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5 Most Popular Cross Platform Mobile App Development Frameworks?

What Are the Most Popular Cross Platform Mobile App Development Frameworks
What Are the Most Popular Cross Platform Mobile App Development Frameworks

Have you ever wondered how many mobile app developers use cross-platform development frameworks? One-third! That’s a lot of people. These frameworks can help you create apps that can work on both Android and IOS. This means less work and fewer resources needed for development and maintenance. Hence, adding new features becomes much easier.

But to make the most of these frameworks, you must choose the right one. In this guide, we have listed the five most popular cross platform mobile development frameworks.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cross-platform frameworks streamline app development for Android and iOS.
  • Popular frameworks include Flutter, React Native, Cordova, Ionic, Xamarin, and NativeScript.
  • Advantages: Code reuse, faster development, consistent experiences.
  • Challenges: Performance concerns, limited functionality, updating delays.
  • Key features: Flutter’s hot reloading, React Native’s UI focus, Ionic’s comprehensive UI components, Unity’s high-fidelity graphics, and NativeScript’s access to native APIs.
  • Factors to consider: Team expertise, vendor reliability, UI customization, framework maturity, capabilities.

What is a Cross Platform Mobile App Development Framework?

Native development is not the same as cross-platform development. Native development uses programming languages and tools specific to a particular platform (e.g., Objective-C and Swift for iOS, Java and Kotlin for Android). On the other hand, cross-platform development seeks to provide a single piece of software that works flawlessly on both systems.

Developers employ platform-agnostic tools like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS for near-native cross-platform programming; they use Dart, C#, and JavaScript for hybrid development. These languages do not support any native hardware or operating system. Next, utilizing well-known frameworks, the code is packaged into native containers to ensure smooth compatibility with both the iOS and Android operating systems.

Near-native and hybrid apps can achieve an almost native look and feel by combining native and platform-independent code. Developers write the core app logic once, enabling quick product release by reusing it across multiple platforms.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Cross Platform Mobile App Development Frameworks?

Advantages

There are several benefits to using cross-platform mobile app development frameworks for developers who want to release their products on both major app stores.

Code Reuse

The primary benefit is that code can be easily reused between the Google Play Store and the App Store. These frameworks allow apps to share almost all of their codebase.

Faster App Development

With the need to develop features only once, app development accelerates significantly. This translates to quicker rollout of new functionalities, saving engineering time and resources.

Consistent Experiences

Modern frameworks for developing cross-platform mobile apps are designed to make it easier to create experiences that are genuinely native, guaranteeing compatibility with both iOS and Android devices.

Challenges

While cross-platform mobile app development frameworks offer numerous benefits, they also present several challenges that developers need to navigate:

Performance Concerns

The intricacies of near-native and hybrid solutions, which blend native and non-native components, can sometimes impact performance.

Limited Functionality and Design

Cross-platform applications, particularly hybrid ones, may struggle to support certain native-only functions and features found in mobile devices. Implementing advanced graphics, animations, or 3D effects may be challenging, leading to a compromised user experience and less polished app design.

Updating Delays

When Google and Apple introduce new platform features, native solutions can promptly integrate them. However, cross-platform apps, especially hybrids, may encounter delays as they await updates to be adjusted to the chosen framework.

Most Popular Cross Platform Mobile App Development Frameworks

Many cross-platform mobile frameworks have flooded the market, but some have remained popular among software developers and continued to dominate the industry. According to Statista, Flutter, React Native, Cordova, Ionic, Xamarin, and NativeScript stand out as the most used cross-platform mobile frameworks by global developers for their multi-platform tasks.

Flutter

Developed and maintained by Google, Flutter has emerged as the preeminent mobile app development framework. This open-source platform has become increasingly popular among developers, with an adoption rate of 46%, up from 30% in 2019. Flutter’s meteoric ascent suggests a shifting tide favoring this framework overreact Native, solidifying its preferred choice among mobile developers for cross-platform development.

With Flutter, developers only need to craft a feature once, eliminating the need for duplicate development efforts across iOS and Android platforms. Through its ingenious architecture, Flutter seamlessly renders these features “natively” on both operating systems, ensuring a cohesive user experience across diverse platforms.

Flutter’s versatility extends to teams of all sizes. Reflect, an app catering to millions of users and engineered by a modest team of two, experienced a remarkable reduction in development time by half upon adopting Flutter. Reflectly’s transition to Flutter stemmed from dissatisfaction with previous cross-platform frameworks, which failed to deliver truly native experiences.

Google’s own experience with Flutter further underscores its efficacy. When reengineering the Google Pay app, implementing new features required only 1.2 times the effort, a testament to Flutter’s efficiency in feature deployment.

Similarly, eBay’s engineering team opted for Flutter when tasked with launching a new app for its auto vertical. By leveraging Flutter’s capabilities, eBay consolidated its efforts into a single app, eschewing the need for separate native applications. The team lauds Flutter for its seamless code-sharing capabilities, enabling uniform app experiences across various platforms, from UI design and business logic to network infrastructure and continuous integration pipelines.

Features

Flutter boasts an array of key features that distinguish it as a premier choice for mobile app development:

Adaptive App Creation

Flutter excels at creating adaptive apps. It ensures that platform-specific behaviors, such as scrolling nuances inherent to iOS and Android, retain a native feel despite emanating from the same codebase.

Extensive Widget Library

To speed up the creation of apps, developers may use hundreds of pre-made visual, layout, structural, platform, and interactive widgets with Flutter. With the help of this extensive library, developers can easily create complex user interfaces.

Hot Reloading

Flutter’s hot reloading functionality accelerates development by enabling developers to inject updated source code into their apps and witness immediate real-time effects.

Dart Language Integration

Flutter uses Dart as its programming language, necessitating familiarity with Dart for developers seeking to leverage this platform. While Dart may present a learning curve for some developers, its integration with Flutter enhances development efficiency and performance.

React Native

Facebook’s React Native has long reigned as the dominant force in cross-platform mobile development frameworks, retaining its prominence until the ascent of Flutter. Presently, it stands as the second most favored choice among mobile developers, with an impressive 32% adoption rate for building cross-platform apps.

Among React Native’s notable adopters is the website builder giant Wix, which has embraced the framework wholeheartedly. From early adoption to becoming an official partner, Wix relies on React Native to deliver consistent app experiences from a unified codebase to Android and iOS users.

Given Wix’s familiarity with React through its website-building tool, React Native emerged as the natural choice for their mobile development endeavors. This partnership has yielded impressive results, with Wix boasting over a million downloads and an exceptional average rating exceeding 4.5. React Native’s performance prowess enables Wix to share approximately 95% of its logic codebase between platforms, a testament to its efficiency.

Similarly, React Native has found favor among numerous other applications, particularly those rooted in React. Like Flutter, React Native offers the flexibility to integrate with existing apps, allowing developers to selectively introduce its features and functionalities without necessitating a complete overhaul.

Pinterest, a social media platform, used React Native to develop its app faster while keeping a great user experience. This framework’s code-sharing ability helped them simplify development and reduce the need for extra work, which created a more organized development environment.

Shopify, the large eCommerce company, has switched its entire suite of mobile apps to the React Native framework. This move has allowed them to create new apps faster and easily transition existing ones to the new framework.

Features

React Native boasts several key features that contribute to its widespread adoption and success:

Fast Refresh

React Native’s Fast Refresh feature allows developers to instantly see changes made to their React components without needing manual reloading.

UI Focus

React Native prioritizes the user interface (UI) aspect of app development. By rendering React primitives to native platform UI components, developers can create highly customizable and responsive user interfaces tailored to their requirements.

Flipper Integration

Starting from version 0.62 and later, React Native seamlessly integrates with Flipper, a mobile app debugger. Flipper offers debugging tools, such as a network inspector, interactive layout inspector, and log viewer, for apps on iOS, Android, and React Native.

Strong Community Support

React Native, one of the most well-liked frameworks for developing cross-platform apps, has a sizable and active developer community. This community actively works together to improve the framework, exchanges technical information, and offers assistance. Developers may receive support and tools to overcome obstacles and optimize their React Native applications by having access to this active community.

Ionic

Ionic is an open-source SDK designed for cross-platform app development. It has over a decade of continuous evolution. This versatile SDK empowers developers to craft and deploy mobile and web applications seamlessly.

Developers use Ionic builds hybrid mobile applications using web technologies including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Its extensive toolkit encompasses a wealth of UI components, pre-built themes, and a robust command-line interface, facilitating the creation of visually stunning and interactive user interfaces.

Developers can use platform-specific elements and plugins to ensure that their applications are consistent and easy to use on different devices.

The architecture of Ionic is built on the component-based design paradigm, in which every user interface element is contained within a reusable and adaptable component.

To maximize app speed, Ionic uses strategies like Ahead-of-Time (AOT) compilation and lazy loading. By reducing startup times, increasing rendering speed, and improving overall app performance, these techniques guarantee a flawless user experience.

Features

Comprehensive UI Components

Ionic provides a wide array of UI components that expedite app development, enabling developers to build their apps quickly and efficiently.

Pre-built iOS and Material Design Themes

Ionic makes it easy for developers to create native app experiences for both the iOS and Android platforms by providing pre-built themes for both iOS and Material Design.

Integrated Preview with Slick Builder

Ionic’s intuitive builder allows developers to preview their apps in real time as they code directly within their web browser.

Native-Like Experience

Ionic’s ability to deliver a native-like experience is highly valued among developers, making it a favorite for developing cross-platform apps that perform flawlessly across various platforms.

Unity

Unity is a game engine dominating 70% of the most popular mobile games. While both app engines and app frameworks encapsulate vast domains, a game engine goes beyond the limits of a framework and can act as both interchangeably. In the vibrant gaming ecosystem, a game engine is often called a “gaming framework.”

Unity reigns as a titan among frameworks within the expansive landscape of mobile applications, particularly in gaming. It strides as the third most prevalent cross-platform mobile app development framework, an accolade underscored by its steadfast allegiance to users. Unity’s embrace is unwavering, with approximately 12% of mobile app developers ensconced within its ecosystem. This figure has endured since the annals of 2019, resurging after a transient dip in recent years.

Unity’s prowess extends far beyond mere numerical dominance; it serves as the cornerstone for crafting games that seamlessly traverse the diverse terrains of operating systems, spanning the realms of Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and the very consoles that serve as the arena for digital duels. Unity is a powerful tool for creating immersive 2D and 3D experiences. It offers many high-quality assets, from graphics to animations and sound effects. With millions of skilled developers in its bustling community, Unity is a mature and reliable choice for game development frameworks.

Features

The game creation engine Unity provides several features and tools. These are only a few of the things that Unity provides.

High-Fidelity Graphics

Leveraging cutting-edge rendering technologies such as the Universal Render Pipeline (URP) and High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP), Unity empowers developers to craft visually stunning worlds replete with lifelike textures, dynamic lighting, and immersive visual effects.

Intuitive Editor Interface

With an intuitive and user-friendly editor interface, Unity streamlines the game development workflow, offering a robust suite of tools for scene creation, asset management, animation, and more, fostering creativity and productivity.

Asset Store Integration

A wealth of pre-made components, including 3D models, animations, sound effects, and shaders, may be found in the Unity Asset Store. It allows developers to add top-notch content to their projects more quickly and efficiently.

Physics Simulation

Unity’s built-in physics engine affords developers precise control over the dynamics of their virtual worlds. It facilitates the realistic simulation of gravity, collisions, and complex interactions between objects, thereby enhancing immersion and gameplay realism.

NativeScript

NativeScript emerges as a remarkable free cross-platform framework rooted in JavaScript, heralding a new era of efficiency and versatility in app development. Positioned as the preferred choice for developers seeking Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA) functionality, NativeScript encapsulates the essence of cross-platform development with finesse.

One of NativeScript’s standout features is its seamless integration of native APIs, which allows developers to leverage and harness the full spectrum of platform-specific functionalities. This amalgamation of native APIs empowers developers to seamlessly incorporate existing plugins sourced directly from the vast repository of npm packages, facilitating rapid prototyping and expediting the development process.

NativeScript is a cross-platform framework that offers a blend of performance, flexibility, and accessibility. Its ecosystem and toolset are comprehensive testaments to the power of JavaScript in mobile app development. With NativeScript, developers can create apps across platforms and devices and unleash their creativity.

Features

Access to Native APIs

NativeScript empowers developers to effortlessly tap into native Android and iOS APIs, enabling the utilization of platform-specific functionalities with ease and efficiency.

Platform-Native UIs

By rendering platform-native UIs, NativeScript ensures that apps run directly on native devices without reliance on WebViews, resulting in seamless and responsive user experiences.

Rich Plugin Ecosystem

NativeScript boasts an extensive library of plugins and pre-built app templates, eliminating dependencies on third-party solutions and providing developers with various features and functionalities to enhance their applications.

Built on Web Technologies

Leveraging familiar web technologies like JavaScript and Angular, NativeScript simplifies the development process while allowing developers to capitalize on their existing skills and expertise.

Ideal for Small Companies and Startups

With its agility and cost-effectiveness, NativeScript is preferred for small companies and startups looking to develop cross-platform applications efficiently.

How To Choose the Right Framework for Your Project?

Making the appropriate cross-platform app development framework choice for your project is a crucial choice that will have a big influence on its outcome. With so many possibilities at your disposal, it’s critical to consider several important aspects to ensure they’ll work with the demands and objectives of your project. Let’s examine this:

Assess Your Team’s Expertise

Evaluate your development team’s skills and experience. Choose a framework that aligns with their proficiency in programming languages and technologies. For example, if your team comprises adept JavaScript developers, frameworks like React Native may be suitable due to their JavaScript-based architecture.

Vendor Reliability and Support

Examine the credibility and dependability of the maintainers of the framework. Ensure the framework receives ongoing support and updates to address issues and adapt to evolving technologies. Analyze the track record of apps built using the framework to gauge their stability and performance in real-world scenarios.

UI Customization

Consider the level of flexibility offered for UI customization. Depending on your app’s design requirements, prioritize frameworks that provide comprehensive tools for creating visually appealing and intuitive user interfaces. For example, explore frameworks like Kotlin Multiplatform with Compose Multiplatform for seamless UI customization across platforms.

Framework Maturity

Examine the maturity of the framework’s development ecosystem, including the frequency of API changes and handling bugs and issues. Assessing the framework’s stability and compatibility with native platform updates can help mitigate potential challenges during development.

Framework Capabilities

Evaluate the framework’s features and capabilities, such as code analyzers, unit testing frameworks, debugging tools, and deployment options. Ensure the framework aligns with your project’s technical requirements and facilitates efficient development, testing, and deployment workflows.

Conclusion

If you want to release your app on both major app stores, you can save valuable resources by using a cross-platform mobile framework right from the start. This approach can speed up development and minimize maintenance overheads, and many users have already seen the benefits of this strategy.

If you’re managing an existing app and looking to improve its development and maintenance processes while saving resources, you might consider integrating a framework into your toolkit. Many successful apps have done this, adding new functionalities through frameworks while gradually moving the rest of the app to these platforms.

FiveRivers Technologies prioritizes understanding your business needs before recommending a tech stack. Our expertise in various technologies ensures that you choose the best option for your project. Whether you’re uncertain or have a preference, we’re here to help. Contact us to explore how our cross-platform app development services can fulfill your requirements.

FAQs

Is Kotlin a Cross-platform development framework?

No, Kotlin itself is not a cross-platform development framework. However, it is a multi-platform programming language that can be used to write code that targets multiple platforms, such as JVM, Android, JavaScript, and Native. To achieve cross-platform development with Kotlin, developers often use frameworks like Kotlin Multiplatform or Kotlin/Native.

Is Flutter Better Than Xamarin?

Depending on your own requirements and tastes. Xamarin provides deeper platform compatibility and extensive connectivity with the.NET ecosystem, but Flutter is renowned for its expressive UI, quick development time, and native performance. Make your decision based on the target platforms, team experience, and project needs.

Is React Better Than Kotlin?

Kotlin and React are not directly equivalent and have different uses. While Kotlin is a programming language that can be used for a number of reasons, including web development (with frameworks like React), Android app development, backend development, and more, React is a JavaScript library for creating user interfaces, particularly for web applications. The needs and project environment will determine which of React and Kotlin to choose.

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