Mobile Application Development | 19 Min Read
Posted on: Tuesday July 7, 2020Reading Time: 19 minutes
In today’s highly competitive mobile app development world, businesses don’t prefer taking any risks about their digital presence on both platforms: Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
However, budgets, remain a primitive issue if businesses decide to opt for native apps. This is why cross-platform app development has emerged as the best alternative for businesses aiming at strong presence on iOS as well as Android.
Before we proceed further about studying about the position of this framework category position in 2020, let’s discover some basics about them.
What is Cross-App Platform Framework?
Mark Zuckerberg CEO Facebook Inc. at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference in San Francisco, said:
“Betting on HTML5 over native is the biggest mistake we’ve made as a company.”
However, the software development industry has changed a lot ever since the Face Book, CEO made this revelation in 2012. Now cross-platform app frameworks hold the key of future. Cross-platform app development frameworks are useful of developers looking to build mobile applications compatible with more than one operating systems – iOS and Android, since these offer the flexibility of writing the code once, and then run it anywhere for other platforms too.
The Difference B/W Native and Cross-Platform App Development
The debate of Native vs cross-platform will continue for a long time in the already divided tech community divided. Some experts prefer native apps more than cross-platform apps, while companies like Uber have developed their cross-platform app framework—Ribs— to rewrite their driver app.
At this point everyone know that apps built with cross platform frameworks only ship if you compromise quality. But nobody has measured whether they save time over just half-assing two native apps.
— Ben Sandofsky (@sandofsky) August 14, 2019
Moreover both native and cross-platform app development technologies are undergoing a continuous evolution. Also these shift in nature of technology signals clearly signify regular visits on time to time basis for checking which option would emerge as a leader in the game.
Currently Native app development capitalizes on the complex process for building a robust product that’s capable of running on several platforms rather then focusing on development of a competent design solely focused only on the targeted platform–Android, iOS, etc.
Cross-platform frameworks provides the flexibility of generating an app that’s capable to reach wide audience by covering a wide number of end devices during the programming and creation process.
Benefits of Cross-Platform App Development
Considering the factor of exponential cost increase in development of per platform and the requirement for prompt time responses in market, cross-platform development has a long way to go for the enterprise. Some of its path breaking benefits includes:
The price for developing cross-platform apps is relatively lower in comparison to native app development since the code gets written only once with flexibility to be used for many platforms.
b) Code Reusability
Code reusability is another facility offered in hybrid app development as single code can implemented in multiple platforms. So, efforts and time gets reduced in comparison to native app development.
c) Consistency in UI Components
Another factor in cross-platform app development is a decent consistency in native UI components to keep the look and feels uniform.
d) Easy Hosting
It can be easily hosted on respective app stores once all the requirements gets fulfilled.
e) Cloud Integration
Easy to be integrated with cloud environment as well as with enterprise-grade plugins thus offering universal compatibility.
f) Fewer Technical Barriers
g) Shorter Time to Market
These apps offer a wide reach along with shorter time to market due to quick turnaround times. And since the app is available on several platforms, it saves the marketing effort.
Top 5 Cross-Platform App Frameworks
Out there is a huge choice available for cross-platform app frameworks, each having their own pros and cons, however, we’ve picked in trend and top-performing frameworks available in the market today.
Being launched in 2011 as independent cross-app development framework got acquired by Microsoft in 2016, hereby becoming the most credible unlike before.
This platform has the capability to solve the problems of disjointed native technology stacks, which made the process of app development a difficult and expensive affair.
a) It uses C# for coding to make the apps work effortlessly on array of platforms (including Android and iOS).
b) A strong community of 60,000+ contributors from 3,700 companies is available here.
c) 75% of your code across platforms are developed here only for “write once, run anywhere” ease.
d) A single tech stack for faster development
a) Requires a license (Microsoft’s Visual Studio)for enterprises whereas individuals and startups can use it for free.
b) Not suitable for apps demanding heavy graphics since every platform uses distinct method for visually laying out screens. A UX/UI-rich application is advised to be implemented natively.
c) Limited access for few important libraries that developers need for app development and since the base of its UI creation is not mobile, building of UI would be time-consuming.
Apps Made with Xamarin Cross-Platform App Framework
2. React Native
React Native is Facebook’s initiative launched back in 2015, causing a strong wave in hybrid frameworks vertical. It became immensely popular within few years of its introduction in the market (and perhaps the most trending one amongst the 5 cross-platform app frameworks discussed in this post).
a) More than 80% codebase is sharable as per the complexity of the app.
b) Along with code reusability, it also offers the functionality of previewing results apart from offering ready-to-apply elements, hereby shortening the developing times.
c) “Hot reloading” facilitate developers to see changes made in code within seconds unlike native technologies.
d) React Native focuses on UI to a great extent rendering a highly responsive interface.
e) Also provides the access to certain native functionalities like accelerometer and camera for high-quality native-like user interface.
a) Its not fully a cross-platform app framework since camera or accelerometer functionalities can only be use through native components.
b) Since the framework is not built in conjunction with iOS or Android, it lags behind the native platforms at times.
c) Lacks in releasing the updates unlike its peers in the market.
d) It improves the development speed, but also increases the duration of the debugging process, especially on Android.
Surprisingly Stack Overflow ‘Developer Survey Results, 2019’, showcased React Native in the category of dreaded frameworks.
Apps Made with React Native Cross-Platform App Framework
Flutter is another open source and free cross-platform framework useful for creating native apps on Android and iOS. Despite being launched in February 2018 at Mobile World Congress, Flutter made it amongst the top 3 most loved frameworks and it added another complexity to the existing popularity of the Reactive Native framework.
PS: In May 2019, Google announced the availability of the new stable build, Flutter 1.7.
a) “Hot reloading” for helping developers to visualize changes done in code instantly.
b) Its ideal framework for MVP development where one developed app can be used on both Android and iOS instead of spending extra money and time.
c) It’s based on Dart, which is an easy to acquire object-oriented programming language for developers.
d) Equipped with a full set of widgets in Google’s Material Design and in Apple’s style with the Cupertino pack.
e) Availability of ready-made solutions for native Android and iOS apps let us work with continuous integration platforms.
a) Limited TV support in apps here i.e, no support for Android TV and Apple TV.
b) By the virtue of being developed by Google, many libraries with ready-to-implement functionalities are present, however it still lacks with respect to native development.
c) Usage of built-in widgets make Flutter apps usually bigger.
Apps Made with Flutter Cross-Platform App Framework
5. Adobe PhoneGap
a) Facility to share the application with the team for getting their feedback.
b) Availability of cloud solutions in case you want to create your app directly.
c) Features like access to third-party tools, large community and large number of plugins, makes it better than its competitors.
d) It’s equipped with intuitive desktop for mobile app development and serves the app created from desktop to mobile devices connected with it.
a) It’s not recommended for high-performance applications and hardware intensive apps due to lack of UI widgets and poor performance.
b) Huge dependability on iOS SDKs for app development and downloading these SDKs requires a Mac.
c) The apps built here are low in performance when compared to native apps
Apps Made with PhoneGap Cross-Platform App Framework
It’s another open-source cross-platform app framework that’s licensed under MIT. Using HTML5 for translation is quite similar to AngularJS in design and structure. It allows you to build native-like hybrid apps for Android and iOS as well as progressive web apps.
PS: Ionic has introduced Ionic React: One codebase. Any Platform. Now in React.
a) It’s based on a SAAS UI framework suitable for mobile operating systems providing numerous UI components for developing robust applications.
b) It allows you to ship continuously – automated native builds to live updating and CI/CD, Ionic Appflow addresses the entire mobile DevOps lifecycle.
c) Backed by a vibrant community of more than 5M developers in over 200 countries.
a) The knowledge of AngularJS becomes almost a necessity if one wants to go beyond basic apps.
b) Designing in-app navigation is complex because of its not-so-easy-to-use UI-router.
Apps Made with Ionic Cross-Platform App Framework
Cross-platform development solutions are effective, but they did not gain enough mileage due to fragmentation in mobility platforms. Since mobile applications development industry is majorly divided into two large platforms— Android & iOS—cross-platform development would reach to more advancement very soon.
So which cross-platform app frameworks you should choose? The straight forward answer: it depends. This answer might sound bit diplomatic, but the reality is your cross-platform app framework choice depends entirely upon what you want to achieve.