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The influence of smartphones and mobile applications on our today's life is far from something new. Today, it is difficult to find people who do not use their smartphones and applications on a daily basis. According to research, mobile app downloads have increased by over 45% since 2017, reaching an incredible number of 258 billion downloads. The whole mobile app segment is also growing and is predicted to reach around $935 billion in 2023. In such a situation, it isn't surprising that entrepreneurs of any kind are actively entering the mobile applications market in order to provide their users with a more convenient, personalized, and custom service.


Considering the competition that exists in the segment, businesses need to reach as large an audience as possible if they want to generate income. The problem is that the development and maintenance of separate applications for at least two major mobile operating systems (iOS and Android) can be too expensive for small and medium-sized businesses or startups. In this situation, the emergence of a new technology that would simplify and reduce the cost of this process was only a matter of time.


The result of this zeal is what we today call cross-platform (or multi-platform) development. From the very first days of its existence, the cross-platform development method started to compete with the "classic" native development approach. To this day, the debate continues about which approach is more preferable.


As with any controversial issue, there can be no correct answer here, since the advantages and disadvantages of cross-platform mobile development are pretty obvious. Today, we will tell you why cross-platform mobile app development gets a second wind, compare it with native development and present you with the best tools on the market.

Multi-platform vs Native development 

Although it may seem that cross-platform development obviously outperforms native development if only for the fact that it allows you to create an application on several platforms at once, this is not entirely true. For a number of parameters, native development is still a higher priority option for product owners. Nevertheless, both multi-platform and native are two development paradigms that don't stagnate but are constantly evolving and maturing, having a large number of followers among developers and businesses.


Chosen market's state and your business goals - that is what really important. Only by correctly considering these factors, can you make the right choice in favor of a particular method. We will reveal information regarding the cases when it's better to opt for native or multi-platform development near the end of this article. In the meantime, we invite you to take a look at the comparison table of both approaches.

native vs cross-platform development


Native development

Cross-platform development

App performance

High.

Low - React Native

High - Flutter

Cost

High (Native development demands more time and separate development teams for every platform).

Low (A single team can develop an app for several platforms relatively fast).

Development time

Slow (same logic as with the cost matter).

Fast (development is simpler and is carried out for all platforms at the same time).

Code versatility

Low (The written code only works for one platform and cannot be reused).

High (A single code is used on all platforms and is highly portable, the percentage of the shared code can reach up to 90%).

App life span

Native apps are built with the goal of the long-firing operation, as they are more reliable and productive.

Cross-platform development is more suitable for applications that can be subject to frequent updates in the short term perspective, with a slow expansion. 

Hardware access

Native apps are better suited to leverage the power of a device.

In multi-platform development, special plugins are used to work with the device hardware. It causes huge problems in React Native framework, but it is not so critical in Flutter.

Device access

Native apps can seamlessly access the device API.

Direct access to the device API in cross-platform applications is not provided. At the same time, access to the device in React Native is carried out through the bridge, while the Flatter uses the platform channel to access the native code.

UI & UX

The design of native applications has much more potential since the SDK has direct access to all the necessary components.

Typically, cross-platform apps use plugins to create designs with weaker results. It is truly relevant to React Native, while Flutter UI widgets allow developers to create amazing and sophisticated designs of truly native nature. 

Testing & debugging

The debugging process is more difficult but more accurate.

Debugging is faster, but does not always provide the best results.


Now, let's look at the business benefits of cross-platform development.

Multi-platform development advantages

Despite the rather obvious advantage of native applications over cross-platform ones in terms of performance, the latter is still in great demand among businesses. This happens for a number of reasons and the main one is the fact that cross-platform development doesn't stagnate, it's evolving, improving the overall performance of applications developed. In addition, the speed and bargain of development remain the main factors in choosing between the two approaches for many entrepreneurs. What other business benefits do cross-platform development possess?

Reaching a larger audience

The income that an application will generate depends on many factors, including the type of its monetization, its specifics, market segment, and so on. However, one of the key factors, of course, is the number of people who will use it. Regardless of the specifics of the application, the opportunity to present and sell your product to a larger audience is an undoubted huge bonus. This is one of the main advantages of multi-platform app development. Having assembled a single team of specialists, the business can create a product and release it on several platforms or operating systems at once, gaining access to the highest possible audience.

Rapid development

In today's high-speed digital world and technological advancement pace (which changes the rules of the game every few months), an application must be built quickly. Delaying development, you can release an outdated product that won't be needed by anyone. Cross-platform development, obviously, allows you to significantly speed up the time-to-market of your application, which also directly affects the success of the business idea as a whole.

Swift updates

Multi-platform applications are easier to update, both from the maintenance team and the user's point of view. The possibilities that cross-platform mobile application development provides make it easy to carry out updates without declines and almost unnoticeably for users. Besides, they won't have to download large-scale updates that will require a serious load on their devices.

Faster ROI

In the end, product owners are interested in how soon their initial investments in development and promotion will return. Cross-platform development assumes the fastest ROI, thanks to all of the above. In addition, with a multi-platform application, you don't need to maintain a support team constantly. Just a few specialists (depending on the scale of the application) who will be involved in app maintenance and customer care will be enough. It also helps to cut costs in the long run.

cross-platform development advantages

Best technologies for multi-platform applications

Having figured out why cross-platform development is in demand among businesses and what advantages and disadvantages it has, we move on to multi-platform development tools. In order to understand why we have chosen exactly the frameworks you will see below, we must tell you what factors you need to consider before making your choice in favor of one or another option.

Expected performance

Every cross-platform mobile development comparison starts with this. The main essence of any framework is to help developers create the most valuable product asap and with as few resources as possible. To do so, you need to choose a framework that allows the creation of maximum value with a minimum code-writing, and this is the main factor that should be considered before picking a tool.

Compatibility

The next value of cross-platform development is the creation of an application for several platforms at once. And although most cross-platform mobile development tools provide this opportunity, you should further study the issue of code compatibility since it can perform in diverse ways on various platforms. Depending on the technology and platform chosen, compatibility may be better or worse.

User experience

Don't forget that the application should be convenient not only in terms of development but in usage too. Hold a meeting with all stakeholders to find out which features in the future application will be of paramount importance, which can be added later, and which can be abandoned. This will help you determine the needed technology for your particular business goal.

Scalability

Despite the fact that you should make a choice in favor of native development in order to achieve maximum scalability, multi-platform solutions still imply expansion and flexibility in the future. However, not every framework is aimed at such tasks, so pay attention.

Functionality and security

Rapid development with fewer costs is good, but don't forget that even a multi-platform application should look as native as possible. The functionality of an application is crucial in this matter. The best frameworks on the market allow for maximum functionality while keeping an app fast and scalable. Finally, we shouldn't forget about safety - one of the main markers of modern business success. Choose proven frameworks that offer the most sophisticated security measures.

NEED HELP CHOOSING THE BEST TECHNOLOGY?


As you can see, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a particular framework. However, there are undeniable leaders on the market, in equally great demand both among developers and product owners. Here’s our cross-platform mobile development framework comparison. 

  • Flutter. One of the freshest solutions on the market, Google-powered Flutter has gained a large number of followers over the years. Unlike its main competitors, this framework is based on the Dart language. In addition, Flutter boasts the coolest built-in graphics engine that allows designers to create truly native-like interfaces. Dart's structured syntax involves creating applications with clear code. Finally, the functional power of Flutter is not inferior to competitors and in some cases even surpasses them, which removes any questions on why is this tool perhaps the best framework for cross-platform mobile development.

  • React Native. Speaking about multi-platform development, one cannot fail to mention one of the most popular cross-platform mobile development frameworks on the market - React Native (RN). Since its release in 2015, this framework has been making the cross-platform development process as convenient and fast as possible. Due to the availability of compatibility with all major Google tools, RN allows specialists to create simple near-native applications. Based on JavaScript architecture, this framework does not use HTML and CSS structures and consists of CSS-like polyfills and JSX.

  • Xamarin. Unlike React Native, Xamarin is based on C# and .NET architecture, which greatly compiles with the Visual Studio interface. Support for Type Checking and PCL for backend operations make Xamarin a good option. Finally, thanks to close interaction with mobile SDKs, even the desktop applications created on Xamarin are truly responsive.

  • Ionic. Another undisputed leader of the segment launched in 2013. Unlike its predecessors, this framework is based on AngularJS, which makes knowledge of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS necessary for those developers who want to master Ionic. In fact, applications created on Ionic are not just multi-platform, but hybrid HTML applications, which makes them similar to Progressive Web Applications. One of the main advantages of Ionic is the availability of tools for creating truly native User Interfaces. Ionic's focus on open-source front-end development allows developers to easily make any changes to the application structure.

  • Vue. Vue is a relatively new kid on the block that is nevertheless used by large companies like Xiaomi for their web projects. One of the advantages of Vue is its small size, which makes the process of installing and configuring the framework really fast. Taking into account the functionality of the tool, developers often use Vue to create PWA, since the final performance capabilities of such an application will be decent. Finally, due to the fact that Vue has the ability to combine separate blocks of HTML, CSS, and JS into a single component, Unit Testing of the Vue-based applications does not cause any problems.

best cross platform tools

When to opt for native or multi-platform development?

Finally, we want to reveal when you should make your choice in favor of one option or another. The fact is that this issue is paramount for business owners prior to the development of an application. And in many respects, the final success of the business largely depends on the correct choice at this stage.


Opt for multi-platform solutions if:

  • Maximum responsiveness is not your goal. You are willing to sacrifice this factor in favor of faster and more cost-effective development.

  • You are creating a relatively common application. Speaking of that, we primarily mean the logic of the application, its functionality, and its graphical capabilities. Again, everything here depends on many factors, including the framework chosen as a result, the experience of the developers, and so on. But with coarse comparison, cross-platform development means a less productive application in the end.

  • You are limited in time. It doesn't matter if it's a startup, MVP, prototype stage, or you're just in a hurry. If you are limited in time and in the means of testing the product in real market conditions, then your choice should obviously be made in favor of cross-platform development.

Opt for native solutions if:

  • You are counting on full access to the power of the device hardware. Most often, it's smartphones. If your application will be highly dependent on interaction with the hardware of a mobile device, then the choice should be made in favor of native development. Speaking of such a case, we can pick the fintech or healthcare applications as an example.

  • Responsiveness is your goal. This is no secret, only native development allows you to achieve maximum responsiveness.

  • You are not in a hurry, not limited in resources, and counting on a longstanding presence on the market. Everything is clear here - if you have a lot of time and money, then make a choice in favor of native development and you won't go wrong.

when to choose cross platform

Summing Up

It's amazing what a big world opens up for mobile app developers. With such a large number of segments and markets and the best cross-platform mobile development tools at their disposal, it is no surprise how quickly and aggressively the cross-platform development industry is developing. We at CodeIT are ready to help you with our сross-platform app development services.

THINKING ABOUT CREATING YOUR OWN MOBILE APP? YOU NEED A CLEAR BUSINESS PLAN TO BE SUCCESSFUL
What is cross-platform mobile development?

Cross-platform development involves the use of frameworks to create applications for several major platforms at once, be it web, desktop, or mobile devices. Most often, cross-platform development is used to create applications for two main mobile operating systems at once - iOS and Android.

What are cross-platform mobile app development tools?

Cross-platform tools are frameworks like Flutter, React Native, or Ionic. They are an SDK with a full set of all the necessary tools for creating cross-platform applications. They differ from native technologies like Objective-C or Java with their versatility and unified code, which works on each platform.

Which is better mobile native app development vs cross-platform app?

It depends on your business goals. In a crude comparison, native development will always outperform cross-platform because it offers more functionality, performance, and nativeness. At the same time, cross-platform solutions also evolve and develop, but its main feature remains the speed and cost-cutting that cross-platform development offers.

What technologies do cross-platform app developers use?

The best and most popular cross-platform technologies or frameworks are:

1) Flutter

2) React Native

3) Xamarin

4) Ionic

5) Vue

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