Native, React Native, or Cross-Platform App Development: Which One Is Right For You?

By Maria Hussain on 2nd June, 2021
When it comes to a company looking to develop an application in hopes to make it easy for their users to access their products/services or even just to provide a space for people to interact with each other- choosing the way to build it, is paramount. As we advance in the app development area, with programmers and designers working exponentially well and giving us lots of options to choose from, it is best if we learn about each of these development tools and see which one works best for our needs, before making a decision.
First, let us talk about what each of these are and their respective features.
Native Application:
This is the kind of application developed in a language that is native to the platform it is being built for- either Android or iOS. In other words, the developer will write code and create the application using the language that is specific to their target platform. Native applications for Android will be written in Java or Kotlin; and for iOS- in Swift or Objective-C. The apps created for one platform will not work on any other.
The Pros:
Better Performance:
With a huge amount of features that are innate to the platform, native applications work exceptionally well, making it a faster and smoother experience for the users.
Better Rankings:
Since the application will be performing better, the rankings on Play Store or App Store will be higher than other types of applications.
Larger Scalability:
In light of the specificity native applications carry, they do not present with problems like limited expansion and it is easy for developers to grow with the growing business.
Higher Potential:
With the application being native to the platform, designers have access to particular features and are able to tweak and adjust to any glitches as they rise. This enables the app to have higher potential and room for improvement.
The Cons:
The company has to create different applications for each platform, thus raising the costs of designing and developing. Moreover, they have to hire more people which further adds to their total expenses.
Time Consuming:
With more detail-orientation, it is natural that a native app takes a longer time to be developed, and may cause hindrance in the company’s initial growth.
Developer Expertise:
It may be difficult to find developers/designers who are experts in developing native apps, for each of the platforms, owing to the specialized functions and features.
Cross-Platform Application:
This is the kind of application that is able to run on any device, regardless of the specific operating system. Especially for start-ups, this works best because it needs only one cycle of development and results in an application that all of their customers/users can enjoy at once.
The Pros:
Saves Costs:
In making use of one single development cycle, cross-platform apps have the ability to fit into any platform they are uploaded to, and save costs of building multiple versions of the same application.
Fewer Developers Required:
As there is only one application being built, companies will not need to hire a ton of developers and designers to get their digital product up and running. This will help save costs, while also resolving the issue of finding experts who are available.
Saves Time:
A company needs to create one single base code for an application without having to worry about all the platforms and accessibility to users, which, needless to say, saves them valuable time.
The Cons:
Lesser Performance:
Cross-platform apps often have issues in performance and application speed. With the lack of high-level extensive code, there may be glitches or shutdowns.
User Experience:
With these challenges comes the fact that a user may feel like their experience with the application was not worth it and they might not want to use it again.
Limited Functionality:
With the lack of specialized, platform-specific features, the application is limited in its future growth and expansion. There may be a certain limit of functionality beyond which you will have to opt for native apps.
React Native Application:
In this type, developers use mediums such as React Native, which is Facebook’s development framework to build apps on, for both iOS and Android simultaneously. What this means is, they have to write just one piece of code/script in JavaScript and React Native will incorporate up to 90% of it into separate apps for both platforms, saving effort and time for the developers, and costs for the company. On the React Native page on Facebook, they describe it as,
“React Native uses the same fundamental building blocks as regular iOS and Android apps. You just put those building blocks together using JavaScript.”
Applications built on React Native tend to perform better and provide a more promising future in terms of functionality, UX and UI. Some argue that this may be a middle-ground between cross-platform and native app development.
Is React Native the Same as Hybrid Apps?
The short answer is no. Hybrid, as the name suggests is a combination of two things- web technology and native execution. In other words, Hybrid apps are written in the same languages as web apps, just wrapped up in a native package and tied with a ribbon. It presents many of the same problems as cross-platform apps, such as slower speed and lesser room for expansion.
React Native, on the other hand, is an open-sourced mobile app development framework owned by Facebook, available to developers and designers all over the world. The applications built upon React Native as their codebase, are closer in performance to Native apps, or to put it simply- are smoother and faster.
The Pros:
Better UX/UI:
Seamless and smooth, React Native makes user experience indistinguishable from that of Native apps.
Time and Cost Saving:
With no code rewrites required for different platforms, React Native saves a company time and money that would otherwise be needed to develop the same application.
Better Functionality:
React Native allows developers, and companies to expand their application however and whenever they deem fit, according to the growth and needs of their business.
Third-Party Integration:
The open-source nature of React Native has allowed it to absorb newer technologies and lets developers integrate third-party inputs effortlessly.
The Cons:
Custom Modules:
Even though React Native is a fast-learner, it is still pretty young. It lacks some of the custom modules that may need to be built from scratch.
Facebook Rules and Regulations:
Since it’s owned and run by Facebook, companies may find it difficult to have to abide by the preset rules and terms.
Native Developers:
Although React Native is written in a completely different code, Native app developers may still be needed for expert level knowledge of each platform, for instance, in the process of debugging, etc.
Aspects to Consider When Making Your Decision:
Choosing your app development tool wisely, is crucial to your success. Now that we have covered what each of the tools available have or don’t have, let us consider the parameters on which we should evaluate these options.
1. Target Users:
Like any successful brand, an application development also needs to be backed with tons of research about who the target audience is, and what they want from the app you are creating. The best of applications may fail if they don’t meet the criteria of their target users.
2. Time:
The time until your application has to be launched, carries a ton of weight while choosing an app development tool. It is unwise to go for an extensively designed Native app if you have time constraints.
3. Costs:
For a start-up, cost means everything. You cannot go forward if you don’t have the budget to support a whole team of developers. Instead, you should focus on the most cost-effective option.
4. Type of App:
Another thing to consider is the type of application you are aiming for. If you want a detailed, all-in kind of experience for the user, you cannot choose basic tools like cross-platform. On the other hand, if your app is simple and only has a few functions, it is best to stick with the minimal design and save costs and time.