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A comprehensive guide to cross-platform mobile application development

Written by
Zuzanna Olszewska
Published on
November 22, 2022

As global mobile traffic grows year by year, it's difficult for companies to ensure universally great user experience on all app hosting platforms. That's why cross-platform app development seems to be the best solution known to humanity for developing apps for various devices in one go. In this article, we'll uncover all the details you should know about cross-platform development and help you understand if you want it for your mobile app.

Zuzanna Olszewska
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It's 2022; we're living in a digital age, witnessing the rapid transformation of businesses and the impact of technology on every aspect of human lives. Mobile penetration has doubled the pace of the digital revolution. A report states that mobile devices generated 58.99% of the global web traffic in the 2nd quarter of 2022. These incredible stats compel enterprises to ensure their presence on mobile apps for positive UX. 

However, its complex for companies to ensure uniform and up-to-par user experience on mobile apps for multiple app hosting platforms like Android, iOS, and Windows. That's why companies found Cross-platform app development the best-fit solution to develop apps for various devices in one go.

Instead of developing cross-platform apps for multiple platforms, most companies focus only on their Android and iOS apps because of their massive audiences. Android and iOS have 70.96% and 28.43% of mobile apps share, respectively, as of Oct 2022. Are you looking for an ideal way to develop a cross-platform mobile app for Android and iOS? This blog will thoroughly discuss the different cross-platform mobile app development approaches, including the cross-platform development model.

Cross-platform mobile app development 

Cross-platform mobile app development is a multiplatform approach that lets developers code an application for multiple operating systems in one go. It allows programmers to share complete or some of the code for various OS, making their job easy with a significant development cost and time cut.

To ensure a seamless cross-platform mobile application development process, companies often choose to hire Android developers who are proficient in using top-notch frameworks like Flutter, React Native, and Kotlin.

Let's go through the different approaches to mobile app development before going deeper into this topic.

Native Apps Development Model

Native apps are those written specifically for a particular operating system and installed on the devices. Separate native apps for each platform is always a best practice to follow as this gives better performance and user experience.

The main challenge of developing separate apps for each OS is the increased cost and time needed to maintain multiple codebases. Although, this can be somewhat offset by using cross-platform development tools that allow developers to share code across platforms.

Progressive Web Apps 

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are web applications that are regular web pages or websites but can appear to the user like traditional applications or native mobile applications. They use modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience.

PWAs combine the best of both worlds: the web and the app world. They are powerful, fast, and engaging and can be built on existing web technologies.

There are three critical characteristics of PWAs: 

  • Progressive – work for every user, regardless of browser choice, because they're built with progressive enhancement as a core principle.
  • Responsive – fit any form factor; desktop, mobile, tablet, or whatever new form factor comes along.
  • Connectivity independent – enhance offline usage and lets the users enjoy the content they have already downloaded while offline.

Cross-platform apps

Cross-platform apps run on multiple operating systems like Android and iOS with the same codebase. These apps are developed on the cross-platform framework, which allows them to be written once and deployed across multiple operating systems.

There are many advantages of mobile cross-platform development, such as:

  • Enhanced reach – it increases your business reach to a larger audience group.
  • Reduced development costs and time – cross-platform development model lets you use the same codebase for multiple OS, causing a significant development time and cost cut. 
  • Improved UX – it makes the app more consistent across different OS to improve the user experience.

There are a few drawbacks to cross-platform app development as well:

  • Inflexibility – because of operating system limitations, you may need to compromise on some features to make your app work on all OS.
  • Low reliability – cross-platform frameworks may not be as reliable or well-supported as native development tools for a particular OS.
  • Performance – a cross-platform app may not perform as well as natively developed apps on all operating systems.

Despite these drawbacks, cross-platform app development is often the best option for businesses that want to reach the broadest possible audience with their mobile apps. If you're considering developing a cross-platform app, be sure to do your research and choose a reliable framework.

Hybrid apps 

Hybrid apps are the way to go if you plan to develop a mobile application that works seamlessly across different platforms. Hybrid apps are web apps built using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, then wrapped inside a native container. It allows them to access native device features, such as the camera, accelerometer, and GPS, while running on multiple platforms with little to no modification.

There are many advantages to developing hybrid apps, such as:

  • Rapid development – hybrid apps can be developed relatively quickly and cheaply compared to native apps. 
  • Availability of skilled developers – hybrid apps are based on web standards; a large pool of developers with the necessary skillsets is available to speed up the development process at a minimal cost. 
  • Enhanced reach – additionally, hybrid apps have the potential to reach a wider audience as one can distribute these apps through app stores and other channels used for web applications.

However, there are also some disadvantages to consider, such as:

  • Responsiveness issues – hybrid apps can sometimes be slower and less responsive than native apps.
  • Inflexibility – they may not have access to the same features as native apps (depending on the capabilities of the underlying platform). 
  • Inconsistent UX – when using a hybrid approach, achieving a consistent look and feel across different platforms can be more challenging.

Despite these drawbacks, hybrid app development is an attractive option for many organizations due to its cost-effectiveness and cross-platform compatibility. However, if you're considering this approach for your next project, carefully weigh the pros and cons before deciding.

Native vs. cross-platform app development

There are two major approaches to developing mobile applications – native app development and cross-platform app development.

Native app development involves developing an application specifically for a particular platform, such as iOS or Android. This approach allows developers to take advantage of the unique features of each platform, resulting in a high-quality user experience.

Cross-platform app development, on the other hand, involves developing a multiplatform application in one go. This approach is more cost-effective and time-efficient than native app development but often results in a less polished user experience.

Benefits of cross-platform development

Cross-platform development has many benefits, making it a popular choice for mobile app developers. The most obvious benefit is that it allows you to reach a wider audience with your app, as it can reach Android and iOS users.

Another significant benefit is that you only need to develop your app once, making the process much quicker and more cost-effective than creating and managing the two separate apps for each platform. In addition, cross-platform development allows you to reuse code and components between platforms, increasing efficiency.

Overall, cross-platform development provides many advantages and can help you save time and money while delivering a high-quality product that reaches a broad audience.

Challenges of a cross-platform development approach

Several challenges need to be considered when developing a cross-platform mobile application. One of the biggest challenges is developing an application with a consistent user experience for all Operating systems. In addition, integrating different devices and operating systems into a cohesive whole is another big challenge for the best cross-platform app development. 

It is also essential to consider the fragmentation of the Android market. Android devices come in various shapes and sizes, with different screen resolutions, hardware capabilities, and software versions. Developing an application that looks and feels consistent across all devices becomes complex when you're not relying on the native app development model.

Lastly, cross-platform development can make it more challenging to take advantage of platform-specific features or utilize native functionality. As a result, it can limit the potential of an application and make it less competitive against applications explicitly designed for a single platform.

Top-notch cross-platform frameworks

The Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile, Flutter, and React Native are a few of the most popular cross-platform frameworks with their particular capabilities. The cross-platform app development process and strengths of the finalized app will rely on your chosen cross-platform framework.

Flutter – cross-platform solutions 

Flutter is a cross-platform solution for creating mobile applications, developed and introduced by Google in 2018. It allows developers to create a single codebase for multiple platforms, including a mobile (Android and iOS), web, and desktop (Windows, Mac, Linux). Flutter lets developers use a single codebase to compile with native ARM code directly. 

It can access the targeted platform APIs and services without any communication bridge; it makes Flutter more unique than traditional app development models. That means developers can focus on creating a great user experience without worrying about platform-specific issues.

Hire Flutter developers to provide you with the expertise needed to leverage the power of Flutter framework and create high-quality, performant mobile apps for both Android and iOS platforms.

Flutter provides several benefits for developers, including the ability to:

  • Create beautiful user interfaces and adaptability to any screen
  • Access native features and SDKs
  • Write code in Dart, a fast, object-oriented language.

If you're looking for a cross-platform solution for your next mobile project, Flutter is definitely worth considering.

React Native – cross-platform solutions 

React Native is an open-source, cross-platform solution for hybrid mobile application development introduced by Facebook in 2015. The name "React Native" itself renders the conceptual meaning of this incredible module. React is nothing but a JavaScript (JS) library for user interface (UI) building. React Native framework combines the React and Native features to let you build multiplatform apps with a native app experience. 

You can use React Native whether you're starting from scratch or in the middle of the project; it makes React Native an incredible cross-platform app development framework. React Native has many benefits over other cross-platform solutions, such as,

  • It uses the same UI components as a native app. That means you can create an app that looks and feels like a native app without learning a new UI framework.
  • React Native uses the same JavaScript code as a web app. That means you can reuse your existing web skills to build mobile apps.
  • React Native apps are compiled into native code, which lets them perform like native apps.

If you're looking for a cross-platform solution for mobile application development, React Native can be a perfect choice.

Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile

Kotlin is a Software development Kit (SDK) that can run on multiple platforms, including a mobile (Android, iOS) and web apps. Kotlin Multiplatform Mobile app development framework allows you to write a codebase once for numerous platforms' networking, analytics, data storage, and other logic elements.

JetBrains released the Kotlin project in 2011. However, it was made open-source under the Apache 2.0 license in earlier 2012. In 2017, Google officially announced support for Kotlin as a first-class language for mobile app development, which means it's here to stay.

There are many benefits of using Kotlin for cross-platform mobile app development, such as,

  • It integrates well with existing Java code bases.
  • It lets you share the codebase for logic elements without any performance degradation.
  • It has excellent tooling support for cross-platform app development in Android studio.

Final Words | A comprehensive guide to cross-platform mobile application development

This blog has thoroughly discussed mobile app development approaches, particularly cross-platform app development with top-notch frameworks. Comprehending the different techniques for multiplatform app development may help you pick the right path and framework for your business app development. 

Apptensions' adept team is here to assist you in selecting the right platform and framework for your cross-platform business app development if you're looking for expert guidance.