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Native App: What is it? Pros and Cons

December 28, 2022

A native app is an app that is built using a native framework for a specific mobile operating system. Whether Android or iOS, native apps are developed specifically for that operating system. This type of app has many advantages regarding usability, feature development, flexibility, speed, and other aspects regarding user experience and interface. This is mainly because they take advantage of the device’s features, such as access to the camera, GPS, compass, contact list, etc. Along with this long list of features, a native app can use operating system gestures, either those defined by the app itself or standard gestures. In addition, native apps can use the device’s notification system, and some can even run without an Internet connection. 

Application developers create native applications in a special integrated development environment, or IDE, for a given operating system without needing additional third-party libraries. For example, Java or Kotlin are used to develop native apps for Android, while Swift or Objective-C are two programming languages that are also often used for native apps for iOS.

Developers can ensure optimal performance by developing an app for one operating system. To do this, they create best-in-class user interface modules and optimize the user experience for a specific platform.

Benefits of Native Apps

Once we’ve established what a native app is, let’s take a look at some of the features and characteristics that set native apps apart: 

Performance: Native apps are responsive, reliable, and fast compared to other alternatives because they are built for a specific OS and have direct access to their API.

Security: There are probably fewer platform-specific vulnerabilities.

UX/UI: Native applications follow the traditions of a given platform, making them very user-friendly. Because they inherit the OS interface, the app looks and feels like an integral part of the device, making it easy to integrate with it without compromising the UX/UI.

Feature accessibility: They can use the native device features without restrictions. Native apps have access to the complete feature set of the device, including camera, microphone, compass, and gestures. 

Maturity: Native mobile apps take advantage of the most sophisticated architecture and advanced features for a given OS.

Fewer bugs: Native apps are likely to have fewer bugs than other types of apps with a common code base or apps for multiple platforms. In the long run, this can lead to lower maintenance costs and, therefore, more resources to develop new features.

Scalability: Due to the fact that native applications have the highest level of compatibility with the operating system for which they are developed, they can be easily scalable.

User Adaptability: The fact that native applications easily conform to UX/UI guidelines ultimately aligns the user experience with the application in a given operating system. As a result, the flow of the app is natural and conforms to specific standards for each platform, allowing the user to understand how the app functions quickly. Thus, the implementation process becomes smoother and more accessible for the user to grasp.

Disadvantages of native apps

Despite the many advantages, like any other development approach, the Native path is not as ideal as it seems. Listed below are a few disadvantages of developing native applications: 

Increased development time: Since each operating system requires its own app development, if your product is designed to work with both Android and iOS, the planned development time will take longer than with a hybrid or shared codebase approach.

Separate developer efforts: Because of the last point, developers will have to work separately on Android and iOS apps because they don’t share features and capabilities. 

Increased development costs: Because each app uses a different programming language and release cycle, development costs will increase because not only will you need two different teams for each product, but they will have to meet a shorter deadline than if you only created one product to develop the app.

Feature release: Due to the existence of different codebases and programming languages, releasing the same feature simultaneously on Android and iOS can be challenging.

Maintenance costs: Each app requires a different set of skills to add new features and maintain the app, which can increase product maintenance costs.

How are native apps created?

Professional app developers use different interface elements and development tools depending on the operating system for which they create the app. 

The two main hubs for creating apps are Android Studio for Android apps and Xcode for Apple devices. These tools allow developers to create an app that works well on a particular platform more efficiently.

Each OS supports different programming languages. Java is the traditional programming language used to develop Android apps. However, after Google’s approval in 2017, Kotlin became increasingly popular among developers as a cleaner and more modern programming language.

These days, iOS developers mostly use Swift for similar reasons. It is also easier to work with than Apple’s traditional programming language, Objective-C.

Developing iOS and Android apps

Another question on your mind is which platform you should create a native app for. The market share held by iOS and Android can provide some helpful insight.

You might imagine that the two major operating systems split the market in half. But they don’t. In fact, Android has the largest share of the global market, about 72%, while iOS accounts for about 27%. Other vendors take small shares, such as Windows, at 0.02%.

The fact is that even if one provider has a large share in your country, to ignore the other is to ignore and therefore lose a significant chunk of the market. That’s why creating your own apps for both the App Store and Google Play is best. 

While both systems are architecturally similar, they have many differences in their approaches to development, maintenance, and, most importantly, their user bases. Moreover, iOS users tend to be particularly loyal to Apple. Since they are unlikely to switch to another mobile device company suddenly, we can expect Apple users to be a constant stream on this market side.

On the other hand, Android runs on devices made by multiple companies such as LG, HTC, and Samsung. The aspect in which Android wins in the global mobile market is cost: having numerous companies running Android also allows for commercialization, diversification, and the creation of different “price tiers” without disrupting the brand image of one giant, as it does with Apple. The latter, combined with other market features, gives you a whole range of opportunities to target Android users.

As you can see, there are arguments in favor of developing native apps on both operating systems. Despite what we have just presented, it is also worth noting that each project needs its own market and product research, and general statistics can serve as a guide to start analyzing the sector you want to dive into. 

Alternatives to native applications

Before you dive in, you may want to consider other types of builds. Here are some basic alternatives to native applications:

Progressive Web Apps: this app is created and delivered over the web using HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. It is very similar to a website but includes some UX/UI changes to make it usable on mobile devices. 

Hybrid apps: Developers use a single app programming interface, or API, to create a mobile app with the same code base for Android and iOS.

Comparison of Web Apps, Native Apps and Hybrid Apps

Progressive web apps are easier to create, and development time can be accelerated by using templates. Even web application development platforms can be used to create web applications that don’t require coding. 

But despite these initial advantages, such applications will end up having the most rudimentary features. If you want to create an essential product, then try using a web application during development. They differ from native apps because web apps are the most primitive devices you can develop because they don’t allow as many features as native apps, and they provide less scalability and worse user experience and performance.

Essentially, a web app can be accessed and operated through the web browser of a mobile device and, despite its name, does not require you to download and install the app on those mobile devices. 

Because they do not contain complex features, these applications are easy to maintain because they share a joint code base that does not need to be adapted to each operating system. For this reason, web apps are easier to develop because they don’t require much effort from your development team.

Whether you choose a native app or a web app depends on various elements, such as development resources, project timelines, and the unique characteristics of your product and desired lifecycle. 

Final Thoughts

After comparing various types of apps, you can evaluate the pros and cons and decide what’s best for you.

Web apps are essential, hybrid apps are standard, and native apps are in the premium category.

Choose a hybrid app if you don’t need a complex feature set or have a smaller budget. At the same time, native apps are the better option regarding performance, user experience, security, and feature availability. It’s the best long-term investment.

For more information and to discuss options for your business, feel free to contact us.

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