98% of smartphones around the globe run on either Android or iOS. obviously, it makes business sense to create apps for both OS’. While creating separate native apps for each OS has been the usual choice, the truth is it can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and also expensive companies also have to ensure that the app appears and performs consistently across OS’. These issues drove the emergence of cross-platform app development. Cross-platform app development allows developers to create a single code and use it across different OS’. It saves time and cost involved in developing separate apps and also ensures that the user experience is consistent without compromising on the native feel of the app. According to Statista, now one-third of mobile developers use cross-platform technologies to develop mobile apps.
Commonly Used Cross-Platform App Development Frameworks
There are various cross-platform app development frameworks available to developers. The most widely used frameworks are:
- React Native: Developed by Facebook, React Native is one of the leading cross-platform app development frameworks. By some estimates, 42% of developers use React Native. The advantage of React Native is that developers can reuse the codes, leverage the insights provided by a strong community of developers, and it offers a hot reload option that allows the app to run even as changes are being made in the backend. There is no impact on the user. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, SoundCloud, and Bloomberg use React Native.
- Ionic: Ionic is an open-source SDK used for hybrid platform development. It is developer-friendly, front-end agnostic, and enables developers to build hybrid apps and progressive web applications (PWA). Angular JS powers Ionic. It also has superior app integration that allows developers to share the information and processes among different business apps. Apart from that, it has access to an extensive library of native APIs and plugins that can give the app a native look and experience. Companies like McDonald’s and MarketWatch use Ionic to develop their apps.
- Flutter: Developed by Google, Flutter is an open-source framework that can be used to develop apps not just for mobile phones, but also for televisions, wearable, and smart displays. The good part about Flutter is that it does not require any platform-specific UI components to render its UI. It also reduces the code development time and improves time-to-market speed like no other frameworks. It’s because the developer doesn’t have to write any platform-specific code. Alibaba, Tencent, and Google ads app are some leading examples of companies using Flutter.
React Native Vs. Ionic Vs. Flutter Vs. PhoneGap – Which One To Choose?
To determine which framework would suit the application, let’s evaluate the different frameworks based on the following critical parameters.
- User interface
The look and feel of the app are as essential as its speed. A user will likely uninstall an app they find confusing to use. It should be simple and seamless for the user. React Native offers the same look and feel like native apps as it leverages the ReactJS library that offers a wide variety of amazing UI. There is a possibility of inconsistent look and feel while using Ionic as it uses HTML instead of native widgets. Flutter offers one of the best user interfaces due to its ability to skip interactive bridges with native components. PhoneGap offers good UI too.
- Community support
Community support is important as it promotes innovation and the open exchange of ideas between passionate developers worldwide. When it comes to community support, React Native has a steadily growing community of developers. Ionic is up there too. Flutter is relatively new, so it has a small community for now. PhoneGap also has strong community support ever since it was purchased and rebranded by Adobe.
- Reusability of code
Code reusability is one of the core strengths of cross-platform apps. However, all these frameworks use different execution strategies for reusing codes. React Native uses the ‘learn once and use everywhere’ strategy. Ionic, on the other hand, follows the ‘one code base, any platform’ strategy. Flutter offers a comprehensive toolkit that includes – ready-to-use widgets, APIs, and its own rendering engine to create apps. PhoneGap allows developers to reuse code from a single-page web application.
Typically, single app development and deployment could cost between $50,000 and $1,000,000. However, as cross-platform frameworks use a single codebase, the development cost could be as little as $15,000 and $20,000+. The advantage of all these frameworks is that developers have access to an extensive library, APIs, and ready-to-use widgets. They are open-source frameworks. So, they are, by default, cost-effective. Also, considering that the time-to-market is shorter, the development cycle costs are less too. So, when it comes to cost-effectiveness, there is no clear winner. However, React Native is an obvious option among developers when it comes to developing cost-effective cross-platform apps.
Most companies find it difficult to choose the right cross-platform framework to develop their app. After all, every framework has its advantages and disadvantages. To determine the right framework, the company must carefully evaluate the choices and check if they have the budget and skilled resources to use these frameworks. As is usually true, a trusted technology partner can help in the choice.