Native vs Cross-Platform Mobile Development — part 1. What's the Difference?

Image of a motherboard to show native vs cross platform development

Part 1 What are native and cross-platform app development? 

Part 2 The pros and cons of native and cross-platform app development.

Part 3 When using native over cross-platform app development makes sense and vice-versa & our summary.

Should I choose native or cross-platform app development? As the mobile application market has developed, so too has a large set of tools for creating mobile applications. These tools can be divided into two large groups; native and cross-platform. 

In this blog post, we look into native vs cross-platform mobile development. We examine the advantages and disadvantages of each. We also look into where using one over the other makes the most sense, and finally, we deliver our summary.

Mobile device users in the United States spend more than a quarter of their total waking time on their devices. That’s a total of 4 hours and 23 minutes on their phones every day — excluding calls. 

It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of mobile development. All the data shows that the market for mobile application development worldwide is huge, and it’s set to continue growing.

Research shows that users are on their devices for longer periods. It also shows that the number of mobile devices is also growing. In 2021 the number of devices worldwide amounted to almost 15 billion. By 2025 that number is likely to increase to 18 billion. 

What is native app development?

Native app development is the process of creating mobile apps for a specific platform, such as Android or iOS.

As native development involves the use of a specific development language and technologies an application developed for a particular platform is not compatible with another platform. 

For example, for native app development, Android developers use Android Studio and iOS developers use Xcode. iOS apps use Objective-C and Swift programming languages, while Android uses Java and Kotlin.

Native iOS apps generally follow the Human Interface Guidelines while native Android apps mostly follow Material Design

In general, this means that if you want your application to be available on multiple platforms and devices, you’ll need several different commands for each platform.

Developing multiple separate versions of the same app can seem like a disadvantage. Yet native app development is an incredibly popular choice. There are pros and cons here that we’ll be getting into in our next post.

What is cross-platform app development?

Cross-platform development is the process of creating an application for multiple platforms from a single source code.

Customers typically want to make their mobile apps available for both Android and iOS. Working on cross-platform applications means building the same codebase in which the resulting app runs on both Android and iOS. This is different from native app development, where different teams work on the app version for each platform in a parallel development process.

Often when someone talks about cross-platform development, they mean “write once, run everywhere”. The process requires only one reusable codebase. This codebase can then run on multiple mobile platforms and operating systems. 

You can implement this approach by using several cross-platform mobile application development environments at once, such as Xamarin, React Native, and Flutter.

In our next post, we take a closer look into native vs cross-platform mobile development and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Author / Eugeny Glazkov / Android Dev.

Author / Daniil Sentsov / iOS Dev.

Tech Ed. / Alexander Senko / Tech Lead.

Related: What’s so special about…React Native?

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