What is a smartphone without an app? It could probably be compared to an old-school Nokia or Motorola used solely for the sake of calls and text messages — such phones have no touch screens but old-school buttons instead. This antiquated functionality can't meet the needs of the 21st century. Apps, on the contrary, provide higher connectivity with the outer world; thus, they have become an integral part of our daily routine.
Over the last few years, the time spent in apps has grown to around 4.9 hours per day. In some markets, this is a 50% increase since 2020. Moreover, users focus not only on existing apps but also willingly download new ones. In 2021, the number of new downloads reached 230 billion, a 5% year-over-year growth.
Due to the tough competition, businesses can be tempted to launch an application as fast as possible and at the lowest cost in order to secure their place in the market ahead of competitors. Hence, ready-made solutions like cross-platform software are a frequent choice. Multiplatform applications, however, can't boast fast and flawless performance, outstanding stability, stunning user experience (UX), and minimal crashes.
That's where native mobile applications win, as they can provide it all. Native mobile app development also implies higher quality that drives long-term customer loyalty. In this article, we will dive deep into native mobile app development and its benefits.
Native app development: What is it?
As you have seen earlier, native app development isn't the only approach to building mobile applications. Cross-platform and progressive web apps (PWAs) are the most common alternatives to native mobile apps.
Cross-platform development is a quite affordable and fast option, as you build one application that covers both Android and iOS platforms. However, it comes at a price of performance issues, UX flaws, and update complexities due to the lack of integration with the particular operating system.
PWAs are web applications with enhanced user experience, which makes them similar to mobile apps. Unlike traditional mobile applications, users don't have to download them because they are run in a browser. Nonetheless, your consumers can install them on the home screen if necessary, receive notifications, and run the app offline. From the tech standpoint, PWAs are quite fast and easy to maintain.
So, what is a native mobile app, and how does it differ from the others? Its ultimate distinctive feature is full compliance with the guidelines of a specific operating system. This results in higher stability, better performance, relatively easy maintenance, and facilitated scalability. Thus, you won't need to allocate a lot of resources to post-release maintenance and fixes.
Native app development implies that you have to build separate native apps for each operating system — one for Android and another for iOS. Although it's more expensive than cross-platform and web approaches, you may find native mobile applications more beneficial in the long term.
Tools & technologies
Although there are many operating systems, we focus on developing mobile apps for iOS and Android. Together they managed to conquer the majority of the market worldwide and now account for a 99% market share.
When building a native app, a developer uses a particular programming language native to either iOS or Android. In other words, the specialist speaks the language that the system will understand. Let's dig a bit deeper into the tech stack for native app development.
There are two coding languages that developers use to create high-end native Android apps:
- Java is the most mature programming language for Android app development. Until 2019, it was the main technology for Android development. The lion's share of Android OS is written in Java, and its APIs are designed to be called primarily from Java. Opting for Java, you will have powerful community support and a rich ecosystem of tools and libraries.
- Since 2019, Kotlin has been the preferred language for Android development, as declared by Google. As such, it's considered to be an evolution of Java in Android development. Also, Kotlin technology is 100% interoperable with the Java programming language.
Although some specialists use them separately, Kotlin and Java can be used as a duo. This means that an Android app can include the elements of Java and Kotlin at the same time.
Back in the day, iOS developers used to code in the Objective-C programming language only. Everything changed with the introduction of Swift in 2014, which is now used more often than Objective-C to build native mobile applications for iOS. Swift excels at security and performance and offers a variety of powerful tools to add expressiveness to iOS apps.
Benefits of native app development
Now that you understand the basics of native iOS and Android applications, it's time to focus on exactly how you can benefit from native app development.
Seamless performance and fast operating speed
Better performance is one of the core benefits of native mobile apps. When coding, developers need to make sure that an app will work properly on any device it can be installed on. In the case of native app development, compatibility is less of an issue, as native applications tap into platform-specific elements and APIs. These elements already take into account the peculiarities of branded devices.
Designing an app solely for one operating system has several benefits in terms of UI and UX. From a technical point of view, the size and resolution of the graphics won’t need to be adapted according to the requirements of devices. Thus, you won't have to think about the look and feel of your application on different devices.
When it comes to the users' perspective, a native application is much more interactive than a cross-platform or web app. These types of apps integrate seamlessly into their devices’ OS interfaces, which makes them look and feel like an extension of the device.
The ultimate advantage of the intuitive interface is simplicity in usage. People won't need to puzzle over where to find the menu and how to reach support.
Better security and reliability
Data security has become an urgent topic against the backdrop of remote-first work policies and more sophisticated cyberattacks. In 2022, the number of records exposed by data breaches reached 15 million and is still counting.
Data breaches can negatively affect the brand's reputation and drive consumers away. Even giants like Facebook aren't immune to the consequences. For example, users had a negative perception of the social network even a year after the Cambridge Analytica data breach.
Native applications are well-protected by several layers of an operating system. Native development also relies on official trustworthy APIs that reduce the app’s overall vulnerability. This makes a difference in terms of security because developers don't use third-party systems that may take advantage of the data access.
Native app development also allows you to offer embedded certification and in-app multifactor authentication. The latter is especially vital for an application that requires storing sensitive data, like personal or financial information.
When building a platform-specific app, app developers often use software development kits (SDKs). The tools provide necessary libraries that are essential when working on the app’s functionality, using the device’s hardware, or managing users’ inputs. Since both Apple and Google constantly update these tools, native application development implies higher flexibility in terms of available features.
What’s more, the SDK is rapidly revised and improved with every update. This allows developers to minimize the number of bugs and ensures enhanced stability. As a result, a native mobile app has seamless performance and little chance of crashes.
Facilitated maintenance that requires relatively little effort is a nice bonus.
Easy to launch in the App Stores
Launching an app can sometimes become an unbearable challenge due to the meticulous review process of app marketplaces. To get an application approved, the developer must make sure that every single part of it aligns with the guidelines. As a native app has to follow the regulations of either Google Play or Apple's App Store, the launch is much faster and easier.
Besides seamless performance and one-of-a-kind UX, your native app will have full access to the device’s hardware features. This means that a camera, GPS, or microphone can be used to your advantage, which leads to advanced functionality.
Access to a pool of expertise
When building an app, anyone would want to have a professional developer with deep expertise and preferably years of practical skills. Specialists with a focus on cross-platform or web solutions lose to those mastering a native path in terms of expertise. Also, both cross-platform and web apps are relatively new, while native iOS and Android apps were introduced more than a decade ago.
That’s why it’s much easier to find a professional native app developer who knows all the details of the particular mobile operating system. With such a specialist, the likelihood of errors is lower, while the speed of development is faster.
Scalability means the application’s ability to manage the product's growth. It involves increased traffic, load, users, and implementation of new features. The app's architecture allows it to accommodate more traffic without any major changes to the foundation.
If you have a cross-platform app, you will have to cater to both Android and iOS users. Therefore, it's more complicated to scale as you need to ensure high-quality performance and prevent crashes with an increase in users.
A native app, however, focuses solely on either iOS or Android owners. Hence, the task is easier as you have more opportunities to split the data flow. At the same time, native applications show the potential for a brighter future as they utilize the existing hardware more effectively than cross-platform ones. This significantly decreases the limits for possible growth.
Advanced customization is possible due to a lack of limitations for native app development. Developers don't need to combine the features of both operating systems. They can focus on Android or iOS and create a one-of-a-kind, highly customized application. Moreover, both platforms offer plenty of flexible tools and solutions to use, while cross-platform frameworks' proposition is rather scarce.
Is it worth going native?
Native mobile app development is an ideal path for building a mobile application if you seek high-quality and resilient performance. With stunning design and high-resolution graphics, rapid operating speed, and a rich feature set, a native mobile application will become your competitive advantage. Although you will have to pay higher for all the benefits, some of them are likely to return the investment in the long term.
If you need more help or want to know the costs, let us know. We would be glad to hear from you.