Top Cross-Platform App Development Frameworks

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Bohdan Vasylkiv

CEO

Nowadays, the amount of software, used for the development of various applications is enormous. The usage purposes of this software can vary and be an essential part of the development, or play an additional role, for instance, to extend the functionality of the app.

Probably, the best example of modern development software is cross-platform app development platforms. Before overviewing top cross-platform frameworks, it is worth figuring out what it is and what are the advantages of this type of software.

What is a Cross-platform Development?

In the context of mobile app development, there are at least a few various types of mobile applications: Native App, Hybrid App, and Progressive Web App(PWA).

  • Native applications are designed specifically for one of the platforms, for example, iOS. Thanks to the distinctive approach, it is possible to provide the best possible performance, including the opportunity to use various native features, using the device functionality, etc. Usually, the native app development approach requires developing a separate app for a single platform. In other words, native apps are platform-dependent.

  • Hybrid apps, on the other hand, can work on a few various platforms without additional development processes. However, this also creates some difficulties. For instance, the hybrid app's performance may be not as high as the native one's. 

Also, sometimes it can not be able to provide some of the advanced features, that are possible to embody in native apps. At least, it is impossible without using specific third-party plugins.

Nevertheless, it is still a great choice if the developer is looking for an alternative, that is still capable of cross-platform development. As a great bonus, more likely, hybrid mobile app development will be cheaper and will take less development time. 

Additionally, it uses a single code base. It means, that applications for various platforms allow using the same code, which makes the code reusability possible, and simplifies the testing process for the developer.

  • Progressive Web Apps are alternative both to native and hybrid apps. They are web-based by nature. As a result, it is possible to say, that they are the most cross-platform mobile applications on the list, because they are not limited to mobile platforms only, but can work on laptops, PCs, SmartTV, etc. 

Obviously, this feature also creates some additional limitations as well. For instance, they can not use most of the mobile device capabilities or provide as smooth performance as others.

Despite the fact, that native apps are platform-dependent, it doesn't mean, that they still are cross-platform. In fact, such properties are determined by the software, used for the development. Therefore, if the developer chooses the cross-platform framework as the main tool, it is possible to make even the native applications for various platforms with a minimum of changes.

As you can tell from the name, the cross-platform app development framework allows the development of applications despite the platform requirements or differences. It is a very useful possibility, that makes the development process much easier. 

For instance, it allows using a single code base, endorses code reusability, and helps to test it in a much faster way. Simply speaking, cross-platform frameworks are capable of working on various OS and platforms without any or with slight changes on the code level.

Top Cross-Platform Frameworks

The main problem with creating top ranks on such topics is the fact, that the market is regularly changing. For example, according to Statista, the popularity of Flutter has changed from 30% in 2019 to 42% in 2021. At the same time, the research shows, that Ionic was used by 28% in 2019 and decreased to 16% in 2021 respectively.

This is why it is hard to predict such statistics. Therefore, we propose to sort the frameworks by their overall characteristics, such as learning curve, the number of possible usage purposes, user experience, core features, etc.

Ionic Framework

Actually, we have already explained the features as well as advantages and drawbacks of this cross-platform app framework. This is why, to avoid repetition, let's briefly list them:

Ionic is a web-first framework, so the components and libraries it provides are, in fact, the ideal collection for developing PWA. Additionally, it allows the development of hybrid mobile apps

Therefore, Ionic is one of the most cross-platform app development frameworks on the list. Ionic can be used to develop applications for almost all possible frameworks. For example, correctly working PWA can be opened on smartphones, PCs, or SmartTVs, as well as other devices.

However, the cross-platform nature affects the performance and limits the possibilities to access the device’s native functionality. Eventually, Ionic is a great framework if you are looking for a fast solution how to extend the online presence of your product, that will be cheaper and easier than other alternatives

Nevertheless, you also have to be ready that some issues may occur during the development and running of the app. For instance, there are a lot of confirmed reports from developers about some errors that can appear, such as conflicts between various plugins, components, and libraries, or their unstable behavior.

React Native

Actually, we have considered this open-source cross-platform app development framework as well, when we were comparing it with the Ionic. Consequently, let's briefly summarise it:

React Native can also be used for cross-platform application development. Yet, it has some specifics, that is not a regular thing for such software. 

The main advantage of this framework is the possibility to develop apps for different native platforms with just slight changes. As a result, you can build an app, that can be present on two platforms simultaneously with just minor diversities. Moreover, both of them will be able to use the core functionality or native libraries and provide better performance thanks to their native nature.

On the flip side, it is limited to only two main platforms: iOS and Android, so you won't be able to use the same code for the web version of the app, or other platforms. Also, it requires more experienced developers due to some specifics of the framework. 

In case, if you are considering developing your product only for both iOS and Android, aiming to develop Native applications with all the foregoing specifics like best possible performance, better user experience, etc. - React Native is definitely your choice. It may be not easy, but the final result will most likely satisfy you. 

Moreover, it will still be much faster and cheaper than developing separate apps, using platform-based frameworks,  native components, and source libraries, that will vary from each other, resulting in differences on the code level as well.

NodeJS

This framework is based on JavaScript and is also regularly used for cross-platform development. Actually, its main feature is the programming language it is based on. The reason is simple: JavaScript can be used both for backend and frontend development. It creates a wide range of possibilities, as well as makes it easier for the developer to understand the logic of the system.

Moreover, it is regularly used as a basis for other frameworks, such as NestJS or ExpressJS. NodeJS has become a huge part of the modern programming world, It has a great active community, which is very friendly and easily shares the experience. 

Also, JavaScript is very easy-to-learn, therefore it will require less experienced developers for the initial projects. But probably the most important features of NodeJS are the asynchronous event-driven I/O and non-blocking code. To make it simple, it allows for optimizing the working processes by setting the conditions of when to start each of these processes.

On the other side, NodeJS also has drawbacks. For instance, talking about scalable applications, the developer can get into the "callback hell". The callback function is activated when some of the queued tasks are finished. Therefore, the bigger number of the queues and internal tasks - the bigger chances of meeting the callback issue.

 As a result, the code gets messy, while the callbacks keep nesting. So, the development team will have to spend some time dealing with the issue in order to make the code understandable again

Additionally, CPU-intensive requests are abusive to the performance and runtime. In fact, the NodeJS structure considers such intensive computation tasks highly important. As a result, it makes them the no.1 priority, which can significantly slow down all the processes, because all the resources are being spent on heavy CPU-intensive calculations.

Finally, even though there is a huge and strong community of developers, that regularly publishes new content like code single source code samples or even custom-made packages and add-ons, there is no guarantee of quality, so the developer will have to spend some additional time looking for plugins and extensions, that work correctly and won't bring some additional issues after integration into the project.

Anyway, NodeJS as well as other frameworks, based on it, are indeed a great choice in case you are looking for an open-source framework, that is easy to learn and is possible to customize with the use of various community-made add-ons. However, in this case, the developer has to be very careful, in order not to choose the one, that will bring mess into the code.

Flutter

Another great example of an open-source framework for developing native-like apps is Flutter. Native-like means that the applications are not native by nature, but it is possible to make them look and feel like the native ones, various add-ons and plugins are capable of integrating features and functionalities of native apps.

Flutter apps are based on Dart programming language, which can be partly an issue due to the fact, that this language is not a popular one. Even though it is not as hard to learn, it still creates issues with the additional content. The framework exists not long enough, so the community is still forming. As the result, the amount of community-made add-ons is quite small, therefore the development team is most likely to develop from scratch most of the product by themselves.

Among the most essential advantages of the Flutter framework are Hot-Reload and Flutter App Builder features. The hot-Reload feature means that the app will change as soon as the code changes were made. This is a great feature because the developers can instantly check if they have fixed the bug, or if the new feature works correctly, and design the User Interface.

The app builder is a software development kit, where the developer can shape the visual UI, and choose its elements or some features. The builder does all the code-based processes itself, which results in a faster development process. So, the user can create a simple application without knowing practically anything about coding. 

On the other hand, the developer can shape the prototype of the app in a fast way and consider the final result. 

Eventually, Flutter is indeed a great framework, that would be ideal for Minimal Value Products development. It has all the needed features, that can not only help to estimate the overall scale of work but to create the best possible user experience for the minimum time and resources. 

Yet, the programming language is not a popular one and the amount of available prebuilds or various resources is very limited, compared to the alternatives. As a result, developers will have to learn the Dart language and how to use it, as well as code most of the apps themselves. Additionally, the Flutter-based applications are usually heavier than the alternative ones.

Apache Cordova

The last but not least, Apache Cordova, known also as PhoneGap is an open-source framework, that can be used for mobile app development. Cordova is based on popular programming languages and technologies like HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. So, it would be not as hard to find a development team that is experienced enough to work with such technologies.

One of the main advantages of the Cordova framework is its compatibility with third-party APIs and other add-ons. It allows enabling various features, including the ones, that are usually associated with the native apps. However, Cordova-based apps are hybrids with a single code base, meaning that they can be adopted by various platforms without changes. 

Actually, thanks to the commonly-used and familiar tools in combination with the hybrid mobile app nature, it is possible to say that Cordova is actually a great example of a cross-platform framework. However, it is also one of the oldest cross-platform app development frameworks on the market. 

Therefore, some of the add-ons and assets, related to Cordova are already outdated and are not supported anymore. Also, as was mentioned before, the hybrid apps are slower than native ones.

Eventually, Cordova may be a great solution for small apps with limited functionality. In such cases, it is still capable of providing good performance results. But the more scalable the app is, the worse performance can be. Finally, big-scale applications, based on Cordova, can lead to issues with compatibility between the plugins. No need to mention, that the usage of some functionalities is also very limited.

End Line

Here is a brief list of the best cross-platform app development framework, that are still relevant and can help you to develop an app from your dream. Obviously, you still have to decide which one to choose, but we tried our best to simplify this process by narrowing down and explaining the main pros and cons, as well as the best conditions, that suit best each of the frameworks.

Our Incora development team is experienced in developing all types of applications, as well as in using each of the foregoing frameworks. Our mobile app developers will gladly help you to develop any cross-platform mobile app, choose the best app development tools and find a perfect choice for you. We can't wait to meet you!

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