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Cross Platform or Native App Development - Best Platform to Develop Your Mobile App

19 January 2018

The mobile application market is expected to top around $77 billion at the end of 2017, in this whole journey the mobile app world has undergone endless changes. Presently, more than 99.6% of the smartphones run either on iOS or Android systems. For businesses, mobile apps are a channel for enhancing their brand awareness. With the increasing adoption of Artificial intelligence solutions (majorly chatbots) and also messengers, the experts have even started to question the future of mobile applications. Amid all this chaos and controversy, the argument of “native vs. cross-platform” mobile app development is hotter than ever. The question is should you invest in a cross-platform application or make do with a native one?

Cross-platform vs Native apps

“ A native mobile application is a solution which suits the requirements of a designated operating system by using its SDK (also its hardware memory, gears and other apps installed on any given device)”.
                                                          Whereas
“A cross-platform application is an application for the mobile devices compatible with multiple  operating systems at the same time and also it can, therefore, run on any device be it be a smartphone or a tablet.”

There are two types of cross-platform mobile applications

Native cross-platform apps

Every OS (operating system) has its own SDK and also a major tech stack (Java is for Android and Objective-C/Swift for the iOS app development). However, if you are an experienced mobile vendor, you’ll be well versed with the techniques to create a unified API that is running on the top of a native Software Development Kit and you can use the same code-base for both iOS and Android apps. Native cross-platform apps are basically built with Appcelerator Titanium and Xamarin.

Hybrid HTML5 applications

Although all the mobile applications are designed to be used in smartphones and tablets, it is primarily the backend servers (either Cloud-based or on-prem) which handle the app logic. Since both the OS Android and iOS SDKs have a feature like advanced web components, skilled software gurus mostly utilize the WebView to make parts of an app’s Graphic user interface with CSS, HTML5 and JavaScript. The majority used hybrid app development framework is the Apache Cordova (or the PhoneGap).

How To Choose a Cross-Platform IDE?

Fortunately, this issue has not gone unnoticed and there are a handful IDEs that are created specially to target the problem of the cross-platform mobile application development. An integrated development environment(IDE) helps the developers to organize their projects, run the code and lots more. Such major IDE’s are Android Studio and Xcode IDE.

Few IDEs also use different programming languages, they have specific features and target different devices. Many of them are made to mainly solve the issues of the cross-platform development.

Here are the major and the most popular options available:

Xamarin

Xamarin among them all is the one of the most commonly used cross-platform used for development, outside of the games and it also has a lot of support, large community and many several features. With Xamarin comes a bundle of things like the Visual Studio (Microsoft’s IDE) and also helps the developers code with C#, which most of them prefer over Java.

A drawback of Xamarin is a bit of a loss of advanced integration and Google’s support. You have few added steps to your way, if you want to access libraries written in Javascript. But among the major advantages is that, there is just a handful of things which you can do in an Android Studio which you can’t do in Xamarin and most importantly the process is very easy to set up. Xamarin’s highlight is its cross-platform nature, and also apps can be tested across different platforms using the  Xamarin ‘Test Cloud’.

PhoneGap or the Apache Cordova

Platforms like B4A and Xamarin allow the developers to make native apps. Which means that these applications will run just as they have been made using the any of the official IDEs and also give you an access to all the software and hardware features of the gadgets they were running on.

PhoneGap is a different approach altogether. This tool is majorly used to build applications using CSS, HTML and JavaScript–languages that are typically used to develop websites. Which means applications can run like they were web pages i.e they will work across any modern device in the same way. This is not ‘native’ development though and a lot of functionalities will not be available also. For example, if you are wanting to make a minimalistic business application with little financial investment, then you can get a static app made with some information and a map.

Unity

Unity is a highly acknowledged and used mobile application development engine that enables software engineers/developers to make high-quality 2D/3D apps for various platforms which include iOS, Windows, Android and Xbox. Alongside Unreal Engine, Unity is considered to be among the best tools for presenting 3D content. This solution has features like a lot of free-to-use plugins and also supports the development of the custom shaders. But Unity has a very steep learning curve, and all its compilers are not optimized enough for ARM processors.

And Loads more…

There are several more options available for developing cross-platform mobile applications. Other popular choices include Ionic, B4A, Appcelerator, Corona and Sencha Touch.

Each tool has its own strengths and limitations. Hence, the framework you choose should be as per the requirements of the project you are making. A cross-platform application developed by striking a balance between the availability the requirement and most of all the deliverables to the end-user.

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Lakhwinder Singh Lead Developer - Mobility

Lead Mobile App Developer, covers wide range of technologies applied to the development of websites and business applications too. Enjoys doing creative things in Mobile and is passionate about developing unique Mobile Products.

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