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Mobile Development: When to Choose a Cross-Platform Approach

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When starting to create a mobile application, developers always select an approach for building it first. Just five years ago, there was no other choice than to create apps using languages, SDKs, and IDEs belonging to a specific OS. Today, this is not the only solution. In particular, when cross-platform frameworks such as PhoneGap, React Native, Cordova appeared, it became possible to create a universal codebase that could easily be adapted to any of the platforms. So, what's the best way to do it - create a software "from scratch" for each of the intended platforms using respective native tools, or choose a cross-platform mobile development?

In this article, we will try to give a clear explanation of which approach you should choose and when. We will also provide an analysis of the pros and cons of cross-platform mobile development so you can see if it is right for you.

mobile app cross-platform

What is the Essence of Cross-Platform Development?

Let us start by clarifying the meaning of these concepts.

Making software for a specific platform implies using only those development tools that were officially submitted of the person who maintains the OS. As a result, you get a solution that is fully adapted to the platform-specific capabilities. The received apps are fast, efficient, and can operate any of the software and hardware assets of the device.

As for the central point of our article, it involves a single development team that will create both the core functionality of the future software and the native connections. The majority of such frameworks are based on the ubiquitous JavaScript. 75% to 90% of codebase remains consistent between app versions. The rest is the code that describes the access to platform-specific software and hardware capabilities. Thus, the development time and overall application budget to deploy the app to each intended platform are reduced. Moreover, the functionality and overall user experience with this approach are very close to native. "How close?" you may ask. Ordinary users, as a rule, do not notice a difference. In the last couple of years, cross-platform development became the most promising approach to the creation of mobile software, so the instruments that help in its implementation are constantly improving and evolving.

How Can the Cross-Platform Approach Simplify the Implementation of the Project?

Why choose cross-platform mobile development? Below, we will review the advantages of cross-platform mobile development.

  • Reduced labor and less time are required for the development. When you compare two approaches in the design, it is very important to estimate the budget for each approach. Judging by the successful experience of the majority of development teams, cross-platform projects are cheaper in comparison to native. After all, the codebase related to business logic will be the same for all the chosen OSs. In addition, as mentioned above, you need only one development team for the project. Thus, you can significantly reduce the required funding without compromising the quality and functionality of the result.

  • Simpler coding process. Most of these frameworks are based on the ubiquitous JavaScript. This means that your development team will not have to learn Swift, Objective-C, Kotlin, or Java. Not to mention, it is much easier to find JS developers!

  • Easier to make changes to the product and reproduce them between platforms. When you need to test all the native applications simultaneously, it can take a quite long time. It may take several months until the detected bugs are fixed in the different versions for each platform. If you work with a cross-platform solution instead, adding new features or fixing old errors will be performed immediately for all supported platforms.

  • Ability to copy part (if not most) of the code for the mobile version from the website. Often, the creation of a mobile application is preceded by an ordinary website, as is often the case with online stores. In this case, using the same JavaScript, or any other language that is supported by your chosen framework, you can transfer a fairly large part of the code from the site to your new project. Consequently, the application development process will be even faster than originally planned.

  • Unified application logic. Obviously, the business logic of your application will work the same for all mobile platforms. Sometimes this factor can give developers a number of inconveniences. A particular problem is differences in the navigation (the layout of the interface elements) on different platforms. Nevertheless, once coded and debugged, the logic of cross-platform software will be guaranteed to contain few errors and discrepancies in its algorithms.

Our Choice Framework for Cross-Platform Development

react-native-mobile

Now, a couple of words about the React Native framework, which is our prime choice for cross-platform solutions. In fact, the process of choosing the most suitable instrument was quite complex, since there are many of them today. Nevertheless, we decided on RN and here is why: First, it has already existed for a long time. The pilot version of this library was first seen in the beginning of 2015; in the modern world, with a rapidly developing IT market, this is quite a long period. Second, it is based on a well-known, flexible React library. Third, among those that influenced our final decision, React Native is the only one with a large number of successful projects that were made using the framework.

Finally, apps created using RN demonstrate top-of-the-line performance - almost comparable to what is typical for native software. This is due to the fact that React, instead of using WebView and browser-based technologies, employs native bridges that connect JS code to APIs of the selected platforms.

When is Native Development Better than Cross-Platform?

Finally, we have a few words to add about faults with both native development and cross-platform. How do you know, with cross-platform vs. native mobile development, to choose the latter?

The final choice in which of two approaches to use -- native or cross-platform -- and why depends entirely on the project requirements.

For example, despite all the above advantages of cross-platform apps, many developers unanimously insist on native development in those cases when the project requires extremely complex functionality. For example, it would be best to use native development in the case of an interactive game, or similar software, that uses the specific functionality of custom gadgets while requiring maximum performance. All in all, some of native development's particular advantages are:

  • Ability to integrate with third-party SDks. There are many more SDKs available for native development than for hybrid.

  • Ability to employ specific features of devices. The native approach allows you to use many more built-in device capabilities. In turn, when trying to implement something out of the ordinary using hybrid technologies, you risk the whole development process failing due to one single error.

Further, there are situations when the owners of the product plan to make it available exclusively for one platform, without considering its further migration. There are even cases when the specific mobile OS is one of the major features of the project.

Also, as an option, the project may have basic differences in its implementation on each of the platforms, which, in turn, results in an increase in the amount of platform code. Therefore, experts strongly recommend analyzing each new project for possible code repeatability, the uniqueness of design, and use of hardware functions of custom gadgets.

The combination of all of these factors constitutes a general idea of what will be a more profitable solution for you - a cross-platform or a native approach.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for developers who can take your project (no matter whether hybrid, cross-platform, or native), Applikey Solutions comes to the rescue! Our team has extensive experience developing apps for many different fields of activity (both entertainment and business) and complexity. After discussing your idea, we will offer the best ways to implement it and propose favorable conditions for cooperation. Our customers are extremely satisfied, not only with the quality of our work but also with the excellent service.

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