Why do some developers prefer native apps and others prefer cross-platform apps? Our recent study says 47% of developers prefer to create native apps; 35% prefer to create cross-platform apps.

In the mobile research briefs we published last month, we heard an interesting developer story. We conducted some qualitative interviews to accompany our quantitative research, and we learned that really, every developer, given time and an ideal world, would enjoy creating native mobile apps. However, as in life, reality intrudes.

Developers choose cross-platform apps because of a few things. Development schedules may be compressed or unworkable for a native app, so they build a mobile-friendly HTML5 app in the time available. Or, thanks to company BYOD policies, enterprise users have such a variety of devices that it’s both unfeasible and less secure to try to build native apps that will run on all devices (and the support would be a nightmare). Or, and we heard this several times, developers might find that the basic features users require for a mobile app are easily filled by a mobile web solution – like looking up inventory or a part number — and a native application simply isn’t necessary.

Of course, the flip side of that coin is native app development. In other scenarios, developers may choose to create a native app because they need to take advantage of hardware features easily accessible through a particular mobile OS. Maybe there’s a game or activity tracking app that requires an accelerometer. More likely, developers simply want to access the camera and camera roll, GPS data, or address book data for an enterprise solution.

As with many development projects, the constraints of time, budget and reality dilute the ideal situation. While developers prefer to build native apps, given unlimited resources and time, often, cross-platform apps are the best and most prudent solution. Marketers can’t afford to ignore either scenario.