Native vs. Hybrid vs. Cross-Platform Development: How to Choose the Right Approach?

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These days, releasing an app is no longer about the need to hit both platforms at the same time or making a choice for a less time-consuming solution. Companies like Clubhouse have proven that you can grow an audience and scale your product even when part of your prospective customers are still waiting for the release.

Sounds nuts, right? But, in reality, it is much more important these days to introduce a product that works perfectly for a single platform only, rather than a poorly functioning app, but only for iOS and Android at the same time.

The growing market of mobile apps has set a high bar for new releases – the UX has to be perfect, navigation has to be intuitive, and that’s before we even start to talk about main functionality. 

However, when taking the first steps towards developing an app for your business, which path should you pursue: cross-platform, hybrid or native?

Speaking of cross-platform development, there are a few primary advantages: with cross-platform, you only have to build one product for both iOS and Android platforms with one codebase. 

Although testing is still equally required on both platforms, this approach might save you a bit more time on development. This can be done within just one code base, meaning you don’t test less, but there’s definitely less debugging logic involved. Also, in terms of budget, cross-platform may result in a cheaper outcome – but don’t let that fact trick you. 

Yes, it is cheaper, however, it may not be so affordable when it comes to adapting the app to operational systems. Specifically, keep in mind that you might have to fix the UI, which can fail to adapt to both iOS and Android from the beginning. What this means is that your developer will probably have to insert custom patches and make revisions to ensure the system operates perfectly on each platform. These additional patches may affect the overall schedule and development, eventually causing a budget stretch. 

With cross-platform, you only have to build one product for both iOS and Android platforms with one codebase. But don’t let that fact trick you. 

Besides all of these custom inserts, puzzling the system can make it more burdensome and complex than what is actually needed.  It’s also important to keep in mind that this task can be completed in five minutes using Native. So, is it worth it?

In between the cross-platform and native approaches stands hybrid development. As with the cross-platform, hybrid is specific. 

First, when we talk about the advantages, with hybrid development, you can mix and match, creating the core as a cross-platform, and you can add native modules. This way, you’ll have stand-alone native-based modules with functionality linked to a cross-platform-based app. Conversely, it works the other way: with native core functionality on top of a cross-platform interface. 

It may sound like taking the best from both worlds, but, in reality, this approach requires a deep understanding of the app’s internal structure and architecture. Even if you have no experience, you might end up with a “Frankenstein app” that is too difficult and time-consuming to be supported due to segmented modules.

With hybrid development you might end up with a “Frankenstein app” that is too difficult and time-consuming to be supported due to segmented modules.

If your choice of app development fell on a hybrid model, make sure to start your project with an experienced team, not those who are just novices to this type of development, but those who have completed real projects. As a team with extensive experience in hybrid development, we can definitely say that hybrid is no joke.

Also, when it comes to cross-platform, the UI can often look alien, which makes the whole app much more undesirable for use. Hybrid apps are often used as ‘apps for businesses,’ that survive both informational and notification purposes. But, if you need something more complex, like animation or high-interface speed, native can be your best option.

Native development comes with a lot of benefits as well as a few well-known stereotypes.

Native requires more time – well, native isn’t new, so if you’re partnering up with an experienced team of app developers who know how to build native apps, the timeline will correlate with cross-platform or any other type.

The trick is, when you’re building a cross-platform, it seems like you’re making it ahead of time with two apps all at once. But it’s important to keep in mind that the amount of testing required to make sure both apps function and have a chance to work is suspect. The process of native apps’ adaptation to platforms operates much more easily with the same amount of testing.

The urge to hit the market with two apps is definitely baseless and excessive. Moreover, big names with even bigger releases have proven that. If the app is flawless, if it perfectly does what it’s been made for, the audience can wait until an app for their platform is released. Native provides much more confidence in building great UI, plus, you won’t have to hire a developer who knows it all, just a good, trustworthy native developer. Plus, native apps handle big chunks of data much better.

From the developer’s perspective, I’d say native is the best choice to go with if you’ve decided  to release a good product with a great UI. Yet, if you have strong reasons to develop a cross-platform app for your business, like a necessity to support both platforms at the same time or if you haven’t found the ‘right’ native developer for your project, cross-platform is a good option for you. Also, in some cases, we recommend a cross-platform app as a fast MVP option. Just keep in mind that for this type of development you’ll have to sacrifice two of the most crucial aspects: quality and interface speed load. 

Native provides much more confidence in building great UI, plus, you won’t have to hire a developer who knows it all.

Long story short, estimate all pros and cons of each development type before jumping into the project. Make sure to collect a few options from development companies to make a well-balanced decision. And always remember to think through the app’s architecture beforehand so you’ll get a masterpiece at the end.

Don’t stop exploring Diffco blog! Here’s what we recommend reading next:

Minimum Viable Product – 4 Things Every Startup Should Know

5 Reasons Why Quality Not Cost is the Priority when Choosing Mobile App Developers

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