Cross Platform Mobile Apps Development (Tools, Frameworks, Comparisons & Costing)

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Almost everyone in the world owns a smartphone. Whether you use a smartphone for productivity or for gaming, you can find an app for anything on the app stores.

However, things become more complicated when the market is divided in halves. While 47% of the consumer market in the US owns an Apple phone, the remaining 52% has an Android.

Guide to Cross Platform Mobile Apps Development

In this divided market, it becomes difficult for app developers to determine which app store to cater to. When developers build a mobile application, it is typically based on one native operating system. This means that the app can either work on iOS or Android – not both.

Large companies don’t face an issue in this situation as they simply hire two different developers to create native apps for both app stores. A bigger problem arises when small companies want to develop apps for both Apple and Android, but do not have the budget for it.

This article covers everything you need to know about cross platform mobile apps, including:

  1. Cross Platform Mobile Development Comparisons
  2. Native, Hybrid, and Cross Platform Mobile Frameworks
  3. Why You Should Use Cross Platform Mobile Apps
  4. Best Cross Platform Mobile App Development Tools
  5. How to Choose the Best Cross Platform App Tool
  6. How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Cross Platform Application?

Since this is an extensive list of topics to cover, let’s dive right into it.

Native, Hybrid, or Cross Platform App Development?

Now that you know that there are different methods of developing an app, it becomes difficult to choose the right approach. There are three types of apps that a business can develop: native, hybrid, or cross platform.

Each of these types comes with its own set of pros and cons. Remember to choose the app building approach that best resonates with your target audience. Here is a detailed explanation of each app development technique:

1. Native App Development

An app that can only be used on a single platform is known as a Native App. Native apps for Android are made using a native-to-operating-system language such as Kotlin or Java. Similarly, iOS apps are developed using Objective-C and Swift.

With native app development, each feature of the app is suited to the specific operating system. You can get direct access to hardware features such as location services, camera, and microphone, without downgrading the quality. As a result, native apps can provide higher efficiency and a smooth user experience.

While opting for native apps is significantly better, it is not always an affordable option. To cater to both iOS and Android platforms, company owners would have to develop two separate native apps. Not only is the development process costly, but it also takes constant updates to maintain the app on both platforms.

Pros:

  • Create complex applications with great functionality
  • Superior performance levels
  • Better user interface
  • High ranking on app stores

Cons:

  • Time-consuming
  • High cost involved
  • Need to maintain multiple codebases

2. Hybrid App Development

Instead of costing an arm and a leg like native app development, hybrid app development is both time and cost effective. With hybrid app development, you can combine native and web development solutions together to create a joint app.

Developing a hybrid app is relatively easier. Developers can use the same code written for web development for native apps via third-party plugins like Ionic Capacitor or Apache Cordova. Instead of writing two separate codes, developers can run an app on both web and mobile platforms with hybrid app development.

Most hybrid mobile applications work with two components: a native app, and an embedded browser. For Android apps, developers can use WebView to convert an app from web-based platforms to mobile. Similarly, iOS uses WKWebView to display hybrid apps.

While hybrid app development can give you a similar user experience and performance as native apps at half the cost, there are certain drawbacks as well. Creating user-friendly UX and navigation patterns can be a significant challenge in hybrid app development. As a result, the visual appeal of the app may not be very interesting for the user.

Pros:

  1. Quick development process resulting in faster launch
  2. Budget-friendly approach
  3. Wide market reach
  4. Integrated with cloud services

Cons:

  1. Limited functionality
  2. Slower performance
  3. Adding new features is complicated

3. Cross Platform App Development

There is a common misconception that hybrid and cross-platform app development is the same. However, that is not true. The only similarity between these two types of app development is the code reusability where the developer does not need to rewrite the same code for different platforms.

A cross platform mobile application can be used across multiple platforms. You can use the same code to develop an app for both iOS and Android phones, without any additional rendering or edits.

Cross platform app development is a great way to provide a native app experience to the user at a lower cost. The developers do not have to work day and night to maintain a cross platform app since it has more secure and stable features.

With a wide variety of cross platform app development frameworks available online, it is becoming easier for developers to execute the process. The performance rates of a cross-platform app depends on the framework that you use. Most frameworks offer easy implementation, code shareability, and a native UI/UX.

One of the most popular cross platform app development frameworks is React Native. While this framework utilizes the features of React.js, it also enables developers to use native code languages such as Swift and Objective-C.

Pros:

  1. Quick development
  2. Affordable
  3. Convenient for developers

Cons:

  1. Lacks specific functions for certain platforms
  2. Reduced performance levels
  3. Limited aesthetic freedom

Why You Should Use Cross Platform App Development?

The market seems to be divided between iOS and Android users.

A research by Statista revealed that over 98% of smartphones in the world have either Android or iOS operating systems. With this knowledge, most company owners wish to develop an app that caters to both systems.

Since research suggests that revenue generated from mobile applications will be more than 500 billion dollars by the end of 2021, more and more companies are interested in having their own apps. Regardless of the niche, having a mobile app offers more usability and flexibility to the end user.

Why You Should Use Cross Platform App Development

Instead of spending on creating native apps for both iOS and Android platforms, opting for cross platform app development is a much better option. With cross platform mobile development, can accommodate up to 98% of the market with a single app.

Here are a few reasons why you should use cross platform app development:

1. Code Reusability

Cross platform app development does not require the developer to write two separate codes for iOS and Android systems. Instead, they can reuse a significant amount of code to develop a single, cross-platform app. For the developer, cross platform app development demands less time and effort.

With code reusability, companies can benefit from an earlier release of their mobile app. As soon as they spend on app development, they can gain quicker returns and profits when users download their app across platforms. Instead of marketing to Android and iOS users separately, the company can collectively cater to a large chunk of the market.

2. Maximized Audience Research

Cross platform mobile apps allow you to cater to all kinds of users. Whether you are targeting high-income or low-income individuals, your cross-platform app can be made available to both kinds of customers.

If you have a diverse target audience, then cross platform app development helps you reach them effectively. Launch your app on both iOS and Android systems with no additional efforts to ensure that you benefit from maximum audience reach.

3. Low Development Cost

Not every business has the budget to spend on two separate native apps. App development can be a lengthy and costly process, which makes it difficult to manage for entrepreneurs and small-scale organizations.

With cross platform app development, there is less effort required by the developer. As a result, the development costs are cut to a minimum which makes cross platform app development affordable for all businesses.

Top 5 Cross Platform Mobile App Development Frameworks

1 – React Native

Since 2015, React Native has been one of the top choices for developers. This open-source cross platform mobile app development framework was initially developed by Facebook. Over the years, it has been used to develop some of the most popular apps on every app store.

With React Native, you can build applications for web, Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows. This diversity comes from the JavaScript and React.js libraries that allows developers to use existing codes without rewriting them.

App development with React Native is a great cross-platform approach since it creates a final product that looks very similar to a native app. For simple applications where the APIs can be bridged between different platforms, React Native is a great choice.

However, some complex app development may be difficult with React Native since it would require the developer to bridge the gap between APIs. Without this additional step, the functionality of the app would be significantly lower.

Pros:

  1. Focuses on UI
  2. APIs and built-in components to save time
  3. Fast refresh to view changes in real-time
  4. Supported by thousands of contributors across the world

Cons:

  1. Codes of complex apps are not completely reusable
  2. No consistent updates
  3. Inefficient speed and memory usage
  4. Depends on third-party libraries

2 – Xamarin

Xamarin is another open-source cross platform app development framework that was launched in 2011. Ever since its acquisition by Microsoft in 2016, Xamarin has become a popular framework to build apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.

The best part about using Xamarin is the versatility that it offers. Developers can code using C# language, .net framework, and the Visual Studio by Microsoft.

With Xamarin, you can create impressive cross-platform apps that are very similar to native apps. You can have the same user-friendly interface and assisting controls at a fraction of the cost by using Xamarin.

Another unique feature of Xamarin is that it integrates compile-time checking. This prevents developers from running into run-time errors and ensures great usability of the app.

Pros:

  1. 90% of shared code amongst various platforms
  2. Platform-specific UI codes
  3. Consistent appearance across all operating systems
  4. Supports native libraries and specific APIs

Cons:

  1. Apps are larger in size
  2. Not recommended for rich graphic designs
  3. Restricted access to open-source libraries

3 – Codename One

Codename One is a Write Once Run Anywhere (WORA) framework.

With this open-source framework, you can build cross-platform apps for desktop, web, iOS, and Android. Since Codename One uses Java or Kotlin as compatible coding languages, it is incredibly easy to navigate for developers.

The main purpose of Codename One is to provide a cross-platform framework that gives access to everything that a native app platform can provide. When you develop an app with Codename One, you would be unable to tell the difference between this cross-platform app and a native app.

Pros:

  1. 100% code reusage across platforms
  2. Easy to use
  3. Optimized plug-ins for IDEs
  4. Can be used with third-party libraries

Cons:

  1. Not suitable for app or interactive interface development
  2. Graphic UI is not sufficient for large projects
  3. Development is lengthy
  4. Monthly quota of builds

4 – Flutter

Developed by Google, Flutter is a free development framework.

This cross-platform app development framework is compatible with the Dart coding language to build apps for Web, Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. The best part about using Flutter is that you can build any type of application using the same codebase.

While Flutter has only been around for a few years, it is quickly gaining popularity amongst developers. Flutter offers many features to cross platform app developers to ensure that they can build apps efficiently with great performance.

Pros:

  1. Simple and easy to use platform
  2. Wide variety of widgets
  3. Hot Reload feature shows changes in code in real-time

Cons:

  1. Dart is a complex programming language
  2. Does not support all devices, including 32-bit laptops
  3. Few third-party apps available to support cross platform functionality
  4. Might not be suitable for large projects

5 – NativeScript

NativeScript is an incredibly diverse cross-platform development framework.

NativeScript allows developers to use a range of coding languages such as JavaScript, Angular, TypeScript, and Vue.js. You can build both Android and iOS native apps without WebViews or additional DOM manipulation.

As developers access a native Android or iOS API, they can build a platform-specific user interface. Some of the major components of NativeScript include Core Modules, Plugins, CLI, and Runtimes. When all these components work together, NativeScript offers a quick and simple solution for developers.

Pros:

  1. Based on popular technologies like Angular and JavaScript
  2. Access to native iOS and Android APIs
  3. Automatic rendering of platform-specific UI
  4. Variety of plugins and templates
  5. Free and open source

Cons:

  1. Complex apps cannot be built
  2. Apps might be slower due to a single thread
  3. No instant refresh features
  4. Reduced app size

How to Choose the Best Cross Platform Apps Development Tool?

There are all types of companies. While some are large and cater to a wide target market, others only operate in a niche market. Each individual company has their own requirements when it becomes to the type of mobile app they need.

How to Choose the Best Cross Platform Apps Development Tool

By choosing cross platform mobile apps, companies can make efficient use of their resources to cater to both iOS and Android users.

For Small Companies

If you have a team with fewer than 50 people, then you probably need a mobile app that can be launched quickly. Since development teams are expensive, it is easier for small companies to opt for the simplest cross platform app development frameworks.

For Midsize Enterprises

As a company expands in size, their requirements and customer base grow as well. To cater to a majority of consumer needs, they need to build apps that work on both iOS and Android platforms.

For iOS and Android cross platform development, technologies such as Xamarin and Titanium are a great choice. Since Xamarin uses C#, it is easier for web developers to switch to mobile without rewriting the code.

Large Organizations

These organizations typically have complex requirements. With sizable back-office systems, large organizations require a high level of security in their mobile apps.

Since a majority of large organizations are divided into smaller teams, they can make use of cross platform tools to cater to a diverse set of staff members and consumers.

Which Cross Platform App is the Best?

If you are on the search for the best iOS Android cross platform development, then there are many frameworks to consider. The best cross platform app development framework depends on the size and requirements of your individual company.

To make your decision easier, here are a few important factors to remember:

1. Development Workload

For most businesses, opting for a cross platform development framework is to reduce the developmental workload.

Small to medium sized enterprises do not have the resources to afford an entire team of developers. Additionally, their only requirement is a basic cross-platform app that does not need to be updated constantly. With these requirements, any entry-level cross platform development tool would work well.

For large enterprises who have more complex UI/UX requirements, a more complex cross platform development tool such as React Native can be used.

2. Compatibility

Remember that the framework you choose must be compatible with a range of different platforms. At a minimum, you should be able to create an app for both iOS and Android platforms.

To cater to a wide consumer base, some platforms can even support Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.

3. User Experience

If you think cross platform mobile apps cannot offer the same usability as native apps, you are probably wrong. Depending on the framework that you use, you can create a stunning mobile application that delivers an excellent user experience.

4. Security

When your developers write one code that applies to two or more platforms, there might be space for error. Hackers could be able to locate these loopholes and attempt breaching your data for illegal purposes.

By using a robust cross platform app development tool, you can avoid such security concerns. Regardless of the platform, your development framework will support a wide range of security controls for both the developer and the consumer.

5. Scalability

Can your cross-platform framework meet the long-term goals of your company?

Even if you start off with a basic app, you may want to add more complex upgrades in the future. Remember that once you have an app running on the app stores, it is difficult to create an entirely new app. The only option you have is to add updates with the required changes.

Choose a cross platform development tool that aligns with your company goals. If you need to upscale your company in the future, the framework should be able to support additional features on the app.

How Much Does It Cost to Develop Cross-Platform Application?

Since cross-platform app development is based on writing a single code, it is a relatively quicker process. Even quality testing for cross-platform apps does not take as much as time as native or hybrid apps.

Generally, the cost of developing a cross-platform app starts at $15,000. The more requirements that you have, the further this price can skyrocket.

Apart from the basic cost of development, you will have to pay additional costs to develop an eye-catching cross platform mobile app. Here are a few factors that can add to the cost:

1 – App Design

When a customer opens your app, the first thing that they notice is the design. The most popular apps are those that have a simple and engaging design that attracts user. When an app is too complex to look at, users can become disinterested.

Depending upon the UI/UX design of your app, the cost of development can differ. However, your app design is a one-time cost that you pay during the initial phase of development.

2 – App Complexity

What features do you want to add to your app? The more complex the features, the higher the cost.

While basic apps only have a standard UI, mid complexity apps will give you enough freedom to design a customized UI. One can also integrate a third-party payment system and a chat bot into a mid-tier app. This type of mobile app is suitable for most organizations and comes with an affordable price tag.

The most complex mobile app would give you access to real-time synchronization with code, custom graphics and animations, and multiple databases. If you want these premium features, then you should be willing to pay a higher price.

3 – Development Options

You have two main options when it comes to cross-platform app development: hire a freelancer or an agency.

When you hire a freelancer, you can get the work done in a time-efficient manner. Since freelancers work on a contractual basis, these individuals will be able to pay more attention to your specific requirements.

Freelancers also depend upon reviews from clients to score future projects which is why they are more particular about their work. While freelancers charge lesser than an agency, you will only have one developer instead of an experienced team of professionals.

When you hire an agency for cross platform app development, you don’t have to worry about anything else. Each aspect of development including the UI/UX design and graphic designing will be handled by their team. Since you will have an entire team of developers at hand, you can benefit from their collective expertise.

However, agencies tend to charge a higher price based on their popularity and years of experience.

Final Thoughts

Cross platform mobile apps are the future. Since companies only have a limited set of resources, investing in a cross platform mobile app seems like the most feasible option.

For startups and large companies who have teams divided into smaller segments, cross platform mobile apps are the perfect choice. With one app, companies can cater to both iOS and Android users. With this diversity, they can enjoy higher returns from their app and great user functionality.

With an impressive selection of cross platform app development frameworks available in the market, it is becoming incredibly easy to code. All you need is one of the top 5 frameworks that we outlined, a developer, and you are ready to go.

The most significant benefit of using cross platform apps is a boost in efficiency and productivity. Instead of choosing between an iOS or an Android app, companies can cater to both types of customers simultaneously.

When you launch an app on both the App Store and Play Store, you are more likely to capture a large chunk of the market. Paired with the right marketing techniques, your cross-platform app can start yielding high profits in no time.

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