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 touchscreens but old-school buttons instead. Such functionality can’t meet the needs of the 21st century. Apps, on the contrary, provide higher connectivity with the outer world and, therefore, are becoming an integral part of our daily routine.
People have been spending more time using them, but COVID-19 has accelerated the trend even more. In a recent report, analytics platform App Annie stated that mobile owners started to devote 20% more time to applications in 2020, compared to 2019. Moreover, users focus not only on existing apps but also download new ones. In fact, the number of downloads reached 218 billion globally in 2020.
With such rapid growth, businesses can be tempted to launch an application as fast as possible and at the lowest costs in order to carve out their market share. Hence, ready-made solutions like cross-platform software are a frequent choice. Such applications, however, can’t boast fast and flawless performance, outstanding stability, stunning user experience (UX), and little chance of crashes.
That’s where native applications win, as they can provide them all. In terms of mobile applications, it implies higher quality that drives long-term customer loyalty. In this article, we will drill into native mobile app development. You will find out what it is and why you should go for it.
Native App Development: What Is It?
As you might already understand, native app development isn’t the only approach to building mobile applications. There are two more: cross-platform and Progressive Web Apps (PWA).
A cross-platform app is a rather affordable and fast option because, in the end, you receive one application that works for both Android and iOS. Despite this, you are likely to encounter performance, UX, and update issues due to the lack of integrity with the particular operating system.
The PWA are basically web applications with enhanced user experience, which makes them similar to mobile apps — users don’t have to download them as they are run in a browser. Nonetheless, your consumers can install them to the home screen if necessary, receive notifications, and run the app offline. As for the development, it’s rather fast and easy to maintain.
What is a native application, 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 for further assistance.
Here, you will have to develop separate native apps for each OS — one for Android and another for iOS. Although it’s costlier than cross-platform and web approaches, you may find it more lucrative in the long term.
Tools & Technologies
Although there are many operating systems, we focus on developing mobile apps for iOS and Android. They both managed to conquer the majority of the market worldwide and now reach an almost 99% share.
When building a native app, a developer codes in a particular programming language, specific 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 app development.
There are two programming languages that developers master in order to create high-end native Android apps:
- Java is the most popular programming language among Android developers at the moment. Java is the traditional language for Android development. Large parts of Android are written in Java, and its APIs are designed to be called primarily from Java. You will have powerful community support and are unlikely to face a problem that was never seen before.
- Kotlin is more like an evolution of Java in Android development. From official docs - "Kotlin is 100% interoperable with the Java programming language, so you can have as little or as much of Kotlin in your project as you want." It is actively promoted by Google and will provide a more smooth experience to developers who already know Java.
Although some specialists use them separately, both can be utilized together. It means that an Android app can include the elements of Java and Kotlin at the same time.
iOS developers used to code in the Objective-C programming language only. Everything changed with the introduction of Swift in 2014 that is starting to take a leading position today. The primary reasons for that are its focus on safety, fast performance, and powerful tools to add some expressiveness to the apps.
Benefits of Native App Development
So, once you understand the basics of native iOS and Android applications, it’s time to focus on why exactly to choose this very development approach. Once you finish reading the list of benefits, you are going to realize its full potential.
Seamless Performance and Fast Operating Speed
When coding, developers need to make sure that an app will work properly on any device it can be installed on. By taking a native path, this is possible as it implies using unique elements and APIs specific to the particular OS. These elements already take into account the peculiarities of branded devices. Therefore, few problems occur, and the performance is seamless and fast.
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 it.
From the users’ perspective, a native application is much more interactive than a cross-platform or web app. People easily catch the vibe of a native app because it’s created according to the prescribed design guides. They serve as the North Star, featuring the well-known user-friendly design elements that are specific to the OS.
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 the support.
Better Security and Reliability
Data security is becoming an urgent topic after an increase in cyberattacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. What is more, under such an approach, only official trustworthy APIs are used. It makes a difference in terms of security because developers don’t use third-party systems that may take advantage of the access data.
Besides this, when going native, you offer users embedded certification and in-app multi-factor authentication. The latter feature is especially vital for an application that implies storing sensitive data, like personal or financial information.
When building an app, IT specialists often use Software Development Kits (SDKs). The tools provide necessary libraries that are essential when working on the functionality, using device hardware, or managing user inputs. Since both Apple and Google constantly update these tools, native application development implies higher flexibility in terms of available features.
What is more, SDK is rapidly revised and improved with every update. It allows developers to minimize the number of bugs and ensures enhanced stability. As a result, the app works with seamless performance, few glitches, 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: app stores can merely refuse to accept it. In order to avoid such a pitiful situation, the developer must make sure that every single dot of the application aligns with the guidelines. Well, since a native app adheres to the regulations of either Android or iOS from the first line of code, 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 hardware features. This means that a camera, GPS, or microphone can be used, which leads to advanced functionality.
Access to the 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 the focus on cross-platform or web solutions lose to those mastering a native path in terms of expertise: both cross-platform and web apps are relatively new, while iOS and Android applications 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 operating system. With such a specialist, the likelihood of errors is lower, while the speed of the development is faster.
Scalability means the possibility of the application to manage the product’s growth. It involves the increased traffic, load, users, and implementation of new features. The app’s architecture allows it to acquire more traffic without any serious changes to the base.
If you have a cross-platform app, you will have to assist both Android and iOS users. Therefore, it’s more complicated to scale as you need to ensure high-quality performance and exclude crashes with an increase of users.
A native app, however, focuses solely on iOS or Android owners. Hence, the task is easier as you have more opportunities to split data flow. At the same time, the 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. Let’s imagine two situations: you have a decision to make. In one case, you are the only one who should be content with the solution. In another case, however, all the other stakeholders should like it as well. It’s not an easy task if there are only two more people to please. But what about 10 or 20 more?
The same applies to building an app. 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, OSs 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 pursue high quality. With stunning design and high-resolution graphics, rapid operating speed, and a wide variety of features, the 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 investments in the long-term — particularly because of easier maintenance.
If you need more help or want to know the costs, let us know. We would be glad to hear from you.