How to Build a Native Mobile Application

It's no secret that mobile devices have become incredibly customized. With changeable settings, photo albums, unique backgrounds and a plethora of apps to choose from, a cell phone is now an integral part of a person's identity. Not surprisingly, this has made users more picky. In a Dynatrace study, 79 percent of users claimed they would retry an app if it did not function correctly the first time they launched it. However, with each failure, the chances of a user re-trying that app drop dramatically. Just 16 percent of users claimed they'd give an app more than two tries. Thus it's no surprise companies want apps that give their customers the best possible digital experience. In a quest to improve user experience from every angle, developers are diving into native mobile app development.

The Native vs. Hybrid Debate

While hybrid apps are another viable option, native app development is a much more reliable way to ensure a clean and polished experience for your user. Although hybrid apps will often have easier portability and faster speeds, native apps are superior for the long haul -- providing a seamless user experience and instant accessibility in app stores like Google Play. Native apps are consistent with the look and feel of other apps on a particular device, while hybrid apps can often have a strange "wolf in sheep's clothing" feel. Native app navigation is intuitive, allowing you to utilize built-in features like cameras, reminders and mobile GPS. While native apps can take longer to develop (an average of about four months), they often maintain stronger security features and perform better overall.

Creating a Native Mobile App

Creating a native mobile application doesn't have to be complex. There are a variety of platforms that help modern developers build apps with native UI. Furthermore, Apple and Google have worked to simplify and streamline app development over the past several years. The first thing you must determine is which app platform is appropriate for your idea. Historically, Android apps took longer to develop than iOS apps, but thanks to Google' Android SDK updates, this is no longer always the case.

iOS Apps

Native iOS apps are developed using Xcode, with Apple Store apps being written in Objective-C language. Developers can use the Mac OS X operating system and download the necessary tools, iOS 7 SDK and Xcode 5, through Apple. The iOS development platform uses "view controllers," letting developers dictate content for each area and optimize the UI. You can move from one screen to the next, arranging segues for each screen transition. IOS "storyboards" can then be linked meaningfully to your code to define relationships for each section. While debugging and running your app is possible using the free iOS tools, testing certain functions like push notifications will require you to register as an Apple developer for $99 per year.

Android Apps

Native Android apps are created using Java code. Using Mac, Windows or Linux, Android apps are created through the Eclipse IDE (integrated development environment). The Android Studio provides basic tools necessary to get started, like plugins for graphics and debugging. Aside from Eclipse, you'll need the Android SDK, Android Developer Tools and system images for an emulator. Google now offers all of these tools as a bundle. Import code or start fresh in the Android Studio. You may then work on your UI using XML-based files that describe screen controls and relationships between each screen. As in iOS, layouts can be edited in visual mode -- but you also have the option to change code in the XML editor. Typically, the process for submitting an app to Google Play is far less rigorous than that of the Apple Store -- a shorter waiting period and fewer requirements. As companies work to meet their customers in the most comfortable and familiar environment possible, native apps accommodate both users and developers to bridge the communication gap. To learn more ways to build mobile apps, read our other post How to Build a Mobile Application with Xamarin.

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