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The cross-platform vs. native development standoff in the mobile development world has been in the spotlight for the last decade.

Unsurprisingly, engineering-related dilemmas do not have clear-cut answers. The discussion, revolving around cross-platform apps vs. native apps, like so many others, is also stuck in the gray area of “it depends.” However, evaluating business and project contexts clears the vision and helps identify the most suitable approach to keep moving forward.

Let’s go down the list of criteria with our Head of Mobile Development and examine cross-platform mobile app development vs. native development to unveil when you should opt for which option.

What is native development?

Native mobile development implies designing an app for a specific platform or operating system, such as iOS or Android. These applications can seamlessly access the device’s hardware – camera, GPS, Bluetooth, etc. – and, therefore, provide unmatched UX and unbeatable performance. 

What is cross-platform development?

The cross-platform approach revolves around the idea of platform-agnostic applications and a single codebase for different platforms. Cross-platform frameworks usually cover two main mobile operating systems – Android and iOS, as Flutter does, but can go further and span over web and desktop platforms, as React Native and Kotlin Multiplatform do.

Head-to-head comparison of native vs. cross-platform development

To identify which development strategy clicks with your business goals and opportunities, let’s take a close-up of the mobile native vs. cross-platform clash.

Code reusability

Cross-platform development with a single codebase for different operating systems and code reusability as its core benefit sounds appealing as it results in rapid development and easier maintenance. 

If there’s no need for native plugins, you can take full advantage of a single code base. But the moment you add a native plugin to your cross-platform mobile app, you have to take care of three code bases — cross-platform, iOS, and Android ones. 

— Eduard Belianinik, Head of Mobile Development 

In native development, applications are crafted for Android and iOS platforms separately, so you have two codebases with no code reusability.

Therefore, in this matchup, we give a nod to the cross-platform approach, keeping in mind that this benefit is only relevant until your platform-agnostic software calls for native features. For example, if you want to make your ecommerce solution more interactive and send notifications to users, you’ll have to go for native plugins. 

Time to market 

At first glance, cross-platform tools clearly get points for faster development. But here’s a nuance that might catch business owners off guard. 

Crafting cross-platform mobile applications takes less time than native development (about ⅔ of it) on one condition if your solution has no native-related functions, which is rarely the case. When native plugins enter the scene, cross-platform development experiences setbacks and spikes in cost. 

— Eduard Belianinik, Head of Mobile Development 

The backbone of native mobile development is its predictability and steady pace over time. Searching for suitable and secure native plugins while building cross-platform software may turn into looking for a needle in a haystack. With native app development, you don’t have to deal with unexpected workarounds, as iOS and Android platforms provide comprehensive software development kits (SDKs) for crafting feature-rich native mobile applications. 

Development and maintenance costs

Cross-platform development is half the price of native development — and that’s what business owners want to hear. Yet, it’s not always the case. You can count on saving that much of your budget if you manage to stay within a single code base. But keep in mind that if you need to add some native-coded features, you’ll have to choose one of the not-so-budget-friendly options:

  • Pay for native app developers on demand to smoothly adopt native plugins and ensure your product runs without a hitch
  • Hire a full-stack engineer experienced in native and cross-platform solutions

Both ways require additional investments and reveal possible volatility in the cost schedule for cross-platform development and software maintenance

The native approach entails higher expenses as you hire a dedicated team for iOS and Android. However, if we compare native vs. cross-platform in the long run, the former doesn’t hide additional development costs that spring up down the road whenever you need beyond-cross-platform features.

Based on mobile engineers’ salary data, Poland is one of the major destinations for outsourcing software engineering services and compared estimated salaries for developers with four to six years’ experience.

As you see, the numbers are neck-to-neck. Moreover, if you hire two cross-platform developers instead of one to shorten development time, the paychecks will be pretty close.

App’s functionality and performance 

In the early days of cross-platform mobile development, platform-agnostic applications had performance glitches and lacked a range of features based on hardware integration with a microphone, camera, GPS, Bluetooth, etc. But as for 2024, there are plenty of plugins and libraries to augment cross-platform solutions with initially native-only functionality

There can be nuances regarding the quality of these software components and their ability to match the required features and app performance. But you are safe with seasoned experts who know native plugins and libraries like the back of their hands. 

Case in point

Before cooperating with *instinctools, a large European eyewear manufacturer and retailer had a SaaS inventory management system (IMS) for iOS devices. As they wanted to escape the vendor lock-in and dependence on a particular operating system, the client decided to switch to a custom cross-platform IMS. We suggested banking on React Native enriched with native plugins and libraries for Bluetooth-based integration with RFID scanners. 

How did it impact performance? 
The client’s previous native software could have processed 300 tags/sec, while the new cross-platform mobile app handles 600 elements per second seamlessly.

Want to dive deeper and track the whole process of stabilizing third-party libraries and unlocking inventory transparency with custom dashboards?

As native mobile apps have direct access to all sensors, cameras, accelerometers, microphones, Bluetooth, and GPS, you won’t face tech setbacks. Moreover, you can build groundbreaking augmented or virtual reality software and machine learning solutions for Android or iOS platforms that are beyond the reach of cross-platform tools.

User experience

A cross-platform mobile application, by default, can’t provide the same look and feel as a native solution grants. Platform-independent apps rely on a unified design that can lead to unfamiliar and irritating scenarios for the users of a particular operational system. For example, users of iOS apps expect to see a pull-down menu — a basic principle of this OS. Meanwhile, cross-platform applications have drop-down menus that require another way of interaction.

When developing native apps, software engineers follow the Material Design approach for Android and Human Interface Guidelines for iOS to deliver an intuitive flow and seamlessly fit the application into the user’s world. So, when it comes to user experience and design, native mobile apps have the upper hand as you can take full advantage of all the platforms’ design capabilities.


Even though cross-platform development frameworks allow you to build apps for different operating systems, your dedicated team still has to create platform-specific bundles and provide security certificates for each platform to sign the app for release to Play Market and App Store. In this regard, it works exactly the same as for native mobile applications

Native apps are believed to be more secure thanks to functioning within the OS-specific ecosystem. 

I’d say security depends on the development team and the best practices they follow rather than on the platform you choose

— Eduard Belianinik, Head of Mobile Development 

Ease of updates

When you enrich your cross-platform app’s functionality with native features, you have to deal with all additional plugins and libraries that provide native functionality. 

As a result, you get a software pie with numerous layers that may be tricky to upgrade because updates of the cross-platform framework and native add-ons are never synchronized. You may also face issues with backward compatibility and user experience on different devices.

Ease of updates

Adopting the latest framework version while keeping old libraries and plugins can lead to software conflicts and errors. In this situation, here’s what can be done: 

  1. Fine-tune outdated elements by yourself, which is possible only with a strong team of senior and lead-level engineers and software architects by your side.
  2. Take a risk and implement publicly available alpha-stage patch-ups, accepting the high probability of issues in the future.
  3. Wait until the plugin developers fix the issues in the next release.

Any way you slice it, all strategies are time-consuming, meaning you won’t be able to deliver same-level UX for all users until all updates issues are covered. 

Software engineers’ hands-on experience is what matters when handling updates. I’ve seen business owners who thought their cross-platform apps had reached a dead end, and building a native one seemed the only way out. However, the cost of native app development from scratch always exceeds the expenses spent on fine-tuning the existing solution
From my experience, clients tend to compromise, with the cross-platform app’s core staying the same and the dedicated team covering major pain points via suitable native plugins. 

— Eduard Belianinik, Head of Mobile Development 

Native apps deserve kudos for their backward compatibility, empowering the software to run glitch-free on various mobile devices. Furthermore, managing native libraries is way easier compared to cross-platform solutions, as there’s no software pie to deal with.

Still have questions regarding native vs. cross-platform app development?

Cross-platform vs. native development at a glance

Here’s a round-up of key differences between cross-platform vs. native solutions in a brief table to help you make a well-calculated decision.

CriteriaCross-platform appNative app
Code reusabilityCross-platform app development puts a premium on a single code base and sharing code across multiple mobile platforms.These solutions don’t provide code reusability, so your dedicated team has to write separate native apps for each particular operating system.
Time to marketIf your solution doesn’t require any native features, its development time will be around 30% faster compared to native app development.Native mobile apps require more time but grant stable development speed.
Development and maintenance costsCan be half the price of native app development. But adding native plugins brings hidden development costs.Implies higher expenses, but doesn’t have hidden development costs you can’t foresee at the start.
App’s functionality and performanceMay have slight performance glitches if you have too many native add-ons.Native app development ensures unbeatable performance even for complex AR, VR, and ML-powered software.
User experiencePlatform-agnostic apps rely on unified design, which can confuse those who got used to specific mobile operating systems.Native applications follow platform-specific guidelines to win users with crispy design and predictable use cases.
SecurityIt depends on the reliability and expertise of your tech partner rather than the platform you choose.It depends on the reliability and expertise of your tech partner rather than the platform you choose.
Ease of updates and maintenanceKeeping your cross-platform app updated may be challenging if you have plenty of native plugins and third-party libraries and need to synchronize their updates.Native mobile apps come with backward compatibility, ensuring your software runs smoothly on any device.

Native development is a top pick for these scenarios

We suggest banking on native mobile development if you craft solutions with hardware-related features and want OS-specific UX for various platforms:

  • Apps for advanced audio and video editing. Tasks such as professional video editing and audio mixing definitely demand native methods of implementation. Unlike cross-platform software, native iOS and Android apps can cover a raft of diverse interactions with end users.
  • AR and VR-based applications. These solutions simultaneously use camera, compass, gyroscope, and accelerometer data to immerse users in the alternative reality. Performance level required for top-rate UX is beyond the reach of cross-platform apps.  
  • ML-powered software. Understanding speech, interpreting gestures, and discerning images in real time are basic features needed for a machine learning app, and cross-platform software can’t make up ground on native applications. 

Have a similar project on your mind?

Three cases when cross-platform development can fully cover your needs while saving the budget

Cross-platform development frameworks are a go-to option if you want to build one of the following:

  • Projects where speed to market is crucial. Why pony up for native apps if your product doesn’t imply hardware integrations and has to be rolled out ASAP? 
  • Relatively simple apps for internal usage. Going for platform-agnostic software with a limited range of functions is the best bet to accelerate and simplify specific organizational processes. Even if you implement some native plugins, managing add-ons at a small scale won’t snowball into a serious conundrum. 
  • Short-term, one-off projects. Cross-platform software is a perfect match for apps non-scalable by design. For example, if you need a mobile check-in solution with one or two functions for a one-and-done endeavor, React Native, Flutter, Kotlin Multiplatform, and other popular cross-platform frameworks are your fail-safe and budget-friendly options.

Choosing the right path from the get-go drives future success

Solving the native vs. cross-platform equation isn’t that easy, given the number of aspects you should take into account. Evaluating the importance of time to market, functional diversity, UX, development costs, ease of updates, and matching them with your project budget and scalability ambitions is easier with a reliable team by your side.

Do you need expert guidance on your mobile journey?


What is the difference between native and cross-platform app development?

Native app development requires building OS-specific applications for every platform you aim to cover. In contrast, cross-platform development with code sharing across various platforms allows crafting software that works on both Android and iOS.

Do cross-platform apps provide better performance than native apps?

Cross-platform solutions can keep up with native-level performance and provide hardware-related features on par with native apps, but only if you strengthen them with native plugins and libraries. Yet, complex software with AR, VR, and ML at its core is beyond the reach of cross-platform applications. 

Is cross-platform development worth it?

Is saving up to 35–50% of the project budget worth it? Is building apps faster worth it? If your answer is yes, then cross-platform app development is worth trying. However, the final decision concerning the cross-platform vs. native application dilemma should rather be made together with your trusted software engineering team after evaluating project requirements.

Is cross-platform better than native?

When it comes to development costs and time to market, cross-platform apps can be more budget-friendly and faster to roll out, which is better for projects with a strict timeline and finance limitations. However, you can count on these benefits only if your app stays within cross-platform frameworks’ capabilities, as adding sophisticated native plugins inevitably leads to increased costs and may slow down the development process. 

So, if you have a long-term, feature-complex project and plan on its continuous scaling, native app development beats all popular cross-platform frameworks.

What is the difference between native apps and mobile apps?

Native apps are crafted in the OS-specific environment and target users of particular mobile operating systems. Both Android and iOS apps can access any device hardware by design and provide OS-specific UX. Such an approach enables building complex feature-rich solutions based on AR, VR, and ML technologies. 
Meanwhile, with a cross-platform app, you can reach users on different platforms. Their functionality won’t be as rich as with native software, but if you need a simple solution with a limited range of features, look into cross-platform frameworks. 

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Anna Vasilevskaya
Anna Vasilevskaya Account Executive

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