Comparing mobile development approaches
Comparing mobile development approaches
The +Blog Team
or how to choose a mobile strategy tailored to your needs 

Delivering an intuitive, effective and user-friendly mobile experience to your customers is a must in case you want to keep your head above the water in our digitized world.

Entrepreneurs, marketers and managers often find themselves at crossroads when choosing an approach towards the mobile development of their project. The truth is that there is no universal answer to the question of mobile app productivity - it’s all strictly individual and each option has its pros and cons, which should be considered when applied to a certain business goal.

In this article, we are going to explain different mobile development approaches and try to systematize every piece of useful information about them in a short, understandable and straightforward manner. Because you don’t need to be a knowledgeable mobile developer yourself to gain an understanding of basic technical specifics, pain points, advantages and applicability. Now let’s go and prove that.

Progressive Web Apps

We’re going to begin with an honorable mention, which is a bit untraditional and functions differently from all of the ones below. Progressive web apps are currently the latest trend in the field of mobile development. They incorporate one of the main principles of hybrid development - they are web-based - but still, there are a lot of differences between the two approaches.

Progressive web apps allow businesses to achieve a certain level of mobile functionality without having to develop an actual mobile application. Technically, progressive web apps are a modern type of websites, which run in a browser but are accessible via an icon on the home screen of the mobile device.

Their type of functionality is proven to be greatly effective for the needs of E-commerce, and that’s the field where they are most commonly used. Some of the most recognizable progressive web apps, which you may have used yourself, are for example Flipkart and Aliexpress.

Progressive web apps provide an opportunity for fast development, quick TTM and better cost-effectiveness even than our favourite cross-platform apps. Their role in the mobile stage is probably yet to become bigger and bigger in time.

Of course, their most significant pain point is that they run in a browser and therefore can’t be downloaded via any of the app stores. Decision makers should carefully consider the pros and cons of the progressive web app approach, according to the specifics of their niche.

Native App Development

A native app is specially developed for a single operating system, by using a proper, a native-to-the-operating-system programming language - Java, Swift or Objective-C, depending on the system. This means that you’ll have to pay for developing two independent codebases for Android and iOS. Consequently, this option is not only the most precise among all the others, but also the most expensive.

Advantages

Developing a native app is usually the best case scenario for entrepreneurs and business owners because of its numerous functional advantages. Some of the most meaningful among them include:

  • Native apps are fast, intuitive and highly interactive, which not only increases customer satisfaction, but also greatly boosts the marketing process.
  • They communicate and interact with device utilities such as camera, microphone, calendar, facial recognition, cloud connectivity, etc. All those interactions smoothen the experience and widen the possibilities for built-in app functionalities.
  • Native apps are also able to better interact with other apps on your device, furtherly increasing the experience and the complex networking possibilities.

Disadvantages

The usual disadvantages of choosing the native app approach are not many, but can be crucial anyway. Here is why:

  • Native app development is an expensive endeavor. Not only the coding of a native app is very complex, but…
  • It needs to be done twice. Though there are extensions which enable code sharing and C++ libraries can be transferred between iOS and Android apps, usually a startup needs to pay double and that’s not always acceptable for their budgets.
  • Considering the complicity of the task, native app development is usually time-consuming and is not a great option if you have short time to market.
  • Not only the development, but the support of a native app is also multi-platform, so it will pick your pockets in the long run by making you hire two separate platform-specific teams.

When to choose the Native App approach

Long story short - when you have thе time and financial resources to do so, or when the specifics of your project desperately require it.

Anyway, short stories are not always accurate enough, so let us explain a bit further. Native apps are certainly a tempting option, but sometimes your project might benefit equally or even greater from another type of app development approach. We’re going to explain this option further later on.

Native apps are the wisest decision for businesses in highly concurrent niches, which require a proficient UX rates such as the financial, telecom or service industries.

Hybrid Development

Hybrid apps are a combination of web and native elements. Basically, their codebases are created by using standard web technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript - exactly like progressive web apps. Once written though, those codebases are “wrapped” inside a native container, called a WebView. The most popular tools for Hybrid app development are for example Flutter, Ionic, and Apache Cordova.

The native WebView allows functionalities, which outgrow the obsolete progressive web app - for example device and utilities accessibility and improved UX. Consequently, users won’t need a browser to open a hybrid app, though its codebase will be no different than a web application’s one.

Advantages

Hybrid apps are not to be underestimated, due to their undeniable advantages, such as:

  • Their comparatively fast time to market and development, suitable for express projects.
  • Reduced price compared to a native app and boosted functionality compared to a web app.
  • Hybrid apps require a single codebase development, which is suitable for both Android and iOS.
  • Better hardware functionality compared to a web app. (Yet insufficient compared to a native app or cross-platform apps)

Disadvantages

Although a good overall alternative to the expensive native apps, hybrid apps still have some drawbacks, including:

  • Slow and sluggish app performance and therefore a UX far from the optimal.
  • They are reported to be not interactive enough for the purposes of some more complex projects.
  • Hybrid apps usually have access to some OS features, but they are not able to interact with other native apps installed on the device.

When to choose the Hybrid App approach

The Hybrid app mobile approach is suitable for those who aim at achieving a balance between price and functionality, by making a low-cost initial investment.

This option is good for startups with limited budget for initial mobile development. Keep in mind that once your product is marketed and you manage to increase the ROI of your business or product, evolving a hybrid app into a fully-functional native app is always an option.

Cross-platform Development

It’s easy to get confused and jump to the wrong conclusion that hybrid and cross-platform apps are much alike. Actually, the only things they have in common are the single codebase and the code shareability option - no more, no less.

Unlike hybrid apps, cross-platform apps use a native rendering engine, rather than a browser one. The codebase is created via Javascript, C# in the case of Xamarin or other and it is connected to the native components via links, called “bridges”. Put simply, this creates near-native UX, way better than a hybrid could offer.

Some of the widely used platforms which stand behind Cross-platform app development are Xamarin & Xamarin Forms, React Native, Adobe PhoneGap, Appcelerator, Sencha, etc. Xamarin & Xamarin Forms are known to have some significant advantages over other platforms, as well as some advanced functionalities, convenient for both the final product and the developers themselves. Those include faster source code development, outstanding design tools which boost UI an UX, tools for developing offline features, etc. The Xamarin Test Cloud is another great feature, which allows developers to continually test their applications during the development process and therefore achieve a flawless source code.

That’s precisely why our agency prefers Xamarin Forms for cross-platform development above every other option.

Advantages

The advantages of cross-platform mobile apps closely relate to those of a hybrid app, yet include some additional assets:

  • It has a highly cost-effective production compared to the fully native approach, and it provides the perfect balance between price and functionalities.
  • Just like hybrid adds, cross-platform apps are also supported by different OS, so you’ll need to develop a single app and you could respectively reuse its code.
  • Much better access to hardware features, compared to a hybrid app.
  • Improved interaction with other native apps, compared to a hybrid app
  • Ideal choice for enterprise and corporate apps with lighter requirements on UI but need for native-like experience

Disadvantages

Some of the disadvantages of the cross-platform mobile apps may include:

  • Slower development and time to market, when compared to hybrid apps.
  • A bit weaker performance in terms of speed, when compared to a native app.
  • They are also being reported to be not interactive enough for the purposes of some more complex projects.

When to choose the Cross-platform App approach

Experts and mobile app developers usually refer to the cross-platform approach as the “golden middle” among the other extremes. It’s neither very cheap (such as web and hybrid apps), nor bombastically expensive (such as native apps).

The performance of cross-platform mobile apps is above satisfactory. Developers could use Xamarin Forms to develop around 90-95% of the app, and then leave the remaining part for native technologies. The native code, even in small amounts, implements precious capabilities, which make cross-platform apps less limited than the hybrid ones.

Cross-platform apps are therefore applicable to the needs of a surprisingly wide range of products. Some of the pretty decent cross-platform apps you’ve probably seen and used by now include the Bloomberg app, Insightly, and even the early version of Airbnb.

Mobile Development