The mobile app market has been around for over ten years and has never stopped growing. The demand for the development and creation of mobile applications from companies and young startups is constantly growing and it still significantly exceeds the supply, which leads to a constant rise in development costs. One of the solutions to speed up the development process is cross-platform development, when the same program code is used on all platforms.
But what is cross-platform development and how is it different from native development? By native development, experts mean the use of native programming, be it Objective-C and Swift for iOS or Java and Kotlin for Android, and other mobile OS tools. In cross-platform development, specialized languages or frameworks are taken into account, with the help of which you can create applications that work with several mobile operating systems. In our company, for the past two years, we have been actively working with the cross-platform Flutter – SDK.
Benefits of native apps
- the response and speed of the application. The application responds to touches instantly, there are practically no delays in scrolling, animation, receiving and outputting data, but it does not always work correctly in cross-platform development;
- clear and simple access to functions, sensors. It will not be difficult for a development specialist to understand how to work with geolocation, push notifications, video and photo shooting through a camera, sound, accelerometer and other sensors;
- interface native to the chosen platform. Native applications usually operate with “platform” interface elements: navigation, menus, forms and other design elements are taken from the OS.
There are drawbacks to native applications, but the main thing is the high cost of development and support, including because for each platform you need to write your own code, for which you need to attract more developers, and for development on the Flutter cross platform, it is possible to use the services of one specialist.
Unlike native ones, cross-platform applications are written for multiple platforms in one language. How can such a code work on different devices? There are two approaches to this.
The first one is that at the stage of preparing an application for publication, it turns into a native one for a certain platform using a transpiler. In simple words, one cross-platform programming language is “translated” into another.
The second is that a certain wrapper is added to the resulting code, which, working already on the device, translates calls from the non-native code to the native functions of the system.
Benefits of cross-platform applications
- development speed. Since the amount of code is much less, the cost of work is also reduced;
- one source code saves you the hassle of hiring multiple developers for each platform;
The main cons
- non-native interface, or at least the need to work with the interface of each platform separately. Each system has its own requirements for element design and sometimes they are mutually exclusive. When developing, this must be taken into account;
- problems in the implementation of complex functions due to errors in the development frameworks themselves. The cross-platform environment only broadcasts requests to the system and the interface, and therefore at this stage, both difficulties in understanding and the occurrence of errors within the framework itself are possible;
- speed of work. Since the cross-platform environment is an “add-on” over the main code, there are delays in working out user actions and displaying the results.
Today, there are many good cross-platform technologies that allow you to create high-quality mobile applications. Next, we’ll look at a comparison of the most popular cross-platform development frameworks.
Based on these characteristics, you can choose a development framework that is convenient for you and suitable for a specific application.
The choice of framework for cross-platform development is quite extensive and it is difficult for a business owner to choose the right solution. To simplify your choice, you can use the following guidelines:
- Cordova and HTML5 are great if you want to build an app quickly that will work on all devices. But the functionality will be limited, as well as the appearance, but this will allow you to quickly launch the project, test the chosen niche, and understand whether it is worth investing in the development of a more functional application.
- Do you need to create a high-quality business application that will last more than one year and will work without errors? Then it’s better to use native development. But only if the idea is worthwhile and there are means to implement several sets of codes for each mobile OS.
- PWA is used to create beautiful, colorful, but not very functional applications. But if the task is not to implement complex functions, then PWA is an excellent solution for quickly and inexpensively creating a cross-platform mobile application.
- Xamarin is suitable for those who value functionality much more than the beauty of the interface. For example, to create corporate programs or computational applications.
- React Native helps you create a fast and functional application. But the set of functions itself has limitations, so if you want to add a lot of features to the application, then this framework will not work, but for business card applications it is.
- With Flutter, you can implement a beautiful and functional application, but its weight will be quite large. If this is not a problem for you, then this framework is an excellent solution for both visual and technical components.
In any case, a specialist in this field will help you find the right solution for cross-platform mobile application development. Only after discussing the project and clarifying all the tasks will the most effective solution for development be proposed.