Mobile app development continues to be an extremely competitive market, and is unlikely to change anytime soon. To become a major player in this sector, you need to avail the benefits offered by different resources and build a strong competitive edge. 

Continuous technical innovation and customer-driven product/service evolution have prompted businesses to find the right balance between long-term growth and prevalent challenges. To that end, cross-platform mobile app development has been one of the dominant trends. It has created many new opportunities for rapid growth and transformed the way businesses approach the “app development” process.

The Beginning Tends to Be the Hardest!

The old adage “the hardest part is starting” applies to mobile app development to the letter. When you set out to create a mobile app, choosing the kind of devices it should be supported on is one of the most important considerations. The answer is straightforward in some cases. For instance, if you’re planning to target a market segment with a significant number of users for every OS, choosing one over the other comes at a price. 

By developing something for a particular OS, you risk losing market share in other operating systems. At the same time, if you plan to build a native app for all OS categories, it would require a considerable investment.

This is where “cross-platform mobile app development” comes in. Through it, businesses no longer have to deal with the above-mentioned dilemma. Rather than choose between the devil and the deep blue sea, developers can share the same code base and utilize a single framework to create applications that can run on various operating systems seamlessly.

Thanks to this mechanism, a company can dramatically reduce the development cost and effort while speeding up the time-to-market. There are many other benefits of cross-platform mobile app development. These will be discussed a little later in the piece.

Cross-Platform Apps: What Are They? 

For end-users, the term “cross-platform” means that a particular app can efficiently run on all of their devices. However, “cross-platform” is all about frameworks and languages for software developers.

This concept has been around for a while, originating in 1995 with the “WORA (Write Once, Run Everywhere)” slogan by Sun Microsystems, the company responsible for introducing the world to JavaScript. Since then, cross-platform app development tools and frameworks have increased in both number and maturity. Today, seasoned developers can easily find the tool(s) that will be perfect for the unique requirements of their projects.

What Sets Cross-Platform App Development Apart?

Let’s take a closer look at mobile platforms like iOS and Android. In the developers’ vernacular, “cross-platform” is normally referred to as “hybrid” or “native app development.” 

These “native apps” or “hybrid apps” are typically built for a single platform, such as an Android or iOS, but not both. If you want to create something for both operating systems, you would have to produce two separate apps, develop product support for two codebases, and have two sets of teams working on the project.

The end result of building a hybrid app is usually a messy combination of mobile and web. On the contrary, you only need to develop a cross-platform app once. It will run equally well on both iOS and Android. Many hybrid apps are made up of regular technologies like CSS, HTML, JavaScript, etc. They’re also fitted within an embedded web browser control. This leads to hybrid apps performing sluggishly and providing limited functionality. Therefore, the user experience leaves a lot to be desired.  

There are also progressive web applications (PWAs) that have a similar working mechanism to hybrid apps. They are simple web applications that imitate the look and feel of a native app. With them, users don’t have to download an app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. The app is saved in their device browser and opens up when they access the web. However, PWAs lack many basic functionalities. These include accessing the camera and other native features.

No such problem arises with cross-platform apps. With them, you get a single application for all operating systems. Therefore, “cross-platform mobile app development” is the way to go if you aim for multi-platform functionality.

In comparison to native apps, you get the following with cross-platform mobile applications.

  • Economical app development
  • Lesser time-to-market
  • Support for multiple operating systems
  • Greater market coverage with lesser effort
  • Highly efficient app performance that is very close, if not similar, to that of native applications

Benefits of Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

Cross-platform mobile app development offers various advantages for developers, end-users, and business entities. These are discussed below.

The Consumer View – Satisfied Users!

The “Same Efficient App” On Every Device

Many users nowadays have more than one portable device. Smartphones are almost everywhere, and if you happen to be a working professional, then you probably own a laptop as well. Even if you don’t have a laptop or one isn’t provided by your employers, you’re likely to own a desktop computer system. Apart from that, tablets and iPads are also quite common.

It’s rare for all such devices to be running on the same operating system or using the same browser. So, what to do if you want to use an app on an iPad when at home, on an Android phone while on the go, and on a laptop or desktop computer browser when at work? 

As a consumer, you’d expect a similar user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) on all these devices. At the same time, you wouldn’t want the app’s platform-specific properties to be compromised. In such scenarios, a solution based on a single app that’s compatible with various types of devices and operating systems while offering consistent UI components is the way to go.

The Developer View – Faster Development with Lesser Code & Fewer Errors

Create the Source-Code Just Once

Writing high-quality and reusable code is a common best practice within the industry. But, having to do it only once for a particular application is a real bonus!

Reusable Code for Various Platforms

Reusing a piece of code while building cross-platform mobile apps can significantly increase your developers’ efficiency and productivity. When an app is in the development stage, plenty of repetitive and recurring tasks can be avoided to save time, money, and valuable effort. Since much of the code is reusable in a cross-platform mobile app, implementing it for different platforms is a straightforward task.

Immediate Prototyping

Prototyping helps make sure that product/service development is coming along as planned. The relatively quicker development procedure of cross-platform mobile apps makes their prototyping simple and extremely effective.

Speed of Development

Due to tough competition and the ever-increasing customer/client/user demands, software development teams and their employers are usually in a race against the clock. They have to create something unique and attractive in as little time as possible. At the same time, they must stay up-to-date with the latest technological innovations in the industry.

As a result, the deadlines are super-tight and the pressure on the developers is immense. During these situations, working with a single set of code base having reusable features and plugins can greatly speed up the app development process while reducing the cost and effort needed. This also decreases the time to market.

Easy Maintenance

Maintenance usually includes product improvements and the fixing of the inevitable “bugs.” When you have a cross-platform app, there’s only one code base to deal with. This makes taking care of those bugs very simple, while product upgrades also become much easier to initiate.

The Business View – Reduced Cost!

Support for Any Platform

Employing two different development teams to create separate native apps for iOS and Android isn’t economically feasible for every business. Here again, building a cross-platform mobile app is a suitable solution. It can help your developers roll out new applications quickly and easily.

Consider this scenario. You have one team of native app developers for a particular platform that’s lagging behind another team working on a native app version for a different platform. This is nothing short of a nightmare. Thankfully, with the right cross-platform app development tools available, you would only need one team to develop applications compatible with every operating system.

Greater Market Reach 

Because cross-platform apps provide support for any operating system, you can develop products for multiple app stores simultaneously. This will lead to a higher market reach for your offerings.

Lower Upfront Cost

Since you only start earning from an app after its release, minimizing the upfront cost can significantly reduce your risk. Cross-platform app development helps with the fast production of an initial version that you can release in the market and see how it’s being perceived.

Final Words

Building separate native apps for every platform can create problems for a company and its developers. This will ultimately lead to issues for the end-user too, especially if product quality deteriorates in any way. Even though some businesses might thrive with native apps, they cost significantly more to develop, especially with users demanding the same experience on multiple types of devices and platforms.

Moreover, despite their cost-effective nature compared to native apps, hybrid apps tend to lack performance, features, and user-friendliness. Besides, obtaining top quality with regard to UX and an intuitive UI is already hard enough.

Cross-platform app development provides support for more than one platform. Such apps are also the most economically feasible for businesses. They provide better market coverage and lead to more satisfied customers too!