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Choosing Single or Cross Platform and the Ideal Mobile Development Techniques

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As a mobile app developer, sometimes you might have to take a decision on whether to build a native app or hybrid app. If you have the financial resources and time, it is always best to build native apps compatible with all mobile platforms. But there are many key considerations you need to think through, before taking that decision.

Single Platform Vs. Cross-Platform
Single Platform: If you have decided to build apps on a single platform, then you should keep in mind that they are appropriate for:

  1. Targeting specific audiences like iOS or Android users.
  2. Internal facing enterprise applications, where you know the platform on which your audience is on.

 

The advantages include the ease of designing, building and testing apps. App reach limitation and challenges with respect to multiple platform compatibility are some of the disadvantages.
Cross-Platform: Cross-Platform mobile development should be the preferred approach if one wants to reach a larger mobile user base. According to the recent IDC’s Smartphone Share Report, building apps for iOS and Android unlocks a major percentage of the mobile market.
Mobile app reach extension and smooth functioning of both internal and customer-facing apps are advantages. But these apps take longer to develop and is expensive to build. If the objective is to reach more users, the investment is worth it.

Development Techniques: Native, Hybrid or Browser
Once you have decided on the platform, there are three development techniques at your disposal––Native, Hybrid and Browser-based apps.

Native Apps: Native apps are built using platform-specific SDKs and languages;
iOS uses Objective C and Apple APIs, while Android uses Java and Google’s Android APIs.

Native apps offer a host of advantages––faster functioning and richer user experience, availability of professional development & testing tools, full access to platform & device capabilities and monetization for developers.
But the same also has some disadvantages: They are expensive to build and require separate developers for each platform. Also, each platform demands knowledge of different tools and languages. Lastly, there would be a need to redesign every time, since the code cannot be reused.

Hybrid Apps: Hybrid apps run on the devices that are similar to one’s native apps run on. Hybrid apps are written with web technologies such as HTML, CSS & Javascript, and run inside a native container. The native container or shell acts as a proxy that allows Java script to access device APIs (not all of them) and sensors.
Hybrid apps have some advantages: It is easy to find software developers with HTML, CSS, Javascript skills; Easy access to many device APIs that are not accessible in Mobile Web Applications; Provision to distribute and monetize via app stores, and Common code base for multiple platforms.

The disadvantages include the need for native tools to package and distribute the apps, limited access to device APIs, lack of performance and difficulty of the HTML consortium to catch up with the frequent updates and releases of Apple and Google.

Browser Apps: Browser apps/Mobile Web apps/HTML5 apps are built using HTML, CSS and Javascript and run on modern mobile browsers. These are best suited for internal enterprise apps targeting multiple platforms.
These apps are least expensive and can be developed faster. Apart from multi-platform compatibility, browser apps are easy to deploy on the mobile device. Also, it is easy to find software developers with HTML, CSS and Javascript skills.
Browser apps also have demerits: Even though they run on multiple platforms, they cannot be distributed via mobile app stores. So monetization has to be done separately. What’s more, they offer limited access to native APIs and sensors, and also lacks in smoothness. The possibility of animation is also ruled out.

Hence if you are looking for performance, security, monetization, rich user experience and innovations, then the recommendation is to adopt a Native development technique. At the same time, a Hybrid app will enable lower cross-development costs, ease of development and the fastest way to reach the majority of mobile users.

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