08/06/2022 5 min read

Four approaches to building mobile apps

When it comes to mobile app development lots of questions are to be answered before the first moves. What technology is the best fit for my goals? How can I guarantee the decent user experience? How to launch it fast? How about performance?

In this article, we will answer these by exploring modern approaches to mobile app development: native, cross-platform, hybrid and web. We will focus on the two biggest operational systems – Android and iOS.

Native apps are the best in terms of user experience

Built specifically for the platform, native apps usually provide the best UI/UX and performance. All of the platform UI features are considered: the swipe moves, the camera and GPS interactions, the push notifications – literally, every single detail works the way users got used to.

The best user experience and high performance come with the price, especially if you need both – Android and iOS. Two teams and two codebases – Android in Java or Kotlin, iOS in Swift or Objective C – double your budget for development and maintenance and be ready to wait.

Although it takes time and money, native apps totally worth it, they are more secure, interactive, responsive and intuitive. The native approach is essential for complex apps with lots of interactions, such as GPS navigators and video registrators.

Choose native app development if
  1. Hardware functionalities like camera and GPS are a must

  2. User experience and performance are of the utmost priority

  3. You have a solid budget and no urgency in launching 

  4. Your app is to be launched on one specific platform – Android or iOS

Famous native apps

The cross-platform approach is a breakthrough

Code once, deliver everywhere – isn’t that a dream? The cross-platform app development tools allow sharing a single codebase for multiple platforms, still giving the native feeling of the app. Cross-platform development fits any small and medium-sized project. Big ones designed for a long life cycle also do great when written with cross-platform tools.

There are lots of cross-platform technologies out there, but the most popular is Google’s Flutter and Facebook’s React Native. If you want to dive deeper, explore why everyone’s talking about React Native or go through our post on which one to choose – Flutter or React Native.

Choose cross-platform app development if
  1. You want to shorten time-to-market while still giving great performance and user experience

  2. This is the first version of the app and you are not building far-going plans yet

  3. You don’t want to hassle with two teams, two codebases, two launching processes

Famous cross-platform apps

Hybrid apps are sometimes confused with cross-platform

Hybrid app development is a blend of native and web approaches. This is how it works: code written in Java, CSS or HTML is embedded into a native app via plugins or webview. The hybrid app is pretending to be mobile, but the performance and user experience is naturally lower than native and cross-platform.

What are the perks? Same as in cross-platform – you can use one codebase for multiple platforms. Hybrid apps usually can access Android and iOS utilities via API and could feel like a native. Well, sometimes.

Choose hybrid approach if
  1. You are tough with time-to-market and budget

  2. You need to quickly test ideas

  3. You are building an MVP

Web apps require a browser to run

And therefore user experience is the poorest among all the approaches. Why use it then? It is the cheapest and the fastest of all. Any web developer could build a web app, cause literally any technology could be used. E-commerce projects were the first to adopt the web development approach because web apps could be run on any device which has a browser.

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