For a very long time, developing apps for different platforms was quite a task. The apps had to be developed natively for each platform which was costly—both in terms of the capital invested as well as the time it took to develop those apps.
Now, however, we have an array of different tools which can help us build apps for different platforms without having to develop them all over again as and when you switch platforms. This helps you save a lot of time and resources.
So if you’re just starting out with cross-platform app development, congratulations! Because you’re starting out on a very rewarding path!
Quick heads-up! This is going to be a very long post. So if you’re short on time, feel free to skip to the sections that interest you:
- What is cross-platform mobile app development?
- Why is cross-platform mobile app development important?
- What is the difference between cross-platform mobile app development and native mobile app development?
- What are the pros and cons of cross-platform mobile app development?
- Which is the best cross-platform mobile app development software?
- What is the future of cross-platform mobile app development?
What is cross-platform mobile app development?
Cross-platform mobile app development is basically the development of mobile apps to be used on different mobile platforms without having to rewrite the code every single time. It uses the principle of “write once, run anywhere”.
Using cross-platform mobile app development tools, developers can write a code which can be compiled for different mobile devices.
With the help of these tools, a developer well-versed with Swift (which is natively used for iOS development), for example, can easily built an app for Android devices without having to learn Java or Kotlin. This helps save a lot of time and money. In fact, it can cut your maintenance and development costs in half, when done properly.
Why is cross-platform mobile app development important?
Cross-platform mobile app development is one of the most significant advancements in the world of mobile app development. With these tools, the companies could push their app out on different platforms without spending a lot of time and money on them. This drastically reduced the team size while improving the efficiency of the teams.
The best part of it is the fact that you, as a developer, do not need to learn all the different languages used to develop apps on different platforms. So if you’re unfamiliar with some language, you could still use the tools to compile your code into that language and run it hassle-free on the intended device.
What is the difference between cross-platform mobile app development and native mobile app development?
The main difference between cross-platform mobile app development and native mobile app development is the kind of app you get from the two. A natively developed app has a design that is perfected for the target platform while an app developed using a cross-platform tool normally lacks the native feel.
However, cross-platform apps make up for the lack in design perfection by reaching out to as many users as possible. They cover a humongous number of devices and are perfect when your end goal is to reach out to more users rather than to provide the users with a native experience. If you use the right tools, you might not even have to worry about the native experience since the experience they provide is an altogether different one.
What are the pros and cons of cross-platform mobile app development?
Let’s start with the pros:
Reusability of Code
As previously mentioned, the main principle behind these app development tools is to write the code once and use it anywhere. This comes in handy when you know that the code is going to take a lot of time to develop natively. With code reusability, you could cut the time and effort drastically while developing the app for multiple platforms.
Since these tools use the same set of UI components across all apps, they offer quite a lot of consistency.
Since these tools require the developers to write the code once and use them for all platforms, the cost of development is considerably lower than native app development.
You could easily integrate your apps with cloud services with the help of the enterprise-grade plugins these tools offer, thus ensuring universal compatibility.
Short Turnaround Time
These tools cut the turnaround time short considerably. This is very helpful since it allows the app to reach the market in a short time, increasing the odds of the app getting a wider market reach.
Gentle Learning Curve
Since these tools are mostly based on common languages, the developers don’t have a hard time learning how to go about using them.
There are, however, some drawbacks of using these tools:
Inconsistency in UX
One of the major drawbacks of these tools is achieving consistency in UX across all platforms is challenging since all platforms have their differences catering to which is difficult using these tools.
Sometimes the code runs sluggish due to a multitude of cross-compliance codes running simultaneously causing the final code to bloat.
Limited Feature Support
These tools often don’t support all the features of the targeted device which puts up some serious constraints for the developers. You could, however, choose your tool carefully to avoid such constraints. Alternatively, you could spend some time working those features out on native devices if they’re absolutely necessary.
Which is the best cross-platform mobile app development software?
While it is difficult to find one cross-platform mobile app development software which reigns over the rest, we could certainly narrow your search down to our top 3 picks. Based on your requirements, you could go for any of the following:
Flutter is an open source cross-platform tool which allows you to develop apps for Android and iOS for free. Made by Google, you can rest assured that it is one of the best tools out there.
Based on Dart, the tool is quite easy to understand for developers who know object-oriented programming. Even for those learning how to code, this tool is not at all difficult to learn. The development time on Flutter is much faster than most of the other tools since it allows the developers to see the results of the changes they make in the code in real-time.
To top it off, it has a native-like user interface. It allows wrapping web view and allows developers to play around with gadgets on its superior rendering motor.
Writing codes on the tool is a breeze cutting the development time (including time taken to test and fix bugs) short considerably.
The only drawback of Flutter is that it is still in its beta phase, so it isn’t very stable. Additionally, it is not supported by Travis, Jenkins, or any other Continuous Integration (CI) platforms.
While code reusability is one of the most enticing features of cross-platform tools, React Native, much like Flutter, allows you to preview results simultaneously. It provides developers with a host of elements along with certain important native functionalities like the camera. The apps developed by this tool have a high-quality user interface which feels a lot like the native UI.
The only drawback of React Native is that the apps developed using the tool are slower than the native apps.
Launched in 2011, Xamarin is an open-source cross-platform development tool. It uses C# for coding which enables its developers to seamlessly work on multiple platforms. Having been acquired by Microsoft, the tool is relatively stable with frequent updates.
Xamarin allows developers to access the native APIs with its plugins and NuGet. This makes it stand out from the others since the UI it offers is outstandingly native-like.
The only problem with Xamarin is that it isn’t free. This might be a deal-breaker for most of the developers who are just starting out. For companies, however, it is one of the best options out there.
What is the future of cross-platform mobile app development?
While we can’t tell the future of cross-platform mobile app development conclusively, we can be sure that it is here to stay for a long while. The high ROI and shorter turnaround time is quite alluring for businesses and developers alike.
If you’re still unsure of whether you should go for it or not, or if you feel like hiring someone else to develop the app for you, we’d be happy to help.
Scalex Technology Solutions is a leading digital engineering company, which helps organizations in their journey to ideate, implement and innovate next-gen technology products and solutions using next-gen user experience and digital technologies of Cloud, DevOps and IoT. The team, at ScaleX, is consistently putting in efforts to innovate and invent ways to provide best-in-class Mobility Apps, Cloud, DevOps, and IoT solutions and services. It also gives an impetus to each of the team members to innovate and add value to our customers in their areas of expertise – be it designing, development, business analysis or testing. For more information and queries, you could reach out to us at email@example.com