Best Cross-Platform App Frameworks in 2021

We can’t now imagine our everyday lives without using apps. They became our new normal and are constantly improving in usability and performance. The global mobile application market size was valued at $106.27 billion in 2018 and estimated to reach $407.31 billion by 2026. 

With the rapid growth of technologies and differences in customer requests, developers are always looking for better and modern app development tools. Because of that, there is now a choice regarding the development path: developers can make two or more native applications for different platforms or one cross-platform app to reach the same number of users. And today we will explain the second approach and sort it all out for you.

Native Apps

Native apps are applications that were built exclusively for one platform – iOS or Android, for example. So the app that was created with native technology uses the specific programming language for a specific operating system – Swift and Java, respectfully. They are generally high performance and have a great user experience. But the code done for one platform cannot be reused for another, so you’ll need to hire a separate team for each application which is time-consuming and will cost a lot more.

What is a Cross-Platform App Development Framework?

Frameworks are a set of tools and libraries that developers use to build applications faster and easier. There are frameworks for web and native app development, but today we focus on cross-platform frameworks used to build native-like applications for multiple platforms. So a developer can write the code once and then run it anywhere.

Advantages of Cross-Platform Frameworks

  • Building apps for multiple devices at once
    Hybrid apps offer nearly the same experience as native ones. And you can launch them on different platforms quickly because much of the code can be reused when building the version for another platform. So you don’t need to hire separate developers for each platform.
  • One programming language and technology stack

You are able to work with one programming language, one technology stack and you don’t need to hire several teams to work on different platforms.

  • Saving time

The developer doesn’t need to write code for each app separately. This speeds up the development process and saves time, which is beneficial for everyone.

  • Reducing the cost of development 

Cross-platform frameworks significantly reduce not only the time but the cost of development as well.

  • Wider market reach

With cross-platform development, it will be easier to get exposure to your target audience because you’ll be able to launch your app on multiple platforms, such as Android, IOS, Windows, etc.

  • Design

Cross-platform app frameworks make it easier to share a unified UI/UX across multiple platforms, without losing specific platform standards regarding design. 

Best Frameworks for Cross-Platform App Development

React Native

React Native is one of the most popular cross-platform mobile app development frameworks. It was created by Facebook in 2015 as an open-source framework. React Native is based on JavaScript and is suitable for both Android and iOS operating systems but has the potential to expand to other platforms as well. It lets you create native apps without compromising users’ experiences and share code across iOS, Android, and the web.

Main advantages 

  • React Native is open-source and free to use
  • Allows creating apps for multiple platforms (Android, iOS, macOS, Web, Windows, etc.)
  • Has a big community of developers that supports the platform and improves it
  • Helps app developers to create a highly responsive interface
  • Allows access to third-party plugins

Disadvantages

  • Has a large-sized library
  • JSX syntax extension is confusing

Famous apps that use React Native

  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Tesla
  • Facebook
  • Uber

Flutter

Flutter was created by Google in 2017. It is also a free open-source cross-platform development framework. Flutter is one of the youngest frameworks and unlike many others doesn’t use Javascript. Instead, Flutter developers have to know the Dart programming language. Its great feature is that it allows developers to modify their code and see the results in real-time, which makes cross-platform development more adaptable.

Main advantages

  • Allows to see changes made in code in real-time 
  • Has its own graphics engine
  • Is easy to learn and build or debug with
  • Uses Dart programming language, which enables to write more structured code

Disadvantages

  • Apps developed in Flutter have a large file size
  • It lacks the third-party libraries
  • You’ll need to learn the Dart language, which is quite rare

Famous apps that use Flutter

  • Google Ads
  • Philips Hue
  • eBay
  • Google Assistant
  • Reflectly

Xamarin

Xamarin is an open-sourced framework for building cross-platform apps released in 2011. It was based on the Mono project and has been owned by Microsoft since 2016. It is one of the most popular platforms for developing a cross-platform app and it uses C# programming language. It also allows creating reusable code which can be used for the development of apps on various platforms. Developers like the Xamarin Essentials feature that allows accessing device functionality, such as GPS in your projects. 

Main advantages

  • Allows sharing app code across multiple platforms
  • It is equipped with Visual Studio
  • Allows the developer to choose the user interface layout
  • Provides support by Microsoft 

Disadvantages

  • Doesn’t allow sharing code outside Xamarin
  • Some manual coding will be required as well
  • Lack of community support

Famous apps that use Xamarin

  • FreshDirect
  • Insightly
  • The World Bank
  • Vanderlande

Ionic

Ionic is an open-source framework that was released in 2013 under MIT license. It was created for building mobile and desktop apps using web technologies like HTML, CSS, JavaScript with integrations for popular web frameworks like Angular, React.

Ionic is used by many businesses for building hybrid mobile apps and has gained huge popularity among JavaScript developers. It provides users with a wide range of interface features that help in building interactive components. Ionic also provides developers with a wide range of components and plugins, which help to achieve the native-like look and feel of the app. 

Main advantages

  • It works on multiple platforms such as Windows, iOS, Android
  • For developing on Ionic, you’ll only need the knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (preferably Angular)
  • It has many available UI components that are easy to use
  • Has a lot of plugins

Disadvantages 

  • Native plugins aren’t stable
  • Debugging can take more time because of unclear error messages

Famous apps that use Ionic

  • Sworkit
  • MarketWatch
  • Cryprochange
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Pacifica

Adobe PhoneGap

Adobe PhoneGap is a cross-platform mobile app development framework that was created by Nitobi and in 2011 purchased by Adobe. PhoneGap lets the developers build apps without having extensive knowledge about programming languages. With this framework, you can write an app using languages like JavaScript, CSS, HTML and then deploy it across multiple mobile devices and it will perform like a native app. The developer is experienced only in web development languages, no previous skills with mobile development are required.

Main advantages

  • Allows releasing the app simultaneously on multiple platforms with the same user interface 
  • No need to hire expert mobile developers
  • Applications will behave like native apps
  • Has robust backend support
  • Easy access to plugins 

Disadvantages

  • Doesn’t support plugins with hooks
  • You’ll need to have a Mac for developing an iOS app
  • Doesn’t work well with mobile game development
  • Plugins can be outdated

Famous apps that use Adobe PhoneGap

  • Wikipedia App
  • HealthTap
  • Paylution
  • TripCase

NativeScript

NativeScript is an open-source cross-platform app development framework, which lets developers build applications for multiple platforms like Android and iOS. NativeScript allows developers to create apps with JavaScript. It gives the opportunity to create native apps for iOS and Android and allows direct access to using native technology and device API. Developing with NativeScript is great because it allows the developers to create cross-platform native apps only using their web development skills.

Main advantages

  • Uses native components and has access to native device API
  • Has a large range of open-source plugins
  • Is developer-friendly
  • Easy to learn

Disadvantages

  • May not support certain UI elements
  • May have not verified plugins
  • Required to have knowledge of the native functionality and APIs of iOS and Android
  • Has slow testing

Famous apps that use NativeScript

  • Puma
  • Airbnb Design
  • Strudel
  • Regelneef

Summary

Cross-platform mobile app development has definitely become a great choice if you’re looking for code reusability, saving cost, quick and effective development. It has many advantages and is becoming more and more popular. And there are many reasons why. The most essential reason is that it allows you to launch your apps on multiple platforms in a short time, which helps to reach a wider audience. A developer doesn’t need to write the code for every platform separately. Cross-platform frameworks allow him to write code once and then run it anywhere.

When choosing the right cross-platform framework there is no silver bullet that will be suitable for everyone. Choose a framework based on your project requirements, technical skills, programming language, and platforms you want to use. This will allow you to have better results in the end and not waste both time and money.  

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