There are over 5 million apps in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store combined. How many are built for Android, iPhone, or both? More importantly, why are apps built the way they are?
What is cross-platform mobile development?
With cross-platform mobile development, programmers can develop apps for multiple mobile operating systems simultaneously. Developers essentially use the same codebase for different platforms. While there are still use cases for Android and iOS app development, a cross-platform mobile application can be used on both an Android phone and an iPhone.
How do I make a cross-platform app?
Cross-platform apps are developed with general-purpose programming languages and flexible frameworks.
There are obvious advantages when developing a cross-platform app, but there are also a few downfalls to this development method. It’s important to understand the full scope of the project to know if it’s right for you.
Single codebase - Cross-platform apps are written once and then released for multiple operating systems.
Lower cost - The overall cost of an app for cross-platform apps is generally lower because it requires less time in every stage of the process, including development and design.
Larger reach - When your app is available on multiple platforms, your user base is likely to be bigger than if it were just published on one.
Easier maintenance - These apps are typically easier to maintain for developers because there’s only one set of code to update. It also helps that the app will only require the developers to know one programming language.
Performance issues - Depending on the development tools, cross-platform apps can often become a “retrofit” version for one or all platforms.
Quality of graphics - This type of app won’t have the best graphics, especially for uses where 3D capabilities are a must like mobile games.
Lack of native features - Cross-platform apps can’t access some of the platform-specific features, offered by Apple or Google for example, or those native to the device, like the camera or GPS.
Slower updates for the end user - Different operating systems update at various times, requiring the tools to update as well.
TIP: Interested in hiring a cross-platform developer? See the top companies that specialize in this type of mobile development, rated according to real customers!
What is the best programming language for cross-platform?
As discussed earlier, mobile apps are typically created for a specific platform, such as Android or iOS. Furthermore, developers use different mobile development platform software. In short, the platform dictates the toolbox. If your app is developed specifically for iOS, you will most likely use Xcode. Apps for Android are usually built in Android Studio.
Because cross-platform development allows programmers to write one set of code, it requires its own set of tools. Keep in mind, some of these tools are meant to be used with specific programming languages, so that could affect your decision on which tool to use.
Here are a few of those helpful tools to get you started:
Xamarin is used to develop iOS, Android, Mac, and Windows applications in the C# programming language.
What users say:
“Writing cross-platform code for phones using C# is incredible. You get the benefits of the C# community as well as using Visual Studio which has an excellent debugging experience. Debugging an application running on a live device in Visual Studio is a very good experience. The community has a healthy number of contributions and there are many solved problems to choose from.” - Xamarin Review by John B.
Apache Cordova is an open-source HTML, CSS, and JS mobile app developing software.
What users say:
What users say:
“It is an easy tool, you can configure it and run it very easily to start coding. It is not necessary to know different languages for every device you will deploy your app into and the online documentation and support is very huge.” - PhoneGap Review by Rafael R.
Use the right tools for the job
Cross-platform mobile development can be a great option for your app! No matter the preferred programming language, there are tools to help you throughout the process.
The development process isn’t just the technical stuff. Learn how to make sure you have a killer app design.
Bridget Poetker is a former senior content marketing specialist at G2, who focused on app development and design. Born and raised in the Chicago area, she graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I-L-L! In her free time, you'll find Bridget in the bleachers at Wrigley Field or posted up at the nearest rooftop patio. During the 8 months of Chicago winter, she hibernates. (she/her/hers)