One of the most sought-after mobile application projects among SMEs and larger enterprises is the ability to develop robust, secure, performance-oriented, cross-platform mobile applications using cross-platform mobile development tools.
Cross-platform mobile development is an important endeavour that allows businesses to quickly engineer and deploy mobile assets on a variety of platforms without having to recode for each native operating system.
The time, resources, and funds required for these projects are the most critical factors that executives consider as development firms seek to expand their digital business assets by engineering mobile applications.
Following that, the management requirements, time-to-market, and overhead required to develop for each native platform are frequently the most important aspects of the project.
Cross-platform development is a software engineering process that results in a mobile application that works across multiple mobile operating systems and platforms without the need for recoding for each native platform.
This reduced coding requirement reduces the time, overhead, and cost required to develop the same app if it were engineered specifically for each native platform and Operating System.
Cross-platform development allows businesses to cut development and maintenance costs in half by using a single workflow for multiple platforms.
According to HackerNoon, there will be a 72.97 percent increase in cross-platform development offshoring in 2020 alone, with demand for cross-platform application development exceeding $7.9 billion in the total mobile app development market.
According to TechBeacon, "Forrester estimates that more than 60% of enterprises are already engaged in cross-platform development."
Cross Platform Mobile Development Tools
Consider the following major platforms and operating systems in the mobile platform/OS ecosystem:
- iOS: The iOS platform is Apple's proprietary, closed OS associated with Apple products such as the Apple iPhone and iPad.
- Android: Android is a Google-owned, fragmented, open OS associated with a variety of smart-phones (e.g., Samsung phones), smart-watches, smart technology, and mobile devices.
There are several different types of mobile applications that must be understood in order to fully appreciate the power - and relevance - of cross-platform development tools:
- Native Mobile Apps: Native mobile apps are created to be specific to a single platform or mobile device.
- Cross-Platform Mobile Apps: Cross-platform mobile apps are designed to run on a variety of mobile platforms and operating systems without requiring developers to recode for specific platforms.
- Hybrid Mobile Applications: These are applications that look and feel like native apps but operate using web app technologies.
- Web/Mobile App: Mobile web applications include what appear to be "native" mobile apps that are opened from a mobile platform but execute in a web browser while requiring an internet connection.
Mobile application development platforms and mobile application development frameworks are the two most important mobile app development tools for engineering cross-platform mobile assets. The latter is typically used in conjunction with other tools to develop cross-platform mobile applications.
Understanding the market for such development tools will assist businesses in leveraging these systems to engineer the most robust applications possible.
Mobile Development Tools We Recommend
There are numerous best practices and toolkits, SDKs, platforms, and frameworks that can be used to build powerful enterprise cross-platform mobile applications using tools.
This list of recommended enterprise cross-platform mobile development tools includes well-known mobile development hybrid app frameworks like Adobe PhoneGap as well as more traditional mobile app frameworks like Xamarin.
Several factors differentiate the best cross-platform development tools from those that are recommended but not industry-leading, including:
- Development Workload: The ultimate goal of a cross-platform development project is to reduce the development workload and resource requirements.
These cross-platform tools enable engineers to drastically reduce workload requirements in order to create the best apps for the best price while spending the least amount of time in the app's development phase.
- Platform Compatibility: To qualify as top-tier development tools, cross-platform development tools must clearly support a variety of platforms - or at least the major platforms (i.e., iOS and Android).
While some frameworks support more obscure platforms, the majority of modern platforms support Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, and so on.
- Usability: On the user side, a mobile app created with a powerful cross-platform tool must provide a positive user experience and include all of the features of an excellent mobile application.
- Enterprise Scalability: Mobile apps that must scale with a company, as well as consumer apps that must meet the long-term goals of a company's mobile strategic plan, should be built with scalability in mind (via cross-platform frameworks and tools).
Regardless of the platform used, such mobile apps should meet the long-term demands of a company's strategy.
- Security: Robust cross-platform tools fill in all security vulnerabilities and holes that may exist within a mobile business application, regardless of the platform on which it is deployed, to protect both the consumer and the developer from data breaches.
- Functionality/UI: The best cross-platform tools should provide a functional and enterprise-level UI for all mobile apps they create, regardless of the deployment platform.
Such cross-platform mobile development tools should also enable developers to incorporate the best, most advanced, and necessary functions into the mobile app.
They should make it possible for the cross-platform mobile app to use as many native hardware functions as possible.
Xamarin is a cross-platform, C# and.NET-based mobile application development platform that simplifies the engineering, development, and deployment of Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile apps.
Xamarin has a long list of powerful features that make it a popular choice among app developers:
- It is written in C#, which is highly compatible with Visual Studio.
- Type-checking is supported
- Makes use of PCL for backend interactions
- Collaborates with mobile SDKs to create mobile apps (on desktop systems) that are mobile responsive
- A one-size-fits-all mobile app development solution
Frameworks: Xamarin uses Visual Studio as a robust, enterprise-level mobile development framework to allow developers to deploy complex development and design processes using C# and.NET.
The toolkit supports OSS development and integrates with high-quality APIs.
Flutter is a Google-owned, open-source SDK that enables the development of high-performance iOS and Android apps through cross-platform development.
Flutter is feature-rich, with material design, seamless animations, a flexible user interface, and out-of-the-box SDKs.
Flutter also includes the following features:
- Support for 2D mobile apps
- Sturdy creative designs
- Support for the development of stock platform apps
- Support for native device features like camera, location, storage, and so on
Frameworks: Flutter is a framework used by mobile app developers to create robust mobile apps for iOS and Android using the Dart language.
Phone Gap is a particularly effective solution because it generates hybrid apps that are nearly indistinguishable from native mobile apps.
It also has additional features and functions in addition to the standard Apache Cordova functions.
Phone Gap has a plethora of advantages and features, as noted by Valuecoders, including:
- Stable back-end
- Free and open source
- Support for native (platform) functions
Sencha/Sencha Touch is an enterprise-level SDK and development solution. It focuses on the creation of touch-based applications for iOS, Android, Blackberry, and other platforms that can take advantage of and leverage native device functions and APIs.
Sencha has a plethora of features, including:
- UI that can be customised
- Extensive code and component library
- Makes use of hardware acceleration to boost performance and provide excellent operating speed
- Employs robust data management and security processes to ensure optimal development workflow management and secure data operations
- The “infinite scrolling grid” feature enables developers to group different attributes for later retrieval
Appcelerator works with a variety of platforms and technologies and has monthly and yearly subscriptions.
Frameworks: Appcelerator, as a mobile app design and development framework, is used to create and design apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile using a user-friendly app builder, drag-and-drop designer, and multilingual user interface.
6. React Native
React Native is an open-source, lightweight, fast, and robust cross-platform development tool created by Facebook that developers use to create mobile applications for Android, iOS, Web, and UWP.
The primary benefit of using React Native is the ability to provide native platform capabilities to cross-platform mobile apps.
React Native includes a plethora of powerful features, including:
- Workflows that allow you to “write once and use everywhere”
- Mobile app design and development with a focus on the user interface
- Compatibility with third-party libraries
- Reduced development times
- Node Package Manager (NPM) for installation
- Reload mobile development with dual screens and real-time reloading
5app is a multi-platform app toolkit for developing mobile enterprise applications on multiple platforms that provide real-time, dependable communications as well as advanced features such as built-in workflow and geolocation reporting.
5App provides several critical components, including:
- Workflow reporting is built-in
- Geolocation tracking
- Creation of cross-platform mobile apps that act as extensions of backend business processes
- Data dependability
- Transparency in transactions
Other Mobile Development Tools and Resources
While there are enterprise cross-platform mobile development tools that any development firm can, and should use, there are some other tools that are recommended to use. They include tools that are not always the top choice for cross-platform development.
SDKs such as Corona and powerful gaming frameworks such as Unity are examples of these.
Kony, now Temenos is a robust, low-code, cross-development platform for enterprise-level applications that provides top-tier security, cutting-edge functionality, and the best user experience.
Even though it’s no longer called Kony, most people still refer to it by that name.
Kony has a plethora of features, including:
- Visual editing
- Simplified deployment and updates
- Control of access
- Refactoring of code
- Tools for collaboration
- Testing for compatibility
- Debugging instruments
- Reporting and analytics
- Omni-channel development for native, web, cross-platform, and hybrid mobile app development
- Integrates with native OS and open-source frameworks
Frameworks: As a low-code, enterprise-level development framework, Kony offers reusable components, robust integrations, and visual tooling to engineer powerful solutions in the form of native and cross-platform applications.
Corona SDK is a powerful 2D/2.5D gaming and mobile app SDK used by developers to produce cross-platform mobile applications for Android and iOS, along with integration for Windows and macOS.
The SDK uses Lua, a versatile, fast, flexible programming language that allows developers to produce robust mobile games and apps. Its many features include:
Features: As a cross-platform tool, Corona integrates with over 1000 APIs and plugins, allows developers to write code once for multi-platform deployment, and integrates with hundreds of global studios to give engineers a supportive community to work with.
Additionally, Corona can call any native library and allows for real-time device testing. Corona also makes available a Corona Marketplace to explore tools and graphics from third parties and has automatic AEL-GS integration.
Frameworks: Corona SDK is an open-source, cross-platform development framework based on Lua. It uses OpenGL hardware acceleration for graphics/animation, and is also used for developing multimedia.
Qt is a robust, cross-platform mobile development framework with a focus on design, that allows developers to produce powerful apps for multiple platforms, while only writing the app’s code once.
The Qt framework will enable firms to accelerate their time-to-market while working less to create apps with the best user interface and user experience.
Features: Qt utilizes its Qt Quick system (QML) for the creation of top-tier animations and a top-of-the-line user interface, while also allowing the creation of apps with very few lines of code and simultaneously offering a native-like experience.
Qt gives developers the ability to access back-end APIs via WebSockets or REST/HTTP, add location and maps services, display HTML5 content, and access device sensors.
Frameworks: As a cross-platform framework based primarily on C++, Qt focuses on customization, allowing developers to alter the experience to align with their company’s strategic plan. It also allows the framework to integrate with advanced, evolving technologies (such as mobile systems associated with the Internet of Things).
Unity3D is one of the most potent and popular gaming 3D engines/frameworks. It gives developers the ability to create compelling visuals in games and to engineer games for mobile platforms, along with gaming consoles.
Unity has many features that are useful for the development of games, including:
- GameObject creation
- GameObject destruction
- Physics oriented events
- Coroutine and return types
- Events for GameObject
- Access of the components
- The ability to deal with vector variables and time variables
Frameworks: As a robust cross-platform game development framework based on C#, Unity allows developers to create games for PC, Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, Windows and other platforms.
Alpha software is a powerful, low-code mobile development framework that enables developers to quickly and easily create enterprise-level, secure, cross-platform mobile and web applications.
The Alpha software suite includes a variety of toolkits and SDKs, as well as the Alpha Anywhere platform and other related technologies.
Features: The Alpha cross-platform development toolkit includes a plethora of robust, enterprise-level features that enable a company to capture data via mobile applications, allowing it to scale and meet its strategic goals.
Because of integration with databases, APIs, and workflows, such functions are possible.
- On-site service
- Data gathering
- Resource administration (ERP)
- Management of safety and compliance
- Work order distribution
- Reporting and analysis
The OSS Framework: - The single-codebase, open-source, cross-platform mobile UI toolkit for Android, iOS, and web is the primary system within the Ionic framework.
The App Builder/Ionic Studio, a visual development environment used to create functional apps, is included in the system.
Several different sub-framework systems are included in the complete toolkit:
- DevOps for mobile devices
- Angular JS is a programming language that is used to create web applications
- Cross-platform development benefits of compilers
Benefits of Cross-Platform Development
There are several reasons why cross-platform development of mobile applications and business assets is beneficial for a company. The majority of which revolve around a faster time-to-market while simultaneously reaching a larger audience and market within the mobile ecosystem.
Engineers can create mobile apps using a familiar framework or programming language to work with platforms they are unfamiliar with.
Offers a broader market research
When discussing cross-platform mobile development, it is critical to consider the market share of iOS versus Android (the two most prominent mobile operating systems).
According to Statista, when cross-platform development is used for mobile app engineering, taking advantage of the total global market share of iOS and Android allows development firms to obtain more money for less effort.
“Smartphones running the Android operating system hold an 87 percent share of the global market in 2019, and this is expected to grow in the coming years. Apple's mobile operating system (iOS) commands a 13 percent market share.”
While developing a native mobile app for one of the two platforms is expensive and time-consuming, it would limit a company to only one market.
Simultaneously, making the mobile app available to both Android and iOS users results in a broader market reach and increased revenue.
Deployment at a Low Cost
While developing a mobile app for any major platform is an expensive and often difficult task, cross-platform development allows a company to potentially cut development costs in half by developing an app once for two platforms.
A single platform development effort (for Android or iOS, for example) would incur overhead, time, and financial costs.
However, if the company wanted to develop a native mobile app for both the iOS and Android platforms, the costs would be multiplied by two.
In comparison to such a costly project, undertaking a cross-platform development effort for both the Android and iOS platforms at the same time would drastically reduce costs. This would make cross-platform development a more cost-effective approach for developing and deploying a mobile app.
Finally, cross-platform mobile development is critical for reducing time-to-market while also assisting businesses save a significant portion of the project budget.
Creating a mobile application for Android devices typically necessitates programming in Java, as well as knowledge of the Android SDK and a variety of other Android/native-specific tools.
Similarly, developing a mobile app for iOS devices typically necessitates Swift programming as well as the use of a number of iOS-specific tools and SDKs.
Using a “write-once-use-everywhere” approach, allows an engineer to write code for the most critical parts of the application's functionality. Meanwhile, the platform/framework handles platform-specific functions, allowing the app to run on a variety of native platforms.
Instead of hiring a full team of mobile software engineers, your company can employ a significantly smaller development team by reducing engineering workloads associated with the mobile SDLC and maintenance and support.
Cross-platform development enables engineers to work more closely with the tools and languages with which they are already familiar.
A Java engineer, for example, can create an app for a platform that normally requires Swift development.
Companies can now use whatever internal engineers they already have to develop apps for a variety of platforms, reducing costs and reaching a larger market.
One of the most important aspects of cross-platform development is that the tools used to engineer the mobile app in question can handle all platform-based functions without the developer having to worry about coding for a specific platform.
This system implies that, despite the obvious differences between the Android and iOS platforms (i.e., UI/UX design, functions, native procedures), all such inconsistencies are handled by the system by default.
This makes inconsistencies less likely to occur and resulting in a very consistent set of mobile applications, regardless of platform.
The Downsides of Cross-Platform Development
There are numerous benefits and opportunities associated with cross-platform mobile app development. However, native mobile app development may be the better option for firms that want to target only a single market (a native platform's market) and take full advantage of a native platform's capabilities.
This benefit stems from the fact that cross-platform development is a “one-size-fits-all” approach that does not allow a developer to work with a single hardware system.
Instead, it must create an app for a broad market, with no room for customization in functions or mobile procedures.
Inadequate UX and UI
While there are some obvious and less obvious disadvantages to cross-platform development, one of the most important aspects of a native platform's - and thus a native app's - appeal is the specific interface that a developer can use to design a user interface (UI) that is specific to the native platform, resulting in a unique and distinct user experience (UX).
However, despite being frequently used interchangeably, these two terms refer to two distinct aspects of mobile app usability:
User Interface (UI): The UI includes the overall mobile app design as well as the interface - how the mobile app appears in relation to how the user interacts and communicates with the app (via buttons, navigation functions, etc.).
The interface buttons and navigation functions on the Android and iOS platforms differ noticeably.
User Experience (UX): The UX is the overall feeling that a user has when working with an iOS device as opposed to an Android device.
A difference of this magnitude is usually the result of different platform user interfaces.
As a result, cross-platform development does not allow a developer or designer to create a unique UI/UX for a user, effectively removing any device specificity that native mobile apps have by default.
This issue is about the graphical user interface (GUI) - and how it affects the feel of the differences between Android and iOS apps, such as navigation functions, buttons, layouts, and so on.
Possible Decreased Performance
In addition to the issues raised by cross-platform mobile app development, other critical issues arise when developers do not create a native mobile app for a specific mobile platform, such as:
Performance/Functionality: While cross-platform apps are faster to deploy, they may perform slower at times when compared to their native counterparts.
This disadvantage arises because developers are unable to truly develop the app to align with native performance - because the app is not a native mobile app - and, similarly, the app is unable to take advantage of unique native platform functions.
This issue results in a mobile app that is consistent across platforms but may sacrifice uniqueness and native functions for ease of development and deployment. This could give the impression of a "cloned" app that isn't as fully functional or performance-heavy as its native counterpart, which can take advantage of the platform's most recent and significant functions.
Security: In addition to losing performance and functionality, cross-platform apps typically do not account for specific platform vulnerabilities because the developer works with high-level abstractions rather than lower-level code, which is where security vulnerabilities frequently exist.
When secure coding methodologies are used within the mobile SDLC, native app development allows the engineer to deal with all aspects of the app's code - from the lowest to the highest level - and often results in more secure apps.
Conclusion on Mobile Development tools
The use of cross-platform mobile development tools to create mobile apps has both advantages and disadvantages.
It is the responsibility of company executives to align their overall business model and corporate goals with the proper use of the appropriate tool(s), whether cross-platform mobile application frameworks/platforms or native engineering systems.
While cross-platform app development is worthwhile because it saves time and money, it does not provide the best performance or UX/UI that native mobile applications are known for.
However, depending on the size of the business app project and the associated market, cross-platform mobile development may enable a company to operate within the relevant mobile ecosystem across a variety of platforms and operating systems.
All of this allows businesses to save money, time, and overhead, which can then be re-allocated to other critical projects.
Your relevant target market can assist you in determining whether cross-platform development is appropriate for you.
While external, consumer-based markets frequently want the full native experience of a mobile app, internal enterprise apps frequently benefit from cross-platform development because the company needs to work with a variety of platforms without the need for enhanced, native-based functionalities.
Thus, when deciding whether to use cross-platform development tools for mobile app development, a company's decision is entirely dependent on the mobile application's business model, business strategy, and target market.
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