Blog PostWhat is a native app and why should you build one?

Native apps are fast, secure and offer a great user experience – so what’s not to like? Traditionally, native apps require you to build one version for each platform, but with App Rail you can create a universal app that works across them all.

Native apps are software applications built in a specific programming language, for a specific platform. For example, Android apps are written in Java and Kotlin, and iOS apps in Swift or Objective-C.

When you download a native app from an app store, it’s installed directly onto your device. Once installed, native apps can access all the features and functionality on your device. This includes your camera, accelerometer and GPS, and can even incorporate gestures.

Native apps for Android are usually built separately from those for iOS. So even if you see the same app being used on both platforms, they won’t be built in the same way. For this reason, native Android apps won’t run on iOS devices, and vice versa.

But this isn’t the case with App Rail.

It can be a real challenge in terms of time, resources and expertise to build native apps separately for each platform you want to support. The beauty of using App Rail is that it enables you to build one ‘master’ app that is native for both iOS and Android.

What are the alternatives to native apps?

Native apps aren’t the only option for app developers. Some apps are built to be accessed via a web browser over the internet, known as web apps. They work by loading in a web browser, like Chrome or Safari, and don’t need to be downloaded like a native app.

Hybrid apps are another alternative. You download the app in the same way as you would a native app, but it’s built like a web app, using languages like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

Another option is using a Cross Platform framework. These take a similar approach to hybrid apps in the way that code only needs to be developed once and can then be reused on different platforms.

The benefits of native apps

The options can be overwhelming for businesses building their first app. Let’s look at the benefits of native apps in more detail.

1. Optimised performance

Native apps are created and optimised for a specific platform, so they offer better performance and are more efficient and reliable.

Compared to some other types of apps, native apps also have a better performance with graphics, which means a smoother user experience. However, it’s worth noting that this is less important for internal apps, as Cross Platform frameworks have already closed this gap.

2. More secure

Native apps have access to platform-specific, built-in security features. This helps to protect your organisation and your users from:

Be aware that Cross Platform frameworks rely on a third party vendor. For example, React Native is built and maintained by Facebook, so it relies on both Apple or Google and Facebook to keep its platforms up to date from a security perspective. In comparison, native apps only rely on the platform vendor (Apple or Google).

3. Better user experience

Native apps inherit their devices’ OS interfaces and follow each platform’s conventions, making them look and feel like an integrated part of the device. This delivers a smoother and more intuitive user experience.

4. Access a full set of features

Native apps take full advantage of the software and the operating systems’ features. They can easily access your device’s hardware features (like location and camera) and integrate better with functions such as HealthKit or Photo Gallery, improving the all-round user experience.

5. Work in offline mode

With native apps, gone are the days where your connection dips as you go through a tunnel or take a plane. As native apps don’t rely on internet connectivity, they still work in offline mode.

6. Fast and responsive

Native apps work faster because many features come preloaded and don’t rely on processor-heavy operations like other types of apps.

Being native to the device, they work with the built-in features, getting direct access to functions like the microphone and camera. This optimises the process and allows these capabilities to be used at the best performance.

And, the code in native apps is usually cleaner than hybrid or Cross Platform apps, which often rely on extra lines of code to make them compatible.

The result? Native apps open faster and operate more responsively.

The benefits of building native apps with App Rail

App Rail’s approach to native apps differs from others, as our solution creates a single code base that works across different devices. This is beneficial for a number of reasons.

Saving time and resources

Of course, there are disadvantages to building native apps. The biggest disadvantage is the time and money involved in building two apps and developing and maintaining two different code bases.

Both of these issues are resolved with App Rail, as there is only one app to build and maintain that works natively for both platforms.

Building one solution that works across multiple platforms saves precious development time and allows app developers to focus on tweaking the app’s performance even further.

Using plugins to enhance native apps

App Rail’s plugins offer a wide range of functionalities that leverage the integration with the device’s hardware and functions. For example:

These plugins can be used when building with App Rail so clients can integrate even more features into their app’s design.

Want to know more about how App Rail can help your organisation develop a native app? We’d love to show you how it works in action – get in touch to arrange a 30-minute demo.

NHS Trust? See how App Rail can help.