer to cross-platform development as a “write once, run everywhere” approach because it only needs a single reusable codebase to run on multiple operating systems. Popular cross-platform frameworks include Flutter, React Native, and Cordova.

Aside from code reusability, reasons to choose a cross-platform development approach include:

  • You’re building an app that’s just displaying information fetched from the network.
  • You want a faster development process so you can get to market more quickly.
  • Cost-savings due to building only one app.

You’ll find plenty of online nay-saying about using cross-platform app development, but don’t let that scare you away. Some of the world’s best-known tech firms, including Facebook (Meta), Skype, Pinterest, and Airbnb, use the approach. And as development frameworks continue to improve, you get a more consistent and sometimes close-to-native UX experience.

Native Platform App Development Services and Considerations

With native app development, engineers can add more features and capabilities to apps using hardware elements like the camera, microphone, GPS, etc. Google Maps and Spotify both use native apps because of the benefits they provide:

  • High speed, with most app elements rapidly displayed.
  • Flawless operation, even when the user’s offline.
  • More enjoyable UX as users can use actions and gestures they’re familiar with.
  • Fewer bugs.
  • Enhanced security.

Opting for native app development is generally best when your project:

  • Involves heavy processing.
  • Requires a lot of integration with hardware elements like Bluetooth, GPS, and the camera, etc.

Native app frameworks for Android include Java and Kotline, and Objective-C or Swift for iOS.

Which is Better: Native vs. Cross-Platform App Development

It often helps to look at a development method’s downsides to understand more clearly which one is best for your goals.

Disadvantages of native app development include:

  • No code reusability. Building separate apps for Android and iOS means separate coding for each. It should come as no surprise that this requires more time, effort, costs, and resources compared to cross-platform development.
  • High maintenance costs that are sometimes higher than the actual development costs.
  • Finding skilled engineers who can develop the apps back-to-back.

On the other hand, when you go with cross-platform app development, you face challenges like:

  • Slower apps due to the need for an additional abstraction layer and rendering process for things like fetching and processing images.
  • Limited functionality if developers run into trouble accessing features like the camera and microphone for each device.
  • Less enjoyable UX ‍due to lower performance and reliability.
  • Potential dual marketplace difficulties, as the App Store and Google Play have different mechanisms and requirements.

Cross-platform apps are unable to take advantage of native UX components. Therefore, it can’t deliver the same UX experience that is accustomed to the platform.

Budgeting For Native vs. Cross-Platform Apps

Big companies with unlimited budgets tend to choose native app development. But for SMBs that want to develop an MVP (minimal viable product) fast and at a budget price, cross-platform development can be best.

In terms of actual dollars spent, you’ll likely save anywhere from 30 to 40 percent on cross-platform development. And outsourcing the work makes it even more affordable. Our software development consulting services include going over everything from best practices to trade-offs to help our clients strike the right balance.

Person standing on circle platform with app development technology around him
Native Vs Cross-Platform App Development

Decoding the Best Platform for Your Apps

Which app development process you use will likely come down to cost, time, and how users might respond to the app. Still not clear on which path to choose?

It can help to know that, while there are always exceptions, as a rule of thumb, you should choose native development when:

1. You want to build the most responsive app.

2. The app requires complete access to all phone resources and sources.

3. You want it to be as easy as possible to update the app with new features.

Go with cross-platform development when your app:

1. Doesn’t require a high level of responsiveness.

2. Won’t have complex animations or complicated logic.

3. You want to get the app to market more quickly.

4. Your budget is limited.

As we often say, no universal solution exists for developing an app people will love and use. As a trusted outsource partner, Zibtek offers a free strategy session to help you determine which approach is best suited to your app’s specific needs.

Ready to learn more? Get in touch to schedule a meeting.