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App Development


Your Guide to Cross-Platform Mobile App Development Tools

In today's digital world, there are countless devices running numerous operating systems all around the world. To reach a larger audience, you would have to publish your mobile app on each of these different platforms. However, creating a mobile app for different operating systems isn't an easy task, to say the least. You would basically create the app multiple times for different platforms with different technologies and different tools. This can consume a lot of time, money and effort, especially if you're an indie developer or a small company and you don't have that many resources to spare. This is where cross-platform development tools come in.

In this blog post, we'll be discussing cross-platform development, some of the top cross-platform development tools including React Native, Xamarin, and Apache Cordova, and when it's best to use each one of those cross-platform tools.

Mobile App Development

Web apps

Web apps are apps that run on the web and are stored on remote servers. These apps are then loaded and shown on devices through a browser interface.

Even though web apps can be great in some cases, they do have their own setbacks. The first problem with web apps is that they require internet connectivity to be able to run on your device as they're loaded from the web and aren't stored on devices. Another problem is that the apps aren't available in any mobile app store, which can make it harder for users to find and use them.

Hybrid cross-platform apps

Hybrid apps are basically web apps that are wrapped and packaged inside a native container using each platform's browser built-in component, allowing it to run on each platform as if it's a native app on that platform. Hybrid cross-platform apps are mainly developed using HTML5, JavaScript and CSS.

Hybrid cross-platform apps solve the problems that web apps face, where they do not require internet connectivity as they are running a native shell. Hybrid apps can also be published on the app stores where users can easily find them, increasing the chances of discoverability and consequently your number of users.

Hybrid Cross-Platform Apps Development Tools: Apache Cordova, Ionic, and Adobe PhoneGap.

Native apps

A native mobile app is an app developed to work on a specific platform or operating system.

For iOS, developers write iOS apps in Swift or Objective-C, while for Android, developers write Android apps in Kotlin or Java. As for the mobile app development tools used, iOS developers use Apple's Xcode while Android developers use Android Studio as their main IDEs (Integrated Development Environment).

Native cross-platform apps

Native cross-platform tools allow you to write your code once and then have that code translated into the native code of multiple operating systems, allowing you to publish your mobile app on different platforms with minimal effort. Native cross-platform apps are the perfect combination of hybrid apps and native apps, giving you the code reuse features of hybrid apps with an improved performance similar to that of native apps.

Native Cross-Platform Apps Development Tools: React Native, Xamarin and Titanium.

Cross-Platform Development

Cross-platform mobile app development is the process of creating mobile apps that can be deployed or published on multiple platforms using a single codebase, instead of having to develop the app multiple times using the respective native technologies for each platform.

Cross-platform development pros

There are many advantages when it comes to cross-platform development, including:

  • Reusable Code: Cross-platform development tools allow you to write your code once then export your app to many operating systems and platforms without having to create a dedicated app for every single platform.
  • Convenience: Cross-platform development tools save you the hassle of having to learn multiple programming languages and instead offer you one substitute for all of these different technologies.
  • Maintainable Code: Whenever you modify or update your app, you only have to update your codebase once and the changes would be synced and reflected in all the apps on different platforms.
  • Cost Efficiency: Cross-platform development allows you to save the cost of having multiple teams working on different versions of your app and substituting them with one team. Most cross-platform development tools are also free to use, with some offering paid subscriptions for additional features.
  • Market Reach: By publishing your app on multiple platforms, you're casting a wider net and increase your chances of having a larger user base and consequently a higher return on investment and higher revenues.

Cross-platform development cons

While cross-platform development tools have a lot of advantages that make them worthy, they certainly do come with a few setbacks and there are a few situations when cross-platform development might not be the way to go for you, including:

  • Performance: While some cross-platform development tools provide you with performance that is close to a native app, they are still never quite as good. That's why you shouldn't be using cross-platform development tools if your app's performance is a high priority for you.
  • 3D and Graphics: Just like performance, cross-platform development tools aren't known for delivering the best graphics and user experiences and can lack access to core OS libraries like graphics. Cross-development might not be the best option for you if your app relies heavily on graphics, which is the case with many mobile games.
  • Single Platform App: If you're building your app to be published on a single platform (e.g. iOS or Android), then you should develop a native app. In this case, you would only need one team using one technology without sacrificing the performance losses of cross-platform apps.
  • Platform-Specific Features: While cross-platform development tools offer many of the basic features shared between different platforms, they can lack some of the specific features offered by Apple, Google, and Microsoft on their respective operating systems.
  • Device-Specific Features: Cross-platform development tools can give you access to different aspects of your device, like the camera or GPS, but if your app needs to access and deal with the device hardware directly, then it's better and more efficient for you to develop a native app.
  • Delayed Updates: Whenever a new update is released for a specific platform with any changes or added features, it could take some time until those changes are reflected across all cross-platform development tools.

Cross-Platform development technology stacks

While cross-platform development tools save you the effort of learning different technologies, you will still have to have a decent knowledge of the ones used by every tool to build mobile apps. The technologies used include:

  • React Native: JavaScript with JSX, ES6 and React.JS
  • Xamarin: C#
  • Cordova: HTML, CSS and JavaScript

Other cross-platform development tools

While we take a deep dive in this blog post into three of the top cross-platform development tools at the moment, there are definitely many others out there that you might want to check out. These cross-platform development tools include:

Cross-Platform Development Tools

React Native Logo - Cross-Platform Development

React Native is a cross-platform native mobile app development framework created by Facebook based on their React JavaScript library. React Native mainly uses JavaScript with JSX, an extension of JavaScript, ES6 (ECMAScript 6), a major update to JavaScript that includes dozens of new features, and React.JS, a JavaScript library for building user interfaces. React Native allows you to build mobile apps using React Native components, which are then compiled into native apps that are almost identical to apps written using native tools.

React Native pros

Some of the advantages of cross-platform mobile app development using React Native include:

  • Reusable Code: Develop an app and export it on multiple platforms from a single codebase.
  • App Stores:  Publish your app on the app stores of the respective platforms.
  • Performance: React Native compiles your app into native apps, which are almost identical to apps created using native tools, making it faster than hybrid apps that have to run code inside a platform-specific web component.
  • Native UI Components: React Native allows you to create views using React Native UI components, which are compiled into platform-specific UI components, unlike other cross-platform tools that use HTML tags. By offering ready-made components, this saves you a lot of time compared to writing everything from scratch.
  • Hot Reloading: A feature available in React Native that allows changes in the code to take effect right away in iOS and Android apps so that you can visualize the changes immediately.
  • Testing: Debugging React Native apps is fairly easy as it publishes native apps, which can be tested on physical devices using a tool like Expo, a free and open source toolchain built around React Native, without the need to open them in Xcode or Android Studio.
  • Native Code: Unlike most other cross-platform development tools, React Native allows you to further modify your published native apps separately and it gives you the option to even combine between your React Native code and native code, whether it's Swift, Objective-C, or Java. This is great in case you want to implement separate visual components for different platforms using platform-specific code.
  • Reliability: React Native is created by Facebook and many of the world's top mobile apps use React Native including Facebook, Instagram, SoundCloud, and Skype. So needless to say, it's very stable and reliable.
  • Free: Open source.

React Native cons

While React Native is one of the best cross-platform development tools out there at the moment, it is certainly not perfect. Some of the disadvantages of React Native include:

  • New Technologies: Learning JSX and ECMAScript isn't as easy and would probably take more time than other familiar technologies like HTML and CSS.
  • Native UI Components: While the UI components are one of the biggest advantages of React Native, there is only a few number of ready-made ones available at the moment considering it's still a fairly new cross-platform development framework. This is sure to change with time.
  • Native Code: In some instances, you might have to write native or platform-specific code in your mobile apps, especially if you need to access the device hardware like the camera or GPS, which can defeat the purpose of cross-platform development and can deem React Native useless for smaller teams.
  • Almost-Perfect Performance: While React Native excels in terms of performance compared to most other cross-platform development frameworks, it's still never as good as native apps development using platform-specific tools and languages.

Make sure to check out our list of top React Native newsletters, blogs, and online communities to stay up-to-date with all that’s new in the world of React Native.

React Native development tools

React Native IDEs

React Native development

React Native UI components

React Native testing tools

Check out our essential React Native development tools blog post for more information regarding each tool.

Xamarin Logo - Cross-Platform Development

Xamarin is a cross-platform mobile app development framework owned by Microsoft based on Mono, a free and open-source .NET framework, to create native apps using C#.

Xamarin pros

Xamarin cross-platform mobile app development has multiple advantages, including:

  • Reusable Code: Develop an app and export it on multiple platforms from a single codebase.
  • App Store: Publish your app on the app stores of the respective platforms.
  • Complete Development Stack: Xamarin is considered by many developers to be the most complete cross-platform mobile app development framework. It has its own dedicated stack with C# as the programming language; Visual Studio as the IDE, which is completely integrated with Xamarin; .NET as the development platform; Xamarin Test Cloud for testing; and Xamarin.Insights for analytics.
  • Performance: Xamarin apps are also almost identical to native apps in terms of performance. Xamarin apps are faster than hybrid apps, which have to run code inside a platform-specific web component.
  • Native UI Components: Create views using Xamarin Native UI components, which are compiled into platform-specific UI components, either through Xamarin.Forms, which contains a complete cross-platform UI toolkit for .NET developers, or through Native UI development.
  • Plugins and APIs: Xamarin offers a set of plugins and APIs that allow access to hardware functionality. It also supports customization through linking with native libraries.
  • Testing: By installing the Xamarin.Forms Live Player app on a physical device, you can test and debug your apps immediately with a live preview and synchronize your app with the device in real time.
  • Reliability: Xamarin was acquired by Microsoft in 2016 and as of today has over 1.4 million developers in over 120 countries. So it's definitely reliable and well-maintained.
  • Xamarin University: Xamarin provides a live, interactive, mobile development training led by Xamarin experts with over 80 courses covering 10 tracks, allowing you to easily learn the technologies needed to get started right away and always stay up-to-date.
  • Free: Open source.

Xamarin cons

While Xamarin can be great for many use cases, it has some pitfalls, including:

  • App Size: Xamarin app sizes are generally known to be larger than native ones, which isn't ideal in terms of memory management. This is because of the libraries which are used to translate C# calls into native calls.
  • Delayed Updates: Xamarin can sometimes fail to keep up with the updates released on supported platforms, including new features or changes, which can cause issues with your app until the Xamarin libraries are updated.
  • Native Code: When using Xamarin.iOS or Xamarin.Android to develop mobile apps with a native look and feel, you will need some basic knowledge of native languages like Objective-C, Swift, and Java. This isn't required for Xamarin.Forms, though.
  • Graphics: While Xamarin builds apps for multiple platforms using a single codebase, it only mostly shares the code logic between the platforms while UI components are mostly platform-specific. This makes Xamarin a bad choice for mobile apps that rely heavily on graphics like mobile games.

Make sure to check out our list of top Xamarin newsletters, blogs, and online communities to stay up-to-date with all that’s new in the world of Xamarin.

Xamarin development tools

Xamarin IDEs

Xamarin development

Xamarin testing tools

Check out our essential Xamarin development tools blog post for more information regarding each tool.

Apache Cordova Logo - Cross-Platform Development

Apache Cordova is a cross-platform mobile app development framework for building hybrid mobile apps using web technologies including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Apache Cordova pros

Some of the advantages of cross-platform mobile app development using Apache Cordova include:

  • Reusable Code: Develop an app and export it on multiple platforms from a single codebase.
  • App Store: Publish your app on the app stores of the respective platforms.
  • Supported Platforms: Apache Cordova supports a large number of mobile platforms and operating systems that most developers need, including Android, iOS, Windows 8.1, iPhone 8.1 and 10, OS X, allowing you to reach almost all mobile users.
  • Available Plugins: Cordova offers a wide range of plugins that provide you with the ability to access the device capabilities that your mobile app needs.
  • Familiar Technologies: Cordova isn't a programming language, so you can develop your apps using web technologies that you already know, like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You can also use the tools that you are already familiar with, including the editor you use, as it doesn't have an official IDE that you have to abide by.
  • Free: Open source.

Apache Cordova cons

As is the case with any cross-platform mobile app development tool, Cordova has some setbacks, including:

  • Performance: Mobile apps created with Apache Cordova suffer from performance issues as it is a hybrid cross-platform mobile app development tool.
  • Apache Cordova Development Tools: Due to the fact that Apache Cordova uses web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, most of the development tools used for Apache Cordova are optimized for web development, not mobile app development.
  • Testing: Debugging your code in Apache Cordova can be a pain. While you can usually fix any code issues using your development tools, you will need to use platform-specific tools to fix issues that occur in a specific platform.
  • Technologies: While web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript might be familiar, you will need experience in both web and mobile apps to create Cordova mobile apps.
  • Supported Platforms: Cordova has had many of its supported platforms deprecated over the years, including BlackBerry, Firefox OS, Symbian, Ubuntu Touch, webOS, and Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows Phone 10. While it might be tough for Cordova to deprecate larger platforms like iOS and Android, there is still no guarantee that it will keep supporting any of its current platforms.
  • Delayed Updates: Cordova can sometimes fail to keep up with the updates released on supported platforms, including new features or changes, which can cause issues with your app to the extent that it could be removed from the app store until it's updated.
  • Plugins: While Cordova offers one of the highest numbers of plugins out of any cross-platform development tool out there, it still doesn't compare to native mobile app development tools.

Apache Cordova development tools

Apache Cordova frameworks

Apache Cordova IDEs

Apache Cordova CLIs

Apache Cordova libraries

Apache Cordova testing tools

Apache Cordova plugins

Apache Cordova templates


Cross-platform development tools can save you a lot of time during your development cycle and help you reach the largest number of users by publishing your app on different platforms using the least amount of resources. They are definitely not perfect, however, and will never become a substitute for native app development. There will definitely be trade-offs, but you win some and you lose some. Even when choosing to develop your app using a cross-platform platform development tool, you are faced with so many different tools and frameworks that it can be hard to decide on which one to go with.

The best way to decide on the cross-platform development platform that works best for you would be to try them all and go with the one that works for you. If you don't have the time, which is usually the case, a little research on some of the top cross-platform development frameworks can be sufficient. Weigh the pros and cons of each one, see which one suits your needs, and accept the fact that you'll have to take the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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