If you want to conquer the mobile application market with your software product, you need to build such an app that will be both engaging and enjoyed by a wide variety of users. Creating an appealing, useful, and eye-catching mobile product is only one side of your success story. Another important aspect is the technical part — how your app runs on different mobile devices supported by a few operating systems and what cross-platform mobile development tools to choose to turn your app idea into a top application.
To become a leading player in the mobile app market, you need to catch on several essential things. That’s why this article is going to shed light on the most popular operating systems in the world, advantages, and disadvantages of the native and cross-platform development, and give you a list of the best cross-platform mobile development tools in 2021.
Know Your Users — The Most Popular Operating Systems
If you want to build an app to engage a significant number of users, you need to understand what type of OS your target audience uses. According to Statсounter, a real-time web analytics service provider, iOS and Android for mobile devices are indeed the most popular operating systems for smartphones and tablets around the globe. As for 2019, Android has 75,44% market share worldwide, while iOS has 22,52%.
Statista, a company specializing in market data, provides data on mobile operating system distribution for software development around the globe in 2021. You can clearly see that iOS and Android account for 45%, whereas solely Android accounts for 41%, iOS — 11%, and 2% for other OS platforms.
Another piece of data from Statista shows the number of apps present in the most popular app stores as of the second quarter of 2021:
Google Play — 2 870 000
Apple Store — 1 960 000
Windows Store — 669 000
Amazon Appstore — 450 000
Despite the fact that 2021 has been a difficult year for almost every business sphere, it seems that it has not affected the mobile app market. According to Sensor Tower, global application revenue reached more than 50 billion dollars in the first part of 2021 throughout the world. Users have spent their money on various applications in Google Play Store and Apple Store. The company says that it’s 23,4% rise compared to 2019.
If you would like to have a strong influence on the mobile application market to the fullest, you should target both Android and iOS users. There are two reliable ways you can hit the mark — through native and cross-platform development tools.
Cross-Platform vs Native Development — Pros and Cons
Android is supported by Google, and it is an open-source OS, meaning that it can operate on various mobile phones manufactured by different companies, like Samsung, Huawei, LG, and others. iOS, for its part, is Apple’s proprietary operating system. Thus, it can be used only on the company’s devices — iPhones or iPads.
There are two popular types of mobile development — native and cross-platform, which are perfect for Android and iOS. Also, they have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s consider them more closely.
Native development is the development of apps that have a codebase that is created to run on a specific operating system — iOS or Android (or any other). For instance, Instagram, despite looking quite similar on both OSs, is represented by two native apps with separate codebases. The applications were written separately to target the users of both operating systems.
Native development has its benefits and drawbacks.
- Native apps are fast
- Maximum benefits and easy access to push notifications
- Ability to access a phone’s native features
With native development, you will reap some excellent benefits. You can have access to the feature set of a mobile phone, e.g., GPS, camera, speaker, and so on. Apart from that, you can easily make use of push notifications that provide apps’ owners with an opportunity to make their users more productive. You can also have push notifications on your cross-platform applications, but their creation and maintenance will cost an arm and a leg.
Besides, native apps are high-performing and fast. Despite all the benefits you get with native apps, this type of development has a set of inefficiencies which we are going to underline further.
- Excessive spending on the budget
- Resource-consuming development
- Slow delivery and launch of apps
- Difficulty in support
iOS native apps can’t run on Android and vice versa. That is why to make the most out of your product, you need to have two separate codebases. This means that you will spend a large budget as you need to hire two teams. It will be time-consuming to develop and deliver your apps. Also, it will be quite a hassle to support them afterward as you will have to fix issues of two native apps instead of only one.
Cross-platform mobile development is another type of app development that allows your product to run on multiple mobile operating systems and is written in a single programming language. When the code for an app is ready, it goes through a middleware that translates it into the native APIs of iOS or Android.
- Fast development in a short period of time
- Reusable code
- Perfect business-opportunity to engage a large share of the mobile app market
This type of mobile development will help you not to miss a chance to win a large mobile market share with an app that suits all major operating systems. You will save your money as you need only one codebase to run your app on multiple OSs. By using cross-platform development, you have a lucrative opportunity to create an app that will be appealing to Android, iOS, and other OS users without spending a lot of money.
- Limited access to native features
- Issues with user experience
With cross-platform development, you will have limited opportunity to a phone’s feature set as all devices have different functionality. As a result, you might deal with some issues regarding user experience, because all devices have their own functionality and platforms. Thus it makes a cross-platform mobile app less competitive compared to native apps.
If you do not want to risk user experience and want to use a phone’s native features to the fullest extent, you can go for the native app development. Nevertheless, if startups want to launch an app to grasp a broad audience, but without spending tons of money and do it in a short time, cross-platform mobile development will be the most preferred option for such companies. You do not need to build a native application if you can create a cross-platform app and deploy it on any mobile operating system. To get a more precise understanding of what is better – native or cross-platform, read our recent article about mobile app development.
How to Choose the Best Cross-Platform Mobile Development Tools
There are a lot of cross-platform mobile app development tools to choose from, and the right choice depends on your needs, requirements, and concerns. Also, one should bear in mind that tools are continually changing and updating; that is why you have to keep an eye on them all the time to pick up the best option. Here is a short list of factors you should consider before choosing the right cross-platform mobile development tool:
It is always good to know what popular companies use for their apps. You can take Facebook as the benchmark.
When budget plays an essential role in the development process of a mobile app, you can go for open-source, cross-platform mobile app development tools. For example, React Native and Ionic are one of them. It would be a wise choice as startups have a lot of things to spend their money on, for instance, paying salaries to employees or renting a modern office, so you should spend your budget wisely.
- Support of Tools
Pay close attention to the support of cross-platform mobile development tools. If you encounter any issue while developing your app, you can address a community to solve the problem. For instance, React Native, Ionic, Flutter have large support communities of users, and there is a readable documentation and websites to help developers with challenging projects. This means that you will be able to troubleshoot any problem
Best Cross-Platform Mobile Development Tools
There are many tools for cross-platform software development you can consider. We conducted market research and have shortlisted a set of the best tools. We do not provide any rates, but we offer a detailed overview of each one:
- React Native
React Native is an open-source framework based on React, which is a perfect tool for mobile cross-platform development. It was released in 2015 by Facebook after, in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg stated that hybrid apps were far behind native ones. Currently, the company utilizes React Native to built its cross-platform products. The Facebook app was the most downloadable application both for iOS and Google Play Store in 2018.
Besides Facebook, there are many companies that use React Native for their cross-platform apps — Bloomberg, Skype, Tesla, Pinterest, Walmart.
Another perfect cross-platform mobile development tool is Flutter. It is an open-source framework released by Google in 2017. Flutter creates native applications that can be supported by multiple operating systems like iOS, Android, and others. The main programming language of the framework is Dart, which provides performance increase up to 15%.
With an update in 2019, Google has added a useful feature — you will be supported when integrating Flutter into your existing iOS or Android application represented in the store.
Among Flutter followers, you can find Abbey Road Studios, Alibaba, BMW, Groupon, Google, Tencent, and others.
Ionic is a popular mobile app development platform. It was first released in 2013. Apps based on this framework can operate on iOS and Android alike from a single codebase. With the help of Ionic, you can build really fast, high-performance, and appealing apps that will run smoothly on several OSs. In this way, the framework gives you the possibility to develop applications quickly and within a short period of time.
Ionic is an open-source framework supported by its vast and close-knit community of developers. The companies that entrust their apps to Ionic are Amtrak, Burger King, Target, and others.
Xamarin is a User Interface framework that you might consider when it comes to mobile app development. It’s an open-source tool powered by Microsoft since 2016. This app platform helps build apps that share a single codebase on Android, iOS, Windows, and other operating systems. Xamarin can run it not only on mobile devices but also on the web and desktop. You can create apps for Windows Phone, Android, iOS with the help of C#, which is the programming language supported by this cross-platform mobile development tool.
However, as of now, this tool is already a bit outdated. If you opt for this alternative, you might face several disadvantages. App overhead, the lack of community support, high cost for professional use as well as stability issues might discourage you from using this tool. Thus, we recommend considering other options before making the final decision on the tech stack for your project.
The companies that actively use Xamarin in their projects are Alaska Airlines, Atlantic & Pacific Business Travel Limited, FreshDirect, OLO, Insightly, and others.
HealthTap, Localeur, Logitech, Nexercise, Sabre are among the companies that successfully utilize PhoneGap.
There are quite a few operating systems out there. iOS and Android are definitely among the market leaders around the globe. If In order not to sit on the fence for a long time, you’d better opt for cross-platform development. It has many advantages like speed of development, one codebase, cost-saving, and many others. There quite a few cross-platform mobile app development tools you can choose from — Flutter, React Native, Ionic, and others. Many tools are open sources, utilized by famous companies, and have a significant number of supporting communities. Equipped with such tools, you will definitely conquer a good piece of the mobile development market.
If you are looking to create a hit cross-platform mobile app, but you have no idea where to start, you can always get in touch with LITSLINK. Our professionals have profound knowledge and the right skills in cross-platform app development services to build your app that will run on multiple operating systems. React Native, Flutter, Ionic are among those technologies that are used the most for the purpose. Moreover, LITSLINK was one of the first companies to adopt React Native, the most popular cross-platform mobile development tool developed by Facebook in 2015. You can also check our IT outsourcing case studies to see what we do for clients.