Mobile development: what is a native application?

Do you want to develop a native application?

Coder today deciphers this format with many advantages. We’ll also look at techniques for creating a native application on iOS and Android, as well as tips for retaining your users!

What is a native application?

A native application is developed specifically for an operating system: iOS or Android. It is installed directly on the smartphone and can work without an Internet connection, depending on its purpose and nature.

Native application

The installation mode of a native application

To install it, the mobile user goes through a store such as Google Play Store or Apple Store. The user does not need a tool (except his smartphone or tablet of course!) or a browser to launch it. The data they generate is stored in the application’s memory or in the cloud, depending on the mobile device’s configuration.

How a native application works

Native applications take full advantage of the device’s features (subject to user acceptance), such as:

  • GPS
  • The camera
  • The microphone
  • The contact list
  • Multimedia files

In addition, they exploit the power of the phone’s processor, which boosts their performance. On some smartphones, a native application can control the devices and integrate different settings than the operating system.

Finally, an app installed on the phone can use the device’s notification system to send alerts to the user (always subject to acceptance).

Installation parameters of a native application

Beware, a native application designed for an operating system will only work on it. You will not be able to install an app for iOS on an Android mobile, and vice versa, for example.

These applications are written in languages that are specifically accepted by these platforms. They follow the technical and user experience guidelines of the operating system. For example, Swift or Objective-C is used for native iOS applications; Java, for writing native Android applications.

Read also: Hybrid or native mobile application: how to choose?

What are its main advantages?

Native applications offer more advantages than their hybrid or web counterparts. What are they? We tell you all about it:

A better performance

Optimized for a particular platform, from a basic API, the native application is distinguished by its speed and responsiveness. Stored on the device, it takes full advantage of the smartphone’s processor power. The content and visual elements are already installed on the phone, thus accelerating the application loading time.

In addition, this type of application offers better management of 3D content or augmented reality.

On the other hand, a web application uses mainly the Internet connection to run. It can therefore experience slowdowns if the network is weak.

A smoother user experience

Native mobile apps are much more responsive to user input. The reason? They follow guidelines that enhance and align the user experience with the operating system.

As a result, the flow of the application is more natural, more fluid, because it adheres to platform-specific interface standards. Users become familiar with the application more quickly, as they can use it with actions and gestures they are used to (zooming with 2 fingers or double click, swiping right to move to the next screen, etc).

In addition, native applications have more control over their orientation, size and resolution. Developers have access to layout functions during creation, which allows them to adapt perfectly to all media.

Less risk of bugs

With native apps, you depend less on cross-platform tools like Xamarin or Cordova, reducing bugs. This is not the case with, for example, hybrid applications.

During upgrades, developers get new SDKs to build their apps with the latest features. With this delay, users of native applications have access to new platform features as soon as they update the operating system.

Enhanced security

Native applications are known for their reliability and security. Before being accepted on the store (whether Google or Apple), they undergo checks and tests.

Furthermore, in the context of an application managing and storing sensitive data (such as online banking or payment applications), developers can code reinforced authentication protocols. They can also integrate two-factor authentication, pin SSL certificates and better control API calls to and from the server.

Greater Stability

Android and iOS, in addition to providing native apps with full support, continue their efforts to improve their platform on a consistent basis. These provide a better experience for developers, as well as users.

These ongoing initiatives to improve result in more stable native mobile applications. Fewer and fewer bugs occur during their development and maintenance. This also improves the user experience, as the application runs seamlessly with minimal bugs or failure reports.

Flexibility

Flexibility is characterized by the ability to manage the growth of the native application, whether in terms of increased traffic, load, users, and implementation of new features. For example, the architecture of the native application allows it to acquire more traffic without having to seriously modify the base.

How to create a native mobile application?

Native applications meet the specificities of each operating system. So let’s see how the development of an application for Android and for iOS goes.

Developing native applications for Android

You can create native Android applications in Java, Kotlin and C++. Google provides you with powerful Android development tools such as :

  • The Software Development Kit (SDK), which comes with Android Studio, the official IDE (integrated development environment) of the operating system.
  • Command line tools for Windows, Mac and Linux.
  • Firebase, a complete mobile development platform.
  • Android Jetpack, a collection of pre-built Android components.

You can create native Android applications on both PC and Mac. When your mobile program is ready, you need to submit it to the Google Play app store where users can download or purchase it.

Native app development for iOS

The iOS operating system, unlike Android, is completely closed and designed exclusively for Apple devices. To develop native mobile applications for this platform, you will need a Mac computer.

Objective-C and Swift are the two options for creating native iOS apps. Apple offers several tools and resources such as:

  • iOS SDK integrated with Cocoa Touch.
  • XCode, the official IDE for iOS development.
  • Swift Playgrounds, a learning platform for Swift development.
  • TestFlight, a beta testing application.

iOS also has a third-party ecosystem with development tools like AppCode and CodeRunner. Once the native app is developed, all you have to do is submit it to the Apple Store.

5 tips for developing a successful native app

A useful application remains the one that is downloaded and appreciated by its target users. To succeed in this step, here are 5 tips to follow.

1. Define the main objective of the application

Before launching a native mobile app, you need to understand what you can achieve by developing it. For example, you can create :

  • A mobile e-commerce application: its objective is to target a new segment of customers who prefer to make their purchases only via their smartphone.
  • An application for your product/service: that enhances the user experience and allows customers to discover all the features of your offering.
  • A branded application: to gather your audience and a community around your brand

2. Determine your business model

How will you make your mobile application profitable? If you have an e-commerce, the answer is simple, since you will have to sell your products directly from this new channel. But how else?

Several business models are available to you:

  • The freemiumIt is to offer a free but limited version of your application. To get more features, the user must pay (a subscription or in one go).
  • In-app purchasesThis model is similar to freemium. Instead of offering a hardened version of your application for purchase, you allow users to add options “a la carte” according to their needs.
  • Paid download: not all native applications are free. You can ask for a few euros in exchange for your tool.
  • AdvertisingAdvertising : as everywhere on the Internet, you can sell advertising spaces in your application.
  • SponsoringSponsorship is similar to advertising. The difference is that you have only one advertiser who has the exclusive right to advertise in your app.

Each mobile app business model has its advantages and disadvantages. Analyze the competition to get a starting point.

3. Improve user retention

25% of users abandon an application after one use. So you need to retain them as long as possible to guarantee the success of your program.

Here are some avenues to explore:

  • Simplify the onboarding and discovery process: the tutorial should require no more than 3 steps and users should be able to skip it with one click.
  • Use gamification to stimulate user engagement (loyalty points, obtaining badges, fun animations…).
  • Implement push notifications sent at the right time, according to the user’s behavior.
  • Use in-app messaging to give relevant advice or transmit information, promotions, exclusivities…

Good to know: also track data on user behavior in your application. You will get interesting information to improve the usability of your interface, the contents, as well as the notification times and days.

4. Develop a content-driven approach

Whether it’s an error message or a marketing memo, the content in your mobile app should support the user experience. Texts, descriptions and punchlines must be perfectly synchronized with the sales funnel.

As you write your messages, consider:

  • The tone: it should match your brand’s tone.
  • Your audience: how do they communicate? What is the jargon used?
  • The objective: do you want to convince the user or inform them and expect them to convert later?

5. Answering technical questions

To ensure the success of your native application, you must:

  • Determine how many older versions of Android and iOS you want to support based on your target market. This is very important, because depending on the audience, some users have recent smartphones… and others are rather “old generation”!
  • Avoid using the same designs on iOS as on Android, and vice versa. The interfaces are different, as are the habits and expectations of users.

Our tip for developing a native application

Developing a native application can be a long process. Even more so if you have no coding knowledge.

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