Back in the early days of mobile app development, it was a very challenging field – a coder had to write in a language corresponding to a specific operating system. As a result, developers often ended up developing in languages they were not familiar with. That is, until frameworks entered the app development market.
Basically, a mobile app development framework allows a developer to create an app using the language they are comfortable with, and then the framework renders the code so that it can function across multiple platforms.
Despite the ease of developing for cross-platform use, some software engineers are still held back from using frameworks for app development due to not knowing which frameworks to choose.
If you haven’t made your mind up yet, here’s the ranking of top frameworks for mobile application development.
Thanks to its high code reusability and the option to create shared interfaces, Xamarin is often considered as one of the best frameworks for mobile app development among developers. One of its main advantages is that Xamarin offers high code reusability – up to 90%. However, it’s not the framework’s only benefit.
- Highly customizable
One of Xamarin’s perks is that it allows you to tweak the UI of your app and make it look as if it was built using native development. Using C# as its base language, Xamarin allows developers to use the language’s rich features during coding.
- Easy-to-share class libraries
As mentioned above, Xamarin is famous for high code reusability. The same works for class libraries – a developer can view them via iOS, Android. In fact, some developers even build all the app logic in NET.Standard to ensure its easy sharing across platforms.
- Xamarin Forms
This feature was developed to make interface design of a future app easier and faster. With Xamarin Forms, a developer can create an interface that works with any platform. There are dozens of layouts and controls to choose from to make users enjoy the app to the fullest.
Despite of having quite a large development team, the mobile application framework is sometimes delayed in its updates and can be incompatible with the latest versions of iOS and Android. However, theses update delays normally don’t take long – the engineers on Xamarin’s team try to be as quick as possible about issuing new updates.
Apps developed with Xamarin
Being one of the most customizable and flexible frameworks for development, it’s no surprise that Xamarin is used by so many top corporations for app development.
A Xamarin-backed app for Fox Sports created by Microsoft allows fans to keep up to date on stats from the latest game. With the use of Xamarin Visual Tools, developers managed to create a personalized experience and analyze thousands of data sources in a matter of seconds. Thanks to Xamarin Test Tools, the app was tested on thousands of types of devices, which led to its high-level mobile performance.
UPS used Xamarin to write a new version of its mobile app. Thanks to a shared codebase framework, the team was able to communicate faster and feel the differences in the efficiency of development. Moreover, it wasn’t too challenging to hire developers for the job seeing that C++ is a common programming language actively taught at most colleges.
Xamarin was used by Siemens as an empowerment of its mobile sketchpad tool. Thanks to the framework, developers were able to run the same interface on three different platforms (Android, iOS, Windows Phone).
Xamarin provided Siemens with the possibility to expand the experience of mobile sketches on different mobile platforms without having to write a native app for each one. The system was also a comfortable environment to work with seeing that the team was used to dealing with C++.
2. React Native
React Native is a technology stack for mobile app development created by the team of Facebook engineers that had previously developed ReactJS. It combines native development with JS interface development.
Unlike most other frameworks, React Native doesn’t use WebView to wrap code. The framework gives developers access to native mobile controllers to ensure apps look as native as possible.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of React Native.
- The option to reuse components saves a lot of time
After the release of the framework, Facebook gave developer the option to reuse a component on any level. It’s easier to update the app developed with the help of React Native because the change in one component doesn’t influence others.
- Visual DOM improves the user experience
Document-object model (DOM) is a document structure in XML. The DOM model represents syntax in the form of a tree. The main challenge developers face with DOM is that when as much as a little code tweak is made, the entire tree needs to be updated. Seeing that DOMs can be very large, with thousands of elements, such an update system is not ergonomically efficient. React Native has introduced the feature of a virtual DOM. While it updates the system about the changes made by a user, the other parts of the interface are not affected. It improves the speed of data updates and enables the development of dynamic UIs.
- One-direction data flow
Thanks to downward data binding, React Native improves the stability of the code. The structure ensures that the changes in child structures don’t affect the parents. Moreover, a developer can choose the elements that are going to be updated – none, except for those, will be affected.
- A rapidly growing community
A strong community is one of React Native’s main benefits. There are thousands of contributors who constantly update the library. As one of the open source mobile app development frameworks, React JS is a regular trending topic on GitHub.
- Poor documentation quality
Seeing that React Native has a crazy development pace, new tools are released constantly. As it happens, it’s hard to keep up with the documentation for each feature – as a result, you might not be able to find comprehensive instructions for a specific feature. Developers are solving this problem by writing documentation themselves – obviously, it’s not as credible as the official one would be.
- High development pace
It’s been noted before that React Native is rapidly developing. As much as it might seem like a good thing, there are certain challenges that come into play. Mainly, developers are often forced to learn new ways to handle the code. Such a pace is not comfortable for a tone of developers as they feel left behind.
- Compatibility issues
There’s a broad number of system failures a developer can encounter while working with React Native, like emulator failures, the need to re-install packages at a regular pace, react-navigation issues, to name a few. Overall, due to all of these issues, React Native can hardly provide engineers with a smooth development workflow.
Apps developed using React Native
The development team for the online tech magazine used React Native to develop its app. In one of their blog posts, the team remarked that the framework is “the first tool that truly delivers on the promise of cross-platform native app development.”
The company initially created the hybrid mobile app development framework in order to help establish iOS support for the Facebook app. After seeing the improvement of the performance (mainly the speed), the development team used the framework to develop the Ad Manager app as well.
Another famous company that built an app using React Native is Walmart. The framework allowed the retailer to improve performance, create an interface that’s close to that of a native app, and ensure for smooth animations.
Cordova is one of the most easy-to-use frameworks. It allows developers to create hybrid apps without writing a single line of native code. Still, among everything else, Cordova raises a lot of skepticism in the IT community.
Is there merit to this hesitation? To find out, we’ve broken down the pros and the cons of the framework.
- Makes app development easier
For first-time app developers or those with little experience, Cordova is a go-to framework. When developing Android apps with Cordova, things like styling are no longer a headache in comparison to writing a native app.
- A solid choice of plugins
- Easy to handle builds
Managing builds for different platforms via Cordova is easier because the framework uses its own configurations for platforms and plugins. This way, you don’t have to use different IDEs and command lines.
- Poor graphics
Cordova has a low FPS rate. If an app developer wants to use advanced graphics, you need to use a lot of plugins and look for workarounds. Overall, it’s better to go with a more advanced framework for top-notch graphics.
- Compatibility issues
Unlike React Native, Cordova doesn’t release new versions very often. As a result, it might be hard to find a version of Cordova that will be compatible with a particular version of Android.
- Communication difficulties between the app and a device
As the Cordova app data is stored in a virtual browser, the hardware connection is rather complicated. To connect the app with a device, one has to write an Objective-C or Java plugin in native code. The good news is, developers often write these plugins and post them online so you’ll be able to find a hardware connection plugin on the web.
- The app will not achieve native level performance
Running an application in WebView, a developer cannot expect the performance they’d get from native code. Under a user’s perspective it might not be too visible, but from a developer’s point of view, there’s way less space to make edits within the app.
Famous apps built using Cordova
The famous streaming search engine app used Apache Cordova to develop its mobile app. The framework supports an advanced database of titles as well as a broad range of filters. Despite the simplicity of the framework, JustWatch ended up being a very functional app.
Instabug is an app that allows developers to test their apps, detect and report apps, and collect feedback from beta testers. The application was developed using Cordova and is well-functioning considering what a large array of features the development team mapped out.
Flutter is a framework dedicated to cross-platform app development. Developed by Google, it quickly gained popularity. Big brands like Alibaba or Google itself are actively using Flutter to develop their tools. Why has the framework become such a popular choice? Let’s break down its pros and cons.
- The rendering on all platforms is the same
Unlike React Native or Xamarin, which both have a certain number of properties supported only by some platforms and not displayed on others, Flutter will render the app in an exactly the same way regardless of whether you run it on Android or different iOS versions.
- Hot reloading
With Flutter, developers are no longer challenged by the long wait when their app is reloading. Like React Native and Xamarin Forms, Flutter offers a hot reloading feature. But on the contrary to these other frameworks, most UI changes are applied while the developer is still working on the code.
- Built-in theme support
Flutter makes it easier to not just view UI but to create it as well. Where designing a theme in a native Android app can be challenging, with Flutter, creating a theme is as simple as a few clicks. Built-in theme support makes designing all aspects of UI faster and easier for developers.
- Lack of decent plugins available
Seeing that Flutter as a native mobile app development framework is a relatively new one, the number of plugins and UI components available is low compared to Xamarin or React Native. Also, some plugins available for iOs are not supported by Android and vice versa – that’s a huge hurdle for hybrid app developers. Perhaps, the landscape will change with time, but for now developers are forced to make peace with what they have.
- The error logs are obscure
When an error message pops up in Flutter, it’s very hard to understand what the problem is about due to the vague descriptions the framework provides. Developers normally clear error messages up by pasting them in Google and seeing what other developers have to say about a particular error code. It’s not an impossible problem – however, it is at times annoying and time-consuming.
- Flutter uses its own programming language
If you’re hoping that your knowledge of C#, Java, Kotlin, and Swift will be enough to handle any framework possible, this isn’t the case with Flutter. Google powered its new framework with Dart, a custom programming language. It’s quite straightforward and not difficult to learn – still, a developer would have to put some time in to master Dart before using Flutter comfortably for app development.
Apps built with Flutter
The Google Ads app allows users to monitor their campaigns via Android. It showcases all the campaign details, sends real-time notifications, allows users to call a Google expert, and offers smart suggestions on how to improve a campaign.
Alibaba’s app is a mobile marketplace for wholesale trade. It incorporates Flutter to increase the speed and the performance of the app on different devices. It’s amazing how Flutter handles such a high-traffic app – millions of shoppers and sellers visit Alibaba on a daily basis.
Cryptograph is a finance app that provides users with the latest data on over 1,600 cryptocurrencies. It presents exchange rate charts, allows coin tracking, bookmarking currencies as favorites, and more. The interface of Cryptograph is lightweight and easy-to-use thanks to Flutter.
The introduction of frameworks has certainly made mobile app development faster and more comfortable. However, there are many choices of frameworks on the market and settling with just one might seem challenging.
In our experience, Xamarin proves to be the most agile and customizable framework for hybrid apps. The framework is just rich enough to write an entire app from scratch, it’s easy to share between team members, and your company can reuse entire chunks of code.
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