If you want to wow customers and fully leverage the capabilities of all their mobile devices, native mobile apps are definitely the way to go. Building a native application means developing software specifically for a platform – whether that’s iOS, Android or any other platform is up to you. There are significant advantages in doing this, which I’ll explain in a moment.
But first, let’s consider the main “alternative” to native mobile development: building a web app. Web applications are HTML-driven user interfaces that appear to be mobile apps from a user’s perspective. In reality, however, they’re just a bunch of web pages wrapped together with browser-level technologies.
Web apps are cheaper to develop and work in virtually any web browser regardless of platform. So you don’t have to choose iOS or Android or Windows at all. Sounds good, right?
So why should you build a native mobile app instead? Because native mobile apps offer benefits that make them worth the extra cost and effort.
Here are several key benefits of developing native applications… and afterwards, I’ll share how you can make them cross-platform, too.
Native mobile app code runs faster
Native apps are developed and compiled using a platform’s core programming language and APIs. This makes them more efficient on that platform, with fewer hiccups across devices. They’re also compiled and stored on the mobile device itself, allowing them to take full advantage of the device’s processing speed. A web app operates as a series of calls to and from remote web pages, and its speed is constrained by all those internet connections.
Native mobile apps show up in the app store
When your customer needs an app, where are they going to go? Most likely, the first place they’ll look is in their mobile app store. And if they find something that looks like it meets their needs, their search probably ends right there. If you want your app to be the one they find and download first, the only apps displayed in the app stores are native mobile apps. In this way, the app stores themselves provide an important channel for your app to be discovered. You can even enlist your marketing team to optimize your app store presence and make your app more discoverable.
Native mobile apps are more secure and reliable
Native mobile apps make it easier to add new features
With a web app, you’re limited to what can be done in a browser. This severely restrains your ability to produce innovative new features and services. With a native app and all of its associated APIs, you can be far more creative – you can even create your own APIs if the existing ones won’t do everything you need.
Native mobile apps integrate better with mobile hardware
Mobile devices contain a variety of hardware capabilities you might want to leverage in your app – capabilities such as GPS, camera, touchscreen, accelerometer, and phone. Accessing these from within a generic browser can be challenging at best. But with a native mobile app, you can interact with them directly – just as the platform was designed to do.
Native mobile apps present the UI and UX customers expect
While web apps are made to look like native apps, they don’t perform like them. They also present a single, generic UI across all platforms – which rarely match the UX customers have come to expect on their device. If your app feels awkward or strange, customers will avoid using it. With a native app, it’s far easier to satisfy a customer’s UI and UX expectations.
Native mobile apps work offline
Web apps only work when you can access the internet. Since all the page content lives on web servers, you need that connection to operate the app. But native mobile apps can function independently of the internet. So if you’re on the subway, in an airplane, or just don’t want to pay your hotel’s usurious WiFi fees… a native mobile app is always there for you.
Turning Weakness into Strength
Some people will say that web apps are better simply because of their cross-platform nature. According to comScore, the mobile platform market is split roughly 53/43 between Android and iOS in the United States.
They’ll tell you that with a native mobile app, you either need to cut off half your potential market, or develop two separate source codes – one for Apple and one for Android. Neither option sounds good for projecting sales and costs.
Fortunately, this assessment is not accurate. There is a way to develop cross-platform native mobile apps. It’s a software development tool called Xamarin.
With Xamarin, our Ascendle engineers write their code once. Then Xamarin takes that code, translates it, and compiles it for optimal performance on each platform. According to their website, “Xamarin apps look and feel native because they are.”
In this way, one of the major weaknesses of native mobile programming is turned into a strength.
Should You Build a Native App?
Sure, there are times when a web app would be sufficient for your needs. But if you’re looking for a high performance commercial software product, you’re going to want all the advantages that native mobile development can bring. If you want to learn more about your options, or about building your own mobile app, contact us at Ascendle today. We’ll help you determine which type of app is right for your specific project.