native vs cross platform development article banner
native vs cross platform development article banner
native vs cross platform development article banner
Derek Sargent, Lead Software Engineer at Thrillworks.

Jan 9

Derek Sargent

Jan 9, 2024

Native versus cross-platform development

When does cross-platform mobile development make more sense than native?

There are many use cases when a cross-platform mobile development framework is good engineering practice. They have been gaining popularity over the years due to enabling smaller teams to move at an accelerated pace.

Having a consolidated codebase for multiple platforms allows developers to be more streamlined in their efforts. This increases developer velocity while decreasing costs. It helps avoid the unfavorable situation where a mobile app is released on one platform first (such as the App Store), and only later becoming available on the Google Play Store.

There is also secondary increasing of efficiency in the development process with cross-platform mobile development—fewer pipelines to create and maintain for code integration and deployment, and quality assurance can focus on one app release cycle without completely separated workflows. The enterprise and community support for these frameworks is a large part of their success and shows no signs of slowing down. Most of these frameworks also have infrastructure for interfacing with native APIs if they are not yet available in the framework. Each new framework release cycle provides additional capability, further narrowing the gap between cross-platform and native mobile development.

Flutter and React Native are the two most notable cross-platform mobile development frameworks. At the start of this year, one in five new apps on the Google Play Store were built with Flutter [1]. And this trend of apps being developed using a cross-platform mobile development framework is on the rise. The number of mobile apps being built using React Native has been trending upwards and outpacing the growth of the mobile app market for five out of the last six years [2]. This trend is the cumulation of numerous technology leaders and decision-makers analyzing their software requirements and then deciding in favor of cross-platform. Some notable examples of companies choosing cross-platform include Meta, Microsoft, Shopify, eBay, Wix, PlayStation, Discord, Tencent, Coinbase, and Nubank—among many others.

There are, however, some limited use cases when building a mobile app natively is more appropriate. If high performance is a priority, or if access to the latest native APIs or SDKs is critical, then using the native approach may be the best choice. Examples of these include Augmented Reality, gaming, and video streaming mobile apps. Furthermore, if the available team is mostly versed in native development, then it can be difficult to repurpose their skills quickly and effectively just because cross-platform is a trending approach. For most regular mobile app needs that have more general requirements, the use of cross-platform will have benefits that outweigh the downsides. Examples of these include mobile apps related to e-commerce, social media, health tracking, notes, and chat.

[1] Flutter 2023 Strategy
[2] App Developers Slow Down in 2022

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