Native apps are part of most people's everyday lives, but are they the right kind of app for your company to develop?
In 2017, there were 2.8 million apps in Google Play and 2.2 million apps in the Apple App Store(link is external). Android and iOS are the two biggest mobile operating systems by far, and their native apps are part of most people’s everyday lives.
There are three major kinds of apps: native apps, progressive web apps, and Google AMP. Today, we will discuss native apps in the first article of three about the pros and cons of each type.
Let’s find out what native apps are, how they benefit businesses, and what challenges they may create for developers.
What Are Native Apps?
Native apps are platform-specific apps that are coded in a platform-specific programming language. This means that if the app is for an Android platform, it will use Java; if it is for a Windows phone, it will use C#; and if it is for iOS, it will use Objective C or Swift.
Native apps are identified as icons that are present on the home screen of a device.
Because native apps are specially designed for a particular device, they have full liberty to use the features that are present on the device, such as its camera, contact list, GPS, and Bluetooth.
Native apps are downloadable from their respective app stores – Apple App Store for iOS apps and Google Play for Android.
Most of the apps on your mobile device are native apps.
How Native Apps Work
Native apps work on the device’s operating system. In simpler terms, native apps require complete access to all the hardware and functionality of a device and live on a device.
The platforms provide app developers with standardized SDK, or software development kit, a kit containing a set of tools, code samples, libraries, documentation, and guides that allow developers to create apps on a particular platform.
The SDKs, combined with a powerful set of tools for developing native apps, deliver high performance and good user experience.
Apple provides the XCode(link is external), and Google provides Android Studio(link is external). These are specially designed IDE, or integrated development environment, a software suite that comprises of a code editor, a compiler, and a debugger. The developers use this for writing and testing software.
The IDE increases the efficiency of the app development process by fixing the toughest bugs and reducing development time.
Benefits of Native Apps
There are many benefits of developing native apps.
Native Apps Offer Speed
Because native apps are native to the platform, they work faster.
Many elements come preloaded. The user data is fetched from the web rather than the entire application, and since they work with the device’s built-in features, they are speedy.
Native Apps Work Offline
Native apps work even if there is no internet connectivity.
So, in situations where you are stuck somewhere with limited or no service, such as an airplane, underground tunnel, or subway, native apps are accessible.
Native Apps Provide a Recognizable Look and Feel
Native applications are a nuanced version of their device’s default apps.
When a user performs some functions, he quickly understands the natural flow of the application because it is similar to apps already on the device.
Native apps play an upper hand here, as mobile applications that try to emulate the look and feel of native apps often end up falling prey to the uncanny valley effect(link is external), a term robotics professor Masahiro Mori coined.
Mori hypothesized that the more human-like appearance a robot has, the more positive response it will generate in an observer. If the observer distinguishes that it is a robot, he or she will start to view it more negatively.
The same thing happens with apps that try to imitate the feel of native ones. They fail to generate that emotion of familiarity and are unable to generate the same kind of response from users.
Native Apps Maintain Aspect Ratios
Aspect ratio is the ratio of width to height of different screens. It is an important factor that determines the quality of an image.
Many apps collapse and start functioning improperly upon changing the device's size and shape. Native apps have better control over the orientation, size, and resolution of the app.
Developers have access to layout features while preparing a native app. When they set the size of the screen, a native app maintains the aspect ratio on its own no matter which screen it runs on.
Android provides Constraint Layout(link is external) and iOS provides Auto Layout(link is external) features that help in maintaining aspect ratio on their respective devices.
Apart from maintaining aspect ratios, these features also provide different DPI (dots per inch) for every screen that maintains the quality of the visuals.
Challenges of Native Apps
Despite the many benefits of native apps, they still come with some challenges.
Lengthy Downloading Process
Native apps are ready to use only when users download them from the app store (Google Play or Apple App Store).
This involves a lot of steps – going to the app store, finding the application, accepting its terms and conditions, and then finally downloading it.
Many people don’t have that kind of time and patience to take all the steps to download an app. You lose 20% of users at each stage in an app funnel:
App store pageview
Post or send to friends
In each step of the six-step app funnel, about 20% of users are lost.
Developers have no flexibility regarding the platform for developing native apps.
Developers have to code for one platform at a time, with separate coding for Android and iOS.
Much of the time, if you are hiring app developers for your native app idea, you’ll have to hire two teams of developers – one for Android and one for iOS.
The programming used in native apps is quite tricky, and developers who code in this language are scarce.
Thus, native app development requires more labor, which adds to the time and cost of development.
Also, with different codes for different platforms, developing native apps takes even more time and, therefore, money.
The cost of maintaining the native apps(link is external) is also very high. Maintenance cost is about 15 to 20% of the app development cost. For example, a basic native app costing $25,000 will have a maintenance cost of about $5,000.
The more a native app costs to develop, the higher the maintenance costs will be, too.
Every platform, such as iOS and Android, needs a separate set of codes, which means more time is required, as it is equivalent to coding for two different apps.
It takes about 18 weeks to develop a good quality native app. The time increases based on the project’s complexity.
Native Apps Require Frequent Upgrades
If a bug is fixed in native apps or a new update is about to be launched, developers have to first submit the updates to the app store and then hope that users will update their apps to the new versions.
If users don't update their app - maybe they didn't notice the update, or they don't have enough storage space - those users might abandon the app due to unfixed glitches.
Developers constantly have to worry about losing their customer base.
Native Apps Shine for Many Companies, Not All
Despite the fact that native apps are fast, smooth, blend in with the device’s features perfectly, and can work offline, the challenges like high development cost and a more time-consuming development process makes it a hiccup for the business owners who have less budget and more time constraints.