Should You Develop Apps Natively?

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There is a debate in the mobile app world regarding whether app developers should develop their apps natively or use technologies that enable a single code base to be compiled into both, an iOS app and an Android app. There are a few technologies that enable developing for both an iOS and Android at the same time. Some popular examples of these so called frameworks are Appcelerator, Titanium, and PhoneGap.

The factors that go into the decision of developing mobile apps natively or using such frameworks are relatively straight forward. Android and iOS apps are different in their feel and usability. Creating 100% identical apps for both platforms doesn’t make the best sense in many cases. Nevertheless, it is obviously much more expensive (in money, skilled labor, and time) to develop unique apps that are native to iOS and Android.

So if you are ok with your apps being only 80-90% natural to the platforms they are on, using a framework that will take one codebase and compile it into apps intended for multiple platforms may be a great way to go. This way you can easily also create a Blackberry app or whatever other platforms it is possible to compile your app into.

On the other hand, if you develop natively, it will be more possible to get to optimum usability and quality for each of the platforms on which you plan to distribute your app.

Case Study Example

To give an example case study, in the case of my apps I decided to develop everything natively. That meant creating a whole new app for iOS and a whole new app on Android. I had to use different programming languages and different technologies that enabled those programming languages. That was difficult and it took a substantial amount of time because despite me having years of prior software development experience, there were many things I had to learn from scratch. But developing natively gave me one advantage that was key. I didn’t need to make identical app updates to both apps at the same time. I sped ahead on Android with constant experiments to get the app to generate more money, get more users, and increase user engagement. Most of those experiments failed, but a few of those experiments worked. The experiments that worked ended up eventually making their way into my iOS apps. So despite having to do much more work, developing natively on each platform gave me flexibility in what I was able to do with the apps.

Overall in the mobile app industry, most companies that can afford it, develop their apps natively. Most of their app updates loosely mirror each other for iOS and Android, and they prefer having the flexibility to do what they want on each platform. Most companies also prefer being able to make each app look as close as possible to what it should be on any given platform.

If you need to develop an app quickly, or simply don’t have the resources (time and money) to develop natively, then using a framework like PhoneGap, Appcelerator or Titanium begins to make much more sense.

Mobile App Marketing Book

This tutorial is just one section of my mobile app marketing book. Check it out on Amazon. It is available on the Kindle which means that you can read it on the Kindle app of any smart phone.

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