Revenues earned by mobile apps have already crossed all other digital medium revenue sources. Creating an app for smartphones for your business is more vital than ever, whether for your existing business or starting a new business from scratch.
According to Statista, smartphone apps are expected to produce $613 billion in revenue by 2025. This tells us why businesses of all sizes and niches are now running after app development. But when building apps, most businesses stand at the crossroad with two contrasting platform choices, i.e., iOS and Android. On the other hand, they can also build one single app that runs on both platforms. These two approaches, native and hybrid development, have been the primary two choices for years. Then came the era of cross-platform app development. This allows reusing maximum code across platforms but still maintaining platform-specific UI development.
So, choices are too many, even if only two leading mobile OS platforms exist. When creating an app for smartphones, if you choose to go for native development, a detailed comparison of the prospects of iOS against Android and vice versa is a must. Secondly, you can opt for hybrid development, and you need to know its pros, cons, and suitability for projects. The same comparison is required for cross-platform development as well.
In this blog post, we will make all these comparisons between OS platforms and types of apps.
iOS vs. Android Comparison for User Outreach
If you remember well, the mobile app ecosystem was populated with various operating systems such as Windows, Symbian, Blackberry, and a few others besides Android and iOS. Though the devices continued to evolve and new manufacturers set foot with their innovative offerings, the operating system choices only began to shrink as Android became popular. At the same time, iOS had a consistent presence with a loyal user base.
Simply, from this history of the two operating systems, you can figure out what type of app projects suit better for Android and what types of apps are more appropriate for iOS users. Any app that wants to reach the widest possible audience with a native app must first build an Android app as the OS has a wider footprint across most mobile devices. On the other hand, iOS, with its controlled and proprietary device ecosystem, is considered more sophisticated and secure. So, making a clear choice between the two platforms for your first app project is not difficult if you know your target audience.
Where your target audience is located is crucial for prioritizing iOS over Android or vice versa. iOS has a dominant market presence in North America, the United States, Australia, Japan, and a few other countries. In contrast, Android has a bigger footprint in China, India, East Europe, Latin America, Russia, the Middle East, and a few more countries. You should choose the operating system that is more popular in the region where most of your target audience lives.
iOS vs Android Comparison for Feature Requirements
Though iOS and Android platforms seem to offer all the technical capabilities and features, there are deep-rooted differences between the two platforms. While releasing an app, these differences need to be taken into consideration. Let’s explain these differences to understand the platform more suitable for your app project.
Material Design principle of Google comes with exact design specifications such as size, spacing of icons, color choices, use of grids and shadows, etc. For Human Interface Guidelines of Apple iOS, there are no must-follow specifications, but there is only guidance to achieve a particular look and feel. Apple iOS offers more freedom to developers and designers as far as UI design is concerned.
Since Android needs to run on a vast ecosystem of devices without centralized device control while several Android OS versions run simultaneously, security vulnerabilities are greater. iOS, on the other hand, with a centralized device ecosystem, has stricter checks and balances to reduce security vulnerabilities.
Performance & User Experience:
With their flagship devices, top-tier Android device manufacturers can ensure optimum performance and user experience. But there is a multitude of less-equipped essential Android devices from different manufacturer brands that can create performance and user experience bottlenecks. This is another area where a centrally standardized iOS ecosystem with its regulated device releases and updates can offer more consistent performance and user experience.
So, when choosing between these two platforms, iOS has an edge regarding freedom of design, app security, performance, and user experience. The same app in two flagship Android devices can show different performance and user experience levels. But an app running on all flagship iPhones will offer more consistent performance and user experience. If more comprehensive outreach across maximum devices and global locations is not a key consideration, iOS will be a better bet to start with.
Native Development Pros and Cons
Native app development builds and releases apps for particular operating systems and device ecosystems. For example, you can make an Android app and a separate iOS app without sharing the code, resources, and technologies between the two projects. This is precisely what native development is all about.
Native development needs platform-specific technologies such as Kotlin or Java for Android and Swift or Objective C for iOS. UI design must also follow platform-specific design guidelines such as Human Interface design for iOS and Material Design principles for Android apps.
Native apps also have platform-specific APIs for integrating UI attributes and functionalities offered by the respective OS. For distribution, native apps rely on the OS platform’s respective app marketplace, such as the App Store of iOS and Google Play of Android.
Over the years, native apps remained popular for various reasons. At the same time, native apps have their shortcomings as well. Let’s look at these key pros and cons of native apps.
- Native apps can utilize all the OS features and device capabilities to the fullest extent ensuring better performance and user experience.
- Native apps by using platform-specific programming languages and tools achieve more seamless app performance.
- Native apps by following the platform-specific design principles offer a more organic and engaging look and feel.
- Native apps receive extensive support from the OS platform and device manufacturers.
- Native apps distributed through platform-specific stores are ranked higher and are easily discoverable than non-native apps.
- Native development requires the building of separate apps for iOS and Android takes longer.
- Because separately building two app versions for iOS and Android is more cost-intensive.
- Native apps requiring platform-specific programming and design skills may pose challenges for finding and hiring skilled resources.
What App Projects are Suitable for Native Development?
Though native development is always regarded as ideal, not all app projects must embrace native development. But for certain app projects, native development is mission-critical for their success. Some app niches and types suitable for native development include the following.
- App projects with an uncompromising quality focus irrespective of the cost impact should always go for native development.
- App projects needing a strong security layer against all vulnerabilities and threats should opt for a native approach.
- Apps needing high-fidelity hardware performance should choose native development.
- App projects with complex and multilayered UI design requirements will find native design principles more suitable.
Hybrid Development Pros and Cons
Hybrid development is about building one app that runs on multiple platforms. You need to build the app with a set of platform-agnostic technologies and tools to run on iOS and Android. Since with hybrid development, you try to fulfill the requirements of both platforms, you make cost and time savings and at the same time expose the app to performance bottlenecks and UX issues.
Some common and widely used technologies developers use to build hybrid apps include Ionic, jQuery, PhoneGap, and a few others. Let’s quickly look at this development approach’s pros and cons.
- You can build the app quicker and release it simultaneously on all platforms.
- You require just one development team and cycle, resulting in considerable cost savings.
- Hybrid apps developed mainly using web technologies with lower learning curves make hiring resources easier.
- Hybrid apps without adhering to particular platforms’ technology and design requirements have serious UX issues and performance shortcomings.
- Hybrid apps cannot utilize the platform features and device hardware to the fullest extent.
- Hybrid apps cannot avail of the crucial OS updates released from time to time.
- Hybrid apps are less secure as they cannot utilize the security features of the operating systems.
What App Projects are Suitable for Hybrid App Development?
After a brief spell of popularity thanks to its cost and time advantages, the buzz around hybrid apps waned away just because cross-platform development brought a better approach. But still, some app projects prefer to go hybrid in the following situations.
- A hybrid app at least allows you to shape your mobile presence when you have a flimsy budget.
- When you want to release a mobile app for both platforms within just a fortnight, hybrid development is the way to go.
- When you just want to extend your digital campaign across platforms with a simple app, it offers a quick and low-budget alternative.
Cross-Platform Development Pros and Cons
Cross-platform app development is often used interchangeably with hybrid development. While both are intrinsically different in several ways. Cross-platform development is about reusing the codebase for multiple platforms while keeping the UI layer for native development. So, it brings together the value propositions of both native and hybrid development approaches.
Let’s try to understand what happens in cross-platform development. You build an app using a platform-agnostic technology, and now the codebase can be reused for iOS and Android versions. Only for the UI development do developers need to connect to the native UI layer of iOS and Android. Now, the technologies used for cross-platform development are platform-agnostic but not the same ones we use for hybrid development.
Besides all glory and shine, the cross-platform development approach also has its darker sides. Let’s now briefly mention the pros and cons of cross-platform development.
- ● It brings you the advantages of cost savings through reusable code and the benefits of native development through native UI layers.
- In terms of UI, cross-platform apps just offer an almost native look and feel.
- Cross-platform technologies have mostly a component-based modular architecture suitable for incremental development and frequent value additions.
- Cross-platform technologies continue to get better with new components added to the large repository by the developer community.
- All cross-platform technologies enjoy huge community support for problem-solving and troubleshooting.
- Cross-platform development often consumes a lot of time to perfect the user interface layer. Which ultimately eats away the time saved by reusing the codebase.
What App Projects are Suitable for Cross-Platform Development?
Since this development approach combines the best of hybrid and native development. It fits into the wider category of app projects across the niches. Let’s look at the scenarios, contexts, and app types ideal for cross-platform development.
- When an app needs to achieve high-fidelity app performance and user experience without nibbling a hole in the pocket, cross-platform development is the answer.
- When you need to shape your mobile presence at a jet speed without compromising on performance and user experience, this will be the right approach to opt for.
Summing It Up
So, not all platforms and types suit every kind of app project. You need to go deeper into these alternatives, and compare their value offerings, impact on cost and time, and availability of resources to make a final choice. Instead of seeing any option in black and white, consider your app case against the above mentioned parameters.
Juned Ghanchi is the Co-Founder and CMO at IndianAppDevelopers, a mobile app development company that have a specialized team of app developers in India who provides Android and iOS application development for all business domains. Juned is always looking for new mobile technologies ideas and share with others through blogs.