A native app is a software that was created to run on a specific device. For example, some apps were written specifically for Android phones. They have access to features that may not be found on other platforms, such as on an iPhone.

Native apps are like the locals in a city or town. They know all the ins and outs and can get to places that visitors may not even know about.

Other interesting terms…

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Native apps are developed specifically for a particular platform or device using different programming languages, such as:

  • Android written on Java
  • iOS written on Objective-C or Swift
  • Windows Phone written on Net

Waze, for example, has versions explicitly developed for Windows, Android, and Apple devices. The app can directly access the Global Positioning System (GPS) hardware of the device, so it can effectively help drivers find their way to their intended destinations. Twitter is another example of a native app, as it has direct access to the device’s camera, list of contacts, GPS hardware, and other features.

A native app built for a particular mobile operating system (OS) will not run on another device with a different OS. As such, you cannot use Twitter for Android on an iPhone, as it simply will not work. But why use native apps?

Advantages of Native Apps

As mentioned earlier, native apps can directly use all the features of the device it is designed for and so performs fast. They are also more reliable compared with other types of mobile apps since they are available on Google Play (for Android devices) or the App Store (for iOS devices). Native apps also use the native user interface (UI) or at least the graphic animation closest to it. All these contribute to providing positive user experiences.

And since native apps are accessible and supported by app stores, they can reach a lot more people. They are also easier for developers to build since several device application programming interfaces (APIs) are available for their development.

Disadvantages of Native Apps

Perhaps the most glaring drawback of native apps is their development cost. More people and money are required to build the same app for every platform. Waze, for instance, had to be developed specifically for iOS devices. Another development team had to produce the same app for Android devices, and so on for Windows phones and all other platforms.

Native apps are not one-size-fits-all mobile apps. That’s why they’re more expensive and time-consuming to develop. Developers also need to provide separate maintenance and support services for each platform.

To Develop or Not to Develop Native Apps?

Developers have to weigh the pros and cons of developing native apps. Generally, though, native apps are recommended if:

  • The mobile app is for a single platform only. If they have no plans to offer the app to other platform users, then it’s best to develop a native app.
  • The mobile app needs to use a device’s native UI to provide the best graphics. Gaming apps, for instance, need to have high-quality graphics, so they needed to be built as native apps.
  • Speed is a crucial factor. If Waze can’t directly access a device’s GPS hardware, it can’t provide real-time traffic updates, rendering it useless. And so, Waze and other apps similar to it had to be developed as native apps.