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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They offer a lot of benefits over the previous and newly outdated development approaches.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.

 

Native App Development or Cross Platform? What should you choose?

Native App Development or Cross Platform? What should you choose?

Much of our day-to-day living would not now be possible without the development of apps. From booking concert tickets and train travel, to changing the heat settings in your home, apps are used today to complete a wide range of everyday tasks.

The complexity of apps today, therefore, means that they have to be designed, constructed and developed in a bulletproof way. There are many ways of doing this, but the rise of cross platform application development frameworks and improvements in native development techniques and customisation means that mobile landscape is now more complicated than ever. It can be tricky to decide which type of development method to use – in this article we will look at both native mobile app development and cross platform app development, weighing up the differences between them and how you can make either work for your app design.

Difference between native and cross platform application development

  • Native app development is a platform specific development – designed and built specially for that particular operating system or platform. With the advent of Google’s Material Design, new iOS 7 designs standards and a tendency among many developers to go native, this type of app development is on the rise.
  • A cross platform app is developed and designed to work on a number of different platforms in one go- The major advantages of cross-platform tools like PhoneGap, Appcelerator and more is that they support coding in different languages and offer platform independence, thereby cutting development costs.

Native development

There are a few good reasons people will choose to use native development for their apps – and some distinct advantages to this way of thinking. These include the code structure – in native code will generally run quicker and be faster to load. In addition to this, new features of the code itself and the general development of the app are far easier integrated into the existing platform – ensuring new features are introduced within the app’s lifecycle.

One other thing to bear in mind is with native development, Android and iOS apps are encouraged to be different. Of course, the UX is different on both platforms, so it goes without saying that with a native app, a developer can tailor the mobile development to suit what users of each operating system would prefer. Styles and different tastes and catered for to a far greater extent using native development.

Native development’s drawbacks, however, are generally concerned with development time and the amount of money required to be invested in initial development.

Cross platform Apps Development

A different way of working is look towards cross platform development – ensuring that users of all operating systems will be able to view your app in the same way. There are many reasons people are drawn to this – from the reduced initial development cost to the relatively minimal coding and simple business logic within the app itself.

If you are developing apps with a broad appeal, , it makes sense to use a cross platform approach to ensure you are reaching a broad spectrum of your audience and you can appeal to people using all types of operating systems. A uniform look and feel, in this instance, is preferred and the fact you don’t necessarily have to create niche marketing messages can reduce costs and time from a promotion point of view, too.

The downside is cross platform development reduces flexibility inherent in today’s operating systems – looking for commonality may undermine the performance and success of your development.

So which is better?

You have to look carefully at your needs when you’re developing an app and choosing how to design and build it. The reality is that both approaches are equally valid – and it may be that the reduced time and cost, as well as the greater reach cross platform development provides, means this may be the way to go.

With this in mind, it’s fair to say that a cross platform approach is better suited to smaller businesses or those who want a lightweight app to fulfill their mobile strategy. Moving on, at possibly a later date, to native, means a greater degree of customisation is possible and it will also provide more adept at handling complex workflows.

Conclusion

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Finding a ‘one size fits all’ approach to app development is hard – there may be no easy answer but you should think about the objectives of your app first before you proceed. Researching and understanding your audience and what they’re looking for, is key to the process and you should spend time on this stage before you start design or development stages. You should ensure you contact an app development specialist before you embark on this process if you are unsure as to the steps you should take.