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Cross Vs Native
Feb 9, 2024

Low Code Vs. Cross-Platform Vs. Native App Development: What to Choose in 2024?

In just a decade, smartphones have evolved into essential tools for communication and entertainment, with developers building applications for everything, from augmented reality to weather forecasting.  

Currently, there are 8.93 million apps available on both App Store and Google Play, catering to over 16 billion mobile phones globally. Projections for 2024 estimate that mobile apps will generate over $935 billion in revenue through paid downloads and in-app advertising. 

This intense competition places significant pressure on business owners to prioritize the quality, precision, and functionalities of their apps. It becomes crucial for them to convey the value of their services convincingly to potential customers, setting their offerings apart in a crowded market.  

At this point, choosing the right development platform is a critical decision that impacts not only the present but also the future scalability and user appeal of your app.  

Having said that, this article is your guide through the diverse landscape of app development platforms. Explore different options, from native development with Kotlin and Swift to cross-platform frameworks like Flutter and React Native and low-code platforms such as Bubble.io, Outsystems, and Appian. 

The Differences Between Low Code, Cross-Platform, and Native App Development  

In 2021, Gartner projected that the global market for low-code development tools would reach approximately $14 billion, marking a nearly 25% increase from the previous year. Interestingly, this surge is fueled by a shift where around 40% of non-IT employees are involved in creating or customizing data solutions. Gartner anticipates that half of new low-code customers will come from business buyers outside IT by 2026. 

While initially seen as a potential threat, many low-code platforms require technical know-how for efficient use. While low-code tools can accelerate projects, their impact can be better managed with proper governance and oversight from developers to mitigate issues like bugs and technical debt. 

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Developers utilizing low-code tools focus on building a composable platform and providing self-service tools, allowing business users control over the assembly of the experience. 

Bubble.io, for example, focuses on rapid prototyping without requiring coding expertise, while Outsystems excels in providing a balance between fast development and enterprise-grade robustness. Appian, on the other hand, integrates business process management with low-code development, streamlining operations and facilitating app development for enterprises. 

Native mobile apps target specific operating systems—Android or iOS—and are coded in specific programming languages. 

For native Android apps, Java and Kotlin are used. Java, the initial language for Android, has been joined by Kotlin, introduced by Google in 2017. Kotlin supports both object-oriented and functional programming, offering more flexibility than Java. 

For native iOS apps, developers use Objective-C or Swift. Objective-C, a superset of the C language, was the first choice for iOS development. Apple introduced Swift in 2014 as a powerful, high-level language for their ecosystem. Swift is touted to be 2.6 times faster than Objective-C, with a more user-friendly syntax. 

Building native mobile applications offers several compelling benefits. Firstly, these apps deliver superior performance as they are created and optimized for specific platforms, utilizing the core programming language and APIs of each. This ensures they are exceptionally fast, efficient, and responsive to user actions.  

Native apps also prioritize tight security, benefiting from platform-specific built-in security features, thereby enhancing the protection of user data. Lastly, native app developers benefit from quick access to updated SDKs, ensuring that their apps receive continuous improvements and new features, leading to minimal bugs and increased stability over time. 

Cross-platform development, represented by tools like Flutter and React Native, aims to maximize efficiency by allowing developers to write code once and deploy it across different platforms.  

Flutter, developed by Google, enables the creation of natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop using a single codebase. React Native by Facebook, emphasizes code reusability, enabling developers to create beautiful apps for both iOS and Android while retaining the flexibility to access native modules when needed. 

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What Should You Consider Early on in the App Development Journey 

In the early stages of the app development journey, developers must consider key factors to ensure a seamless alignment with the project’s vision and resources before diving into the code.  

Here are five crucial considerations: 

  • Identify Your Needs: Your app should address specific needs, guiding your choice of platform. Understanding your target audience, required features, and the app type will help evaluate platforms effectively. For instance, a global audience may benefit from a platform with robust localization features. 
  • Consider Your Budget: Financial aspects significantly impact platform choice. Beyond upfront costs, the total cost of ownership over time is crucial. Different platforms have varying pricing models, requiring consideration of initial investment and long-term financial implications. 
  • Evaluate the User Interface (UI): A user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing UI enhances user experience. Platforms like Bubble.io and Outsystems offer a rich set of design tools, making it easier to craft visually appealing interfaces even for non-technical developers.   
  • Look for Cross-Platform Support: In an era where users access apps across a myriad of devices and operating systems, having a cross-platform strategy is a smart move. Platforms like Flutter and React Native allow code writing once for deployment across multiple platforms, saving time and ensuring a consistent user experience. 
  • Check for Integration Capabilities: Consider platforms with strong integration capabilities, essential for interaction with other systems, services, or tools like payment gateways and social media platforms. This ensures your app remains functional, useful, and relevant as user needs evolve. 

In addition to these, consider the Community and Support around the platforms. Platforms with active communities like Flutter and React Native often have a plethora of tutorials, forums, and third-party tools that can accelerate your learning curve and problem-solving capabilities. 

Furthermore, reflecting on the Security and SLA (Service Level Agreements) of the platforms, as explored in later sections of this article, is crucial in ensuring your app remains reliable and trustworthy in the eyes of your users.   

The platform choice lays the foundation for your app’s success, making this early-stage consideration crucial in your app development journey. 

In-Depth Feature Comparison 

Exploring the feature sets of each platform provides insights that can significantly influence your app development path.  

Below is a detailed comparison table, followed by an in-depth analysis of the unique features offered by each platform. 

Low Code Vs. Cross-Platform Vs. Native App
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Outsystems boasts a drag-and-drop builder for quick interface design, real-time performance monitoring, and an extensible platform allowing integration of additional services. While it facilitates speedy development with enterprise-grade quality, its drawback lies in higher costs. Appian combines a drag-and-drop builder with process automation and Business Process Management (BPM) capabilities, seamlessly integrating automation and app development. However, it may not be cost-effective for smaller projects. 

Flutter comes with a rich widget library, the Hot Reload feature for instant code preview, and Dart DevTools for efficient development. Offering cross-platform development with high customization, it presents a learning curve and occasional need for native coding. Similarly, React Native features Hot Reload, native modules for platform-specific features, and a JavaScript core enabling code reusability across iOS and Android. While excelling in code reusability, it may require native coding for advanced functionalities. 

In native development, Kotlin and Swift stand as quintessential choices, providing full access to native features, integrated development environments (IDEs), and optimal performance. However, they demand higher expertise and separate codebases for each platform. 

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): A Comprehensive Analysis 

The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) goes beyond mere financial figures, encompassing strategic decisions that mold the project’s long-term trajectory.  

While tangible costs like development, maintenance, and licensing fees garner attention, numerous non-quantifiable factors profoundly influence the TCO. Some crucial considerations include: 

  • Ease of Integration: The platform’s seamless integration with existing systems minimizes disruptions, potentially reducing indirect costs associated with downtime or workflow interruptions. 
  • Learning Curve: Platforms with steep learning curves may demand more time and resources for proficiency, indirectly impacting the TCO. 
  • Community and Support: A robust community and strong support structure accelerate problem-solving, reducing time and resources spent on troubleshooting. 
  • Scalability: The platform’s ability to scale with growing project demands without exponential cost increases is vital for long-term cost-effectiveness. 
  • Vendor Lock-in: Overdependence on a single vendor can lead to higher costs if prices increase or service terms change. 
  • Customizability: The platform’s adaptability to specific needs without incurring excessive additional costs is a key determinant. 
  • Future Proofing: The platform’s ability to embrace emerging technologies and standards ensures project relevance and competitiveness. 

Security: An In-Depth Look   

Security isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. The choice of platform should align with both specific security requirements and broader project goals.  

Understanding the security landscape of each platform, coupled with general security considerations, is a pivotal step toward making an informed decision. 

  • Access Control: Proper access control mechanisms are crucial to prevent unauthorized access to your application. 
  • Acknowledging Common Vulnerabilities: Awareness and protection against common security vulnerabilities outlined in the OWASP Top 10 are essential. 
  • Permission Management: Effective permission management plays a key role in controlling access to different features for various user roles. 
  • Early Security Adoption: Integrating security measures from the beginning can preempt resource-intensive fixes later in the app’s lifecycle. 
  • High-Level Authentication: Employing robust authentication mechanisms is vital to ensure only authorized individuals can access the application. 

In the context of platform-specific security analysis, Bubble.io stands out by adopting a robust security posture that includes SSL encryption, role-based permissions, GDPR compliance, and an option for custom domain whitelisting.  

Outsystems, on the other hand, showcases an enterprise-grade security model featuring SSL, role-based access control, input validation, GDPR compliance, and automated checks for common security issues.  Appian takes a comprehensive approach to security, encompassing SSL, role-based access control, real-time monitoring for potential threats, and compliance with various industry-standard certifications and regulations.  

When it comes to Flutter and React Native, both offer robust security features, supporting SSL/TLS, secure storage, and encryption libraries; however, achieving enterprise-level security may require additional configurations or third-party libraries.  

In native development with Kotlin or Swift, developers enjoy full control over security features, leveraging support for various security measures natively and the ability to implement custom security solutions for potentially stronger implementations. 

Final Thoughts: Low Code or Cross-Platform or Native? 

Your decision has a huge implication on the cost, time, and how the users will respond to the app. Prioritize careful consideration of the mentioned factors before arriving at a decision.  

If you’re still confused, here are some additional tips: 

You Should Choose Native Development If:  

  • Your application requires full access to all of the phone resources and services 
  • You want to build the most responsive application 
  • You’re looking to take full advantage of the mobile phone’s hardware 
  • You want an app that can be easily updated and enhanced with new features in the future  

You Should Choose Cross-Platform Mobile App Development If:  

  • You are ready to accept a less responsive app 
  • The application does not involve complex animation nor deal with complicated logic 
  • You have a short window to test an idea and hypothesis in the app market 

You Should Choose Low-Code Development If: 

  • You aim for rapid prototyping and development without extensive coding expertise 
  • Your project involves non-technical users in the app creation process 
  • Speed of development is a critical factor 
  • You prioritize collaborative development with business stakeholders 
  • Your project benefits from a visual interface for workflow automation 

Choosing between low code, native, or cross-platform mobile app development comes with distinct advantages and drawbacks. Ultimately, the choice depends on specific project requirements and the expertise of the developers involved. 

Still uncertain about whether to opt for low code, native, or cross-platform mobile app development?  

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At TechBlocks, our team of experienced app developers is ready to provide professional advice to guide your decision-making process.  Contact us today to make an informed choice for your app development journey!

About the Author

Kevin Gordon

Born in Technology, Raised in Marketing – This is the one-liner Kevin uses to describe his 20+ year career. Kevin is our Director of Marketing and joined the team in 2021, coming from technology start-up, SkipTheDishes.

Starting out in technology, Kevin has a unique blend of technical and marketing experience, with experience as a computer hardware technician, web designer, programmer, Windows & Linux systems administrator, and product development manager, which has allowed Kevin to lead a team of high-performing developers and systems administrators to build integrated omnichannel marketing & sales technology platforms used in retail stores across Canada and the USA.

In addition to his technology background, Kevin has 12+ years of progressive data-driven marketing experience in B2B and B2C industries, including legal, retail, agency, financial technology and more, with over eight years of direct leadership experience in marketing roles.

Kevin has education in Diversity & Inclusion from Cornell University, Business Administration and Project Management from Red River College and additional formal training in Change Management and Business Analysis.

Kevin Gordon