Posted by Savita Thakran | Last Updated: 19-Feb-18
With the rising demands of smartphones and tablets ,mobile apps are also becoming ubiquitous. But do you target a single platform for mobile app development or make that extra effort to to build your device twice for Android and iOS , or prefer cross platform development ? So what the proliferation of these different devices actually mean for new developers entering the mobile market ?
You might have heard of something like “Cross Platform Development” in the mobile market but aren’t really sure about what it is or why to consider it for app development ? then this blog will shed some light on what it is, its benefits and reasons for considering cross platform development strategies.
But before going onto that lets first understand native and web applications with their intended pros and cons -
1. Native Apps
Native Apps are the applications that are installed through an application store and are accessed through icons on device home screen . They are accessed and installed from Application store like Google Play or Apple’s App store etc. , they are developed for one platform and can access all device features like your contacts, GPS, camera etc. Native apps are specifically developed for single platforms like Android and iOS and uses the respective development tools and languages they support like Java and Eclipse for Android & Xcode and Objective-C with iOS . Native apps can work offline and can even use device’s notification system. They incorporate either standard operating system gestures or app defined gestures .
Native App Advantages
The greatest strength of native apps is their sheer power . Native apps easily make use of the device’s software and built-in hardware features . Another important asset is that they can be used offline even when a user in not connected to their network .
Native App Disadvantages
Developing Native Apps is slightly cumbersome and time consuming as it requires the app to be developed for two different platforms (iOS & Android ). Moreover it requires developers to get their app approved from Google and Apple along with revenue sharing and licensing fees .
2. Mobile Web Apps (HTML5 Apps)
These applications become popular when HTML5 came around and it was realized that native like functionality can now be obtained in the web browser . Now more websites being using HTML5 the distinction between regular web pages and web apps has narrowed.
Although many native apps do not take advantage of these features also but to access devices information you need to create at least a hybrid app or native app .
Developing this app is quick and saves a lot of time , it allows you to develop the code once and then deploy it on any platform . While the code may still need to be optimized for different mobile browsers but that task would be less compared to coding it again. Moreover HTML5 apps allow any user to use it without the need for downloading it again on their mobile phones . In addition to this the location of web app can make it easy to integrate with usage from PC.
HTML5 suffers from detriment that it does not provide its users a central location to purchase apps, it lacks the monetization power that Apple and Google app store offers . Being providing limited access to many mobile device features often developers rely on workarounds to get their required functionalities .
3. Hybrid apps
Hybrid apps are partially native and partially web apps. Just similar to native apps they reside in an app store and can even utilize the device features . It resembles to web apps in the sense that they rely on HTML being rendered in browser with the admonition that the browser is embedded in app.
Companies build hybrid applications as wrappers for existing web page , with this methodology they grab presence in app store without much effort being paid on developing a different app. Hybrid apps enables to embed HTML5 apps within thin native container, combining the best (and worst) elements of both HTML5 and native apps.
Hybrid apps currently gaining much of attention as they allow cross platform development and significantly reduces cost reuse on different mobile O.S .
What is cross-platform development?
Cross Platform Development runs on “Write once and run everywhere” paradigm .
It is implemented by writing an application using a codebase and technology that allows it to be distributed and deployed across multiple disparate devices, operating systems and platforms. For example, a cross-platform application may run on the x86 architecture for Linux O.S , on x86 architecture for Windows, and Mac OS X on PowerPCor x86 based Apple Macintosh systems. Cross-platform applications can run on all existing platforms or as low as two platforms .
The biggest challenge of cross platform development is the software stack architecture and the hardware capabilities of the devices running on the two different platforms. HTML5 although makes cross-platform application development simpler while providing portability to the different platforms. If using Using PhoneGap, this includes Symbian, Samsung Bada, Apple iOS, Android, BlackBerry 4.6 and higher, HP WebOS and Windows Phone 7 – Mango platforms.
Adobe AIR then this includes BlackBerry Playbook & upcoming BBX platform, Apple’s iOS devices (iPhone and iPad), and Windows Metro (the tablet offering of Windows 8),
Advantages of Developing Cross Platform Mobile Apps -
The biggest benefit of cross platform development is that it targets multiple platforms and devices by writing minimal source code . The advantages that comes with this more devices and lesser code strategy is -
1. Reduced Maintenance & Development Cost
These applications can originate from single codebase having single development skillset. It can target all platforms and does not require staff for individual ones. Having single codebase also reduces maintenance costs as it no longer requires to keep bug tracking for large number of codebase and relative staff for each platform.
2. Lowers Technical Barriers
3. Technical Strength
Certain technologies makes some tasks easier like data visualization and programmatic drawing is easy using ActionScript and Flex . While developing equivalent experience in native code is more time consuming and even complex .
The aim of developing any mobile application is to drive more customers and wherein possible have high quality engagement with target market. So when majority are using same single platform the choice becomes easy but when you are targeting huge audience having multiple platforms then cross development is an ideal choice.
Moreover it is easier to maintain and deploy changes while developing single application for multi devices . Updates even easily get synchronized across all platforms.
4 . Uniform Look and Feel
With Cross platform development the same design and overall feel can be maintained across all platforms as there single codebase running but while designing separately for platforms its pretty hard to synchronize between development teams of different expertise levels.
5. Wider Reach and Effective Marketing
When developing apps for multiple platforms you are benefited with the wider audience and exposure that your application can reach . It boosts the market potential of mobile app as more and more people of different platforms are now targeted. App running on iOS, Android and Windows Phones provides an extra added advantages if exposure is taken into account. Marketing do becomes easier as the apps can now be promoted on various media’s and platforms and not just catering a specific set of masses.