Cross-Platform Mobile Development: 5 Top Frameworks
May 04, 2023
4 Mins Read
Last Updated May 16, 2023
In today’s digital age, mobile apps have transformed how we interact with the world. We use the mobile app for shopping, social media, payment & more. Considering this, business owners, tech enthusiasts, app developers, project managers, etc., have understood the importance of building a presence on multiple platforms.
But, how to achieve this in less time & budget with native app development is the main concern for all. Thankfully, cross-platform app frameworks have come into the picture. These are tools helping everyone to build an app on multiple platforms like Android & iOS within the budget efficiently.
In this blog, we will look at the challenges & benefits of cross-platform frameworks, a list of popular cross-platform frameworks, and how to choose the right one for your business.
But, before we look into the same, let us know the difference between native and cross-platform app development.
What is the Difference Between Native and Cross-Platform App Development?
Native app development is building an application for a particular platform or operating system, such as iOS or Android. Here, the app is designed and built using the programming languages and tools provided by that platform, such as Swift for iOS or Java for Android.
On the other hand, cross-platform app development involves developing an app that can run on multiple platforms, such as iOS, Android, and Windows, using a single codebase. It is possible with the help of frameworks or tools that enable developers to write code once and deploy it across multiple platforms.
The main difference between native and cross-platform app development is the optimization and overall user experience. Native apps are typically faster and more responsive because they are built specifically for the platform. In addition, they can leverage the features & functionalities of the particular platform.
On the contrary, cross-platform apps may not be as optimized as native apps as they have to work across multiple platforms and might not be able to take full advantage of platform-specific features. However, cross-platform development can be more efficient & cost-effective because developers only need to write & maintain one codebase instead of separate codebases for each platform.
What are the Challenges Involved in Cross-Platform App Development?
Initially, cross-platform apps were designed to create simple mobile applications. But with time, cross-platform apps have become more flexible, scalable, adaptable, user-friendly, and attractive. Despite this, there are certain challenges involved in cross-platform app development. They are as follows.
Creating an app using cross-platform frameworks compatible across different operating systems and devices is very challenging.
The user experience of apps built with cross-platform frameworks is not up to the mark. It is because the apps can’t leverage platform-specific features and functionality.
Cross-platform development relies on tools and frameworks that may not be as mature or stable as native development tools.
Cross-platform apps are slower and less responsive compared to native apps as they need to function well across multiple platforms and may not be able to take full advantage of platform-specific features.
What are the Benefits of Cross-Platform App Development?
Here are some of the essential benefits of cross-platform app development.
Cost-Effective: Developing an app for multiple platforms is expensive. Cross-platform development allows developers to write a single codebase working across different platforms. Thus, it significantly reduces the development cost.
Time-Saving: Since cross-platform apps are developed using a single codebase, developers don’t have to write code for each platform separately. Hence, this can save a massive amount of time and effort during testing and debugging.
Consistency: Cross-platform development can help ensure the app looks consistent and offers the same feel across different platforms. All of this enhances the user experience.
Broader Reach: By developing an app that works across multiple platforms, developers can reach a wider audience, including users of iOS, Android, and Windows devices.
Faster Time to Market: Since cross-platform development can save time and effort, it can help developers launch the app faster and get it to market sooner.
Easier Maintenance: Maintaining a single codebase is easier than maintaining separate codebases for each platform. Moreover, this ensures that updates and changes are implemented consistently across all platforms.
Flexibility: Cross-platform development can provide more flexibility in choosing the programming language, development tools, and frameworks used to build the applications.
Overall, cross-platform app development can help developers create high-quality apps that work seamlessly across multiple platforms while saving time and reducing development costs.
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Here are some of the best cross-platform app development frameworks in the market.
Flutter is an open-source app development framework developed and released by Google in 2017. The framework is suitable for developing Android, IOS, and web applications using a single codebase. According to Statista, Flutter is the most widely used cross-platform app framework among developers worldwide.
On the contrary, Native technology has been a preferred choice of businesses & developers worldwide. With the increasing popularity of Flutter over Native, most people are comparing Flutter vs Native technology. Moreover, they are unable to choose the right technology for their business.
To make the right decision, check out the following pros & cons of the Flutter framework.
Pros of Flutter
Flutter offers a wide range of customizable widgets that can be used to create beautiful and responsive UIs. These widgets can be used to build complex and animated UIs, such as Material design by Google and Cupertino widgets for Apple.
Flutter provides a hot reload feature that enables developers to see the changes made in the code immediately. This makes the development process super smooth.
It is the most suitable framework for MVP app development. Rather than building an app for two separate platforms, Flutter makes it possible to create an app that offers native-like performance on Android and IOS.
Flutter has a growing community of developers worldwide. This community provides support, resources, and plugins that make development easier.
Cons of Flutter
Flutter is a relatively new framework, so it has a limited number of libraries compared to other cross-platform frameworks. Due to this, developers need to utilize third-party libraries.
The cross-platform framework had limited features and functionality compared to native platforms.
Apps Built Using Flutter Cross-Platform App Framework
2. React Native
Pros of React Native
Developers can view changes in their code instantly without rebuilding the entire app, which can speed up the development process.
React Native has several native components, such as an accelerometer and camera, allowing it to deliver high-performance and smooth animations similar to native apps.
The framework emphasizes the UI more, thereby delivering highly responsive apps.
React Native has a vast and active community of developers & contributors, ensuring the framework is constantly updated and improved.
Cons of React Native
The cross-platform framework consists of a wide range of third-party libraries. However, not all of them are maintained well.
React Native apps are large in size. Thus, it affects the app’s load time and performance.
It has limited access to the native features of any device. Thus, it limits the overall functionality of an app.
Apps Built Using React Native Cross-Platform App Framework
Xamarin is an open-source, cross-platform app development framework released in 2011. Later in 2016, Microsoft acquired Xamarin, thus increasing its credibility.
It is unique from other cross-platform app frameworks in the market as it leverages C# and DotNet framework to build applications for three platforms using a single codebase.
Pros of Xamarin
The framework allows developers to share 90% of their codebase while building an app.
It has an extensive and robust community of developers across the world. It means the framework is well-maintained.
Xamarin integrates well with Visual Studio, Microsoft’s popular development environment, which can make development fast.
Developers with C# and .NET knowledge can quickly learn Xamarin and start building mobile apps using the same.
Cons of Xamarin
Debugging is hard in Xamarin as the developers have to look after C# and the native components present in an application.
Apps built using Xamarin are usually large in size, which affects the performance of the application.
One needs to buy an enterprise version of Xamarin to access advanced features. Thus, it becomes pricey for various developers.
Even though Xamarin has a lot of third-party libraries, not all of them are reliable.
Xamarin is not recommended for building applications that are heavy on graphics.
Apps Built Using Xamarin Cross-Platform App Framework
Ionic provides a range of pre-built UI components, tools, and services for developers to create mobile applications and stunning, flexible UIs that run on multiple platforms, including Android, iOS, and the web.
Pros of Ionic
Ionic also provides a command-line interface (CLI) tool known as Ionic CLI. Developers can leverage this tool to create, build, and deploy mobile applications.
The framework is built on top of AngularJS, which uses reactive programming to optimize application performance and offer a top-notch user experience.
It has a large & active community of developers who regularly contribute to the project, providing support, creating plugins and extensions, and sharing knowledge and resources.
Ionic has various pre-built UI components, like buttons, forms, lists, tabs, cards, etc., that developers can utilize to build applications.
It also has a Hot Refresh feature, enabling developers to view changes in real-time. Thus, it helps to speed up the development process.
Cons of Ionic
The framework does not have access to all native features of a platform, such as a device camera or sensors, which could limit the functionality of some applications.
Even though Ionic is built on top of AngularJS, it may not perform as a native application, particularly when handling complex graphics or animations.
Developers new to web technologies or AngularJS might have a steep learning curve when working with Ionic.
Ionic applications depend on plugins, and finding and using plugins compatible with the specific platform or version of Ionic can be challenging.
Apps Built Using Ionic Cross-Platform App Framework
NativeScript provides a range of pre-built UI components, APIs, tools, and services that developers can utilize to build mobile applications that can run on both Android and iOS platforms using a single codebase.
Pros of NativeScript
NativeScript offers a command-line interface (CLI) tool known as NativeScript CLI. Developers can use it to create, build, and deploy mobile applications quickly.
NativeScript also has a vast and active community of developers who regularly contribute to the project, offering support, creating plugins & extensions, and sharing knowledge and resources.
The framework uses native components to render UI elements, which means that applications built with NativeScript offer the same performance and user experience as apps built natively for each platform.
It supports various segments such as CocoaPods and AndroidArsenal.
Cons of NativeScript
NativeScript might not be compatible with all plugins or third-party libraries, which can limit functionality.
Developers unfamiliar with web technologies might find it challenging to adapt to the framework.
NativeScript uses native components, and that’s why apps built with the framework might have a larger file size than native apps.
Apps Built Using NativeScript Cross-Platform App Framework
How to Choose the Right Cross-Platform App Framework?
Choosing the right cross-platform app framework can be a daunting task. With so many options available, it’s essential to consider various factors before making a decision. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a cross-platform app framework:
Development Experience: The developer should be familiar with the respective framework.
Native Performance: The factor helps you to determine how well your app will perform across different platforms. Look for a framework that provides a native experience on your targeted platform.
Platform Support: The framework should support the platforms you are targeting, including iOS, Android, and potentially others.
Tooling and Support: The framework should offer tools and support options to help you with development, testing, and deployment.
Integration with Backend Services: The framework should offer support for integrating with the backend services you need for your apps, such as databases, cloud services, and other APIs.
Cost: In the end, consider the cost of using the framework, including licensing fees, development costs, and ongoing maintenance and support.
Ultimately, the right cross-platform app framework will depend on your specific needs & requirements.
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In conclusion, cross-platform app development frameworks provide a versatile way to build mobile applications that run on multiple platforms. From React Native to Xamarin, Flutter to NativeScript, there are a wide variety of frameworks available to choose from, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses.
Now the main question is, which cross-platform framework to choose from the above list? The selection depends on pros & cons, key features, cost, etc.
Webdesk Solution is a leading mobile app development company that have developed mobile apps for clients using the best cross-platform app development frameworks. Hence, we can understand your needs, help you choose the right framework, and develop a suitable cross-platform app for your business.
John is the President and Co-Founder of WebDesk Solution, LLC. Living the digital agency life for over 10 years, he explores an extensive eCommerce world. He has immense experience in all major e-commerce platforms. Being a nature lover, he likes to breathe the fresh air on the hill stations during vacations.