How to Choose the Right Development Platform for a Mobile App?
If you are reading this article, you probably can’t take one of the most important decisions when it comes to app development - how to choose the best development platform for a mobile app? Should you consider native mobile applications or cross-platform solutions? Is it worth dealing with Blackberry and Windows Phone these days? Or is it better to focus on such 800-pound gorillas as iOS and Android? If so, then which one of the last two platforms is preferable to start with - iOS or Android? Perhaps both?
These are the questions that might have led you here. So let us give you some tips. In this article we are going to analyze and identify the benefits of each of the most popular approaches: native iOS and Android and HTML5-based cross-platform development. We won’t pay that much attention to Blackberry and Windows Phone as this segment is a drop in the ocean.
What You Should Focus On When Choosing the Best Mobile App Development Platform
- Target audience
When choosing a platform you need to consider your target audience. Perform some research and create your customer profile. Pay attention to geographic criteria as they may be the most crucial for you. Platforms vary widely by region. Thus, if you decide to focus on Europe, bear in mind the fact that the majority of Europeans prefer Android devices to iPhones. Americans use both, while in Asia the situation may differ from country to country.
- User behavior
User behavior differs depending on the OS and also a country. If you develop a free app without any monetization, then it may probably be unimportant for you to know where people are inclined to buy apps and make in-app purchases. Apple users are more likely to spend money on applications. Android users tend to use free apps and are not willing to buy anything from the Google Play Store or make any in-app purchases.
Consider required features as well as user experience and compare them with the abilities of a certain platform. If you’d like to develop a custom application with the native look and feel, think of such solutions as iOS, Android, WP. Native apps always perform best. They are first-rate when it comes to usability and provide superior overall experience.
If you adhere to the “run-once-run-everywhere” approach more, consider a cross-platform development of your project. But be aware that not all of the features, which could be easily implemented in a native way, are supported by cross-platform solutions.
- The cost of development
It’s not a mistake that the point about price comes next. Having read about features, you could have thought that a “run-once-run-everywhere” solution might be cost-effective. Indeed, what’s the sense of paying for several developers when you could hire just one cross-platform engineer? On the surface, it seems like an attractive option. But when you dig deeper, you’ll see that the devil is in the details.
Let’s determine what a hybrid app actually means. It is basically a web page optimized for the use on various devices and wrapped in a native container. Due to this they can access some native features. The word “some’ should be stressed here. When it comes to the development of sophisticated functions like image processing or video live streaming, hybrid apps fail. Some of the native features are impossible to integrate. Going cross-platform, you pay less and get less.
- Devices you need to support
Android supported devices count 160 items. While Android strives to increase this number, Apple has a different strategy. Their latest iOS 9 supports 15 devices, among which there are various versions of iPads, iPhones and iPods. Comparing these two main market holders, it’s obvious that it may be a challenge to adapt an app for each gadget. Windows Phone 8.1 currently works on 100 devices, while Blackberry is supported by only 10. Speaking about the last two operating systems, you should take into account that their fortune is out on a limb. Some of the most popular apps such as WhatsApp refuse to support them. Developing a cross-platform application, you will need to adapt it to all those devices together.
- Additional costs related to programming
One of the things you will need to think ahead of is additional costs related to app development. To submit an app into an app store, you will need to buy a developer account. Google Play charges $25 for this service. Apple is more expensive as it will make you disburse $100 for a developer account and $299 for the Enterprise Program. If you want to develop hybrid mobile apps, you will need to pay to every market you plan to get published in.
iOS apps are always strictly moderated. Apple has certain rules on how an application should behave in order to be submitted to their marketplace. If it does not comply with them, it will most likely be rejected. One can easily find the App Store Review Guidelines on their official website. For instance, they won’t accept an app that crashes or contains empty iAd banners. Being very thorough when it comes to app reviews, Apple takes up to 10 days to check your project and either accept or reject its submission.
The same can’t be said for Google Play. They also have certain guidelines. But this market is embroiled in bad rumours about plenty of piracy apps. It can be explained by a weak moderation system. Besides, a user can easily download an .apk file of any app and install it onto his/her device. A similar scheme won’t work with Apple.
- User expectations
Depending on the platform and its creator, users have certain expectations from apps on their devices. If you want to make them feel satisfied, consider those hopes. For instance, Apple is well-known for the upscale quality and innovations. The brand followers are very loyal and committed to the company services and expect to experience trendy design and extreme usability from the apps they use. They are willing to be the first when it comes to innovations and are ready to pay more to get them. Android app users are more reluctant. They don’t like to spend money on apps or in-app purchases. They prefer Material styled design and freebies.
What You Should Know When Choosing a Platform for the Development of Your App
The second part of this article deals with a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of every development platform. Here we go.
Native iOS Mobile App Development
Basically, asking a question about the best native platform for your app leads to deciding between iOS and Android. Let us take a closer look at iOS first.
iOS is a closed platform. This means that Apple has full control over its programming language, the apps it publishes and the devices it releases. They have strict guidelines, where a deviation may lead to the fatal outcome of your digital baby’s fortune. You will need to obey those rules and get prepared for constant changes. This is an innovative company, a thought leader that is continuously searching for perfection. On the other hand, developers always know how to interact with designers and how to make a perfect product that will be 100% accepted by the store and appreciated by users.
From time to time, you will need to update your app to the latest OS. Apple has made the users' adoption easy and ensures their iPhone, iPod, Mac virus protection. All they need to do is to go to Settings and launch an upgrade. For you as a product owner it means that you will need to stay in constant touch with your developer and update the app according to the latest requirements.
Another good news is that there are just about 20 devices you’ll need to make the app compatible with. Android has more than a hundred of them, which makes design optimisation, for instance, a pretty challenging task. Fewer supported devices entail lower costs for testing.
If you are concerned about revenues and want to get the best out of your digital business, remember that iOS devices are the most expensive and thus they attract people ready to spend money on applications. So if your aim is to earn income from an application and not just make people aware of your brand, think of iOS development. They say Apple users spend 60% more on purchasing apps than Android users.
Native Android Development Platform
According to the recent data of Statista.com, Android is the top mobile development platform in the world. As a lot of people use Android devices. By developing an Android app you get access to a large pool of target users. As well as iOS, this operating system is very flexible as an app can work on multiple gadgets: smartphones, tablets, watches, TV-boxes and even autos. There is also diversity in applications on Google Play. One can find everything for his taste there. Thus by publishing an app to this marketplace, be sure to get plenty of early followers.
The Java programming language is popular beyond the Android world. This keeps the threshold of entering the development pretty low. With the platform being not difficult to study, it’s quite easy to find a skilled developer to bring your idea to fruition. The development is possible on different OS among which are Windows, Mac OS or Linux, as Android SDK can be installed and used on all of them. Google constantly creates and polishes the appropriate development tools, making it easy for programmers to develop apps of various complexity levels.
A cross-platform app is a combination of HTML5 and native plug-ins. The so called “write-once-run-everywhere” approach may seem to be a pretty cost-effective solution. Appcelerator.com, one of the most popular cross-platform frameworks, promises 20% faster development in comparison with native languages, reuse of up to 90% of developed code when supporting multiple platforms, and significant cost reduction. Sounds like a pie in the sky, doesn’t it?
It seems like cross-platform development may be a good option for your project: no headache about the diversity of supported devices, plenty of ready-made solutions and UI frameworks to implement even a complicated feature. It’s much easier to support an HTML5 app rather than a native one. But what is the catch?
There are actually a lot of them:
Dependency on a framework
There are a lot of cross-platform frameworks, each having its restrictions. Prior to making a decision in favor of this or that framework, carefully study its possibilities. Besides, not all features may be easily integrated with the help of a cross-platform framework. It’s stated that when it comes to such complex functions as image processing or push notifications, only native solutions are able to perform excellently.
It’s pretty hard to reach perfect compatibility of a cross-platform app on multiple devices. A back button on iOS and Android devices could be a good example.
- Bugs in frameworks
Be ready to make friends with bugs. If you find some in a native app, it’s easy to fix them. If something goes wrong with a cross-platform application, the chances to debug it are very low.
- Low performance
It doesn’t matter that you have downloaded an app from either Google Play or App Store. The difference in performance between native and cross-platform apps may be crucial. Mostly because hybrid applications consume more memory. Of course they do, as apart from triggering their own code, they also need to bring the WebView to work.
- Look and feel
You won’t astonish users with super cool native design as it may be a pretty challenging task for a cross-platform framework. Even the best cross platform mobile development tools such as Apache Cordova, for instance, will not help you here. So forget about the native look and feel.
Of course, things can’t be that bad. Both native and cross-platform solutions have advantages and drawbacks. You just need to be aware of all of them and choose the best approach to your project development.
To Make a Long Story Short...
Here are some quick tips on when to consider native platforms:
- When you need to develop a custom solution
- A project is complex and challenging
- You’d like to spend less on testing across devices
- You are eager to be trendy
- You want to provide users with the best user experience
- You’d like your app to have the native look and feel
Consider a cross-platform solution when:
- Cost is crucial for you
- You need to develop a promo project
- Your project is simple and straightforward
- UI is not supposed to be sophisticated
- There is a need for multi platform mobile development
Our company has been developing mobile apps for more than 6 years. During this time we tried various technologies, tested different tools. Sometimes we made false steps, sometimes we stepped on a rake. But that was our experience. Having played with different options, we made a conclusion that native platforms satisfy our client needs best. That’s why we’ve focused on native iOS and Android programming languages.
Hope this article will help you choose the best platform for your project. If you need any piece of advice, feel free to drop us a line. We at MLSDev are always ready to assist.
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