The terms non-native and native apps are commonplace in the software industry. But what do they mean to those who are unfamiliar with software development and may want to develop an app someday… probably not a whole lot.
Let’s briefly define these terms, to better understand them.
Native App Development
Native apps are downloadable mobile applications that are tailored and specific to operating systems such as iOS or Android. These apps are indigenous to the device it was developed for.
Non-Native App Development
Non-native apps- otherwise known as web apps- are designed to run on multiple platforms, instead running off web browsers rather than a specific operating system. These are built with mobile experience put first, which also facilitates desktops.
So, one utilises a web browser- to cover multiple platforms, whilst the other utilises a specific operating system- to target a specific operating system. What positives, and drawbacks of using these different approaches to app development?
The first key benefit to developing native apps is the increased usability of the app. Due to the app being developed to serve a specific operating system (i.e., iPhone’s iOS system), the apps are optimized to run and serve the specific device. A greater user experience (UX) is produced as these apps can take advantage of functions within specific operating systems. The greater the UX, the more likely that app users will use and stay on the application.
Another key benefit of native apps is the efficiency. Having an app built for a particular platform and stored in the device allows it to make use of the processing power. Also, the native apps’ software capabilities for utilising its devices’ hardware are stored, providing responsive load times to app commands.
One of the biggest drawbacks to Native app development is the cost. If looking to serve multiple operating systems whilst maintaining the efficiency and utility that native apps provide, this now becomes significantly more expensive and time-consuming. Separate code bases and developers are required to create two different versions of the app that runs on differing platforms.
Another disadvantage is the ongoing updates that are necessary to keep the app working and efficient. Native apps are constantly updating due to:
- The ongoing technological developments that occur in devices, so ensuring the apps are consistently optimised with the most updated versions of the OS.
- Malfunctions and bug repairs are common in native apps, so maintenance is ongoing.
One of the biggest advantages that come of non-native app development is its multiplatform service. These web applications are easily accessible and are a much cheaper option compared to designing different native apps for different operating systems. This reduces the time and money spent on development.
The big disadvantage to non-native app development is that it comes with reduced user experience, compared to native apps. Though non-native apps can run on multiple platforms, their broadness means it doesn’t fully utilise different operating systems’ capabilities. This is a detriment to the UX and therefore could affect user engagement.
So, Which is Better?
Native apps provide superior capabilities for utilising device components. It is therefore always advised to go for this option if you have the capital and resources to fund the development of a native app. If resources and capital is low, a non-native app may be appropriate.