Numerous studies have demonstrated that businesses need mobile apps if they want to be more accessible to their customers and provide a better customer experience. Studies have also indicated that many users are fiercely loyal to a particular platform. Developing a mobile app to work on just Android or iOS can be risky, especially if the geographic location of the targeted users is critical. For example, iOS is the most widely used platform in North America, while Android has a larger global base and is expected to become increasingly popular in the U.S.
The challenge has been to find the best way to reach the most people, regardless of their preferred platform. The issue has been further complicated by the variety of mobile devices available. As technology advances, the types of devices -- and potentially the number of platforms that need to be supported -- is likely to increase as well.
Developing cross-platform mobile apps has become a common practice, but although this method has advantages, it is not without its drawbacks.
Pros of Cross-Platform Mobile App Development
- Reusable code: Basically, developers need create the code once and then "tweak" it for additional platforms. Parts of the code can even be recycled for later projects to expedite development.
- Ease of development: Virtually all platforms support CSS 3 and HTML5, which facilitates planning and coding for all platforms simultaneously. Worries about quality and consistency are eliminated.
- Availability of plug-ins: All major platforms allow the use of modules and extensions to enhance the apps by allowing them to be integrated with different tools or services.
- Integration with cloud services: Most major platforms support the integration of custom apps with SaaS solutions, such as Salesforce. Programs can work automatically with all the platforms for which they have been coded.
- Cost savings: For many, this is the most important benefit of cross-platform mobile app development. It is much less expensive to develop a cross-platform app than to develop separate apps for each platform independently. Instead of having to "reinvent the wheel" for each platform, code can be developed and tested simultaneously for every desired platform.
Cons of Cross-Platform Mobile App Development
- Potential for speed issues: Runtimes and processing speeds can be sluggish at times. This can be an issue encountered when using a cross-compliance process, especially if the app applies all or most of the options available with hybrid development.
- Quality issues with 3D and graphics: Cross-platform apps frequently encounter a lack of support for displaying graphics and 3D, resulting in unacceptable quality. However, some game-centric platforms help bridge this gap.
- Development tools: Platform conventions may not support all of the development tools that are commonly used to develop cross-platform apps. Developers might need to resort to native IDE to accomplish certain tasks.
- Potential for specific features to be unsupported: It is not reasonable to expect every platform to support every feature. For example, access to particular facilities can be restricted, making support for certain features questionable.
Developing cross-platform apps offers a number of advantages and disadvantages. However, many of the disadvantages can be addressed through careful planning and development, such as factoring in how devices with different screen sizes will display a website or app. Properly implemented cross-platform apps can be an extremely cost-effective solution to reaching a great number of users.