A Complete Guide to Cross platform Mobile App Development

Read this blog if

  1. You want to learn what exactly is cross-platform mobile apps, and how is it different from native apps.
  2. You want to check what are the advantages and disadvantages of having a cross-platform application.
  3. You want to know which cross-platform tools you need to select for cross platform mobile app development.

According to the fourth annual developer ecosystem survey conducted by JetBrains, 45% of mobile app developers prefer to use cross-platform tools and frameworks because of the reasons like code reusability, quick development, and consistency.

mobile oprating system

Image Source: JetBrains

Let’s get started.

What is Cross-platform Mobile App Development?

Cross-platform app development refers to building a single application that runs on multiple operating systems including Android, iOS, and Windows.

Rather than developing different app versions for each platform, developers can build applications that run on a single platform with a single codebase. Since it follows the “write once, run everywhere” philosophy, the development process becomes faster which helps you to deploy the app with reduced time-to-market.

Real-time examples of cross-platform mobile app

  1. Instagram is built with React Native
  2. Google Assistant is developed with Flutter
  3. Alaska Airlines is using Xamarin

Many companies prefer cross-platform app development solutions for various reasons like reducing app cost, scalability, faster release, and consistency. If you want to increase the visibility of your brand, a leading mobile app development company can help to increase your brand’s presence.

Here is a case study of Nubank which states that they used cross-platform frameworks like React Native and Futter for long-term maintenance, to get a consistent look on both the platforms- iOS and Android, to create less dependency on another development team, and so on.

However, the app can even be developed in a native way which means an app is developed using the SDK of a specific operating system (iOS or Android). It takes into account all the device configurations like hardware memory, sensors, and cameras. The advantage of the native apps includes high performance, seamless user experience, and robust functionality.

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Both have their merits and demerits, but what is the difference between native and cross-platform app development?

Let’s quickly check out the major differences.

How is Cross-platform Different from Native Mobile App?

Native apps are different from cross-platform apps. One of the major differences between native and cross-platform is that native apps use a specific app development programming language for a particular operating system.

For instance: Objective-C for iOS and Java and Kotlin for Android.

Let’s understand the other differences.

Comparison FactorNative AppCross-platform App
UI/UXThe native apps have platform-specific UI as it is developed independently on two different operating systemCross-platform app Common UI for all apps as it is developed with the same codebase on both the operating system
Development TimeThe native apps require time as developers need to write different code for different operating systemsCross-platform apps require less development time as developers have to write single code for all the operating systems
CostsThe development cost of a native app is high compared to a cross-platform appThe development cost of the Cross-platform app is low compared to the native app
Code ReuseCode cannot be reused in the native app as Android and iOS both require different code to develop an appCode can be reused in cross-platform apps as Android and iOS both are developed with the same code
Team SizeDifferent teams for Android and iOS are required to develop the same app on both platformsOnly a team of cross-platform app developers are needed to develop the cross-platform solution
ToolsAppCode, XCode, Android Studio are native app development environments of Android and iOSReact Native, Flutter, Xamarin are the frameworks to develop the cross-platform apps
DependencyNative apps are less dependent on other open-source libraries and factorsCross-platform apps are extensively dependent on different libraries and tools

However, choosing between a native and cross-platform mobile app completely depends on the current state of your business, requirements, features, and the type of app you want to develop. In some scenarios, cross-platforms outperform native apps and vice-versa.

Let’s understand why most businesses prefer cross-platform mobile apps.

Advantages of Using Cross-platform Apps

Some of the advantages of cross-platform mobile apps are:

  1. Helps to Cut the Expense

  2. In cross-platform app development, a single codebase is required to develop an application. Businesses can get the app working without spending a huge amount on development. A cross-platform requires only one team with fewer members, which cuts down the cost of mobile app development.

    With cross-platform app development, getting the initial version ready and seeing how it is performing in the market is much easier. Since cross-platform app development is used only once, the cost of redevelopment on every platform can be avoided.

  3. Less Development Time Due to Code Reusability

  4. Another important advantage of the cross-platform app is that the code can be reused multiple times. Instead of designing new codes for every platform, programmers can develop the same app by reusing the same code for multiple platforms. Reusing the code can eliminate the repetition of tasks, saving time and resources for the company.

    Here’s a case study of Instagram who adopted React Native to enable the product team to ship features faster through code sharing and higher iteration speeds. With tools like live reload and hot reload, the company wanted to quickly and easily experiment, build UIs, add features, and fix bugs quickly.

  5. Reach to the Wider Audience

  6. If you develop a native app, you can reach the audience for the specific operating system. But, if you create a cross-platform app, you can reach a wider audience or target both the iOS and Android markets at the same time. With the higher reach, your app has a greater chance to strengthen your market presence, build brand engagement, boost your bottom line, and increase your popularity.

  7. Brand Consistency Between Platforms

  8. Brand consistency ensures that your brand is easily recognizable across all the platforms. With cross-platform app development, creating a consistent brand image can be done with ease as the platform shares the same codebase. You can build coherent identities in apps on both platforms with ease.

    Here’s a case study on SouthWest Airlines who developed the Champion app by leveraging the cross-platform framework ionic to provide the same user experience across the different platforms. The company ensured color, type, playful voice, tone, and puns are consistent on multiple platforms to support the brand consistency.

  9. Deployment is faster

  10. Since only a single app is developed, it is easier to maintain and deploy any updates or modifications in the code. The updates can be easily deployed across platforms and devices. Moreover, if there is an error, the universal code for both apps can make it easier to correct.

Disadvantages of Cross-platform Mobile Apps

  1. Glitches in the Performance

  2. Since it uses a single codebase for Android and iOS, it can’t use all the in-built features provided by the native devices like graphics and animation or 3D effects. As a result, sometimes it may fail to integrate with the operating system, which results in performance issues. Moreover, the apps that are built with HTML5 depend on call-back-style programming to communicate with native plugins. This makes the app complicated, which results in slow solutions.

  3. Platform Limitations

  4. Every platform has unique features and functionalities to make an app creative. In cross-platform apps, some of the tools are not available while developing apps on multiple platforms. Moreover, SDKs of native cross-platform are not matured yet, and its GUI needs to be coded each time for a platform-specific look and feel.

  5. Less Flexibility

  6. A smartphone with less hardware configuration is unable to read HTML 5 animation and show the exact GUI. Moreover, browser components also vary from platform to platform. So, it is difficult for cross-platform apps to support the old operating system. To upgrade the app with the latest features, developers need a lot of development work.

    You can see how cross-platform mobile development is not all glittery. So, it is up to you to decide whether it is the best approach for your project. However, most popular companies like Pinterest, Walmart, Target found cross-platform development a worthy approach to building a mobile app.

Let’s quickly check out the types of tools you can use to develop cross-platform apps.

Top Cross-platform Development Tools

You might be aware of the different cross-platform tools that help scale your business, but choosing one can be challenging. And selecting the wrong cross-platform framework can mismanage your budget. To make it easier for you, we have made a list of different cross-platform tools based on reviews from G2.

Here is the list of top cross-platform mobile app development tools.

Sr. NoNameRatings From G2 LanguageKey FeaturesApplication Example
1Flutter4.5 starsDart
  • Simple code writing
  • Hot reload
  • Rich widget
  • Access to native features and SDK
  • Supports development on Linux, Mac, and Windows
  • Minimal Code
  • BMW
  • Tencent
  • Square
  • Google Assistant
  • Square
2React Native4.5 starsJavaScript
  • Platform agnostic components
  • NPM packages
  • Strong community
  • 3rd party library support
  • Live reload
  • Hot reload
  • Strong community
  • CocoaPods support
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Tesla
  • Walmart
  • Airbnb
3Ionic4.4 starsTypeScript
  • Based on web-standards
  • Cordova plugin
  • Framework compatibility
  • Javascript components
  • Based on Angualar.js
  • Offers API
  • Mobile-optimized tools
  • MarketWatch
  • Pacifica
  • Sworkit
  • Diesel
  • Honeyfi
4Xamarin4.4 starsC##
  • Native platform integration for Android and iOS
  • Portable class libraries
  • Application loader
  • Various code signings
  • Diagnostic tools
  • Storyboard files
  • Gaming
  • Visual Studio Integration
  • UPS
  • American Cancer Society
  • BBC Good Food
  • HCL
  • Fresh Direct
5Apache Cordova4.3 starsHTML5, CSS, JavaScript
  • Runs on Node.js
  • Command-line interface
  • Plugins
  • Embedded web view
  • Walmart
  • Adobe
  • UseInsider
  • Domclick
  • JustWatch
6Appcelerator4.0 starsJavaScript
  • Javascript supported app builder
  • Reusable code
  • Multilingual interface
  • Incorporate third-party libraries
  • User-friendly app builder
  • Cisco
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Forrester
  • Blackbaud

Want to know more in-depth about the tools and frameworks? Check out this complete guide about top mobile app development frameworks that can help to save your time, effort, and money.

To select the best framework, a number of factors should be considered, including project-scale, the number of native features, UI complexity, budget, community support, and delivery time.
Until now, you may have an idea about how cross-platform development can help you grow your business.

But it is even essential to know whether your business requires a cross-platform approach or not.

Let’s explore in which scenarios you should use cross-platform apps?

When to Develop a Cross-platform Mobile App?

  1. If you have a wider audience who use your app on mobile and web
  2. If you want to develop simple apps to connect with your customers without animations or complex features
  3. If you want to launch your application on multiple platforms quickly
  4. If you want to test your idea with an MVP version
  5. If you have limited resources in time, money, human resources

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FAQ About Cross-platform App Development

  1. From where to hire cross-platform mobile app developers?

  2. To identify the mobile app development tools the process is divided into four steps:

    • Space-O Canada
    • Toptal
    • Upwork
    • Clutch
    • GoodFirms
  3. How much does it cost to develop a cross-platform mobile app?

  4. The overall cost of cross-platform development ranges from $15,000 to $25,000. However, it is just an average estimation of the app development cost. It varies as per the business needs, features, flexibility, and complexity of the app. So, to determine the exact cost of the application, you need to discuss your business requirements with us.

Ready to Start with Cross-platform Mobile Development?

We have summarized the complete guide of developing the mobile app with a cross-platform approach. We hope all the information about the development helps you to make the right decision. If you want to kick-start with app development, you can hire a freelancer or the mobile app developers, or a mobile app development team from a leading company like Space-O who have expertise in developing feature-rich apps.

The developers of Space-O Canada have delivered more than 100 web portals across the globe for different industry verticals. Get in touch with us through the contact us form, and one of our sales representatives will get back to you shortly.

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Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel
Designation: Co-founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies

Mr. Rakesh Patel is a Founder and CEO of Space-O Canada. He has 28 years of IT experience in business strategies, operations & information technology. He has expertise in various aspects of business like project planning, sales, and marketing, and has successfully defined flawless business models for the clients. A techie by mind and a writer at heart, he has authored two books – Enterprise Mobility: Strategy & Solutions and A Guide To Open311.