In our day and age, software development can be approached from numerous angles. This allows companies and entrepreneurs working on projects of completely different scales and purposes to find the most fitting development methods. In particular, there are three major market-defining approaches — native development, cross-platform development, and hybrid development.
While native is a classic approach that focuses on building proper software based on the target platform and hardware specifics, its two counterparts offer more universal opportunities. E.g., hybrid is about creating a single solution compatible with several platforms while cross-platform has the same goal but goes for a more in-depth native functionality.
And it just so happens that cross-platform mobile app development may come in as the most flexible, universal approach in mobile software building today.
In a nutshell, it allows avoiding all the costs and efforts related to hiring two separate mobile development teams and enables a single dev team to cover multiple target operating platforms at once. But advantages on one side can often spawn respective drawbacks on the flip side. So let’s dive deeper into the concept and discuss the top dedicated platforms and technologies.
Cross-platform development is a natural counterpart to native development. Whereas the native approach focuses on a particular OS or platform, the cross-platform method is about creating one piece of software that fits two or more target operating environments. The most standard instance is developing an app that is compatible with both Android and iOS at the same time. However, some cross-platform mobile application development technologies are already capable of desktop and web app development as well. The further growth in multi-platform capabilities is yet to be seen.
There is quite a wide choice of frameworks for cross-platform app development available in the market right now. Making the final decision on your own may be pretty difficult. Let’s take a look at the top frameworks that cover your cross-platform development needs in 2021.
Let’s see why it is so widely preferred by the worldwide industry and what downsides it has.
Flutter is a very widely used solution considered among the best cross-platform mobile app development frameworks next to RN and is the offspring of Chrome developers’ efforts to ultimately optimize their browser’s capacities. As opposed to RN, it is based on an authentic programming language — Dart. Flutter’s main software creation philosophy is focused on building products brick by brick by simply manipulating various widgets. The tool is actively used by Google (mainly, to support Google Assistant modules).
This open-source software creation framework isn’t as popular as the first two reviewed but offers great cross-platform capacities nonetheless. Although the SDK on which it is based — the Titanium Mobile SDK — is quite widely used in the cross-platform app development market. As a whole, this framework doesn’t bring anything completely new to the table, yet it certainly offers efficient pinpointed opportunities that may as well come in handy for your project.
Now this one says it right in its title — NativeScript is all about helping achieve the native feel and performance of the end product. Despite it being a very young framework whose stable release took place in 2021, it has made its way to most lists and tops as the outstanding framework for cross-platform mobile app development. What stands out most is its high integrational potential, which allows for in-depth tech stack customizations.
A hugely popular game engine has found the widest application in the mobile app development market. At one point, it even became too hyped, serving as the core engine for Pokemon Go, among other games. Unity 3D is a versatile software development environment where assets can be both created and elaborately tested in one place. Add the precious ability to code once and use the result anywhere, as many times as you wish, and you got yourself a perfect cross-platform mobile game creation engine.
This framework allows sharing the code written in Kotlin across a number of required platforms. For this, it employs a set of compilers and shared modules. Shared modules can be most efficiently added to native projects to make backend and UI developers’ lives easier. Thus, part of the code outlining the business logic of the app is shared while the platform-specific code, including the UI code, must be written separately.
A hybrid development approach is focused on creating a single codebase for multiple reuses across different target platforms. But as opposed to cross-platform methods that may still rely on chunks of native code and certain native aspects, hybrid is all about creating an app that is fully separate from the native environment, yet it runs there just fine. In practice, this means the ability to save even more time and resources while getting a high-quality solution with but one nuance — very limited access to the native OS and device specifics.
Although we are reviewing hybrid frameworks to fully clarify how to choose technology for cross-platform apps, we do not recommend hybrid app development for a few reasons. First, it is the most budget approach that puts optimal development conditions and business goals above the quality of end results. The second is that the efficiency of hybrid frameworks, such as Xamarin and Phonegap, is seriously inferior to what RN and Flutter have while posing equal overall costs. Third, the hybrid technology itself is depreciated and the vendors tend to stop their support, for instance, Adobe had stopped the PhoneGap development on October 1, 2020.
Built by the minds behind Mono, Xamarin is an open-source, cross-platform development framework based on C# and Microsoft technology stack with a huge community of over 1.4 million developers. The main gist of this one is boosted end-performance due to the natively compiled nature.
Flutter and React Native are deservedly considered the most popular frameworks for cross-platform development right now — the statistics are quite eloquent. Both solutions offer extensive capabilities for creating high-quality, smoothly performing apps in a convenient expertise-driven manner. Both Flutter and React Native share the benefit of accelerated time-to-market and smoother development processes. But let’s take a look at the major specifics of working with both to help you decide which one to pick in your case.
React Native certainly stands out as the tool to reach the fastest time-to-market. But it spawns more costs at the same time. However, these may as well be scaled by using the right extensions at the right time, so it’s more about the expertise and approach when it comes to RN.
We can say for sure that Flutter beats RN in terms of the overall performance if it is employed properly, it makes reaching smooth compatibility easier, and it may help you save some software engineering costs. However, it may not offer the fastest means of product completion. Take a look at the summarizing table below to make your search for the best language to develop cross-platform mobile apps for your specific case easier.
Platform-specific functionality reach
It can be challenging to make the final decision as to which platform to pick. To make the best choice, you should clarify some underlying questions. Here’s your standard checklist to make your life easier.
If the answer to all the above questions is yes, cross-platform is definitely an app creation approach you can rely on in your particular case. You may also keep in mind that the following types of apps are usually best made cross-platform:
On the other hand, the following types of apps are best-left native due to the factors we’ve covered in the article:
NIX United has been providing specialized cross-platform mobile software development services for years. We offer smooth implementation of the best practices and professional support at all stages of the development lifecycle. In terms of practical field experience, our portfolio is rich with successful cross-platform developments. In particular, we’ve created the following two apps based on RN and Flutter, respectively.
Case Study: React Native-Powered App for Landlords
We used the combination of RN and Golang to create a business automation solution meant to make the property management routine a breeze for landlords. What came out is a full-on all-in-one platform built out of multiple modules that offers:
As a result, we got a sturdy solution that allows landlords to easily plan out expenses, digitally communicate with residents, automatically resolve many tasks, manage parking spaces, etc.
Case Study: Flutter-Powered Lifestyle Services Mobile Marketplace
Based on Flutter, we built a whole mobile marketplace to distribute various lifestyle services, like fitness, styling, nutrition services, etc. The powers of Flutter allowed us to create a sturdy solution with handy features like:
In the long run, we’ve achieved a user-friendly eCommerce application with all the necessary elements of hassle-free app use and nothing excessive.
When it comes to choosing the best cross-platform mobile app framework, there is no single definitive “best of the best” solution — your final choice should depend on your specific needs and many other underlying aspects (like budget, desired project terms, complexity, etc.). There are, however, two leaders in the niche of cross-platform development, and the bottom line for picking between them is as follows:
Going by plain numbers — React Native holds a stable 40% of global market share right now while Flutter boasts 30%, and it’s growing. But don’t let statistics drive your final choice — analyze solutions in-depth yourself or contact a team of profiled specialists to make the best pick.
There is a wide range of options available online, and it can be easy to get confused in the barrage of offers. You may do some research on your own, plowing through ratings, reviews, and “top” lists, but keep in mind how cumbersome this process can be, and you may achieve only minor results. And even if you decide to go for the industry’s top solution, you still will have to pick between React Native and Flutter. This is where expert input is truly precious. However, in the long run, it is your decision exactly how to choose technology for cross-platform mobile applications.
The major candidates for the title of the best cross-platform app framework right now are React Native and Flutter. There are also many great solutions in this niche that lag behind these two in terms of popularity yet offer efficient capabilities. We’d recommend figuring this question based on your particular project specifics, with a qualified professional by your side.
New and progressive technologies are great. But their novelty and “young age” may as well immediately turn into a disadvantage. Thus, immature solutions have poor community support, limited expansion boundaries, and all sorts of things to yet perfect and improve. On the other hand, a well-tried-and-tested framework with strong community support, an extensive range of plugins available, and honed algorithms may be a much better choice overall.
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