That’s the number of mobile applications in the world.
RiskIQ says that 200 billion apps were downloaded by people last year spending more than $120 billion in app stores worldwide. The fact that people spend 90% of their mobile time on apps is a testament to how much we rely on them to run our day-to-day lives. From hailing a cab to ordering food, everything is run by apps.
Imagine this. You have a brilliant idea for an application. You have pooled all the resources. Now is the time for you to decide which mobile application development framework you would like to use. It all boils down to this.
There are many mobile architectures available. The one you choose should be based on your needs and the resources that you have at your disposal. Flutter, React Native, Ionic, Xamarin, Phone Gap, Corona, JQuery Mobile, Intel XDK, Mobile Angular UI, Appcelerator Titanium, are some of the mobile app development frameworks.
All of these frameworks support unique features and you may have to consider a lot of parameters before choosing one of these.
Native vs Cross-platform:
Mobile app development is no joke, there are a lot of considerations that need to be made. Building a mobile app involves a great deal of research and other factors that you need to take into consideration. If there is one question that plagues most businesses, it is this- whether to use native apps or create cross-platform applications while developing mobile apps.
What is native app development?
Building an app exclusively for one of the main platforms like iOS or Android is called native app development. There are dedicated tools which are used to build native apps for the respective operating systems.
Java and Kotlin are the most popular tools for building a native Android app. Objective C and Swift are primarily used to build iOS mobile applications.
Using these tools, developers can use the best features of these platforms to build platform-specific apps. A native app which is developed for Android cannot be used in iOS and vice versa.
A native mobile app meets the requirements of a specific OS by using its SDK, primary technology stack, camera, sensors, hardware memory, etc. Some of the advantages of native mobile apps are: high performance, robust functionality, and a seamless user experience.
What is cross-platform app development?
According to a 2020 developer survey, React Native is the most popular cross-platform mobile framework used by developers, with more than 42% using it. If you are looking for enterprise-level application, then cross-platform app development is the one that will give you the most bang for your buck.
One of the easiest ways to identify the platform that you need for building your mobile app is to ask whether you intend to exist in just one platform or more than that. If the answer to that is you are planning to target a large number of users available across different platforms, then cross-platform application development is your go-to framework. If your users are going to be only on, let’s say iOS or Android, then native applications should be your priority.
Choosing between native and cross-platform app development:
A few years ago, companies were forced to go native, but as mature cross-platform app development tools like Flutter, React Native, Xamarin, etc., emerged, the latter has been gaining prominence. But you need to understand that there are too many factors at play when you make the decision to create mobile applications.
Benefits of developing a cross-platform application:
Choosing to work with a cross-platform application will offer you the following benefits.
#1 Cheaper to build because of the single codebase:
Cross-platform applications run on both iOS and Android platforms. Since it has a single codebase, it takes the same period of time that is taken to develop a native app for one platform.
#2 Easy to make corrections:
Multiple codebases are difficult to make corrections while a single codebase is easy in that case. The only caveat is that you need a developer who is proficient in both the platforms and has the skill set to make changes without committing any errors.
#3 Seamless cloud integration:
Because of a single code source, the integration of cross-platform apps with the cloud platform is extremely easy. Cross-platform apps provide better compatibility and assistance in maintaining apps in the cloud.
#4 Native-like user experience:
When you compare the development method, timeline, and cost associated with building a cross-platform application vis-a-vis a native app, you will know that the benefits are multifold. Even with a single codebase development, it offers the same features and functionalities when compared with developing using native apps.
#5 Code reusability:
A cross-platform app development company will be reusing codes which will decrease your development time incredibly. By reusing codes, you also stand to reduce your development costs. If you were to develop using native apps, then you would have had to write a unique code for each platform.
#6 Faster time-to-market:
By using the concept of ‘write once, run everywhere,’ cross-platform app developers reduce the time taken for the app to be open to the market. Since customization of the app can be done with minor changes in a single code, cross-platform app developers can deliver applications with speed.
Challenges in cross-platform app development:
Although cross-platform application development has its unique set of advantages, it has its own challenges.
#1 Limited updates:
There are times when the operating system will not support all the features that a framework uses. Let’s say the iOS platform introduces a new update, then you can update the iOS version of your app accordingly. It is not possible to do the same with Android unless Google releases the same update.
#2 Sluggish code:
For beginner developers, handling cross-platform application development can get quite tricky. Developers end up using cross-compliance while developing the application, it results in sluggish code which ultimately slows down the application.
#3 Performance issues:
Cross-platform applications do not easily integrate with the target operating systems. Since they are written on non-native code, there could be faulty communication with the native components of the device. This can result in the apps not performing the way it was expected to.
Pros and Cons of using Flutter and React:
While there are several cross-platform app frameworks out there in the market, each of them with their own sets of pros and cons, we are going to discuss Flutter and React Native here as they are the most popular with developers. Flutter’s first version was developed in December 2018, since then more than 2 million developers have used Flutter. We’ve already mentioned that React Native is the most popular cross-platform app.
It is a cross-platform application development framework that has become increasingly popular because of its utility. The open-source mobile SDK can be used to build native-like Android and iOS applications. Thanks to a huge library of widgets that Flutter has, developers can build the entire UI using them.
- Flutter offers more dynamic and faster app development. Developers can make changes to the codebase and see them immediately on the application. It has a ‘hot reload’ feature which makes the immediate display of changes possible.
- With Flutter, developers can write one codebase for two applications. Since it is platform-agnostic, you can have the exact app on both the platforms.
- Since most of the work is done on GPU, Flutter’s UI is smooth and delivers 60 frames per second.
- It is perfect for creating MVPs. The Flutter Gallery app includes a demo of its core features, widgets and vignettes.
- You will be able to have the same UI even on older devices.
- The size of Flutter’s developer community is nowhere near that of React Native. It will take time for it to catch up.
- Google’s support for Flutter is commendable, but there are times when you can’t find the functionality you want in existing libraries.
- Applications written in Flutter tend to occupy a lot of space.
- Flutter lacks support for CI platforms like Travis and Jenkins.
- It also has the same feature as Flutter where it speeds up the development process by allowing injection of a new code directly into a running app.
- It allows developers to decide precisely the solution that they want to use.
- The React Native community is massive and has countless tutorials, libraries and UI frameworks.
- React Native only supports basic components. Additional components can be used, but it requires additional effort and time.
- Many of the libraries are considered to be of low quality.
- App updates can be dangerous if they cause changes in the native components API. An event like this happens rarely though.
Examples of apps that use Flutter or React:
Google Ads, Google Assistant, Groupon, eBay Motors, Tencent, The New York Times, Alibaba, Reflectly, KlasterMe, Pairing, PostMuse, Topline, AppTree, are some of the apps built using the Flutter framework.
Facebook, Skype, Instagram, Tesla, Walmart, Airbnb, SoundCloud Pulse, ChapterHome, Whym, Shine, Uber Eats, etc., are apps developed by React Native.
We are obligated to mention that despite the many benefits that cross-platform mobile application development has, native app development frameworks have their own benefits. By using cross-platform development applications, you will be able to save development cost, time, decrease go-to-market time, etc. At the end of the day, everything boils down to what you want to achieve with the mobile application.