Mobile Development

What is a Native Mobile App? What’s worth knowing?

Marlena Walburg
Marlena Walburg

There are several approaches to choose from when developing mobile applications. Choosing the best option for your project often makes you dizzy, and questions like: what does native mobile app mean or whether the web application will suit my clients appear almost immediately in your head.

It is worth taking a look at each of the approaches to mobile application development and get to know them better. This time, we focus on native applications. Outstanding performance, great user experience, efficiency – that’s what they say and more. What is worth knowing about them? 

What is a native mobile app?

Native applications meaning is quite simple – these are applications designed for a specific mobile platform. As a result, the application created for the Apple device does not work on Android-based. Eventually, most companies choose a cross-platform approach to cover the need of having a version of their app on both systems. The main goal of creating native applications is to provide the best performance for a specific mobile platform. Users can access such applications by downloading and installing them on their mobile devices from dedicated application stores such as the App Store and Google Play. Companies choosing a native approach must take into account the need to build two applications, with separate codebases for Android and iOS. The development time for such software is, therefore, longer and more demanding. However, the native app offers more complex device integrations and access to its built-in features for an excellent user experience. 

Pros/cons of a native app?

Native applications advantages:

  • Wonderful performance – native applications have better results in performance tests compared to hybrid applications. It happens because they are built with a specific platform in mind and optimized for it perfectly;
  • Better security – the security of native applications is much higher, thanks to specific features and facilitations. They do not work directly in the browser and do not require a permanent internet connection, Therefore,  the chance of user data leakage or other menaces is much lower;
  • More functionalities – native applications provide access to the device’s functions without any additional tools or plugins. This enhances its attractiveness and possibilities;
  • Great user experience – perfect fitting to the platform and its properties, as well as offering rich features and high performance, makes native applications the best choice in case of user experience. 

Native approach drawbacks:

  • Many codebases – choosing the native approach, each platform will need to have its version of the application developed. It requires a separate development team for Android and iOS;
  • Higher cost – as more developers are needed to build and maintain the codebase for each platform, native application development is more expensive;
  • Longer development and maintenance time – developing applications for different platforms is more time consuming, and later, developers also need to spend some time on each feature update.

Read more:

Native mobile app development technologies

Technological possibilities for native mobile app development are quite wide but let’s focus on the most favoured ones.

Java

Java is the official programming language for Android. It is a general-purpose, class-based object-oriented programming language. It was released in 1996 by Sun Microsystems (now Oracle). It was created to replace C++, but with no success in this regard. Nevertheless, Java is currently one of the most popular and easiest to learn mobile application programming languages. Offers extensive, high-quality documentation, as well as strong community support. It allows you to build any mobile application, and many popular frameworks are based on Java.

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Kotlin

Kotlin is an open-source, cross-platform programming language that is designed to work fully with Java. In 2017, it was announced by Google as the official programming language for the Android platform. Since the release of Android Studio 3.0, Kotlin has been included as an alternative to the standard Java compiler. Kotlin is primarily a tool that facilitates and accelerates the work of programmers, without sacrificing application performance or code quality. Learn more about what is Kotlin used for from our related article.

Swift

Swift is a compiled, general-purpose programming language encompassing many paradigms. Apple Inc. created it as a replacement for the company’s previously used language, Objective-C. Since then, Swift has been widely used, mainly in the company’s devices. Swift has quickly become one of the fastest-growing languages ​​in history. Simpler writing software, which is by definition, extremely fast and secure, goes hand in hand with the high performance of the application, as well as the relative ease of learning this language. It is currently the best technology choice for native iOS applications.

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Native vs. web apps

Let’s start with a reminder that the web application is coded in HTML5, CSS or JavaScript and that Internet access is required for the proper operation and user experience of this kind of application. They differ from native applications in several respects. Here they are:

Device functions

While web applications can only use certain device features, native apps have access to all device-specific features, including GPS, camera, notifications etc.

Offline mode

A native application will also work without an internet connection. Web applications, as the name suggests, are based on the Internet. In-browser caching is already available in HTML5 but is still more limited than what the native version offers.

Discoverability and SEO

Web applications definitely win here. Discoverability is their domain and content is much easier to find online than in an application. This is because the user who needs information first goes to the search engine, enters a query and selects a page from the search results. It’s not often that it goes straight to the app store. Besides, the need to install applications on the device harms native applications. Most users don’t like installing applications and take up a lot of space on their device if they don’t expect to use it often.

Development costs

Creating web applications is much cheaper compared to native applications. This is since the web application works directly on any platform and does not require separate teams for Android and IOS versions development. Moreover, knowledge of technologies for native application development is often more cost generating, and this also affects the final costs. 

User Interface

Native applications, due to their optimization for the specific platform and construction characteristics, offer a much better user experience. This does not mean that you cannot provide your users with a great mobile experience using a web application. However, it will not be as advanced UX as you would get on a native application.

Speed

Native applications are much better in terms of operating speed and loading time. This is extremely important if you want to retain the user longer and build engagement, as well as impacting the user experience.

Installation

The native application needs to be downloaded from the store and installed on the device, which can be problematic for users. Not everyone is motivated enough to do this. A bookmark to a web application can be pinned as an icon on the home screen, which is much easier than downloading the application from the application store. However, this is a process that is less familiar to users as people don’t use bookmarks as often on mobile devices.

Maintenance

Maintaining a native application is usually quite a complicated process that requires some development work. Changes to the app must be packaged in the new version and placed in the app store. Maintaining a web application is basically as simple as maintaining a website. Moreover, all users will have the same version of the application available immediately, without the need to download it to the device and update it.

Availability on multiple platforms

In the case of mobile applications, as we have mentioned many times, it is not possible to divide the code between versions into different systems. Separate versions must be created for Android, iOS and other platforms. Web applications that run in the browser, i.e. regardless of the device platform, offer much greater possibilities in this matter. Additionally, parts of the code of such an application can be reused when creating a hybrid application based on it.

Fees and approvals

Native and hybrid apps must go through approval processes and are subject to restrictions and content controls by app stores. They also have to take into account the commission charged by these stores. Web applications do not have such problems – they are available immediately after publication.

Native app examples

Lyft

Lyft is a platform operating via a mobile application. It offers transport services, vehicle rental and food delivery. It is the second most popular application of this type right after Uber.

Pokemon Go

It was one of the most used and successful mobile apps in 2016, more than 500 million downloads worldwide by the end of the year. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality mobile game for iOS and Android devices. It uses mobile devices with GPS to locate, capture, train, and battle virtual creatures, called Pokémon, which appear as if they are in the player’s real-world location. 

Angry Birds

It is a popular series of games launched in December 2009. It is about using a slingshot to shoot birds at pigs on different constructors. The first game was released for the iOS platform. Since then, over 12 million copies of the game have been sold in the App Store, which led to the decision to also develop an Android version of Angry Birds games.

What’s worth knowing about native mobile apps?

The native mobile apps are incredibly powerful, feature-rich, and offer the best user and navigation experience. If you want to guarantee the above features, as well as many other benefits for both your business and users, you should consider developing a native application.

Interested in mobile app development technologies? Read our related articles:

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