- Startup needs and challenges
- What is cross-platform development?
- What is native mobile app development?
- Why do most startups choose Cross-Platform over Native development?
- What are the risks of cross-platform development?
- Which mobile app development is best for a startup: cross-platform or native?
So you run a technology startup, have already obtained funding, and now want to quickly verify whether your mobile app has a chance to survive on the market or not.
You might not be aware of it, but you will soon have to choose how your app is made. Should you go for a native or a cross-platform one?
Let's dig into it.
Startup needs and challenges
Before I describe the differences between native and cross-platform web development, I want to present the common business needs of a startup. I believe they are of crucial importance to the question posed in the topic.
I would also like to add that the following needs are an average sum of my private and Order Group’s experience working with startups. I suspect they cover 90% of the market cases, so let me use them as universal examples.
So: if you run a startup, you don't know the product's final shape. You have certain assumptions and hypotheses, and you want to verify them. Consequently, you want to create a functional prototype of the app, hand it over to users and check if it makes sense.
You care about time because investors' deadlines are chasing you. So you want to create the prototype and release it as soon as possible. And when it's aired and used by the community, you want to be able to make changes quickly and provide users with new versions of the product fast and easily.
Finally, you don't want to spend much money on prototypes and tests. You want to verify the viability of the app quickly but also relatively cheaply. You don't want to invest much money in an uncertain project.
Your current goal is not a perfect product but a functional and flexible prototype. This app will verify your idea and show you further development direction.
If the above description is correct, let's get down to your tech dilemma, shall we? :)
What is cross-platform development?
Cross-platform development is a strategy to create single software that works properly on many platforms. So, instead of making two separate iOS and Android apps, you release one version of the system, tailored and integrated both with Apple and Google ecosystems.
The two most popular cross-platform frameworks are Flutter and React Native. They took the app development world by storm. You will find them used by innovative startups who want to test their ideas and the most prominent players on the global market, such as Instagram or Facebook.
What is native mobile app development?
I will list the advantages and drawbacks of the cross-platform strategy in relation to Native apps, so I believe it's also worth explaining them.
Native app development is about creating a mobile product directly for a given platform, be it iOS or Android. Therefore, if you want to put your system in both stores, you must release two dedicated apps.
Among the most popular native applications, you will find WhatsApp and Spotify.
Why do most startups choose Cross-Platform over Native development?
Our ten years of experience working with the code have clearly shown us that cross-platform applications are the best solution for startups. Why?
➡️ You pay less
Choosing cross-platform development, you maintain a programmer or development team specializing in just one technology. A smaller team means lower base costs (you employ fewer people) and less time spent managing two groups (and time also comes at a price).
➡️ You reduce time to market
You need one development team, which you complete faster than two teams. Your tech team works one but one base code, so you release your app when it's ready, not when one dev team catches up with the other (which is often the case).
➡️ You adapt your app to market easier
➡️ You reach a bigger audience for less money
You create one version of the app, yet you get access to the App Store and Google Play community. You don't have to choose between the two, for example, because you lack the budget or can't complete the tech team for either platform.
➡️ You improve your business flow
You don't have to wait until one dev team keeps up with the other so that you can plan your marketing campaigns with more certainty.
➡️ You have the support of the community
Cross-platform systems, such as React Native or Flutter, have a massive and loyal crowd of supporters. So if you face a tech problem, you can reach out to the broad community for help, and I guarantee you will receive it. :)
What are the risks of cross-platform development?
Needless to say, cross-platform development has its drawbacks too. Here are the risks of not choosing a Native app.
➡️ You are dependent on the framework provider
When you choose cross-platform development, you are dependent on the framework provider; if it crashes, your app will stop developing. Currently, two vendors (React Native and Flutter) rule the cross-platform market, and they're nowhere near falling. However, there were many more frameworks before, many of which have collapsed, showing that the risk exists.
➡️ You innovate longer
Suppose Google or Apple introduces a significant, innovative change (e.g., Apple Wallet or X). In that case, the natively working team will implement it almost immediately. On the opposite side, with cross-platform apps, a developer must first write and then release an extension that will enable using a given feature.
➡️ Your app isn't as efficient
Naturally, cross-platform apps will never be as fast as native ones written directly for iOS or Android. The differences are minor and expressed in milliseconds. Still, even minimal differences may be significant in high-tech and complicated apps with a huge user base.
➡️ You lose access to some modules and features
As with performance, you cannot count on using 100% of the features offered by native ecosystems. The most troublesome (meaning: the least accessible with cross-platform frameworks) are hardware-related areas such as the microphone, webcam, or geolocation.
➡️ Your app weights more
As cross-platform frameworks use many libraries and tools, cross-platform appl can weigh up to 2-3 times more than native ones.
Which mobile app development is best for a startup: cross-platform or native?
After my introduction to the usual startup business challenges, you're probably already familiar with our answer. Cross-platform apps are made faster and cheaper than Native ones. Therefore, we recommend cross-platform development for startups and entrepreneurs who want to verify their business ideas quickly and at a low cost.
However, does this mean we never recommend Native solutions? Not necessarily.
Because Native apps use the full potential of the platforms they're made on, native web development is an excellent choice for companies with a product that requires maximum responsiveness and performance. For example, suppose your app uses geolocation or consists of complicated animations or mini-games. In that case, you might consider going Native, just like Uber or PokemonGO did.
And let's not forget about financial matters. If you want to reach both Apple and Google audiences, 2 Native apps will cost you more money and time than a cross-platform one. In other words: you must be a wealthy company or a well-financed startup. The exclusiveness of each platform comes at its cost. :)