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Native vs Hybrid vs Cross Platform – What to Choose in 2021?

  • Satinder Singh
  • By  Satinder Singh
  • |
  • 87D32530-FD6E-468E-BB24-045278513D21 Created with sketchtool. 11 MIN READ
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  • 6BCC25D0-42B3-420B-8C28-C5D7EF3F6856 Created with sketchtool. Updated: July 30, 2021

With the advent of technology, our lives have become confined to digital assets. We make the most critical decisions of our lives and businesses over the Internet and mobile apps. It becomes a daunting task for businesses to resist in the competitive digital landscape as countless apps are currently lying on the Play Store and App Store and have limited exposure, skills, resources, and budget.

In 2023, it is estimated that the annual number of app downloads worldwide will amount to 299 billion, up from approximately 247 billion global app downloads in 2020.

number of mobile app downloads over the years

Not only this, in 2023, mobile apps are projected to generate more than 935 billion U.S. dollars in revenues via paid downloads and in-app advertising.

With such stiff competition, business owners undergo the pressure of emphasizing more on the quality, preciseness, functionalities, and other parameters that convince the potential customers to bank on their services over other alternatives.

At this point, businesses usually come across multiple dilemmas like which is the ideal technology to count on, whether to go for iOS or Android or which app development framework would be the best to grab wider customer engagement.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the major app development approaches – Native, Hybrid, and Cross-platform.

What is a Native App?

what is a native app

Native apps are built specifically for a particular operating system leveraging platform-specific programming languages.

Native app development is the process to develop apps or software that need to be operated on specific devices and mobile app platforms such as Android and iOS. With native app development, developers rely on the native-to-the-operating-system programming language to craft apps that fit one particular platform- may it be desktops, smart TVs, smartphones, or any other advanced gadgets being used in the digital space.

When it comes to developing native apps for Android, Java or Kotlin are used and in the case of iOS, Objective-C or Swift is used. Native mobile app development is ideal when you wish to deliver the utmost user experience in terms of the appearance and feel of the application. With native app development, developers get the access to add more capabilities and features to the apps as native app development holds the ability of utilizing primary smartphone hardware elements like GPS, Proximity sensors, camera, microphone, and so on.

Benefits of Native Apps

High Speed

Since native mobile apps don’t come up with complex code like hybrid and cross-platform apps, they turn out to be comparatively faster. The majority of the app elements are displayed rapidly as they preload well in advance. Due to its high development speed and cost effective nature, native applications are preferred by the startups.

Offline Functionality

One of the prominent native app benefits is that native apps operate flawlessly even in the absence of internet connectivity. This ensures more convenience to the users since they get to access all the app functionalities during airplane mode or in an offline environment. This offline support functionality in native apps is essential for app users residing in low internet connectivity areas, staying in remote areas, or have got limited data availability.

More Intuitive & Interactive

Superior user experience is what emerging entrepreneurs can expect from native apps. Since native apps are built for a specific OS, they adhere to the guidelines which ensure an improved experience that perfectly aligns with a particular operating system in all terms. Moreover, as native apps stick to the guidelines, it enables the users to interact with the applications with the help of gestures and actions with which they are already familiar.

Minimized Scope of Bugs

Managing two different codebases becomes a challenging task as compared to a single codebase as in native app development. Since native apps have one codebase and don’t rely on cross-platform tools, they come up with minimal occurrence of bugs.

Utmost Performance

Native app development helps in developing apps and optimized for a specific platform which ensures high performance. Since native applications are built for a particular platform, these apps turn out to be responsive and comparatively fast. Moreover, these apps are compiled with core programming languages and APIs which makes native apps more efficient.

Enhanced Security

Native app development relies on different browsers and technologies like HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS and ensures thorough data protection on the user’s end.

When to Consider Developing a Native App?

  • Your target audience will be using your app for the first time and you plan to impress them with the best possible app experience.
  • Need to code specifically for one platform.
  • Businesses into 3D games and animations.
  • You are planning to grab a wide base of DAUs and target VC investors for product funding and develop an easy-to-learn yet intuitive app.
  • Need to add device-specific functionalities like GPS, camera, and so on.

Tools for Native Mobile App Development

native app development tools

Tools for Android App Development:

  • Android Studio
  • IntelliJ IDEA

Tools for iOS App Development:

  • XCode
  • AppCode

Examples of Best Native App

example of best native apps

  • Google Maps
  • Artsy
  • Pinterest
  • Spotify

Cons of Native App Development

No Code Reusability

If native apps are to be built for iOS and Android separately, you’ll have to do the coding part and develop the apps for both the mobile operating systems. And this would demand a lot of time, effort, costs, and resources unlike the hybrid mobile apps with shared backend code or cross-platform app that has a reusable codebase.

High Maintenance

Native app development comes up with heavy maintenance costs which is even more than the actual development costs.

Needs More Skills and Talent

Since native mobile apps are language-specific, it becomes challenging to find developers who can develop native apps back-to-back. In case of native vs cross-platform app development, you’ll have to hire two teams for native app development, while it requires only one team for cross-platform app development.

What is a Hybrid App?

what is a hybrid app

Hybrid app development is the combination of native and web solutions where developers need to embed the code written with the languages such as CSS, HTML, and JavaScript into a native app with the help of plugins including Ionic’s Capacitor, Apache Cordova, and so on which enables to get the access of native functionalities.

Hybrid platform comprises majorly 2 components- a backend code and a native viewer which is downloaded for displaying the functions and the backend.

With hybrid app development, the code is written only once and the same code can be utilized for multiple platforms. When you build a hybrid app, it is capable of ensuring performance and user experience somewhat near to native apps, but when it comes to UX and navigation patterns, hybrid app development lacks in that area.

Benefits of Hybrid Apps

benefits of hybrid apps

Rapid Time to Market

Startups usually have a mindset to ensure faster shipping of MVP in the market. In that case, a hybrid app development framework is the ideal choice to go for as it enables rapid development and launch of the app in the market comparatively at an early stage.

Easy Maintenance

Since the hybrid apps are solely based on web technology, it is simple to maintain hybrid apps as compared to native and cross-platform apps that have complex coding.

Minimized Cost Backed with Ease of Development

Since the hybrid app development lifecycle accompanies unified development, this brings a sigh of relief for startups that have a confined budget. They don’t have to invest separately to build different versions of applications for multiple platforms. Hybrid app development frameworks enable developers to develop a single version and utilize the same for multiple platforms.

Improved UI/UX

Hybrid apps integrate the benefits of native and web apps while offering flawless and enhanced user experience throughout Android and iOS platforms. Hybrid application development has a lightweight hybrid app UI that enables super-fast loading of graphics and content.

When to Consider Developing a Hybrid App?

  • Planning to operate the app seamlessly across different platforms and don’t have sufficient time to build a cross-platform solution.
  • You plan to distribute a web app throughout app stores.
  • You are targeting a broader audience that uses the app on web and mobile devices.
  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for testing the project idea.
  • You wish to avail the device’s native features like GPS, camera, and so on.

Hybrid App Development Frameworks

hybrid app development frameworks

  • Ionic
  • Apache Cordova

Examples of Best Hybrid Apps

example of best hybrid apps

  • Instagram
  • Evernote
  • Gmail
  • JustWatch
  • NHS
  • Airbus Helicopters

Cons of Hybrid App Development

No Offline Support

Hybrid applications don’t offer offline support like native apps. Users need to wait for an Internet connection to access the app functionalities.

OS Inconsistencies

Since hybrid apps have a single code deployed, there are features that are specific to a particular operating system that don’t work perfectly on other systems, like some Android-specific functionalities might not work on iOS devices.

What is a Cross Platform App?

what is a cross platform app

For the young entrepreneurs who assume cross-platform app development and hybrid app development are the same, let’s clear the dilemma in the first place.

Cross platform vs hybrid app development, both of them have entirely different meanings from each other and play a different role. Cross-platform frameworks operate on the agenda to develop shareable and reusable code for building apps for different OS. Writing code once and reusing the same on multiple platforms helps in minimizing the development costs and efforts.

Cross-platform apps will ensure hassle-free implementation, robust functionality, and affordable production. However, don’t expect high performance and customization with cross-platform app development framework.

Cross-platform applications are popular in today’s times, all credits to React Native, Xamarin and Flutter frameworks.

Read More | Flutter vs. React Native vs. Xamarin – Find the Right Framework for You

Benefits of Cross-platform Apps

benefits of cross platform apps

Hassle-free & Rapid Development

Getting reusable code backed by improved productivity and efficiency is a real bonus for the developers and business owners in the long run. This is where cross-platform app development framework gains a competitive edge over other alternatives.

Great Product Maintenance

Since cross-platform app development comes up with one codebase, businesses can relax with flawless outputs. As there is only one codebase, it becomes quite easy to test and deploy fixes and upgrades and experience higher accuracy and superior quality mobile applications.

Reduced Cost

Cross-platform app development framework holds the potential of supporting all sorts of platforms and ensures wider market reach at a global level with increased brand popularity of startup businesses that seek rapid traction in the market. Moreover, cross-platform apps ensure reduced upfront expenses.

Code Reusability

When it comes to cross-platform apps, developers need not write unique code every time for each operating system. A common codebase can be used for transferring code to different platforms.

When to Consider Building a Cross-platform App?

  • You have to release a mobile application on different platforms with limited budget, time, and resources.
  • You need to target iOS and Android apps users both.
  • You need faster app development.
  • The app isn’t complex and doesn’t need functionalities which vary much between the platforms.

Popular Cross Platform App Development Frameworks

cross platform app development frameworks

  • React Native
  • Xamarin
  • Flutter

Examples of Best Cross-platform Apps

example of best cross platform apps

  • Insightly
  • Bloomberg
  • Reflectly
  • Skype
  • Slack

Cons of Cross-platform Apps

Complicated Development Lifecycle

You need a team of skillful developers for developing apps that will adapt to a few platforms. You’ll have to precisely look into the minor differences amongst operating systems and the hardware they run on, whenever implementing complex functionalities and interfaces.

Difficult Integrations

Developers often find it challenging to integrate cross-platform apps to local settings and the code of HTML5 cross-platform apps is complex because of callback-style programming.

Read More | The Ultimate Guide to Cross Platform App Development Frameworks in 2021

Native vs Hybrid vs Cross-Platform: Which One to Choose?

native vs hybrid vs cross platform app development

Now as we are aware of all the three mobile app development frameworks, the next question that strikes the mind of business owners is which is the best approach out of all is. Well, whether you go for native, hybrid, or cross-platform, it all depends on the project requirements, budget, business model, target audience, demographics, and numerous other parameters.

Read More | Top 12 Mobile App Development Trends to Watch Out for in 2021

It is difficult to pick a winner when it comes to native vs hybrid app vs cross-platform apps, but depending on a few parameters and merits of each element, you can easily figure out which is better native or hybrid app or cross-platform app.

Considering the dropdown below, startup businesses can get a clear idea of native vs cross platform vs hybrid and explore which app development framework is the best fit for their business in the long run.

1. Performance

performance - native vs hybrid vs cross-platform app development

When it comes to delivering the utmost performance to the users and comparing cross-platform vs hybrid vs native app performance, choosing native mobile app development approach is the wise decision to make. Native Android app development enables you to discover next-gen features of smartphones in a hassle-free manner like memory management, network and wireless access points, and so on for optimizing service delivery and eventually improving the overall app performance.

One real-life example of a tech giant complimenting native app development is Airbnb, the early adopters of React Native app framework. Analyzing hybrid mobile app vs native app vs cross-platform apps, Airbnb initially chose cross-platform with the motive of moving faster and writing product code once. However, later their priorities and demands evolved for better app performance and dev experience. Then they made a switch to native app development and experienced profitable outputs.

Winner: Native app development

2. Time to Market

time to market - native vs hybrid vs cross-platform app development

Every month, approximately 29.5K mobile apps are released through the Apple App Store.

With such stiff competition in the market, businesses are striving hard to launch their app on the App Store and Play Store as soon as possible. When comparing native app vs cross platform vs hybrid platform in respect to time to market, native apps consume sufficient time for its development lifecycle. While hybrid and cross-platform apps are worth considering as they come up with faster time to market.

Winner: Hybrid & Cross-platform Development

3. Development Costs

development costs - native vs hybrid vs cross-platform app development

The foremost concern of every startup business is the budget- they expect a superior yet modern mobile app that can be developed within their planned budget. In that case, a startup with limited budget can’t afford a native app. Cross-platform app development is the ideal choice to opt for as it enables developers to write a single source code that can be further transformed into desired OS-based app. Moreover, cross-platform app development demands comparatively fewer efforts and resources.

Winner: Cross Platform App Development

4. App Security

app security - native vs hybrid vs cross-platform app development

In 2020, the number of data breaches in the United States came in at a total of 1001 cases. Meanwhile, over the course of the same year over 155.8 million individuals were affected by data exposures – that is, accidental revelation of sensitive information due to less-than-adequate information security.

data breaches and exposed records in united states

App security has become a prime concern of business owners in today’s time in order to safeguard their business and customer’s data and sensitive information at all costs.

In case you are into the eCommerce industry or any other business vertical that deals with the confidential data of the customers, your major emphasis is on app security. Since compromising on user security and sensitive data can ruin a business reputation overnight, it becomes essential for business owners to deliver glitch-free app.

When it comes to native app vs hybrid app vs cross-platforms apps in terms of security, native apps come equipped with multiple in-built security features. These features make it easy for developers to implement file encryption, intelligent fraud detection throughout core OS libraries, and ensure utmost security in the apps. However, in the case of startups, their major focus is on development cost and time to market, hybrid and cross-platform app development frameworks gain a higher preference. And once their apps are stabilized and popular in the market, they can eventually move forward to native apps for ensuring security throughout their app.

Winner: Native App Development

5. Customization & UX

customizations and ux - native vs hybrid vs cross-platform app development

70% of customers say they have abandoned their shopping carts because of bad user experience.

90% of smartphone users say they’re more likely to keep shopping if they’re having a great user experience.
Modern customers have higher expectations from a brand and getting a rich user experience throughout their app journey is the first thing they expect from a business. This indicates that the overall user retention rate solely depends on the user experience of the mobile application.

Delivering customization, personalization, and improved usability is what businesses need to work on. When it comes to native vs hybrid mobile app development vs cross-platform app development, native apps hold better UI capabilities since they have preset libraries and interface components and are customizable. So, going for native app development is the best choice in terms of customization and UX.

Winner: Native App Development

The Verdict

Irrespective of the industry vertical you are dealing in, businesses need to invest in a mobile app development approach that perfectly suits their business nature, business requirements, and customer expectations as well.

Whether you go for native, hybrid, or cross-platform apps, it all depends on your unique business needs. To develop a robust yet modern-age app, businesses need to figure out their need in the first place and once clear with that, explore the suitable development platform that is ideal for catering to all those requirements.

When comparing native vs hybrid vs cross-platform, every alternative has its own pros and cons- you just need to think about the bigger picture and understand the objectives you are trying to achieve from the app. It will definitely assist you come up with a modern yet engaging mobile app in the market and eventually reach the zenith over time.

FAQs

What is the difference between native app and a hybrid app?

Native apps are built for specific platforms while hybrid apps are built to operate across all platforms.

Which is the best native app framework?

React Native is one of the best app frameworks for developing native apps.

What is cross platform mobile app development?

Cross-platform mobile app development allows apps to operate on different platforms with a single code system.

What is the difference between native and cross-platform?

Native apps are built specifically for one platform while cross-platform apps tend to be compatible across multiple platforms like iOS and Android.

Is native or hybrid app better?

Native apps and hybrid apps, both of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. It depends on the business requirements and expectations you have from a mobile app. Native apps are more intuitive & interactive, minimized scope of bugs, utmost performance, and enhanced security and hybrid apps offer rapid time to market, minimized cost backed with ease of development, and offline Support.

What is the disadvantage of both cross-platform and hybrid app development compared to native?

Unlike cross-platform and hybrid apps, native apps offer offline support of the app functionalities.

Why native app development often more costly than cross platform or hybrid app development?

In case of cross-platform and hybrid apps, the same codebase is used to develop for all platforms (iOS and Android), whereas native apps demand separate codebase for iOS and Android. This is why native app development tends to be more expensive than cross-platform and hybrid app development.

Which is best: native or cross platform development?

It all depends on your business requirements. If you have a good budget and want to go for high-performance apps, native apps are good to go. If you have a limited budget, a cross-platform app is a good choice to consider.

How is a hybrid app better than a native app?

Hybrid apps demand less maintenance and ensure fast and hassle-free development lifecycle as compared to native apps.

Ready to Develop a Robust Mobile App?

Harness the latest mobile app development technology in your business app with Net Solutions


Satinder Singh

About the Author

Satinder Singh works as an Associate Project Manager at Net Solutions for the past nine years. His abundant knowledge and ability to drill down the details makes him a perfect person for the job. Being a constant part of the organization, Satinder has also been an active organizer of various events and CSR activities.

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