Cross-platform app development is an approach used by developers to create a mobile solution that is compatible with several operating systems.
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What is Cross-Platform App Development?
Cross-platform app development, also known as cross-platform mobile development or multiple mobile app development, is an approach used by developers to create a mobile solution that is compatible with several operating systems, including Windows, Android, IOS, etc.
Hybrid apps will have a native look because of the combination of native code and independent code, which you can use on multiple platforms. To release the product faster, developers will write code and later reuse it.
Here are the major platforms and operating systems that are available in the mobile platform ecosystem;
- iOS – This is Apple’s proprietary and closed operating system that is only associated with Apple products like iPhone, iPad, etc.
- Android – This is a Google-owned, fragmented, and open operating system used in a wide range of smartphones, smart tech, smartwatches, and other mobile systems.
Types of Mobile Applications
To ascertain the relevance and power of cross-platform development tools, it is important to understand the different mobile application types available. These include;
- Native mobile apps – Native applications are apps developed to be used on a specific platform or mobile OS.
- Cross-platform mobile apps – Cross-platform applications, also known as multiple-platform app development, are designed to run across.
- Hybrid mobile apps – The hybrid mobile app development process involves apps that feel like native apps but work with web app technologies.
- Web apps – These are seemingly native platforms that are opened from a mobile platform but executed in a web browser and require an internet connection.
Here are a few Cross-Platform Application Development Tools
- React Native
- Adobe PhoneGap
Xamarin is a cross-platform tool as well as a .NET and C# based mobile app development platform designed for iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile app engineering, deployment, and development.
It was launched in 2011 as an independent cross-platform app development framework. However, Microsoft later acquired it in 2016, becoming more credible than ever before.
It is an open-source framework formed to solve the issue of disjointed native stacks that made mobile app development a costly process.
It is compatible with any mobile platform and provides similar performance and experience across all native solutions. This Microsoft cross-platform development framework is available as part of Visual Studio under the MIT license.
Here are some components of this app development tool;
- Xamarin Test Cloud
- Xamarin SDKs
- Xamarin.Mac for Mac apps
- Xamarin Studio or Visual Studio
Some apps made using this mobile app development tool include Fox Sports, BBC Good Food, HCL, Alaska Airlines, and the American Cancer Society.
2. React Native
It was first introduced and launched in 2015 by Facebook and after a few years in the market, React Native is one of the most popular cross-platform mobile development tools.
As one of the best cross-platform frameworks, web developers can use it to develop cross-platform apps without acquiring new programming skills. In addition, designing an app using React Native is faster and more comfortable as it allows you to reuse the codes for app development.
Some of the apps made with the React Native cross-platform app development network are Pinterest, Instagram, Bloomberg, Tesla, and Skype.
Ionic bridges the properties and functions in demand, such as easy to read, scalable, and easily maintained, and its open-source platform app development. It features CSS, JS, and HTML components that are well-optimized for mobile app development.
This toolset also has an amazing set of tools and features like the native style mobile UI elements and layouts as well as the out-of-the-box support for the material design. Furthermore, you get to get regular updates and resources.
The ionic-based applications will have specific gestures, customizable tools, and native functionalities that improve user-friendliness. However, to be able to run as native, they may rely on wrappers like PhoneGap or Cordova.
Flutter is a great open-source and free cross-platform framework used for creating native interfaces for Android and iOS apps. It is one of the advanced levels of UI kit launched by Google in 2018. It is maintained by Google and is among the top 3 most loved frameworks.
A great feature Flutter provides is the “hot reloading” function that ensures developers can see changes in the code in seconds rather than minutes. It is an ideal tool for MVP development and looks native to both Android and iOS apps.
Flutter also has a set of widgets in Apple’s style and Google’s material design. Many results for both iOS and Android platforms have allowed app developers to work with continuous integration platforms like Jenkins and Travis.
Some of the popular apps made with this best cross-platform mobile development tool include Google, Tencent, Google Ads, and Alibaba.
5. Adobe PhoneGap
In addition, PhoneGap also gives native plugins and containers for every mobile platform. This way, developers are able to access device functionalities like a microphone, file system, accelerometer, camera, compass, and more. You are also able to create more features and run the apps in a WebViiew browser in a native container on a specific platform.
Appcelerator is another best cross-platform mobile development framework tool that allows you to build native web apps in less time. The apps made with this tool are compatible with both Android and iOS platforms, as well as Windows phones.
Some apps developed using this tool include Comerica Bank, Alaska, The Body Shop, etc.
As the leading tool in enterprise-grade app development, Sencha is a comprehensive platform that helps developers focus on developing apps instead of constructing a whole framework.
It features a set of themes and tools to improve productivity and facilitate deployment, debugging, design, theming, and optimization.
This tool allows you to convert HTML documents to dynamic content. These dynamic features ensure the web application updates its contents periodically. It also features a model view controller that allows you to view the application changes.
Corona is a free cross-platform development tool mainly used for developing 2D gaming apps that offer great graphics. This means it is an ideal app for creating gaming apps that can run across different devices with a single code base.
As one of the best cross-platform tools, Corona is not only free but also has a simple user interface, making it easy to install. It enables developers to view changes instantly in Lua codes using the built-in Corona Simulator. As a result, there won’t be a need to maintain the toolsets.
So, whether you’re a starter/beginner or a professional developer, you get to access the core functionality of this tool. This tool was used for mobile applications like The Lost City, Zip Zap, and Designer City.
5App is a cross-platform application toolkit for developing mobile applications that can be used on multiple platforms and provide real-time and reliable communications as well as other advanced features like geolocation reporting and built-in workflow.
Other great features of this cross-platform mobile app development tool include data reliability, transactional integrity, and the development of a cross-platform mobile app that can be used as an extension in backend business processes.
Just like Flutter and React Native, Cordova is also an open-source, cross-platform mobile development that allows users to build apps for several platforms. Developers can build applications using extensive features and standard web technologies.
Cordova also referred to as Apache Cordova, is owned by Adobe and used in over 157 countries. It encourages developers to create powerful applications using the functions of native resources like the phone’s camera, contacts, messages, notifications, geolocation, compass, accelerometer, networks, and more.
Using Cordova to develop apps for both iOS and Android devices is cost and time-effective. This is because it leverages good quality and several sets of features that help develop apps in real-time.
Examples of the Apps created and maintained using this tool include Walmart, Teleport, and Hogangnono.
Kony is a low code and one of the cross-platform mobile development tools mostly used for enterprise-level mobile applications. It provides innovative functionalities, an amazing user interface, and top-tier security.
Other crucial features offered by this tool include compatibility testing, visual editing, debugging tools, code refactoring, collaboration tools, reporting/analytics, streamlined deployment, and updates, as well as access control.
This tool integrates with native OS and open-source frameworks. It is also an Omni-channel development for developing apps for cross-platform, hybrid, web, and Native. You get to experience robust integrations, visual tooling, and reusable components with this tool.
As a low code and robust mobile development framework, Alpha allows developers to create secure and enterprise-level cross-platform web and mobile applications faster and conveniently.
This Alpha software package comes with different toolkits and SDKs like the Alpha Anywhere platform and other technologies. Other features include the ability to capture data using mobile apps, which can help businesses achieve their goals. Some of the functions available include workflows, APIs, and databases.
Qt focuses on design. It enables developers to come up with powerful apps to be used on multiple platforms. It allows businesses to accelerate their time-to-market while working less to make apps with a great user interface.
It also allows the creation of apps using a few lines of code but still offers something like a native development. With this tool, developers can access backend APIs, display HTML5 content, access device sensors, and add location and map services.
It is primarily based on C++ and focuses on customization to ensure the Qt experience aligns with your strategic place.
This is one of the most popular and potent gaming 3D frameworks because of its incredible graphics. Unity3D is great such that it can be used as more than just a mobile app development tool. Developers can create compelling visuals in games for cross-platform apps and gaming consoles.
It features game object creation, game object destruction, coroutine, and return types, physically oriented events, access to components, and the ability to deal with time variables and vector variables. This cross-platform development tool can be used to create games on Android, iOS, PC, Windows, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and Sony PlayStation.
If you’re building a two-dimensional app or game, then you might want to consider the Cocos2D tool. Just like React Native, this is n open-source platform with consistent updates and improvements.
You get to choose between five platforms, including;
- Cocos2d (Python)
The main difference between these platforms is simply based on your preferred programming language. The programming language versatility of this tool is what makes it a popular choice for developers.
Some of the popular apps that use this platform include Tiny Village, Big Fish Casino, Badland, Castle Cash, and Matching with Friends.
Pros and Cons of Cross-Platform Mobile Development
- Reduced costs because only one team is needed to develop an app.
- Cross-platform apps will have a native look which is amazing for a better user experience.
- A single code can be reused
- A faster cross-platform development process
- Hybrid mobile app development is an efficient way to attract users across various mobile devices.
- Easy to integrate with the cloud
- Hybrid applications use a single shareable code across different platforms.
- Easy maintenance and deployment
- Since the code combines native and non-native components, it may affect performance.
- Cross-platform mobile apps are not able to support all native only features and functions of mobile devices like 3D or animation effects.
- Difficulty maintaining the cross-compliance of apps across operating systems and devices.
It is worth noting that cross-platform mobile development has its pros and cons. So, it is up to the companies and executives to align their goals with the appropriate tools.
Is cross-platform app development something businesses should consider?
Still, when it comes to reducing app development cost and time, a large number of startups, SMEs, and also million-dollar enterprises are choosing to use cross-platform frameworks for their app development projects.
Your target market and the scale of the business app should help you determine if cross-platform development worked for you. Therefore, when deciding whether to use a cross-platform tool or not, the direction any business should take is entirely based on the business strategy, business model, and target market.
If you’re having troubles or any queries concerning cross-platform app development, be sure to consult an experienced and skilled company for more information.
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