Which technology should you choose to create a cross-platform mobile application?
The cross-platform app market is continually expanding as businesses realize the benefits of cross-platform development. A quality cross-platform mobile app ensures top performance while minimizing the differences between apps and allowing users to take advantage of more than one platform to access the company’s product or service.
If you’re considering to develop a cross-platform mobile application, this guide is for you.
Read on to find out the key advantages of cross-platform mobile apps and get an overview of the most popular cross-platform technologies together with their pros and cons.
Why develop a cross-platform mobile app?
Cross-platform development provides businesses with some significant advantages:
- Reusable code – developers can write code once and then export your app to many platforms without having to create a dedicated application for every single one of them.
- Efficiency – cross-platform development tools offer one alternative for all the different mobile technologies, making the development process more straightforward and comfortable to manage (for example, by setting up a development team faster).
- Cost savings – developing a cross-platform mobile app means that you’ll be saving the cost of having multiple development teams working on different versions of your app. All you need is one team which can accelerate its work with tools that are most often free to use.
- Maintainability – modifying your mobile application is easy because developers will need to update only one codebase. All the introduced changes will be synchronized and reflected in all the apps working on different platforms.
- Greater market reach – by publishing your app on multiple platforms, you’ll boost your chances of building a more extensive user base and generating a higher ROI on your app.
When cross-platform development works best
Since it offers an efficient middle ground between native and responsive, cross-platform development is particularity well-suited to products such as:
- Minimal Viable Products (MVPs) and simple prototypes that help to test out and validate ideas for new products.
- Applications that need to be integrated with enterprise systems or used in the B2B context.
- Apps that will manage data and offer a simple user experience.
Why is picking the cross-platform right technology so important?
With so many different tools and frameworks for cross-development, deciding which one to bet on might be challenging.
Once you know your application’s primary goals and areas of focus, all it takes is a little research on some of the top cross-platform development frameworks.
To help you weigh the pros and cons of these frameworks, we prepared a short guide to the most widespread cross-platform technologies.
Top cross-platform mobile technologies
Created by Facebook, React Native is an open-source cross-platform native development framework that allows building mobile apps with components, which are then compiled into native apps.
- Native code – unlike other cross-platform development tools, React Native allows modifying published apps separately and combine React Native and native code (for example, Swift, Objective-C, or Java). This feature becomes vital if you want to implement separate visual components for different platforms using platform-specific code.
- Excellent performance – React Native apps are almost identical to apps created with native tools; that’s why they’re faster than hybrid mobile apps.
- Native UI components – the technology allows developers to build views using ready-made UI components, which are then compiled into platform-specific UI components to speed up the development process.
- Hot reloading – developers can instantly visualize changes made to the code in Android and iOS apps, offering companies the opportunity to react to changing market circumstances quickly.
- Steep learning curve – technologies like JSX and ECMAScript aren’t easy to learn and might take developers more time to master.
- Native code – sometimes developers might have to write native or platform-specific code, especially if they need access to device hardware like camera or GPS, and that can be problematic in smaller teams.
Flutter is a development framework maintained by Google and today considered as one of the fastest-growing CP frameworks.
- Smaller codebase – Flutter uses Google-backed Dart as its programming language which is strongly typed and optimized for resulting in less code. And with less code, there are fewer bugs. Also, 100% of Dart code can be shared between iOS and Android apps.
- Access to native features – it allows developers to reuse their existing code to access native features on iOS and Android easily. That means implementing functions like geolocation or camera is easier.
- Hot reload – developers can instantly see all the changes they’ve made in the app to quickly add new features, experiment, and fix bugs.
- Widgets – good widgets are fast, extensible, and customizable. Flutter offers a rich collection of widgets, as well as capabilities for creating complex custom widgets. Developers can use widgets not only for views but for entire screens and the app itself.
- Innovation – Flutter enables developers to build an application for the Fuchsia platform, an experimental operating system which might become the future replacement for Android.
- It only works on mobile – Web browsers don’t support flutter, so it’s not a good technology choice if you’re looking for maximum device flexibility.
- A limited number of libraries – since the framework is relatively new, there aren’t many libraries available for it yet, and developers might have to build some features from scratch.
- Limited TV support – if you want to run your app on Android TV or Apple TV, choose a different technology because Flutter doesn’t support them yet.
Acquired by Microsoft in 2016, Xamarin has been continually building its platform and expanding its reach with some notable investments and enterprise partnerships. Since the release of Xamarin 2, the framework emerged as one of the leading solutions for cross-platform development.
- Top performance – Xamarin apps are almost identical to native apps when it comes to performance, and are way faster than hybrid apps.
- Solid development stack – developers consider Xamarin as the most complete cross-platform mobile app development framework (with C# as its programming language, Visual Studio as its IDE, .NET as its development platform, as well tools for testing and analytics).
- Native UI components – developers can create UI native components which can be compiled into platform-specific UI components easily.
- Plugins and APIs – the framework offers plugins and APIs for accessing hardware functionalities like GPS. Xamarin also supports customization by linking with native libraries.
- Testing – it’s easy to test and debug Xamarin apps. All it takes is installing the Xamarin.Forms Live Player app on a physical device to get a live preview and synchronize the app with the device in real time.
- Availability of learning resources – Xamarin offers excellent mobile development training led by experts in over 80 courses to help developers learn the technology and stay updated.
- Large app size – apps built with this framework are generally larger than native apps. That can be problematic for memory management.
- Limited support of graphics – Xamarin builds apps for multiple platforms using a single codebase, sharing the code logic between the platforms and keeping UI components mostly platform-specific. This makes Xamarin a bad technology choice if you plan to build an app that relies heavily on graphics (like mobile games).
- Amazing speed – developers use web technologies to build Titanium apps, which simplifies and accelerates the development process.
- Rapid prototyping – Titanium allows teams to create apps with relatively few lines of code and within very short time frames. That’s why it’s such great technology for prototyping and developing MVPs that allow validating business ideas quickly.
- It grows more complex – the more complex your application, the more often developers may encounter technical issues and the more energy they will need to dedicate to problems like code organization, MVC separation, or multi-device support.
- Apps can sometimes be laggy – you want to create a smooth and comfortable user experience with your app, and Titanium isn’t always the best choice – especially if you include features like animation that tend to become laggy and not responsive when returned to from the background (most visibly on Android).
Building a cross-platform mobile application is a smart business move, and we hope that our guide helps you choose the best technology for this project.
Are you looking for a team of highly-skilled cross-platform mobile developers who know these frameworks? Get in touch with us; we have ample experience in building cross-platform applications for clients from various sectors.