Mobile apps have become a must for many businesses across various industries. It’s essential that such applications run seamlessly on multiple platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows. Leveraging the cross-platform mobile development approach, you can create such solutions quickly and cost-efficiently.
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of cross-platform app development and discuss the top tools you can use to build multiplatform solutions.
What Is Cross-Platform Development?
The term “cross-platform mobile app development” or “hybrid mobile app development” speaks for itself: this is an approach that allows developers to build a mobile solution that is simultaneously compatible with several operating systems and platforms (Android, iOS, Windows).
Hybrid applications have a native look and feel due to the combination of native code with independent code that’s suitable for multiple platforms. Developers write the code once and then reuse it, thus making it possible to release a product quickly.
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Native vs. Cross-Platform Apps
There are two app building approaches for creating mobile solutions: native and hybrid/cross-platform. They both have advantages and disadvantages and can suit your project depending on your needs and use scenario.
Native development relies on tools and programming languages designed specifically for one platform. They are original for the device and the operating system. For example, Objective-C and Swift are used for iOS apps; Java, C/C++ and Kotlin help create Android solutions; C# and Visual Basic are optimal for Windows Phone.
When creating native applications, developers are guided by specific OS requirements. Installed on a targeted computing device, a native app can fully use the available features and capabilities.
The drawback is that a native app is not compatible with other platforms. To reach wider audiences, you would need to develop several solutions (one app for each targeted platform), which is time-consuming and cost-intensive.
Cross-platform development aims at creating a single application that runs identically on several platforms. It uses platform-agnostic technologies such as HTML and CSS and helps businesses cover many end devices at lower costs.
Pros and Cons of Cross-Platform Mobile Development
Multiplatform mobile app development is continuously evolving due to emerging technologies, becoming more dynamic and attractive for developers.
- Creating separate native apps for each platform is expensive, while a hybrid application uses a single sharable code, which helps you keep within your budget.
- Costs are reduced since only one team of programmers is required to develop and maintain an app. What is more, basic knowledge of standard languages is sufficient — development tools will do the rest of the work.
- Cross-platform apps have a native look and feel, which is great for user experience.
- Hybrid development is definitely the way to go for companies that want to attract users of various mobile devices and release the product to market quicker at a lower cost.
However, there are some issues you may face.
- The more complicated code of hybrid solutions combines native and non-native components, which may affect the performance.
- Cross-platform apps can’t support all native-only functions and features of mobile devices, such as advanced graphics and animation or 3D effects. This results in limited functionality and poorer app design.
- When Google and Apple add new features to Android and iOS platforms, native solutions can immediately start using them. But hybrid apps have to wait until these updates are adjusted to the chosen cross-platform framework. Thus, there always will be an updating delay.
These challenges may be critical or not for your project; that’s up to you to decide.
Cross-platform development is appropriate for solutions that:
- don’t require advanced design;
- don’t need to process incoming data online;
- don’t need access to all device-specific features.
Top Five Frameworks for Hybrid Mobile App Development
Depending on the tool you use, the process and deliverables of software development can vary. To create a native-like application, it is crucial to pick the right framework. We’ve compiled a list of the five best frameworks for cross-platform mobile development that are more frequently used.
Xamarin is a leading free, open-source platform for building hybrid mobile apps. Xamarin-based solutions are compatible with any mobile platform and provide the same performance and user experience as native solutions.
This popular Microsoft cross-platform mobile app framework relies on the C# programming language complemented with .NET framework and is available under the MIT license as part of Visual Studio. Its development toolset includes the following components:
- Xamarin Studio/Visual Studio (its own IDE)
- Xamarin SDKs
- Xamarin Test Cloud
- Xamarin.Mac to build native Mac apps
2. React Native
Web developers can easily use React Native to create mobile apps without obtaining new programming skills.
Ionic is definitely among the best hybrid app frameworks as it bridges the properties that are in demand: it’s open-source, easily maintained, scalable, and easy to read. Ionic provides a library of HTML, CSS and JS components optimized for mobile development that helps build interactive apps.
Ionic has a rich set of features and tools, including out-of-the-box support for material design, native-style mobile UI elements and layouts. It also provides its customers with regular updates and resources from the development community.
Ionic-based hybrid applications possess native functionalities, specific gestures and customizable tools that enhance user-friendliness. However, they rely on wrappers such as Cordova or PhoneGap to run as native.
4. Adobe PhoneGap
Backed by Adobe, PhoneGap is a distribution of the Cordova framework. This open-source mobile application development framework is usually regarded as the best and the most popular tool for hybrid solutions, not least because of its ease of use.
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Originally named Sencha Touch, the service is no longer supported and has been merged with Ext JS to create Sencha Ext JS. It has a set of tools and themes that enhance productivity and facilitate optimization, deployment, design, theming and debugging.
How to Choose the Appropriate Hybrid App Framework
The choice of the best solution for hybrid development depends on a host of factors, and the following are the most significant:
- The size of the company
- Developers’ skills
- The needed solution
Without taking these factors into consideration, it is impossible to say which of these tools for hybrid mobile application development is the best.
If you are a small company or an independent developer who wants to create a simple app, you might use Ionic. Large firms, agencies and enterprises that need powerful solutions may opt for Sencha, Xamarin, or other hybrid app development tools.
At the same time, if your priority is smooth performance and a full stack of native features, then native app development is the most appropriate.
Going Mobile Is Easy
Today, most companies create mobile versions of their websites to remain competitive. Cross-platform development is the most suitable solution for businesses as it allows them to efficiently create reliable applications that are compatible with all customer devices. You now know more about hybrid app development frameworks that you can use to develop your perfect app.
SaM Solutions provides a wide range of cross-platform app-development services, including development, consulting, support and maintenance.
Our core expertise:
- Microsoft Visual Studio, Eclipse, Idea, RubyMine, Xamarin Studio
- Android, iOS, Windows Phone
- Xamarin, Cordova, PhoneGap, Ionic, Sencha, Cocos 2DX
We create solutions according to each client’s specific requirements, which is why our clients always get the product that works best for them.
Contact our specialists for more information and they will help you get started with hybrid mobile app development.