10 Popular Cross-Platform Tools for App Development

Updated: Sep 17, 2021 / Article by: Iryna Bilyk

Businesses have taken a “quantum” leap towards digitization since 2020, as per McKinsey. The share of digital offerings has also grown from 35% in December 2019 to 55% in July 2020.

As a result, there is an increased demand to develop mobile apps for businesses. But which market should you target, Android or iOS? Should you go for both or leave one out? What if you can develop one app for both platforms?

Today, we will learn about cross-platform app development and how you can target more people with it. We will also check out some excellent tools for app development to get you started.

So, let’s find out if cross-platform mobile app development can fit your needs.

What is Cross-Platform App Development?

Cross-platform mobile application development refers to building an application that runs on both Android and iOS. On the contrary, native development means creating an app that runs on a specific platform.

Cross-platform technology is constantly evolving and presents a cost-effective way for businesses to grow market share. Modern tools and development trends are also able to resolve many traditional challenges of cross-platform app development. Additionally, you also have DIY tools that allow anyone to build a cross-platform app.

But is it a better solution than a native app development for all cases? Let’s consider its pros and cons.

Advantages of Cross-Platform App Development

Cross-platform development can provide businesses a range of perks. Learn more about them below.

Target More Customers

53% of the US population uses Apple, while 47% rely on Android smartphones. Therefore, any entrepreneur can hire a developer to create a cross-platform app and target more customers. You shouldn’t make the mistake of omitting any market.

Fast and Affordable

You need a single developer to create a cross-platform application. In addition, you can code once and run your app on all platforms. As a result, cross-platform development can help you develop quickly for less money.

Easy Maintenance

You need to maintain only one code base with a cross-platform approach. Additionally, you can also simplify your deployments and updates.

Cloud Integration

Cross-platforms apps can rely on the cloud to scale seamlessly and handle enterprise workloads. Businesses can even use Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) to save work, develop faster, and become agile.

Disadvantages of Cross-Platform App Development

Cross-platform mobile app development is not free from challenges. Here are some common cons.

Restricted Functionality

Cross-platform apps may not be able to maximize device-native hardware like cameras or GPS. Therefore, you may experience a limited set of functionalities.

Limited UI Consistency

Your cross-platform app may experience limited consistency with the device’s native UI components. As a result, your user experience may take a dip.

Tools and Technologies for Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

Here are some of the most popular tools for app development if you want to take the cross-platform path.

1.  Xamarin

Xamarin

Xamarin is a tried and tested tool to develop apps for Android and Apple. It came to the market in 2011 but was acquired by Microsoft in 2016. The tool is now open-source and free for startups and individuals.  

However, enterprises need to buy a license to use Xamarin.

Apps Built with Xamarin

  • Insightly CRM app
  • The World Bank Survey app
  • Alaska Airlines

Pros

  • Most developers can use Xamarin as it is written in C#
  • You can use reuse 75% of your code on other platforms
  • One tech stack is all you need for quick development

Cons

  • Expensive for enterprises
  • Not suitable for heavy graphics

2. Flutter

Flutter

Flutter is Google’s offering in the world of cross-platform development. It is a UI toolkit that allows you to achieve native performance on all platforms. Plus, you can speed up your development and even discover bugs quicker than traditional technologies.

Apps Built with Flutter

  • My BMW app
  • Nubank app
  • eBay Motors app

Pros

  • Hot reloading feature to help developers track code changes in seconds
  • Use a single codebase for various devices
  • Easy to customize due to a layered architecture

Cons

  • Apps are of bigger sizes
  • Limited support for Apple and Android TVs

3. Ionic

Ionic

Ionic is a great framework to develop cross-platform apps driven by the web. You can write your code once and keep running them on different platforms to save costs. In addition, you can expect your apps to perform fast and have a small footprint.

Moreover, you can also build scalable apps.

Apps Built with Ionic

  • Sworkit fitness apps
  • Instant Pot app
  • Shipt grocery app

Pros

  • Out-of-the-box UI components to save effort
  • Hardware-accelerated transitions for better user experiences
  • Integrates with various frameworks like Vue and Angular

Cons

  • Native plugins can create conflicts
  • Debugging can be a complex process

4. React Native

React Native

React Native comes from Facebook and drives top brands world around. It is a hybrid platform for mobile application development and uses JavaScript as its foundation. Developers can code once and share it across platforms that include Apple smartphones.

React focuses on a device’s native features to create remarkable user experiences.

Apps Built with React Native

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Uber Eats

Pros

  • Share up to 80% of code for faster development
  • Great for creating responsive UIs
  • Takes advantage of native device features like camera and microphone

Cons

  • Platform-specific coding is needed for utilizing some native features
  • Inconsistent updates

5. Appcelerator

Appcelerator

Appcelerator is an adept platform to develop cross-platform mobile apps. It is open-source and comes with up to 90% code shareability. You can use several tools to create top-notch apps that offer a native performance.

The most popular product of Appcelerator is Titanium. You can also take advantage of tools like Aptana and Alloy to code efficiently.

Apps Built with Appcelerator

Appcelerator powers over 75,000 mobile apps installed in more than 280,000,000 devices.

Pros

  • It can be integrated with Angular and Vue
  • JavaScript components for ease of development
  • Create prototypes quickly with less coding

Cons

  • Irritating bugs
  • A bit complex

6. Adobe PhoneGap

Adobe PhoneGap

PhoneGap is a lightweight framework to build fast and reliable mobile apps. The tool uses familiar languages like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS to target users on iOS and Apple. However, Abode has now discontinued the package and doesn’t release updates anymore.

However, you can still use the platform and approach the community for any assistance.

Apps Built with PhoneGap

  • Wikipedia mobile app
  • HealthTap
  • The DHS Program

Pros

  • Generate application templates using one button
  • Quick and easy debugging saves time
  • Test your apps via a web browser

Cons

  • Discontinued by Adobe
  • Not suitable for gaming apps

7. QT

QT

QT is ideal for developing visual UIs and cross-platform apps. You can take advantage of advanced coding tools and test your apps for any bugs quickly. Best of all, QT lets you create innovative applications like TV apps and car cockpit apps.

Moreover, QT is compatible with popular languages like C++ for ease of use.

Apps Built with QT

  • Mercedes-Benz cockpit app
  • Sky set-top box app
  • Tableau analytics app

Pros

  • One code stack to save development costs
  • In-built libraries to build great apps
  • Open-source and free to use

Cons

  • UX is not always seamless
  • Metaobject compiler can increase development complexity

8. RubyMotion

RubyMotion

RubyMotion is a top choice to develop cross-platform apps that offer a native performance. It is based on Ruby and supports Android, iOS, and OS X. As a result, you can share your code across various screens without any effort.

RubyMotion also helps you deploy faster and evaluate your app for possible scenarios.

Apps Built with Ruby Motion

  • Jimdo app
  • Bandcamp music store
  • Jukely music app

Pros

  • Code functional and integration tests using the same language
  • Backed by a large community
  • Save effort with minimum X code involvement

Cons

  • Not very updated
  • Debugging takes time and labor

9. Sencha

Sencha

Sencha is a well-known cross-platform framework based on JavaScript. You can develop quality apps driven by the web for both Apple and Android devices. It can help developers build responsive UIs with over 140 UI components.

Additionally, you have a GXT java framework to create advanced features.

Apps Built with Sencha

  • Ticketmaster app
  • eVestment data and analytics platform
  • Nielsen web-based reporting platform

Pros

  • Save time with one framework to build and test apps
  • Improve app maintenance cycles by reducing dependencies
  • End-to-end testing for Angular and React apps

Cons

  • EXT.js is not very user-friendly
  • High learning curve

10. Codename One

Codename One

Codename One relies on Java to help businesses enjoy cross-platform development. It supports Android, iOS, web, and even desktop apps. You can write your code naturally and turn it into native code to achieve robust performance.

In addition, you get all the tools you need to code, test, and debug your apps. You also have inbuilt widgets to create awesome UIs that feel native.

Apps Built with Codename One

Companies like Google, Lehman College, and Airbiquity use Codename One to develop feature-rich cross-platform apps.

Pros

  • Great for developing multithreaded applications for a native feel
  • Open-source and simple to use
  • Supports Mac and Windows computers

Cons

  • Inadequate documentation
  • Some code discrepancies

Conclusions

Cross-platform development is ideal for businesses that want to develop faster and affordably. You can pick any of our listed tools for app development and start building your app today! 

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About Iryna Bilyk

Iryna Bilyk is an expert content marketing manager who works at YouTeam - a marketplace for instant engineering team extension. She passionately discovers and writes about technology, innovations, and software development solutions.