Xamarin

Native vs Hybrid vs Cross-platform Mobile app – What to Choose?

Understand how native apps differ from hybrid mobile apps. See what makes cross-platform apps exceedingly functional with this highly informative guide to choosing the right mobile app for your next project.

July 2, 2019

With the surging enthusiasm towards the development of apps for mobile devices, there has been a myriad of questions & lots of confusion over cross-platform vs native vs hybrid app development approaches, particularly from novice developers. The lack of enough end-to-end resources for choosing the right mobile app approach has continued to serve as a major barrier to finding a lasting solution for the iOS vs Android banter. 

Even so, given that both platforms are critical for a fruitful mobile app strategy, cross platform mobile app development might seem to be the best answer for this debate. Today it is no longer tenable to simply build an app that targets only one platform – we need multi-platform apps that can support both Android and iPhone smartphones and ensure no one is left out.

Cross-Platform Mobile Apps

There are distinct operating systems running on various smartphones with Android and iOS featuring as the most widely used. Each of these platforms utilizes a distinctive programming environment with its own language and API.

As such, the need by mobile developers to reach the largest possible user-base, regardless of their preferred platform has given rise to more value being seen in a cross platform mobile app. Tools like Xamarin have made cross-platform app development widely popular and accessible. 

What is Cross-Platform Application?

Cross-Platform Application simply alludes to the advancement of mobile applications that can be utilized across a variety of different operating systems. It is the process of developing apps compatible with multiple mobile platforms using a solitary codebase, rather than having to create the app on multiple occasions using the respective native technologies for each platform.

Why a Cross-Platform App?

Applications created utilizing a cross-platform framework are free from OS impulses and thus offer multi-platform usefulness. They provide an incredible solution when you need to release a mobile app on different platforms at a low cost or constrained budget in terms of money, time and effort. 

Pros of Developing a Cross-Platform Mobile App

Cons of Developing a Cross-Platform Mobile App

Times when you should consider developing a cross-platform app:

Cross-Platform App Examples

There are dozens of cross-platform apps that we use every day. They prove the efficiency of cross-platform development as well as the benefit from creating products for a few platforms with tools like React or Nativescript simultaneously.

Facebook

Back in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg stated at a TechCrunch Disrupt conference: “The biggest mistake we’ve made as a company is betting on HTML5 over native.” He noted that the experience of maintaining a native app on iOS has proven to be faster in the long run and more liberating than the hybrid approach the company used before. Hybrid apps are known to be quite slow for users, and, as a high-traffic application, Facebook needed to provide as fast and seamless of an experience as possible. That’s why the company has shifted from HTML to React Native - a framework designed to create native Android and iOS apps.

Skype

Skype has been around for quite a while now - it is widely used across various devices and operating systems. In fact, a famous communication tool is a cross platform app developed with Electron. On a PC scale, it shares a codebase between Windows and Linux. When it comes to smartphones, Skype has a cross-platform iOS/Android app. 

The user experience of Skype doesn’t suffer from system limitations or a complex codebase. In fact, last year, the development team completely redesigned the app to make sure it looks native-alike. 

Slack

Slack is proof that a cross-platform app can still have a ‘native’ feel to it. Apart from simplifying the group communication process, Slack enables access to bots and can help operate various day-to-day work tasks. 

Over the span of just a few years, the platform has become everyone’s favorite collaboration service. If they would have had to choose one operating system, Slack would’ve lost a huge chunk of its audience and would never have arrived at its current peak. 

Alibaba

The app of a largest online retailer is a cross-platform app created with Flutter. There are dozens of features available - a shopper’s account, a reliable payment framework with a checkout system, shipping integrations, the display of user ratings and reviews, etc. This array of features supported proves that frequent complaints about the lack of features in cross-platform apps at times don’t have their merit. 

Hybrid Mobile Apps

Hybrid apps are the golden mean between native and web applications. They consist of two parts - backend code and a native viewer that can be downloaded to display the backend in a web view. Unlike web apps, hybrid mobile apps don’t require a browser for access and can take advantage of any plugin and the APIs of a device. They are cheaper in development than native apps but their performance is mostly slower as well. 

What is a Hybrid Application?

A hybrid application allows a developer to combine the speed of web development with the ability to use the functions of a device - access to the camera, GPS, etc. - to provide an enhanced user experience. Hybrid apps are built using HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS - similar to web-applications. However, they also have a native shell that will be published in Google Play or App Store. 

Building a hybrid app has its own advantages and drawbacks that we are going to take a closer look at. 

Pros of Building a Hybrid App

Cons of Developing a Hybrid Mobile App

You should consider building a hybrid app if:

Hybrid App Examples

While at first glance hybrid apps might seem like nothing but a cheap fix, in reality, a fair share of top social media applications are, in fact, hybrid. Let’s take a look at most popular hybrid app examples:

Instagram 

Using the hybrid development approach allowed developers to create an app that supports rich media. While the Instagram feed can’t be refreshed when there’s no Internet connection, you can still access data that has been loaded already. 

As of now, Instagram has over a billion downloads. This proves the convenience and power of hybrid apps. 

Evernote

Evernote provides more proof that hybrid applications can be extremely high-functional. The app has an amazing UI, the app layout is simple yet efficient, there are dozens of features that make Evernote one of the best (if not the absolute best) productivity apps. 

Gmail

Gmail is the most popular email provider in the world at the moment. It has been a web HTML-application for a long time. Gmail’s mobile application is a powerful combination of the native web-application infrastructure and native application. 

The hybrid application for Gmail is just as solid in its performance as its PC version. The high customization level and dozens of features prove that hybrid application can be just as rewarding as a native one in the long run. 

Native Mobile Apps

A native app is usually written in one programming language for a particular operating system. Compared to other types of products, native apps offer a consistent performance and are times more reliable. Depending on the platform an app is developed for, specific programming languages are used. For iOS, it’s mainly Objective-C and Swift, while Android developers write in Java or Kotlin. 

What is a Native Application?

Native applications allow developers to take advantage of system-specific features that can improve the user experience in a way that wouldn’t be possible with hybrid or cross-platform solutions. Creating native apps is a solid choice for high-performance apps such as mobile games and high-traffic platforms.

These applications are fast and polished - their performance can hardly be surpassed by hybrid or cross-platform software. 

Pros of Developing a Native App

Cons of Developing a Native App

You should consider building a native application if:

Native App Examples

Most of the apps smartphone users install on a daily basis are native. Here are some of the most prominent examples of what native app development is capable of.

Google Maps

Google Maps is a native app available for both Android and iOS. Both apps have common features - street view, turn-by-turn navigation, public transit information, etc. As a native app, Google Maps is able to profit from the device’s built-in features. While it does need online access to be used to its full performance, Google Maps can be displayed in an offline mode as well. 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another example of an application that switched from a hybrid to a native app. The quality decrease when it comes to performance, slower rendering speed, and storage space issues due to the increasing amount of daily active users forced LinkedIn to consider native apps as a development vector. 

Developers wanted to include animations and rich media to the interface, but the power of the application wasn’t sufficient to support these features. The LinkedIn development team has also remarked that there are simply not enough tools for hybrid apps supporting the further development of a platform as powerful as LinkedIn. 

What’s the Difference?

Choosing a winning framework among all the approaches to app development is a challenging task. Depending on the needs of your project, the number of developers and their skills, the budget, and the timeframe needed to complete the application, you can make a choice in favor of any of the three strategies.

In order to make the selection process easier, we’ve prepared the comparison of native apps vs hybrid apps vs cross platform apps. 

What’s best for you?

So who comes out as a winner in cross platform vs native vs hybrid app development? When comparing the three options, there are still advantages and challenges to overcome for each specific development approach. Choosing the right one for you is determined by the talent you have available, the budget, and the time constraints. 

When choosing an app development approach, it’s always helpful to have a team of professionals ready to have your back. At EGO CI, we are ready to help with all aspects of the app development process. Over the years we’ve helped develop dozens of native, hybrid, and cross-platform apps for SMEs and big companies. 


If you’d love to get help with your future product, contact us. You can take a look at our services and to choose the one that fits you best.


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