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A Closer Look at the Cross-Platform Frameworks for Mobile App Development

A Closer Look at the Cross-Platform Frameworks for Mobile App Development

The difference in the syntax and structure of programming languages is no longer the talk of the town.

With every app enclosing thousands of lines of code, all that developers now talk about is their choice of app development frameworks, application program interfaces (APIs) and the cross compilation they provide.

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App frameworks have become the norm and people cannot call themselves programmers if they are not well-versed in at least one particular development framework.

They offer a lot of benefits over the previous and newly outdated development approaches. These frameworks have reduced the learning curve so much that even absolute beginners can start developing apps with little training.

Adding complex functionality is no longer a genius’s work, but an effective way of writing API calls and developing apps for various platforms does not require you to be an expert in all platforms.

So, everyone with a great idea can now easily, quickly and effectively implement it with the help of app frameworks.

Therefore, you too can easily create your own mobile apps which might have seemed a difficult task a few years ago. Here is an overview of the cross-platform mobile app development frameworks to get you started.

Mobile App Development Frameworks

The mobile app development has become a million dollar industry with hundreds of mobile apps hitting the market daily. The growing demand and the need for high-performance apps have pushed the app development industry to a new level and frameworks help developers scale to the growing demands.

But, before we can delve into mobile frameworks, we first need to understand the difference between native apps and cross-platform apps.

There are many mobile platforms, for example, iOS, Android and Blackberry, and all of these require apps tailored to their own platform constraints.

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Native app development is the original methodology where an app is developed specifically for a single platform using the relevant framework, syntax, and APIs.

However, this type of app development may prove to be costly and time consuming when a relatively simpler app has to be developed for more than one platform. In these cases, a cross-platform framework can be used to develop a cross-platform app that works on different platforms with a single code base.

Cross-Platform Frameworks

Cross-platform frameworks provide a feasible way for developers to develop cross-platform apps easily. These tools can generally be classified as web-based frameworks and converters.

Web-based frameworks focus on the client-side technologies, such as HTML5/HTML, JavaScript and CSS. Other frameworks, such as Unity, Corona and Titanium, are called converters and use a particular programming language and then convert it into an executable native code for the target device.

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Source: Flickr

There is no single best fit of a cross-platform framework that suits all your needs. While frameworks like Corona are suitable for game development, others frameworks like PhoneGap are much more suitable for developing hybrid HTML5 apps.

Developers will mostly use more than one tool as the market is more niche than it is mature. With so many frameworks in the market today, your decision of choosing one out of the many heavily impacts the app you are developing.

Here is an overview of some of the major cross-platform app frameworks for you to choose from.

PhoneGap or Apache Cordova

PhoneGap was recently acquired by Nitobi and has been rechristened and distributed under the name Apache Cordova. It lets you write mobile apps using HTML, JavaScript and CSS which can easily be ported to various platforms.

It is a little difficult to fully exploit the native features using PhoneGap. It has numerous plugins that help you add the native device features in a modular way. Furthermore, it is an open source framework and is thus available free of cost.

Titanium

Appcelerator’s Titanium allows you to develop cross-platform apps by providing a unified JavaScript API with native platform-specific features. It abstracts the native software development kits and allows you to write JavaScript apps above.

Thus, it is capable of giving a higher user interface (UI) performance compared to hybrid apps. It also provides value-added services, such as backend as a service (BaaS), app analytics, and marketplace services.

Adobe AIR

Adobe AIR has described itself as a cross-operating-system runtime that lets developers combine HTML, JavaScript, Adobe Flash and flex technologies. Adobe Air can be used to develop apps with interactive UI elements, such as animation and other graphics.

However, a major disadvantage of this tool is that you can only use Flash and ActionScript to write apps.

Sencha

Sencha Touch is an HTML5 mobile app development framework that can help you develop apps that have the look and feel of a native app. It can be used along with PhoneGap or Sencha’s native packager to utilise the device-level APIs.

Comparison between the Cross-platform Frameworks

Here is a comparison table of some of my favorite app frameworks on some important factors.

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There are many more frameworks on the market waiting to be explored and exploited. If we have missed your favorite, leave some suggestions and feedback in the comments.

 

Got a Brilliant Mobile App Idea? Here is How to Get Started

Got a Brilliant Mobile App Idea? Here is How to Get Started

“I have an idea for a brilliant app, but how to get started?” This is a common question people who plan to launch a mobile app ask us.

Thousands of people think that they have a great app idea. If you’re one of them, then pull up your socks, because you got a great competition ahead.

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“It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.”

- Scott Belsky, Founder, Behance.

But, don’t worry. Read on, if you need help fleshing out your idea to actually build a business around it.

Here we will walk you through the step-by-step instructions to make your dream project a reality.

So, by not wasting any time, and words, here we go.

Validate Your Idea

This is the first and most important step for every idea and not specific to any technology.

It’s good that you have a killer idea, but it’s not about what you think. Instead, you have to figure out what your ideal users or customers think about your app.

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You need to find out:

  • What pain points your app is going to solve?
  • Is the problem which your app will solve indeed a problem?
  • Do you have a competitor? If yes, why would your users prefer your app?

You also need to ensure that your app idea is unique or fills a gap which no other app is doing.

The best way to start validating your idea is to ask your friends and family. Ask people you can trust to give you valuable and eye-opener inputs.

This will not only help you conclude if your idea is worth something, but it will also show you how to make the idea worthwhile.

Decide the Type of App You Need to Build

Once you have validated your idea, you’ll have a clear idea of what you need to work on. The most important and immediate next step is deciding on what type of app it should be.

  • Do you want your app to be specific to any mobile platform like Android, iOS, Windows or Blackberry?
  • How can your users access it? Can they access it from an app store, such as iTunes or the Google Play Store?
  • Do you want a native mobile app or a web app that is optimised for smartphone usage?

Don’t get confused with too many choices. Just pick one and go for it. You can always tweak your strategy if need be.

Research and Read about App Development

This step may overlap with the second step.

If you’re non-technical, then you can find it challenging to decide on the type of app you need.

In that case, you may need to first acquire some knowledge about the basics of mobile app development. This will help you simplify your decision. Without this knowledge, you will not know what you need to know.

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But, if you are aware of the basics, then this step will come after choosing the type of app.

In either case, you need to have a good understanding of mobile app development to ensure you’re on the right path.

Here are a couple of tutorials which can help you get started:

But, don’t just stick to these tutorials. Read interesting and informative articles or blogs as well.

This will help you to keep abreast of the latest updates. Some popular blogs you can explore are ZdNet, The Next Web, CIO and Forbes.

Identify and Meet the Technical Requirements

You don’t need to buy an advanced PC with the latest configurations for mobile app development. However, it’s better to go for this.

For Android or web apps, you can create the app with Linux, Windows or a Mac.

But, for iOS app development, Mac is the only option.

Also, you need to have access to a smart device (iOS, Android or Windows) depending on the type of app platform you plan to design for.

If you plan to write the code yourself, then you also need an Integrated Development Environment (IDE).

Here are a couple of free developer tools for different mobile platforms which you can explore:

The biggest benefit of IDEs is that it offers a virtual smartphone to test your app for both Android and iOS.

Keep a Budget Ready

You don’t need to invest in the developer tools, but it will cost you money to register and publish apps in different app stores.

If you plan to publish on the Google Play store, then you have to pay a one-time fee of $25 at the time of registration. For Apple and Microsoft, it is an annual fee of around $100.

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Also take note that you need to share around 30% revenue of every sale your app makes with the app platform companies.

We hope by now that you have a clear idea of how to move from the ideation stage to the execution stage.

Although you can develop an app on your own, we advise that you get help from a specialist. If you make any deadly mistakes during the development process, all your efforts would be in the vain.

Thus, consult with a mobile development company that has extensive experience in delivering projects like yours. This will also give you a clear picture of whether you’re on the right path or whether you need to make a change.

So, when do you plan to develop your app? Which platform do you plan to go for?

If you have any questions or need advice, drop us a note below and we will get back to you soon.

iOS and Android Design Trends: It’s Time to Evolve

The middle of the last decade saw two Operating Systems begin to take shape – the iOS and the Android. Apple owned one, and the other was open source. A lot has changed since then. The ninth iOS version has just been announced while Android has seen everything from Gingerbread to Lollipop.

The user base of both the companies has grown too. It wasn’t just a few years back that smartphones weren’t affordable for the common many. In fact, touch screens by itself were a luxury. Processor improvements, RAM increase and a host of new specs meant that these two OS needed to change too, for the better. Then, Google acquired Android. Android smartphone prices came at a level where the general consumer could afford one – and the smartphone war started.

While Google and Apple continue to battle it out against each other, both companies manage to woo in customers only because their OS gets better with time. One of the major developments that both companies have stressed in is that of design and development.  Enhancing the user experience and intuitiveness seems to be at the focus point and for a good reason.

App Developers – A Story That Has Just Begun

The developments mean that app developers can rethink on their app strategies. With a better UI, app developers can design apps that rake in more customers and drive in more traffic. Some features are the same while some are unique to one of them. The unique benefits mean that developers can look at a good amount of customization too. So, what are the Android and iOS design trends that app developers can take advantage of?

Here is a look at the trends of both the OS.

Android

 

Flat interface design

Android and iOS both have a flat design today, which offers a neat and clean look to the interface, and allows for a better user experience. A flat interface essentially means that users can access apps and features quicker. The simple colour schemes can beautifully use the Flat design.

 

Use of bright and vibrant colours

Again, this is something similar to both iOS and Android systems – apart from a high PPI ratio, the Android interface offers rich and vibrant colours for users, which aims to grab attention right away.

 

Use of layered interface

A layered interface means that users have a 3D-like experience, enabling increased user engagement. Users can also use a multi-layer interface, with active widgets at the front and the inactive ones at the back.

 

Google Material Design

Introduced in 2014, Google’s own Material Design has a host of new features, which includes grid-based layouts, and responsive animations. There is also Google Now, which uses a ‘card’ like motifs and extensive transitions, padding and in-depth effects. The introduction of shadows to app icons was a first, which meant that visible edges and surfaces of app icons and objects could be seen clearly. This in turn means that users get to experience the Android touchscreen in a more life-like manner.

 

Code Thumb-Focused Interface

Most people prefer using their smartphones with one hand – and developers can design apps that recognize simple thumb oriented gestures easily. You can even specify the instances when multiple finger gesture is needed. This betters user experience and increases the engagement rate.

 

Use of blur effects extensively

Both the iOS and Android use blur effects. It helps offer a clean look and users can focus on the areas of the screen that are ‘working’.

 

Effective Animation

Animation just makes the user experience a whole lot cooler. From background animations to in-app animations, developers can add in graphics and animations easily to give their app an edge.

 

Gestures For Different Audience

Developers can create unique gestures for the application. Think of the Game Amazing Spiderman: Unlimited by Gameloft. This episodic adventure game which involves you running around mostly, allows you to control the super hero with your gestures. While a single swipe allows you to change lanes, a swipe with two fingers means that you can change two lanes at once. Developers thus have a world of potential out there, and app designing becomes so much more exciting.

 

iOS

If Android got you talking about the user improvements, here is what iOS has to offer.

 

Native improvised design

Developers have it easy with a native environment that is friendly to app development. Aimed to make the app user experience more enjoyable, it helps developers integrate the native functions into the app easily.

 

Flat design everywhere

The iOS 7 introduced the flat design, enhancing user experience up by a few notches. The design is just right for viewing on mobile phones and offers a complete experience.

 

Minimal design -just what is needed

Down the years, there has been a trend in going minimalistic. A minimal design tries to say a lot more by saying a lot less. That’s a reason app icon sizes have gone smaller and there is a lot more information to your screen space without it seeming overdone.

 

New-age typography

Another important change that I see is the fact that there are so many typography options available. Whether it being customizing your keyboard or using newer fonts, typography options help user explore more and send messages in new, innovative ways. Apple only recently allowed third party apps and API integration, helping users personalize easily.

 

Use of bright and vibrant colors

While pixel density is always focused on while creating iOS devices, Apple also uses bright and vibrant colours to enhance the user experience.

 

Blur effects

iOS too uses Blur effects, which means that users can check out the portions of the screen that are working – while all other portions of the screen can be blurred out.

 

Gesture targeted designs

Pinch on the picture to zoom in. Swipe your fingers to move from one screen to another. Gesture targeted designs have made users experience iOS devices in a new way while allowing developers to use their creativity a little more.

 

Building a successful app – Do’s and Don’t’s

How do you build your app? Understanding the benefits on offer and the unique features of the operating system you’re developing for, will just enable you to develop apps that fully explore the capabilities. This in turn betters user experience and helps you reach out to a wider audience. Here are a few do’s and don’t that can help you.

Do

  • Do explore the full potential of the operating system
  • Do keep your audience in mind
  • Do focus on user engagement
  • Do create a fluid UI and gestures that are easy to comprehend

Don’t

  • Don’t use dull colors
  • Don’t use complex working method that makes users read a ten page manual first
  • Don’t just design something for the sake of it – the user has to like what you’ve to offer.

iOS and Android have stayed up to date, constantly reinventing themselves down the years and helping developers do a lot more. While they have managed to retain user engagement with their native interface, the question is, does your app have the potential to use those design features to spark user engagement?

iOS 8 Vs. Android Lollipop: The Developers’ Perspective

iOS 8 Vs. Android Lollipop – Which one let’s you build better? Here is a quick head to head comparison of the features of both the platforms that developers need to take a look at.

There are more mobile users using the internet than those using fixed internet access lines today, and it comes as no surprise.  It’s no longer the question of whether you should have a mobile presence, but rather ‘when?’ Google’s Mobilegeddon update was important for web developers. For app developers, Apple’s introduction of Swift as a programming language was a wake-up call.

Mobile adoption is increasing with a Gartner report stating that users are increasingly satisfied with the current engagement rates. So, does it mean that you need to develop apps for both these OS? That’s one area that many entrepreneurs and developers ponder about. App entrepreneurs and developers are looking to develop apps on both Android and iOS, and are often asking the question, ‘Which one do we look at first’? Here is a quick head to head comparison of the features of both the platforms that developers need to take a look at.

iOS 8

What do you like about the iOS 8 – the new developer friendly features or a smoother performance? iOS 8 has the same design as its predecessor and comes with a number of extensions for developers. With iOS 8, Apple has finally moved away from its policies of not allowing third party extensions to communicate with its operating systems. So, which extensions have come in? Here is a look.

  • Today extensions

    Much like Windows phone’s Live Tiles, iOS users will be able to view information in the Today View from their Notification Center.

  • Action extensions

    These extensions allow you to translate the text displayed in another app. For instance, you can use Bing Translate to help you translate text in the Safari window.

  • Custom keyboards

    Much like Android’s Swiftkey or Swype, that’s developed by a third party app developer, Apple now allows third parties to create custom based keyboards for the iOS 8.

There are other extensions as well. Photo editing extensions allow users to edit photos, right after taking the picture with the phone, without the need to go to the third party app. Storage provider extensions allow users to select cloud services like Dropbox and OneDrive easily.

What makes iOS 8 Special?

We know that iOS 8 boasts of new features – but which ones are the best? There are a host of things that are new to iOS 8. One of them is Continuity, or the ability of Apple users to pick up their work from one Apple device to another Apple device – say you were writing on your Mac and then had to go out – your iPhone could help you finish off your task.  Introduction of Swift as a programming language brings in a whole new dimension to app developers. While there is a good learning curve of Swift, Apple promises faster and better app-making with Swift.  There are many other features that can be a developers’ paradise – from Family sharing to Health Kit and Home Kit.

Where does it fall short?

Don’t fall in for the iOS 8 as your ultimate choice for app development – there are a number of areas that Apple still needs to address.  For instance, Apple didn’t time the release of iOS 8 well, with bugs aplenty leading to missing features for users. Apple had to send in an immediate update to fix the issue.

Apple’s iOS8 isn’t open source like Google’s Android. While that can work to an advantage sometimes, it means that users and developers have to wait for Apple’s acceptance before bringing in something new.

What’s the future like?

The changes by Apple that allows third party app developers to integrate with Apple’s own services, is a positive one. While it opens a new world for developers, users are benefitted as well through increased choice. Apple is expected to work more towards making their OS more developer friendly, with app making becoming easier.

Google’s Android Lollipop

Google has recently unveiled the next Android platform – Android M. The move is a surprising one as Google is yet to fully roll out Android Lollipop for a number of devices. For developers and app publishers, the question often is to choose

Google has made quite a few changes to Lollipop and seems to bring significantly more to the table.

  • New & Vibrant Google’s Material Design

    Lollipop sports a new design, and unlike iOS 8, which is similar in UI to iOS 7, has over 5,000 new API’s for developers. The design, called Google’s Material Design, offers new themes and new widgets that offer complex views and custom shadows and animations with the help of new API’s. Backgrounds and images look sharper than ever and the ‘shadows’ effect is the first to be introduced.

  • Theme for apps

    App makers can create different themes for the apps that can help change the users’ Android experience.

  • More stable core

    Google seems to be doing away with its lagging issue bit by bit. The lollipop promises a more stable core, offering better frame rates and user experience. In fact, Google is investing in Project Volta that is making the cores more energy efficient.

  • Heavy Customization capability

    Users have a room for customizing their Android easily. While Google will maintain the same design language for all of its devices, from Google Chrome to Android Wear.

  • More intuitive

    Lollipop better understands the users. Whether it be the use of contextual technology with the help of Google Now or touch feedback on default animations, Lollipop is more intuitive than its predecessors.

  • Testing

    Developers can test apps with a new updated runtime, which helps apps pass the ART test.

What makes Android Lollipop appeal?

Android is open source and thus has the scope of customization. While Google releases its Android version, most providers customize it. So, there is a different feel to your Samsung Galaxy S 6 than the HTC M9. What the customizations do, is help enhance features and enable developers to expand on device capabilities.

Where does it fall short?

Google is still working on stability. Android still faces the lag issues

What’s the future like?

Google has been experimenting with Android for a long time. It’s time they got it right and the Lollipop was a step in the right direction.  Android M, already slated to be released by the year end, will further expand on Android’s capabilities.

Verdict

Google offers more customizations than Android but a system that still is plagued by lags. iOS offers a lag free system but offers less customizations. Both the companies are looking at enhancing user experience, albeit different ways.

While Apple’s CEO Tim Cook termed Google’s system as vulnerable, Google’s then CEO Larry Page said that there was no real competition to Google. Developers need to understand that both the app ecosystems offer a lot when it comes to exposure and the way out is only to move from one ecosystem to another. As to which ecosystem, works better initially, here’s the deal – Google’s Play Store fares better when it comes to freemium models while Apple is the better way to go first if you’re offering paid apps.

Android 5.0 Lollipop – Fresh Design, Features and More!

Google is known for setting new trends in the mobile technology. And with the latest release of Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google has introduced quite a many trends in the mobile technology. The latest update of the new operating system, which was announced for the first time in June, is now available for the developers. And, we are loving the new OS! We think that Android 5.0 Lollipop will give a tough competition to other mobile operating systems. In this blog post we will tell everything new and refreshing Android 5.0 Lollipop has to offer.

The first and the most obvious change we found in the updated OS are the fresh aesthetics. Everything from setup menu to the app drawer, notification shade, animation and icons looks new and pleasing. The significant shift in the design will be evident on Nexus devices because most of the manufacturers use custom skins to change the look of the operating system. Another feature worthy to notice here is the dynamic new touch experience you will see on your Android device in the form of a transparent gray shading on the screens that moves as you move your fingers on the screen. The Material Design makes the new Android look fabulously refreshing without losing the familiar Android experience that we all are pretty used to.

Another significant change we noticed in is in the way the notifications panel functions in the new Android 5.0 Lollipop. So, you can now view and respond to messages directly from your lock screen. Incoming calls won’t interrupt what you are doing on your device. You will enjoy the freedom to choose to answer a call or ignore it to continue doing what you are doing. You also have the freedom to hide sensitive content and prioritize or turn-off the app notifications completely.

The new Android OS comes with a longer battery life. The battery saver features now extend the time for which the devise can still be in use by 90 long minutes. When you charge the device, you will be notified about the estimated time left to fully charge the device as well as the estimated time left on your device before you charge it again.

Keeping your stuff safe and sound will become easier with Android 5.0 Lollipop. The new devices will come with encryption automatically turned on for protecting the data stored in any lost or stolen devices. SELinux will keep a close check on applications against possible vulnerabilities and malware.

Another feature added to the new OS is the device sharing feature. Just like iOS 8, the Android users will be able to enjoy more flexible sharing with family and friends. You can choose what you want and the information that you want to share with your friends and family when sharing your device with them. Screen pinning will make that possible.

There are many more exciting features that are still to be explored in the new Android 5.0 Lollipop. Wait for the final release for your smartphone devices and we are sure you will be surprised with the new updated OS. Till then just wait and read all about it!