Mobile applications have been with us for more than 10 years. Within that time, the mobile development market has significantly changed. At the beginning developers were limited to native platform-specific applications which were not able to work on different systems. The growing demand for mobile apps brought new ideas for shortening development time. And that’s how cross-platform development was born. Near-native platforms, such as React Native or Flutter, are gaining ground and offering better opportunities to build native-like experiences. Today, we want to discuss the pros and cons of such solutions.
With cross-platform solutions, developers mostly work with one codebase which handles iOS and Android and there is no need to build separate Android or iOS projects. Everything is in one place. Cross-platform applications are built as single projects but support different devices. It is possible to reuse a big part of an app’s code between platforms, and that’s why development is much quicker.
In comparison to native applications, a cross-platform one can be about 30% cheaper than building iOS and Android apps separately. You just have one project for both iOS and Android, and big chunks of code and other assets can be reused between the platforms. In this way, cross-platform development is faster so, as a result, the overall cost for each platform is less than developing native mobile apps.
Many app owners face a challenge when starting with mobile app development: is it better to create an Android or an iOS application first? No matter which platform has a bigger market, it is always a trade-off which can cost a lot of money. Starting with a cross-platform solution you get a much wider audience at the very beginning – you can target both markets at the same time. You can also build for one platform first to release the product faster, and then quickly iterate on adding support for second platform.
iOS and Android have some differences in terms of building navigation and design. In cross-platform development, most popular UI differences are handled by default. In native development, even in a team with great communication, there can be some differences in implementing functions. In cross-platform development this situation doesn’t occur often, as the platforms share the same codebase. It also allows you to build a more coherent brand identity in apps on both platforms with less effort.
This is one of the greatest things about cross-platform applications – it’s possible to create one codebase for Android and iOS at the same time. In native applications it is necessary to write code separately, which is usually done by two different developers/teams. In custom cross-platform mobile app development the whole codebase is in one place. This saves a lot of time, because one developer can handle both platforms concurrently.
Performance is one of the most important characteristics of an app. It depends on many factors but, in general, if you compare two applications where one is native and the other is cross-platform and both have the same functionalities, the native one will be slightly faster. However, these differences in performance are usually small, especially when it comes to simple applications.
Cross-platform applications have to adapt their design and functionalities not only to specific devices but also to platforms, which have many differences. As a result, it creates extra work for developers who have to handle specific exceptions for a variety of devices and platform differences, especially with more complicated features. These issues don’t occur that often in native apps, so developers can focus on solving users’ problems.
Every time Google or Apple introduce a new feature for Android or iOS, it takes some time to update applications to support this new feature. In native apps, new SDKs are provided with the updates much faster than for cross-platform frameworks.
Not every app can be built with a cross-platform solution. There are many cases when it’s better to stick to native development. However, it’s always worth considering cross-platform development, as it significantly decreases time and cost of development. For relatively small applications without specific platform requirements, React Native or a similar framework can be a perfect match. If you want to get more details about your application, drop us a message. We’re always happy to help.