Cross-Platform Mobile App Development: All You Need to Know

Cross-platform mobile app development is an approach that allows the creation of mobile applications that are compatible with several operating systems at the same time. In this article, we are going to discuss the pros and cons of this approach, consider the differences between native and cross-platform development and have a look at the most frequently used frameworks.

March 22, 2022

14 min

Technologies

In the modern world, mobile technology is developing incredibly fast. Today we spend more time on the internet than ever before. According to Digital 2022 Global Overview, we spend around 7 hours per day on the internet, and over half of this traffic comes from mobile devices.

Due to the change in people's lifestyles, mobile devices have become hugely popular. More than two-thirds of the world’s population (67.1 percent) use mobile devices, and in 2020 mobile traffic outnumbered desktop. Now practically everybody has a smartphone or a tablet, which is why custom mobile applications are becoming a must for lots of businesses.

IOS and Android together hold 99.22% of the total mobile operating system market, so it is a key point for an app’s success to be present both on Google Play Store and on Apple App Store. However, the creation of separate versions of an app for both of the platforms takes a lot of time and requires significant investments. That is why today there is an increasing demand for alternative ways to develop mobile apps in a faster and more cost-effective way. And this is where the cross-platform mobile app development approach can be of great help.

What Is Cross-Platform Mobile App Development?

Cross-platform app development allows developers to build mobile applications that can work with several operating systems, like Android and iOS, instead of making separate ones for each platform. This means that the developers only need to write the code once and use it several times making the process of creation of cross-platform mobile apps much faster.

Cross-platform app development requires the usage of platform-agnostic technologies, such as JavaScript, HTML, and CSS, that are not native to particular platforms. It allows companies to develop mobile applications for as many devices as possible at lower costs.

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Cross-Platform App Development vs Native App Development: What is the Difference?

There are two main ways to develop mobile applications: native and cross-platform app development. Each of them has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to choose what suits your needs in the best way.

Let’s have a look at the differences between native and cross-platform mobile development.

Native apps are built specially for one particular platform. Such apps work perfectly on their platforms, but they are not available on others. This means that you need to have two development teams to create separate mobile applications for Android and iOS. And cross-platform apps, in turn, can work on both operating systems at once, which can be more effective in terms of costs and development time.

3. Benefits of Cross-Platform App Development

  • Broader Market Reach

Cross-development allows you to reach a bigger number of people, as it is possible to create one app that will be compatible with different platforms, like Android, iOS, and the web. This way you can increase your market presence without spending too many resources.

  • Reduced Development Costs

Using cross-platform app development you can reduce the development costs significantly, as you don’t need to hire two teams of developers to create and maintain separate apps for Android and iOS. This can increase savings over time, and generate more revenue.

  • Easier Maintenance and Deployment

Since there is one mobile application that is compatible with several platforms, it is easier to maintain and deploy code. The changes can be coordinated between the platforms and devices much faster, saving a lot of time and effort.

  • Reusable Code

With cross-platform apps, it is possible to use the same code multiple times. This approach decreases the amount of time spent on development as you don’t have to create different versions of the same app for different platforms.

  • Faster Application Development and Time-to-Market

You only need one cycle of development to create a mobile application that is suitable for several platforms. If you need to update the app, it is also easier to do, as you need to make the changes only once. This way it takes less time for the software to become profitable.

  • Similar UI and UX

The same cross-platform mobile app works similarly on any device – whether it is an iPhone, a Windows computer, or an Android tablet.

Drawbacks of Cross-Platform App Development

There can be some drawbacks in using cross-platform mobile app development as well, for instance:

  • Slower Performance

The code is more complicated, as it includes native and non-native components, which can result in poorer performance.

  • Limited Functionality

It may be harder for the developers to access such smartphone features as the microphone, camera, and geolocation which can be much easier in the case with a native app. 

  • Limited UX

Cross-platform apps don’t support native UI elements. This means that they sometimes can’t provide the familiar user experience on the platform.

Is Cross-Platform Mobile App Development Suitable For Your Product?

Keeping in mind the benefits and drawbacks of cross-platform app development that we have considered above, it is important to take into account the main objectives of a mobile application in order to choose the most suitable technology for its development.

For instance, cross-platform mobile development is a great option if:

  • You need to place your mobile app on the market as soon as possible
  • You need to test the idea of an app without investing too much time and effort
  • The main aim is to reach out to a bigger audience
  • You already have a website and want to create a mobile app based on it at minimal costs
  • The app doesn’t need to use all the computing capabilities of the smartphone
  • The application doesn’t include complex animation and calculations

And in case you need to create a high-performance mobile application, that involves a complex interface and heavy animation, and uses the system resources of a mobile device non-stop, the best option will be to consider native app development instead.

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Cross-Platform App Development Frameworks

To develop a quality mobile application it is important to choose the right framework. And if you have already decided that cross-platform apps are an option worth considering, let’s have a look at the best cross-platform app development frameworks.

React Native

React Native is an open-source UI software framework that helps to create Android and iOS mobile applications using JavaScript as your programming language. It was created by Facebook in 2015 and has a large programming community around. React Native makes it easier to develop intuitive native-like UI interfaces as it combines all the best features of ReactJS and JavaScript.

Pros of React Native:

  • Reusable code that helps to speed up the development process
  • It’s possible to preview the results, which also makes the development process faster
  • It allows to create a highly responsive user interface
  • It supports a big variety of platforms
  • It is compatible with the leading third-party plugins

Cons of React Native:

  • Limited access to smartphone functionality
  • Lack of consistency while releasing updates
  • Longer debugging process, especially on Android

Flutter

Flutter is an open-source framework developed by Google in 2017. It uses Dart programming language instead of JavaScript. The cross-platform mobile apps created using Flutter can work effectively on a number of platforms.

Pros of Flutter:

  • Flutter has an in-built graphic engine
  • The apps built on Flutter are faster in terms of performance
  • Using Dart helps to make the code more structured even for complex applications
  • It is possible to access native device features, like camera, microphone, location, etc.

Cons of Flutter:

  • Limited TV support
  • The application size can be bigger
  • The app can be less functional compared to a native one

Xamarin

Xamarin is a leading free, open-source platform based on C# and .NET that streamlines the engineering, which allows developers to use up to 90% of their code to build cross-platform mobile applications on different platforms. This platform helps to create apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile. 

Pros of Xamarin:

  • Relatively easy to use
  • It is possible to reuse third-party codebases
  • Fewer run-time errors
  • A large community of developers and contributors

Cons of Xamarin:

  • Can be expensive for enterprises
  • Xamarin is not recommended for applications that require heavy graphics
  • Offers limited access to some important app development libraries

Ionic

Ionic is one of the most popular open-source cross-platform app development framework based on AngularJS. This framework allows developers not only to create user-centric applications but also to build creative UI interfaces.

Pros of Ionic:

  • The Ionic platform is designed specifically for mobile development 
  • It offers a great variety of ready-to-use UI components
  • There are many plugins that enable using the native components of the smartphone
  • It is an open-source platform, which means that it is possible to change the code structure if it is necessary.

Cons of Ionic:

  • Native plugins can be unstable and conflict with each other
  • Unclear error messages that make it harder to debug the app
  • The app size is bigger compared to native ones

Summary

Native and cross-platform apps both have their advantages and disadvantages. And it is very important to choose the option that suits your aims and project requirements in the best possible way. 

The modern market has become highly competitive, which means that it is a good idea to make use of all the competitive advantages possible. Many companies today create mobile applications to keep up with the growing demand. And as technology evolves, more and more businesses choose cross-platform app development. Now they are no longer considered to be a way of saving time and money by compromising the quality. Cross-platform development makes it possible to create highly reliable and efficient mobile applications that are compatible with all kinds of devices. The modern cross-platform app development frameworks support reusable code, building complex features, and creating UI and UX elements that are very close to native ones. It also uses a common code base that is suitable for all operating systems. Cross-platform mobile applications are much quicker and easier to build, which can help you save much time and resources while keeping the quality up to a high standard.

If you are still not sure if cross-platform mobile app development is the right option for you, feel free to contact our experts, and they will help you choose the best solution.

Frequently asked questions:

1. What is cross-platform mobile app development?

It is an approach that allows to create mobile apps that can work with several operating systems, like Android and iOS, instead of making separate ones for each platform.

2. Is native development better than cross-platform?

Native and cross-platform mobile development both work well, but for different needs and purposes. If you need to create an app that will work on all platforms at once using less time and resources, then cross-platform app development is a great option for you. But if you need to make a high-performance application with complex graphics and interface, using the native development approach is preferable.

3. Which development approach to choose if the budget is limited?

In case of a limited budget, it is reasonable to choose cross-platform mobile application development, as it allows to create one app that will be compatible with multiple platforms. This way you won’t have to hire two teams of developers, so it will be possible to save a significant amount of time and money.

4. I need to test an application idea, is cross-platform development suitable for this?

Yes, using cross-platform development it is possible to create a test version of a mobile application that will be able to work on different operational systems, in a faster and more cost-effective way.

Technologies

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