Cross-platform mobile development is inching into the trend territory in 2020, with more and more businesses choosing this approach to build their mobile applications. At a glance, cross-platform frameworks offer a sound solution to the majority of issues that come with developing for several mobile platforms simultaneously. These tools are powerful, widely used, and perfectly suitable for the majority of tasks.
While it presents numerous significant benefits, cross-platform development also has its pitfalls. In this article, we’ll help you get familiar with the main pros of this approach, as well as with the potential drawbacks.
The Advantages of Cross-Platform Development
1. Better Development Speed
Cross-platform development cuts the time required to launch an app significantly by reducing the amount of work that you need to do. Instead of building several versions of the application for different operating systems, programmers work with a single codebase. Cross-platform development also makes the process of updating and testing more efficient and less time-consuming.
2. Lower Costs
Cross-platform development frequently makes the process less costly by reducing the workforce and the development time needed to build an app. This approach also lets you present your app in several app stores without investing additional resources into customizing the software, thus effectively lowering the expenses while increasing the revenue.
Cross-platform frameworks are also helpful for building a prototype of an app quickly. They allow you to test the application and make adjustments before switching to native development, significantly cutting down the unnecessary expenses.
3. Extended Reach
An application that runs on multiple platforms always has a larger pool of potential users than native apps. Cross-platform development enables you to build for Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows, and other mobile, desktop, and wearable devices’ operating systems without spending resources on each additional target platform. Besides, users prefer apps that are accessible from their smartphones and PCs without synchronization problems, and cross-platform development can enable you to provide this flexibility.
4. Easy Maintenance and Testing
Having one codebase for all builds of the app makes quality control, maintenance, and updating easier than it is with native development. When you have two native applications, the process of conducting quality assurance doubles: your QA team needs to check the code for both apps, running full-scope testing on two software pieces to ensure all users receive the same flawless experience.
With cross-platform development, all changes you make to the code once synchronize across all devices. It enables you to expand the reach, targeting more platforms, and it also significantly reduces the cost and time of development.
5. Wide Technology Stack
Cross-platform development tools may require some learning, and it can become problematic for newly hired developers who don’t work with the language your chosen framework utilizes to jump on the train. At the same time, however, these frameworks rely on a wide variety of languages and technologies, and your team of developers will find them incredibly easy to pick up once you determine the right tool for your needs.
The Drawbacks of Cross-Platform Development
1. Insufficiently Native Look and Features
One of the best-known and frustrating drawbacks of cross-platform development is the lack of native functionality. Although each framework strives to give as much access as possible, some of your chosen platforms’ pieces of functionality might remain unavailable, particularly when it comes to freshly released features. It also may take significant time to get the app’s UI to have a native feel.
2. A Gap Between Updates
Choosing cross-platform development binds you to the framework you use. Normally, these tools are incredibly powerful and brimming with all the functionality you need, but when it comes to updates, you may encounter several issues. Frameworks take time to adopt the updates that native platforms roll out, and it can force you to delay updating your app. In some cases, various pieces of functionality will still be absent, and you will need to decide whether to switch the framework or forgo the update altogether.
3. Code Loss When Switching to a Different Framework
Switching to a different framework can be expensive, difficult, and practically unsound. Cross-platform development has increased complexity compared to using native tools. Everything in your app depends on how the particular toolkit you are using handles native functionality integration, cross-platform features, UI elements rendering, and other elements of the app. Switching to a different framework, therefore, can result in code loss and new bugs to be fixed.
4. Potential Lower Performance
With the cross-platform code being bulkier than its native counterpart, your app might underperform in certain circumstances. Research suggests that cross-platform applications tend to run slower than native builds. On Android devices, the differences are almost negligible in all areas except for calculations, localizations, and file saving. On iOS, however, the gap between native and cross-platform apps’ performance is stable, and the results favor native development in every test case.
Scalability can also become an issue when your app gains more users, challenging its performance even more. While it’s possible to ameliorate this issue by using cloud technology, it’s still an important point to consider when making a choice between cross-platform and native development.
Cross-Platform Development: Perks and Perils
Overall, cross-platform development is a good solution for businesses that prioritize reach over the native feel. This approach allows you to build a mobile application that will run on multiple operating systems without writing several versions of the code to fit a specific OS. Besides, cross-platform development is frequently cheaper and less time-consuming than using native tools to build for specific devices. If you need a cross-platform app accessible to everyone, talk to the guys at Rocket Lab to discuss a custom solution that addresses your needs.
In case your business relies on the app’s native look or specific features, consider custom development for each OS. Cross-platform frameworks offer access to native functionality, but it can be difficult to integrate and may sometimes require more work than building the app natively.
Cross-platform development is an overall extremely rewarding approach, although you may find it inadequate for your company. Always assess the scalability needs of your business and the app’s purpose, audience, and marketing before settling on a specific technology.