Debates about cross-platform vs. native mobile apps are complex because people tend to be highly opinionated about both. Supporters of native apps argue that they’re usually smaller and more performant than those built with cross-platform toolkits. While this might seem fair, this is not all there is to it. Let’s delve deep into both sides of the argument for a bigger picture.
Cross-platform has been around for a while, but it’s still a hot topic. Many cross-platform toolkits have entered the market in the past to dominate the browser-friendly sector. Let’s have a peek into the past.
Today, there are various mobile-friendly cross-platform toolkit options to choose from, like .NET MAUI, Flutter, and React Native. Some replicate the native OS look and feel, while others provide a pixel-perfect experience across devices and platforms.
|Factors||Cross-Platform App Development||Native App Development|
|Cost||Less Expensive to develop||More Expensive to develop|
|Time||Quicker to develop and launch||Longer development time|
|Maintenance||Easier to maintain and update||More complex to maintain|
|User Experience||Can lead to a less optimal user experience. May not feel native to the platform, may not be as responsive||Offers a seamless user experience. Requires separate development for each platform.|
|Functionality||Limited access to device features and APIs.||Full Access to device features and APIs.|
|Performance||Can be slower and less efficient than native apps.||Generally faster and more efficient.|
|Market Reach||Can target multiple platforms with a single codebase.||Must develop separate apps for each platform.|
|Development||Can be developed with web technologies and a single language. Limited availability and support for certain- platforms.||Requires platform-specific development skills. Platform-specific tools may be complex and require more resources.|
|Debugging||Debugging can be more challenging due to the need to work with multiple platforms.||Easier to debug due to familiarity with platform-specific tools and languages.|
There are numerous operating systems available today, each having unique requirements. Native apps exhibit utmost performance and compatibility with the target OS and can be developed with the best possible tooling for that platform. The target operating systems (such as Android, iOS, etc.) provide a seamless experience that encourages developers to build for respective platforms. Creating a Windows app with the Universal Windows Platform’s great tooling support will likely result in a performant app with a smaller footprint. With these benefits, shouldn’t we all opt for native mobile app development?
The answer remains – ‘It depends’.
The truth is that we have two choices – maintain more apps or fall back on a single source toolkit with some compromises. Using a cross-platform, single-source toolkit won’t be as perfect as the native toolkit. But the choice of software is just about trade-offs. We need to make decisions based on reality, not the ideal world.
The final decision always comes down to two factors – resources and time. If you have both, the choice is easy:
If not, focus your time and resources on making one single source, bug-free app that works seamlessly across different targeted platforms.
A common misconception about cross-platform apps is that the UI is not at par with the look and feel of native apps. Toolkits such as .NET MAUI and React Native use native controls, making it easy to achieve the native look and feel. You can attain a consistent look and feel for the apps running on multiple devices and platforms using cross-platform toolkits.
We do not intend to support or oppose cross-platform over native apps, as both have their own place.
Cross-platform development is often a good choice for simpler apps with limited platform-specific requirements, tight timelines, and cost considerations. On the other hand, Native app development is preferable when you require maximum performance, deep integration with platform capabilities, or extensive access to device features.
However, if you’d like to save yourselves the trouble of making all these decisions, and leave the heavy lifting to the experts – you can Click here to learn more about how we at ValueLabs have enabled several pioneers in the cross-platform & native app development space to become future-ready!
Gartner survey – Future of multi-experience application development