WHAT IS WHAT: THE BEST FRAMEWORKS FOR DEVELOPING CROSS-PLATFORM MOBILE APPS

Few can resist the desire to work less and get more. This approach, carried out in a positive way, leads to progress. One of the efforts to achieve this in the context of creating mobile apps has become cross-platform app development.

What is the inequality between a mobile app and a good mobile app? Personal experience will tell you the answer — you probably noticed that games, programs, apps with a pleasant, fast, and convenient interface are more sought-after. But that's not all: the prosperity of the application is also influenced by the rapidity of elaboration and implementation of new "peculiarities". All of this can be improved by implantation of cross-platform app frameworks techniques. Today, we will look at five frameworks — React Native, Flutter, Ionic, Xamarin, NativeScript — and figure out in what cases it is beneficial to use each of them for app creation, because they are not alike. Let's face it, choosing the best cross-platform framework for cross-platform app development is not easy.

The main objective of cross-platform technology is to provide developers with a tool for building apps in parallel for several operating systems at once.

Today, business is interested in efficiency and quality, combined with an attractive price for developing solutions to optimize and improve any processes. Based on the definitions of native and cross-platform app development, it is obvious that the second one is more economical in terms of investments, but as a result, no less quality in the output than the first one. Another crucial plus of cross-platform app development is the swiftness. Everything this modern dynamic world needs.

Go hybrid!

The sense of cross-platform is not about user-friendliness, but about optimizing mobile app development acts. Therefore, a cross-platform app is a solution, designed in such a way as to be able, with minimal effort, to compose the source code for fulfillment on several mobile platforms. But each separate compilation will result in separate executables.

Hybrid apps, like web apps, are programmed by dint of web technologies, but are packaged as embedded applications. Hence the conclusion that hybrid development is becoming no less popular than native development. Moreover, it is the answer to the growing demand for mobile design.

The general idea of hybrid cross-platform app development is that we work with the WebView of a phone, using computer programming languages, and then we simply "pack" this development into a natural "cover". In fact, we create mobile apps, using web technologies. The average user doesn't even notice the difference, since the hybrid app is installed on the device and looks exactly like the native one.

However, there is a distinction. And it must be taken into account when choosing an approach and selecting cross-platform app frameworks.

Hybrid-Native vs Hybrid-Web

To achieve the target of creating for a certain platform, each of these approaches has a concept that they adhere to. Thus, cross-platform frameworks can be segregated into two groups: Hybrid-Native and Hybrid-Web.

Hybrid-Native approach unites frameworks with Native UI and shared code; and frameworks with shared codebase and native code. Among them are: React Native, Xamarin, NativeScript, and Flutter cross-platform app frameworks. We will speak about each of these frameworks later. Hybrid-Web cross-platform app development is submitted by the frameworks with web UI and shared components; and with one codebase, working anywhere. The instance of such a cross-platform framework is Ionic (below we will talk about it).

Pros and cons of the hybrid approach

5 main privileges of the hybrid approach:

  1. Cross-platform. Having created one app, you can export it for any OS.
  2. Low price — several times less than with the native approach.
  3. Using one language — JavaScript.
  4. Access to basic data of a mobile device: GPS, camera, phone book, and so on.
  5. The ability to spread the app in the official app stores.

Hybrid development is extremely demanded among large global companies. Many well-known apps are cross-platform. Nevertheless, hybrid development has its shortcomings.

5 main flaws of the hybrid approach:

  1. Reduced performance as opposed to the native apps.
  2. Less opportunities for integration with the "stuffing" of a device.
  3. Problematic page-proofs for responsive design of the apps.
  4. The appearance of a number of bugs that can lead to disruptions in the normal operation of the application.
  5. Limited representation of visual and graphic elements in apps, particularly animation.

While some of the disadvantages are not very significant, poor performance and animation issues can become a limitation in the cross-platform apps. The two most popular services Facebook and LinkedIn used to work on a hybrid model, but then their apps were rewritten to the native one. According to the developers' feedback, after that they got a twofold increase in the solution performance.

The native future of cross-platform app development

Thus, hybrid cross-platform app frameworks can be used when:

  • the task is to quickly develop an app for more than 2 mobile platforms;
  • there is a need to save on a budget;
  • a relatively simple application without complex animations is required;
  • it is possible to exclude support for many parameters of the native functionality.

Based on the dynamics of development of mobile projects, global trends are confirmed in practice — the demand for mobile development is enhancing, the speed of app creation is growing, and the interest in simple solutions with an affordable development cost is increasing. All this opens up tremendous opportunities for improving the hybrid applications, which in some cases can prove to be no worse than the native ones. Giving preference to one or the other, it is important to monitor the state of the market and correctly prioritize startup speed, cost, and performance.

REACT NATIVE

RN is a Hybrid-Native cross-platform framework that is applied for generating real code and providing the native appearance to mobile apps.

Therefore, the interface turns out to be native, and the code is interpreted already on the platform that gives it the necessary flexibility. When working with RN, you need to wrap your own controls, build a hierarchy considering integration, and develop a user interface in its language.

Here are 5 main reasons for selecting this framework when developing cross-platform mobile apps.

  1. Cross-platform. Apps that run on all platforms: almost entire code is written in JavaScript, a common language for all platforms, and this code interacts with native OS components. But, keep in mind that formalizations for different OSs, for instance, are created separately.
  2. Plainness and ease of creation. RN cross-platform framework is elementary and convenient if the developer understands what he does and realizes what he wants to get at the end.
  3. Time savings. Cross-platform, open source plugins, and ease of development — all this streamlines the task and reduces the required time.
  4. Similarity with native apps. Apps, constructed with React Native, are intimate with native ones in behavior and appearance. RN is ideal if you need the velocity of native app but don't need the complexity.
  5. Automatic updates. One more crucial profit: updates are automatically installed in apps, and the user does not need to follow the standard manual installation procedure through the stores.

In fact, apps written in RN framework are somewhere in the middle of native and hybrid. We can say that this framework represents the future of mobile app development, and makes the line betwixt native and hybrid development more limpid.

FLUTTER

Flutter is a Hybrid-Native cross-platform framework that lets you design apps in the Dart language. Flutter offers a multiplicity of interface elements that look native to OS, but they are not native. This framework can be suitable for building a unified UX, and it adheres to a different approach than React Native.

Flutter doesn’t turn the source code into native code, which is performed by the platform. It actually draws a window on the phone screen and depicts all the units itself.

And now — more about the profits. Here are five causes why Flutter framework is worth using in your next project.

  1. The Dart, which was initially created as a tool for designing client apps, optimized, built for UI development. This language provides excellent opportunities for developing cross-platform mobile apps. In addition, Dart was created by Google as an enhanced version of JavaScript. And that's it.
  2. Mass transition to Flutter. It took Flutter only a year to surpass React Native on demand. Although React Native was the most demanded platform of its time, you know. Today, with Flutter, you get a powerful supply of resources for learning and more qualified developers to build your application.
  3. Ease of learning. There seems to be no such language or set of development tools that are simple to learn. However, there is a big difference between those that have clear documentation and standard design patterns; and those, which have heterogeneous documentation and conflicting ways of solving seemingly simple problems. Flutter is about the first case!
  4. High speed. Flutter apps are compiled to machine code using graphics and rendering engines built into C / C. This is why apps are rapid and heavy-duty. So, in the scope of cross-platform technologies, Flutter has an obvious advantage over its competitors.
  5. Cool design. Flutter was originally built with two powerful things: an excellent language and a fast rendering engine (Skia).

The platform is developing swift, and Google is investing a lot of effort and money into it. To fully appreciate this great app development framework, you have to try it yourself.

IONIC

Ionic is a Hybrid-Web cross-platform framework that enables the development of complete apps. You do not even need to have deep knowledge in each of the platforms for this. It has a huge built-in library of common tools, and a wide diversity of plugins and modules are available for creators that provide access to native functions.

And more details about the benefits of this framework. Top 5 includes:

  1. A well-known toolkit is provided.
  2. Development on the ionic framework is much faster.
  3. There is a prompt beginning due to ready-made app templates and pre-built presets.
  4. A concept: “create once, use it anytime, anywhere”.
  5. Multiple UI components are available.

Testing can be entangled, and different native peculiarities can be difficult to combine. Nevertheless, this framework definitely deserves your attention and is worthy to be tried out.

XAMARIN

Xamarin is a Hybrid-Native cross-platform framework, leaned on the principles of Microsoft basics. It is absolutely reconcilable with any OS. Thus, Xamarin gives you a possibility to produce applications that are pretty much indiscernible from their native counterparts; they are quite convenient for spreading through the official stores.

Why Xamarin framework? 5 arguments in favor:

  1. An overall set of technologies for creation on all platforms.
  2. Maximum approximation of performance to native one.
  3. Compatibility with equipment, easy maintenance and optimal testing conditions.
  4. Perfect compatibility with devices of the "IoT" and flawless integration with Microsoft Windows.
  5. Open source technologies and full toolkit.

The business logic of an app rarely changes when changing platforms. Your Internet banking makes payments and reports your balance, regardless of whether you use a smartphone or laptop. Such applications with sophisticated business algorithm and a standard interface are the prerogative of Xamarin framework.

Save resources and easily add versions for new programs. If you are wondering if Xamarin cross-platform framework is great for you, just answer these three questions and everything will become clear:

  • Do you need an application interface without complex interaction logic and non-standard controls?
  • Do you have mobile developers on your crew?
  • Are you planning any other cross-platform elaborations soon?

If the answer is "yes" to all the questions, Xamarin framework will be a great investment for your developments in the long run.

NATIVE SCRIPT

NativeScript is a Hybrid-Native cross-platform framework for producing cross-platform native mobile apps. This technology adopts the native platform rendering concept. This suggests that it actually provides its own UI. And let’s figure out the top 5 key profits of this cross-platform framework, which include:

  1. Open source and no payment.
  2. The ability to produce verily native apps for devices on any OS.
  3. Admittance to the native platform APIs through JavaScript code and ability to integrate absolutely any JavaScript library.
  4. Zero-day support for new platforms: you can immediately use the latest proprietary application programming interface and UI components when Google or Apple updates their platform.
  5. Detailed documentation: everything about how to use, outlining the basic concepts and technologies.

What is more, NativeScript cross-platform framework supports all components from AndroidArsenal and Cocoapods, as well as calling native methods from native libraries. But in fairness, it's worth saying that these calls will have to be declared. You must describe the library (this is generally not necessary, it is enough to describe only those methods that you call).

Closing thoughts

Summing up, let’s compare cross-platform app frameworks and find out their differences in the main parameters.

React Native Flutter Ionic Xamarin Native Script

Language

JavaScript + React

Dart

JavaScript, HTML, CSS + Angular, React, Vue

C# + .NET

JavaScript, TypeScript

Apps

Cross-platform Hybrid-Native

Cross-platform

Hybrid-Native

Cross-platform

Hybrid-Web

Cross-platform

Hybrid-Native

Cross-platform

Hybrid-Native

First release

2015

2017

2013

2011

2015

Developer

Facebook

Google

Drifty Co.

Microsoft

Telerik

Platforms

Android, iOS, UWP

Android, iOS, Google, Fuchsia, Web, Desktop

Android, iOS, Web

Android, iOS, UWP

Android, iOS

Open source

Yes

Yes

Yes + paid packages

Yes + paid packages

Yes

Front-end tools

Native + Declarative UI components

Built-in widgets

HTML, CSS + widgets

Xamarin. iOS/Android or Xamarin.Forms

completely own interface

Performance

High, close to native

Very high

Average because of web technologies

iOS/Android: high, close to native. Forms:average 

High; decreases when launching the apps

So which one to choose?

  • Give preference to React Native if you need mature community support, JavaScript development, and a time-honored solution.
  • Select Flutter if you know Dart and want to achieve high performance.
  • Choose Ionic when you need to speed up the development and test cycle of your application through full cross-platform adaptation.
  • Xamarin is a perfect decision for those who want to write in C #, get good performance, and experience the benefits of native tools.
  • Use NativeScript for 100% native APIs for working with device hardware that are shipped directly as a part of the toolkit.
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