The best way to develop mobile apps
The market for mobile applications is ever-growing, thanks to the widespread use of smartphones across the globe. Using mobile apps is the most convenient way for people to access the web or do specific tasks on their phones. As a mobile app developer, there are a couple of choices you need to make in order to create an app that delivers the best experience to your target users.
With so many languages, frameworks, and other development tools, it can be challenging to choose the right tools for the task. If you are unsure how to develop your next mobile app, this article is for you. We will share the different ways you can build mobile apps and the best scenarios for using each of these methods.
By the end of this article, you will have a clear idea of which path to take. Without any further ado, let’s jump right in!
How to develop mobile apps
There are basically three main paths you can take when developing a mobile app and these include;
- Pure native apps
- Progress web apps
- Cross-platform apps
Let’s now discuss each of the three paths in detail.
Pure native apps
What are pure native apps?
Native apps are platform-specific mobile apps that are built using a specific programming language and tools. For example, iOS apps are built using Swift or Objective C and Android apps are mainly built using Java. Windows phone apps (which are rare these days) are created with C#. Native apps live on the smartphone and can be accessed by clicking their icon on the home screen or app library.
Because native mobile apps are built for a specific platform, they tend to have more access to the smartphone’s OS and other features, including Bluetooth, location, contacts, microphones, and more. Native apps can also connect to the internet to get access to some of the data users might need to get from the web.
Some examples of native apps include Documents for iOS, Pokémon Go, WhatsApp, Spotify, and more.
How native apps are built
Platforms provide developers with software development kits (SDKs) that include libraries, code samples, compilers, code editors, documentation, and several other software tools they may need to create apps for that platform. For example, Google provides Android Studio for Android developers, which includes all the tools they need to create Android apps. On the other hand, Apple provides XCode for iOS developers.
Using Android Studio or XCode accelerates the speed and efficiency of building platform-specific apps for Android and iOS respectively. These SDKs also make it easy for developers to write and test their software before publishing their apps on the respective App Stores for their users to download and use.
Benefits of native mobile apps
They work offline
Most of the data that these apps need to run comes preloaded within the app. They only connect to the internet to fetch updates or data needed to do a specific task. Otherwise, they can fully be used offline.
Since they are built to take full advantage of the device’s hardware and OS, pure native apps tend to run faster on these devices.
Great user experience
Since the apps are built to work for a specific platform, they tend to offer users the best experience since they have access to all the core device features.
Drawbacks of native mobile apps
Most of the time, developers will want to build their apps for both iOS and Android. This requires them to use Android Studio to build the Android app and XCode for the iOS app, which takes a lot of time and resources during development.
Large application files
Since most of the data comes pre-loaded, native apps tend to be large, which may increase the download times for users with limited bandwidth. This alone can be a turn-off to some users hence affecting the potential userbase for the mobile app.
Native apps need frequent updates
As a developer, you will be required to release more frequent updates for your app if it is native as compared to cross-platform and progressive web apps. The entire user interface for native apps is on-device. That means any slight change in the UI requires releasing a full update that users have to download from their respective app stores.
Progressive web apps
What is a progressive web app?
This is an app that allows users to interact with a website in the same way they interact with any other native application on their devices. If you have a website that you quickly want to turn into a mobile application, creating a progressive web app is the easiest way to go about it. Progress web apps also have certain functionalities such as push notifications and access to location services just like native apps.
Unlike native apps, progressive web apps are cross-platform, so developers create one app that runs on different mobile Operating systems. This significantly lowers the development time and resources. These apps can also partly be used offline in times when the users don’t have access to the internet.
Some examples of progressive web apps include Flipboard, BMW mobile app, Starbucks mobile app, 2048 Game, Alibaba, AliExpress, and more.
How progressive web apps built
Benefits of progressive web apps
Better user experience than websites
Progressive web apps have access to the user’s device features, such as location and the ability to send push notifications. These apps are also more responsive and can fill the entire device screen, which boosts the overall experience of using them when compared to websites that are restricted to the browser.
Lower development and maintenance costs
When compared to native apps, progressive web apps are way cheaper to develop since the developers don’t have to create the same application twice. These apps can also be developed in less time and with a much smaller team than what you will need for pure native apps.
Much easier to install
Since most of the data is not pre-loaded, progressive apps are usually lighter and much easier to install than native mobile applications. They also don’t consume a lot of the user’s space since their installation files are not that big.
Do not need frequent updates
Most of the content in the apps is generated from the server side, so developers don’t have to push out frequent updates for users to download. That means users can access the app’s latest UI changes without having to go through the burden of downloading updates.
They can be used offline
Some of the core functionalities of progressive web apps can be accessed offline unlike web apps and websites.
Users are likely to use a progressive application much longer than a regular website, leading to more conversions. Recent Google research shows that progressive web apps have a 42.86% less bounce rate than regular websites.
Drawbacks of progressive web applications
Limited access to certain device features
Currently, iOS doesn’t allow progressive web apps to send push notifications to users. This will obviously impact the effectiveness of the app and the overall user’s experience. Progressive web apps also don’t have access to some device sensors such as fingerprint scanners, Face ID, and proximity sensors. They also have limited access to Bluetooth.
They consume more battery
Since these apps fetch most of their data from the web, they tend to put more stress on the device’s Wi-Fi and cellular modems as they constantly send and receive data.
Not available in apps stores
These apps have to be downloaded right from the vendor’s website. This limits the app’s reachability, so the vendor has to invest a lot in marketing their website to grow their user base.
A progressive web application cannot fully utilize the device’s computing capabilities as a native app. This makes it hard to build power-hungry apps like games using this method.
Cross Platform – ReactNative & Flutter
What are cross-platform applications?
These are apps that are built to run on different mobile operating systems without sacrificing functionality and user experience. Unlike native apps, cross-platform apps are built once and can be run on different devices without making any significant changes to the application’s code.
ReactNative and Flutter are two of the most popular frameworks used to build cross-platform mobile apps. With Flutter, component updates made on the operating systems do not affect the apps. On the other hand, ReactNative apps are affected by component updates, which may not be desirable in certain scenarios. So, if you want your app to remain the same despite the changes introduced in OS updates, Flutter is a better alternative.
When it comes to popularity, both frameworks are widely used but Flutter is currently the most popular cross-platform mobile SDK when compared to ReactNative. As shown in the graph below, Flutter was more popular than ReactNative on Stack Overflow as of 2022.
Source: Stack Overflow
Some examples of cross-platform apps include mobile apps for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Walmart, Amazon, and more.
How cross-platform apps are developed with Flutter
Flutter SDK is based on Dart, which is an intuitive and easy-to-learn programming language, more so for developers that are already familiar with Java. Flatter can be connected to native modules allowing developers to create apps that are more integrated with the devices than progressive web apps. However, adding more native functionalities to the app may require developers to use Flutter alongside other native languages like Swift.
Projects Gorin Systems has developed with Flutter
At Gorin Systems, Flutter is one of the frameworks we normally use to develop cross-platform apps. Some of the projects we have created using this framework include the following;
- Tefillin Wrapp: This is a cross-platform mobile application that connects Jews with tefillin to others who want to put on tefillin. It does this in real time and with anyone across the globe. Along with Flutter, we also used Python and Firebase to integrate certain functionalities in this app.
- Chayenu: This is an iOS, Android and web application for a Torah study booklet published weekly. We built this application using Flutter along with other technologies, including MySQL (for the database) and Python (for print data conversion)
- Steinsaltz app: This app enables users to access Torah classics with translation, elucidation, images and background, plus audio and video classes. We also built this app using Flutter, Python, and Firebase.
Benefits of cross-platform apps
- Low development costs: With Flutter, you will have to build the core application once and it can be used by both iOS and Android. This eliminates the cost of hiring separate development teams for Android and iOS.
- Reduced code development time: Developers save a lot of time creating apps with Flutter compared to using single-platform SDKs like XCode and Android Studio.
- Similar performance as native apps: Unlike progressive web apps, mobile apps created with flutter offer almost the same performance and user experience as native apps.
- Increases time-to-market speed: If you want to get your idea faster to the market, developing a cross-platform app with Flutter is the way to go.
Drawbacks of cross-platform apps
- Apps are usually large: Mobile apps created with Flutter and other cross-platform frameworks are usually larger than those created with native SDKs like Android Studio and XCode.
- Can’t use all features of the devices: When compared to native apps, cross-platform mobile apps have limited access to certain features of the device.
- Longer wait times for new features: When Google and Apple release a new update to their respective platforms, developers using native SDKs will always get the tools needed to integrate the new capabilities in their apps before those using cross-platform frameworks.
Those are the three common ways for building mobile apps in 2022. You can choose any of the three options depending on the kind of app you want to build and your resources. But overall, cross-platform apps offer more benefits in most scenarios when compared to native and progressive web applications.