The Difference Between Native and Cross-Platform Apps

This is a common question we are asked, from an end user point of view you likely wouldn’t notice the difference but the differences from a developers stand point are fairly vast and can effect everything from production cost to time required to build.

What is Native?

When we refer to an app being ‘native’ we mean that it has been coded using that Operating Systems (OS) native language, for Android this would be using Java, for iOS it would be using Objective C or the recently introduced Swift. There are many benefits to using a native language to develop a mobile application but predominantly it simply allows us to interact with the OS and take advantage of features the OS provide.

What is Cross-Platform?

Cross-Platform is the act of having a solution where you can develop once and have the same code work across multiple platforms such as Android and iOS. Cross platform will always have a native element to it however the idea is that all front end development is done using a more flexible language, most commonly JavaScript, to allow developers that don’t necessarily have any Native coding experience the ability to develop for mobile. There are many Cross-Platform solutions available such as React Native, Cordova and Xamarin and each has its own merits and downfalls as you would expect but all essentially do the same thing. Cross-Platform applications can still take advantage of OS features however they require a plug-in in order to do so, these are essentially just pieces of Native code written to do the leg work and provide the cross-platform side of the app the functionality it desires. The benefits to using a Cross-Platform solution is that its quicker to develop due to the code being shared over each OS.

What are the negatives to each?

With Cross-Platform apps there is usually what we refer to as a ‘bridge’ between the Native and cross-platform sides, this allows each side to talk to each other however this is usually the part that can cause some delay and is often seen as the bottle-neck. If the app is designed correctly though this can be overcome. Native apps tend to take longer to develop due to the programmer having to code everything individually for each OS you require, so if you are after both an Android and iOS application then that would be two sets of code needing to be written.

So which should I choose?

This is an excellent question and there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. If your app is planned to be something which could be power and processor hungry we tend to lean more toward the Native side because native language will be able to cope better with the strain without adding lag that could be introduced with a cross-platform solution. However, that being said some cross-platform solutions can handle this strain if developed efficiently. If your app is going to be a simple ‘poster’ app then we would likely advise you go for a Cross-Platform solution.

The real answer here is that the developer you choose to handle your project will likely decide this for you depending on the structure of the requested app, presuming the developer has the knowledge to develop both.

We hope this article has helped you out but feel free to drop Twin3 a message if you have any further questions or want to chat about a project you have in mind, we would be happy to help anyway we can!

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