You and me, we all know that building an app from scratch can be tough.
Today, Android and iOS both are dominating the landscape of mobile apps. So, the majority of companies want apps that can work on both platforms.
But what if I say, there is a solution that can help you create an app for both platforms without making many changes to the code base?
Yes, I am talking about cross-platform mobile app development.
It lets you create mobile apps using one codebase that runs on iOS, Android, and other operating systems. Compared to separate native apps, it saves you time, money, and headaches.
Here, in this post, we will be talking about some top cross-platform frameworks out there today so that you can choose the right mobile app framework for your upcoming endeavour.
Key Criteria for Evaluating Mobile App Frameworks
When selecting a cross-platform framework, you need to evaluate a few key criteria:
- Performance – Smooth UI animations and scrolling, quick launch times, small app size etc.
- UI and UX – Look and feel should match the platform’s design guidelines. Gestures and interactions should feel native.
- Developer Community – Active forums, libraries, documentation and experts to help resolve issues.
- Capabilities – Access to platform APIs and features like camera, GPS, notifications etc.
- Development Speed – Fast coding, testing and build times to boost productivity.
- Code Quality – Readable, maintainable and reusable code following best practices.
- App Distribution – Ability to publish to Google Play and Apple App Store.
Keeping these criteria in mind, let’s look at five of the most popular cross-platform mobile development frameworks.
Top 5 Cross-Platform Mobile App Frameworks
Flutter is Google’s modern open-source UI toolkit for crafting beautiful mobile, desktop and web apps from a single Dart codebase. It was first announced in 2017 and has grown to become one of the top options for cross-platform development.
Some major features of Flutter include:
- Uses Dart programming language which is easy to learn.
- Hot Reload for instant UI updates during development.
- Excellent native performance with fast rendering using its own high-performance engine.
- Modern reactive framework supporting declarative, component-based interfaces.
- Extensive widget library for Material Design and Cupertino (iOS-style) widgets.
- Excellent native performance and look and feel
- Feature-rich SDK with many built-in widgets and APIs
- Popular with developers and strong Google support
- Dart language has a learning curve for some developers
- Still young platform with fewer third-party libraries compared to React Native
Flutter is a great choice for apps where high performance, beautiful UIs and code reuse are top priorities. Popular apps built with Flutter include Google Ads, Groupon and eBay Motors.
2. React Native
Key features of React Native:
- Uses native UI controls instead of custom components
- Access to many native APIs and platform functionality
- Huge ecosystem of third-party libraries and support
- Native UI components provide excellent app performance
- Backed by Facebook and one of the largest communities
- More complex debugging and app size compared to native
- Limited to what React Native supports unlike native apps
Xamarin is a Microsoft-owned framework for building iOS, Android and Windows apps with C# and .NET. It has been around since 2011 and offers native performance with maximum code reuse.
Some highlights of Xamarin:
- Uses C# language and .NET ecosystem
- Compiles code directly to native assembly for optimum performance
- Xamarin Forms for interface design across platforms using XAML
- Modern tooling for Visual Studio and Visual Studio for Mac
- Leverages existing C# skills and enterprise .NET ecosystem
- Provides full access to native APIs and performance
- Suits teams with extensive C# experience
- Less community support compared to React Native
- Interface design involves more boilerplate code
- Steeper learning curve for non C# developers
Xamarin works very well for C# shops wanting to reuse their backend code and skills. Large apps built with it include Fox Sports and Alaska Airlines.
4. PhoneGap (Apache Cordova)
Here are some core aspects of PhoneGap:
- Uses standard web languages known by most developers
- Plugins provide access to device hardware and native APIs
- Enterprise-friendly framework with robust tooling
- Owned by Adobe and used by IBM, Microsoft and others
- Low barrier to entry for web developers
- Cost effective for simple apps with minimal native functionality
- Tooling provides remote debugging, live reload and cloud builds
- Web view dependency affects performance
- Limited native features compared to other frameworks
- Not ideal for complex apps requiring native components
PhoneGap is a solid pick for companies wanting to reuse existing web assets and skills for mobile. Apps built on it include Adobe, Lafayette College and Dow Jones.
Ionic is an open source framework based on Angular and Apache Cordova for building highly interactive cross-platform mobile apps using web technologies.
Some of its capabilities include:
- Mobile-optimized UI components designed for Angular
- Utilizes Cordova for native platform access
- CLI and plugins for fast development workflows
- Theming support with CSS and SASS
- Familiar Angular framework and web tech for most developers
- Large library of mobile-first UI components and icons
- Backed by a strong open source community
- Still relies on Cordova so native performance lags behind rivals
- Not as advanced for complex apps as React Native or Flutter
Ionic is ideal for teams using Angular that want a web-based mobile UI framework. Apps built with it include Sworkit, Pacifica and Untappd.
Choosing the Right Framework
With an overview of the top options, how do you choose the best framework for your mobile app project?
Here are a few key factors to consider:
- App complexity – Simple apps with minimal native functionality can use PhoneGap or Ionic, while React Native and Flutter are better for complex apps requiring native components.
- Performance needs – Flutter and React Native provide the best native performance if this is crucial. Ionic and PhoneGap lag in performance due to web view usage.
- Developer skills – Leverage existing skills in web, React Native or C# where possible rather than upskilling in a new language like Dart or C#.
- Timelines – Flutter and React Native enable faster development with their declarative UIs and hot reload capabilities.
- Budget – React Native is highly cost-effective. Flutter and Xamarin require more upfront investment into tools and skills.
- Future plans – Will you want to share code across web, mobile and desktop in the future? Flutter gives you the most reuse and flexibility here.
There are great reasons to choose any of the major cross-platform frameworks. Analyze your specific needs, resources and constraints to determine the best fit.
Cross-platform app development has many benefits like wider reach, cost savings and faster time to market. Flutter, React Native, Xamarin, PhoneGap and Ionic are five mature frameworks worth considering for your next mobile project.
Evaluate their technical capabilities, communities, tooling and ability to meet your needs. While no framework is perfect, they allow teams to reuse business logic across iOS and Android to build high quality apps faster. Carefully match project goals to framework strengths before diving into development.
The cross-platform landscape will only continue evolving with new players like Kotlin Multiplatform emerging. However, frameworks like React Native and Flutter are solid options you can rely on for the foreseeable future. With a thoughtful approach, cross-platform development unlocks huge productivity gains for delivering great mobile experiences.
Author Bio:- Hemang Trambadia
Hemang is a skilled digital marketing expert at Peerbits who has worked with a variety of businesses, from small startups to large corporations, helping them increase their online presence and drive more traffic to their websites. His expertise lies in search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising (PPC), social media marketing, and email marketing. He is skilled at creating data-driven marketing campaigns that deliver results and is always up-to-date on the latest digital marketing trends and techniques. When he’s not working, Hemang enjoys watching movies and traveling.