What Is a Native App and Is It the Right Fit for You?
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What Is a Native App and Is It the Right Fit for You?

If you’re embarking on creating an app for your company, you’re wondering what a native app is. We’ll help you understand the pros and cons.

The global mobile app market is growing exponentially. Its value is projected to reach $407.31 billion by 2026.

If you haven’t already, it could be time for you to jump on this trend. An app could do so much for your business.

It’s a channel you can use to engage customers and increase loyalty. You can personalize interactions and reach customers in real-time. Given the simplicity and convenience of apps, you also have the opportunity to increase revenue.

Those are just a few of the many ways an app could benefit your business.

Now, if that’s piqued your interest, you’re likely wondering where to start. And one of the first questions you’ll ponder is what type of app will be best for your business.

So, we put together this guide on native apps and the alternatives to help you make an informed decision.

What Is a Native App?

A native app is an app that’s built using the native framework for a specific mobile operating system. App developers build native apps within the specific Integrated Development Environment, or IDE, for the given OS, without needing any additional third-party libraries.

By developing an app for one operating system, developers can ensure optimal performance. They do this by creating best-in-class user interface modules and optimizing the user experience for the particular platform.

Characteristics of Native Apps

Let’s take a look at some of the features and characteristics that make native applications stand out: 

  • Performance: Native apps are highly responsive, reliable, and faster than alternatives.
  • Security: There are likely to be fewer platform-specific vulnerabilities.
  • UI & UX: Native apps conform to the conventions of the platform in question, making them super user-friendly. 
  • Feature availability: They can utilize native device features without boundaries.
  • Maturity: Native mobile apps benefit from the most sophisticated architecture and advanced features for the given OS.

The only downside is the need to create multiple versions of the app that work on different operating systems. This may require more resources and a higher development cost.

How Are Native Apps Built?

what is a native app: people programming on a computer

Professional app developers use different sets of interface elements and development tools according to the operating system they’re building the app for. 

The two main centers for building apps are Android Studio for Android apps and Xcode for Apple devices. These tools allow developers to build an app that will work well on a specific platform more efficiently.

Each OS supports different programming languages. Java is the traditional programming language used for developing Android apps. But, since its Google approval in 2017, Kotlin has become increasingly popular among developers as a cleaner, modern programming language.

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

iOS vs. Android App Development

Another question that’s no doubt at the forefront of your mind is which platform you should build a native app for. The market share that iOS and Android hold could provide some useful insight.

You might imagine that the two main operating systems split the market down the middle. But, that isn’t the case. In fact, Android has the largest share of the global market at around 72%, while iOS makes up approximately 27%. Other providers hold small percentages, like Windows at 0.02%.

What’s interesting, though, is that these figures change according to country. The U.S. seems to be fonder of iPhones, for example. In the U.S., iOS has a 61% share of the market to Android’s 39%.

But what does this mean for you? Well, the truth is, even if one provider has a larger share in your country, to ignore the other would be to ignore a significant chunk of the market. So, it’s best to build native applications for both the App Store and Google Play .

What’s more, iOS users tend to be particularly loyal to Apple. Users are unlikely to suddenly switch to a different mobile device, meaning you can expect a steady stream of users from that side of the market.

On the other hand, Android works on devices built by multiple companies, such as LG, HTC, and Samsung. This gives you a range of opportunities for targeting Android users.

As you can see, there are arguments for native app development on both operating systems.

Alternatives To Native Apps

Before you dive in, you may wish to consider other types of build. Here are the main alternatives to native apps:

  • Progressive web apps: A progressive web app is built for and delivered through the web using HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. It’s very similar to a website but incorporates some UI/UX tweaks to make it usable on mobile devices. 
  • Hybrid apps: Developers use a unified application programming interface, or API, to build a mobile application with the same codebase for both Android and iOS. 

Web Apps vs. Native Apps vs. Hybrid Apps: Which Is a Better Fit for You?

group of people discussing around a table

Progressive web applications are simpler to make and the development time can be speeded up through the use of templates. There are even web app development platforms you can use to build web apps that don’t require any coding. 

A major advantage of hybrid apps is the ability to use a single, shared codebase for iOS and Android. Again, this could mean a simpler, quicker build. On certain hybrid development platforms, such as React Native, you also have the ability to write the code for platform-specific features alongside the shared code.

However, mobile web apps and hybrid apps are less advanced and don’t have the same level of functionality as native apps. Progressive web apps don’t have access to native features. Thus, progressive web app developers often end up creating below-par replications of native app features. Hybrid apps are better in that they do have access to native features. 

However, it takes a longer time to make such features available on hybrid apps than on native apps. Also, hybrid app developers sometimes need to place their trust in a third-party library that isn’t properly tested to be able to write shareable code to develop specific features.

Native apps have access to the widest range of native features, even the opportunity for unique new features that incorporate Internet of Things devices, virtual reality, and augmented reality.

Furthermore, seeing as progressive web apps and hybrid apps are on multiple operating systems, their design is either the same or similar across the board, even if you develop some platform-specific features when creating a hybrid app. Native apps, however, follow the design guidelines for each platform meticulously which provides a better user experience. Design elements and navigation differ from platform to platform. Thus, loyal users of one or the other operating system may find cross-platform apps confusing.

Native apps rule the roost in terms of performance. As mentioned above, native apps allow for high-speed use. This is because they operate via an embedded connection on the operating system. Progressive web apps are generally slower and hybrid apps operate at a moderate speed and level of responsiveness.

Making Your Final Decision

Now you’re equipped with all of the relevant information. You’ve observed the battle between progressive web apps, hybrid, and native apps.

If you’re still stuck on which type of app to build for your company, you might find it easier to think of these categories in terms of a tiered system. Web apps are the basic package, hybrid apps are standard, and native apps are in the premium category.

If you don’t need a complex set of features or if you have a smaller budget, go for a hybrid app. But, in terms of performance, user experience, security, and feature availability, native apps are by far the superior option. They’re the better long-term investment.

For more information and to talk through the options for your business, feel free to get in touch with our team of professionals.

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