Mobile apps continue to grow in popularity. According to Statista, global app downloads increased from 204 billion per year in 2019 up to 218 billion in 2020. This trend has only been intensified by the pandemic and even companies that were previously unwilling to adopt digital transformation are now looking for new technologies. That tendency is especially visible in software development – more and more companies need applications to improve the work or convenience of customers. As a result, there’s a great demand for mobile app development.
In a Nutshell – how cross-platform app development works?
Cross-platform technology is about developing a single app that can support multiple platforms. In the past, software developers would have to release a mobile application on every major operating system with each own source code. Nowadays, an emerging trend in application development is cross-platform development.
An app developer using toolkits and frameworks can program a mobile application running both on iOS and Android platforms. Additionally, this multi-platform software can be easily repurposed in the future. It allows reaching a wide range of smartphone users with one codebase. A solution like that provides a lot of opportunities, also some to be careful of.
Benefits of cross-platform mobile development
As mentioned before, cross-platform technology is gaining popularity and it happens not without reason. There are many advantages to developing cross-platform apps that can help businesses and here are a few of the most significant ones.
- Fast development time. There’s no need to build a separate version for each operating system. The software development team codes app for each mobile platform at the same time.
- Cost efficiency. Android is based on Kotlin and Java programming languages, while iOS requires the knowledge of Swift and Objective-C. It creates a demand for recruiting a separate developers’ team to maintain each app. With cross-platform technology, you can reduce costs on it, as well as lower the development budget.
- Platform consistency. Building an app with the same code makes it possible to easily maintain product growth in the future. Updates are distributed to all users simultaneously.
- Wide market reach. You are not limited to a single operating system. Your mobile application can generate revenue on App Store and Google Play, which are currently dominating the market.
Risks of cross-platform mobile development
The advantages mostly outweigh some of the potential disadvantages but it’s good to be aware of risks during cross-platform app development. Here are the main drawbacks.
- Lack of native feel. You can achieve similar effects with most cross-platform frameworks. However, sometimes you may need to use a feature-limited to a certain platform. With a platform-independent approach, the application can be constrained, as it has to be supported by many mobile devices.
- UX divergence. Android apps and iOS apps can look a bit different due to each platform’s characteristic graphical interface. Both of these systems have their own approach to user experience systems. It’s important to be aware of these changes. You can also read more about the most common UX mistakes on our blog.
- Possible slower performance. Cross-platform development is a faster solution, but the final product could be less efficient with higher requirements for a mobile application.
Key differences between native and cross-platform apps
It is crucial to decide the right approach for a mobile device application. The native app is developed directly for a chosen platform in its programming language. It’s a great way when you want to release an exclusive mobile app or you have no budget constraints.
Popular frameworks for cross-platform mobile development
There are many cross-platform development tools available in the business. The most prominent right now are React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter. Thanks to the multiple-platform approach, the developer only needs one to support every major mobile device.
The advantage is that it allows using platform-specific code and gives you access to many native app functionalities. Hot Reloading feature allows developers to track any code changes live. Additionally, up to 90% of the code can be reused in a mobile app.
There is also Xamarin by Microsoft launched in 2011. It’s an open-source framework based on the .NET developer platform and using C# for coding. Businesses worldwide, spanning all industries, use Xamarin and .NET to build performant native mobile apps. This development framework is used by companies like Microsoft, UPS, Alaska Airlines, or The Postage. The main advantage of Xamarin over others is its code reusability that’s up to 96%.
Flutter, a Dart-based technology, is a highly promising framework developed by Google. It was launched at the end of 2018 but already won many people’s hearts over. This is also an open-source and free cross-platform development tool. Its architecture allows for full customization by using widgets and development can be really fast with live reloading. Above all, the code can be reused up to 90% and Flutter offers built-in Material Design and Cupertino (iOS-flavor) UI.
While Flutter is still a fresh technology and not as mature as React Native, it was already used in Google Ads or BMW app. One of the mobile applications we developed in Flutter, was recently featured in Google Play Store as the 7th best apps in the health & fitness category.
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Choosing to develop a cross-platform mobile app
To stay in the market, most businesses now develop smartphone versions of their platforms. Cross-platform architecture is a smart choice because it helps to quickly build apps that work for all consumers. Since there are so many solutions on the market, it is not always simple to choose the right production tool. However, working with a professional IT development company or an accomplished outsourcing team will help you make a decision.