4 Most Popular Cross-Platform App Development Frameworks for 2023
Find out which cross-platform app development solutions are a hit with App Owners and gain insight into choosing the right framework to ensure your app’s success.
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Over the years, cross-platform app development has become one of the best ways to build mobile applications. A cross-platform (or multi-platform) approach enables developers to create applications that run seamlessly on multiple platforms. All with a single codebase.
The rapidly growing need for cross-platform solutions has fueled the rise of various multi-platform tools. With so many options, choosing the right one for your project can be difficult. To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of the top 4 cross-platform app development frameworks and explained when each one’s qualities are most useful. Read on to find the most efficient and cost-effective solution for your app.
Cross-platform app development – Basics
Instagram, Skype, Google Ads, Netflix, Tesla – what’s the shared thread among these apps? They’re all created using cross-platform development frameworks. Wondering if the same approach could benefit your application? Absolutely. Let’s explore how it can be done.
What is cross-platform app development?
Cross-platform app development enables developers to build mobile apps for multiple operating systems, such as iOS and Android, from a single code base. This is in contrast to native app development, which requires different codebases for each platform. By simplifying the development process, it saves time, effort, and cost, which appeals to companies that want to reach a broader audience with their mobile offerings. It also ensures a consistent user experience across devices and platforms, making it a more efficient way to develop applications.
What is a cross-platform app development framework?
A cross-platform app development framework is a dedicated toolkit that allows developers to build mobile applications for various operating systems using just one codebase. Prominent examples of such frameworks are Flutter, React Native, Kotlin Multiplatform, and Ionic. We will discuss them in more detail further in this article.
Native vs. cross-platform application development
Native and cross-platform application development represent two distinct approaches in the mobile app development landscape.
- Native development involves creating separate code bases for each target platform, such as iOS and Android. While this approach allows for maximum optimization and access to platform-specific features, it can be time-consuming and costly.
- Cross-platform development uses a single codebase for multiple platforms, ensuring efficiency, cost savings, and a faster time to market. It uses pre-built elements and widgets for native-like performance and a consistent user experience.
Your choice between these two methods should depend on factors such as project requirements, budget, and desired user experience.
Why are cross-platform solutions important and gaining popularity?
The rising popularity of cross-platform frameworks in app development is no mystery. They bring a suite of compelling advantages that align perfectly with the goals of modern app strategies.
These benefits not only make cross-platform solutions a practical choice but also an increasingly preferred one in the fast-evolving app marketplace.
Popular cross-platform app development frameworks
In the world of cross-platform app development, there’s a whole bunch of frameworks out there, and new ones keep popping up because, well, it’s super popular. But here’s the deal – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Each framework has its own perks and quirks. So, to keep it simple, we’ve put together a list of the four best options that have really worked wonders for app owners.
Google’s Flutter, an open source UI development framework, debuted in May 2017 and reached its official release at the Google I/O conference in December 2018. Since then, it has become the leading multi-platform technology, largely due to its single codebase approach, which enables the seamless creation of natively compiled applications across a variety of platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, Google Fuchsia, web, and embedded devices.
Programming Language: Flutter apps are primarily developed using the Dart programming language. Dart is known for its efficiency and performance, making it well-suited for mobile app development.
Apps made with Flutter:
- Google Ads (iOS, Android)
- Xianyu by Alibaba (iOS, Android)
- Hamilton (iOS, Android, Website)
- myBMW (iOS, Android)
- eBay Motors (iOS, Android)
- Groupon (iOS, Android)
- Philips Hue (iOS, Android)
- The New York Times (iOS, Android)
- Reflectly (iOS, Android)
- Nubank (iOS, Android)
- Single codebase: Flutter enables developers to write a single codebase that can run on multiple platforms, such as Android, iOS, web, and desktop, reducing development time and effort.
- Hot reload: One of the most celebrated features of Flutter is its “hot reload” functionality. This helps developers to instantly see the effects of code changes without restarting the app, significantly speeding up the development process.
- Rich set of widgets: Flutter offers a wide range of customizable widgets, which enable developers to create visually stunning and responsive user interfaces.
- Performance: Dart’s ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation and Flutter’s use of native code result in high-performance apps that rival natively developed applications.
- Open source and community-driven: Being open-source, Flutter benefits from a large and active community of developers, which ensures continuous improvement, support, and the availability of numerous plugins and packages.
- Platform-specific adaptation: Flutter allows developers to customize their app’s appearance and behavior to match the platform’s design guidelines, ensuring a native look and feel.
- Access to native features: Developers can access native device features and APIs using Flutter plugins, making it easy to integrate device-specific functionalities into their apps.
Want to know more about Flutter? Read our other articles:
React Native is an open-source mobile application framework created by Meta (formerly Facebook). It was first released in March 2015 and has since become one of the most popular frameworks for building cross-platform mobile applications. It’s the second most popular choice after Flutter, according to the 2023 Stack Overflow Developer Survey.
Apps Made with React Native:
- Instagram (iOS, Android)
- Meta Ads Manager (iOS, Android)
- Pinterest (iOS, Android)
- Skype (iOS, Android)
- Microsoft Office (iOS, Android)
- Tesla (iOS, Android)
- Bloomberg (iOS, Android)
- Wix Owner (iOS, Android)
- Walmart (iOS, Android)
- Discord (iOS, Android)
- Reusability: React Native enables code reuse across Android and iOS platforms, reducing development time and effort.
- Hot reloading: Like Flutter, React Native supports hot reloading, allowing developers to see real-time changes without app restarts.
- Native components: The framework also provides access to native components, ensuring that apps look and feel like their native counterparts.
- Large community: React Native boasts a vast and active community, offering a wealth of libraries, plugins, and resources.
- Performance: Although not as performant as fully native apps, React Native offers good performance, especially for most typical mobile applications.
- Third-party libraries: Developers can leverage a multitude of third-party libraries and packages to extend functionality.
Apps made with Ionic:
- Pacifica (iOS, Android)
- MarketWatch (iOS, Android)
- Sworkit (iOS, Android)
- Shipt (iOS, Android)
- Sanvello (iOS, Android)
- Untappd (iOS, Android)
- T-Mobile (iOS, Android)
- Web technologies: Ionic allows developers to leverage their web development skills to build cross-platform apps.
- UI Toolkit: Ionic provides a rich, responsive collection of UI components (UI toolkit) that makes it easy to build applications whose UI scales well from small phones to large browser screens on a PC. This sets Ionic apart from the competition.
- Cordova and Capacitor integration: Ionic seamlessly integrates with Apache Cordova and Capacitor plugins to access native device features.
- Community and plugins: A strong community and extensive library of plugins make it easy to extend Ionic apps with additional functionality.
- Additional services for enterprises: Ionic offers additional paid services for enterprises, including dedicated support, its dedicated CI/CD platform, or several proprietary tools for Ionic that support biometrics, encrypted storage, or SSO.
Developed by JetBrains, Kotlin Multiplatform is a versatile cross-platform framework that enables the writing of shared Kotlin code, compilable for Android, iOS, web, desktop, and server-side applications.
Since its introduction in 2017, it has been making significant headway in the mobile development sphere. Officially declared stable and production-ready as of November 1, 2023, Kotlin Multiplatform, while not as widespread as Flutter or React Native, has secured substantial backing from industry giants, including Google, McDonald’s, and Netflix.
Google’s endorsement extends beyond support to active utilization within its Android libraries and a comprehensive plan to migrate its Google Workspace suite—including Drive, Docs, and Gmail—to Kotlin Multiplatform, underscoring its commitment to the framework.
Programming language: Kotlin is the primary language used in Kotlin Multiplatform, known for its conciseness, safety, and interoperability with Java.
Apps made with Kotlin Multiplatform:
While Kotlin Multiplatform is relatively newer compared to some other frameworks, it has gained attention from various significant companies such as:
- Full access to platform-specific APIs and libraries: Kotlin Multiplatform is not limited to packages like other cross-platform app development frameworks. Developers are free to use any native technology and combine it with the Kotlin Multiplatform module. This works great for applications that rely heavily on native solutions like AR.
- Shared codebase: Kotlin Multiplatform enables the development of shared code across platforms, minimizing duplication and maintenance efforts.
- Native UI: Unlike some other cross-platform frameworks, Kotlin Multiplatform doesn’t abstract the UI layer completely. Instead, it allows for platform-specific UI implementations. Thus, the latest UI frameworks, such as SwiftUI and Jetpack Compose, can be utilized.
- Interoperability: Shared Kotlin code can be seamlessly integrated with existing Android and iOS applications.
- Full potential of Kotlin language: Kotlin is multiplatform by default, so you can use all its features while building cross-platform projects, including strong typing, null safety, coroutines and many more.
- Growing ecosystem: The Kotlin Multiplatform ecosystem is expanding, with increasing library support and community contributions
How do you choose the right cross-platform app development framework for your project?
When embarking on app development, selecting the right cross-platform framework can be pivotal to your project’s success. Currently, Flutter leads the pack in this category, with React Native close behind, but they are not the only options. Each framework possesses unique strengths worth exploring. Let’s see what they are.
- Quickly create prototypes or MVPs from scratch.
- Ideal for custom UIs that require consistency across platforms, with extensive customization and animation options – Flutter offers large customization options, extensive animations and much more.
- A good fit for startups looking to go to market quickly with distinctive apps.
- A great solution to reduce costs in your existing app by rewriting it to Flutter.
- Effective for building prototypes or MVPs.
- Great for consistent, custom UIs across platforms.
- Beneficial for startups looking to get to market quickly.
The go-to choice when developing a mobile app that aligns with a web application. It enables seamless integration using your preferred framework (Angular, React, Vue), ensuring that the mobile app mirrors the web app’s functionality and user experience. Ionic is particularly adept at translating web app features into a mobile-optimized format.
- Ideal for applications that require platform-specific UI/UX.
- Suitable for long-term projects in large enterprises.
- Ideal for reducing costs in existing applications.
- Best for apps that rely heavily on native APIs and libraries, such as camera features, AR, or payment systems.
- Ideal for scenarios where size and performance are key, offering native app efficiency. It’s particularly suitable for large-scale projects or applications targeting emerging markets.
Pros and cons of using cross-platform development frameworks
Like any solution, multiplatform frameworks have their pros and cons. Here’s a list of the ones you should pay the most attention to.
Benefits of cross-platform app development frameworks
- Wider reach: With a single codebase, your app can run on multiple platforms, significantly expanding your potential user base.
- Cost-effective: Save on development and maintenance costs by avoiding separate builds for each platform.
- Consistency in UI/UX: Ensure a uniform experience across all platforms, which can strengthen brand identity and user satisfaction.
- Faster development time: Reuse code across platforms to speed up the development process and get to market quicker.
- Simplified deployment: Streamline the process of updating and deploying your app, making it easier to manage.
- Unified maintenance: Maintenance becomes more manageable with a single codebase, reducing the need for parallel updates and cutting costs.
- Vibrant community support: Benefit from the extensive resources, tools, and community expertise available for popular frameworks.
Challenges in cross-platform app development frameworks:
- Performance overhead: Generally speaking, a native app might edge out a cross-platform counterpart in speed if both share identical features, simply due to its direct integration with the operating system. Yet it’s worth noting that, for most applications, this performance gap is often minimal, ensuring that cross-platform apps remain competitive in terms of speed and efficiency.
- Platform-specific limitations: Some native functionalities can be challenging to implement, potentially leading to compromises in feature sets. However, to overcome this challenge, you can integrate native modules by writing platform-specific code (Java/Kotlin for Android, Swift/Objective-C for iOS) for unsupported features. In addition, you can use third-party libraries and plug-ins to fill feature gaps and increase feature compatibility across platforms. These tools, often developed by the community or officially provided, are essential to improving the overall feature set across platforms.
- Delayed access to new features: When it comes to incorporating the latest platform-specific features, cross-platform apps require a strategic approach. The interval between a new feature’s release by platform giants like Google or Apple and its adoption into cross-platform frameworks is a testament to the careful integration and testing aimed at maintaining app integrity across ecosystems. This ensures that, when new updates are rolled out, they’re not just fast but also fully optimized for a cross-platform environment.
Read also: Pros and Cons of Flutter App Development
The future of cross-platform app development
The landscape of cross-platform solutions is dynamic, with new contenders emerging and others fading away. For example, Microsoft plans to end support for Xamarin, its multiplatform framework, on 1 May 2024, marking the end of an era for a once-popular tool. In contrast, Kotlin Multiplatform is showing potential, even if it’s not as widely adopted. It has already gained recognition from some industry giants, making its growth trajectory one to watch.
For the time being, however, Flutter maintains its lead, a position it has consolidated over the past few years. With strong support from Google and the Flutter community, we can be sure that it will continue to grow and influence the app development world over the next few years. Here is a comment from our co-founder and specialist in cross-platform application development:
Cross-platform development, mainly thanks to Flutter, will likely dominate mobile development in the near future and app development in general in the long term. Here are a few reasons: Flutter’s “code once, run anywhere” philosophy lets companies use a single codebase and team to quickly release apps for a broad market. The ability to reach iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and web browser users with its service right away will be a solid competitive advantage and a source of even faster growth for the companies in the coming quarters.
Cross-platform development is a dream come true for entrepreneurs to simultaneously deliver a unified customer experience to people who need it and are just waiting for the opportunity to pay and use it. The problem of wanting to create applications for more systems in a simple and easily manageable way seems to have finally been solved.
Cross-platform app development with Droids On Roids
Building multi-platform apps is our specialization. We keep the focus on creating market-winning and robust applications using Flutter – a top cross-platform app development framework. Our expertise is reflected in a wide portfolio of successful projects, where Flutter has helped our clients deliver seamless products and elevate their businesses. Feel welcome to browse through our portfolio and case studies to witness the transformative impact of our work. If you’re looking to streamline your app development journey, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Our team is ready to bring your vision to life with precision and innovation.
Wrap-up and takeaways
- Cross-platform app development frameworks are an essential part of modern software development, enabling the creation of applications that work seamlessly across multiple operating systems. These frameworks facilitate cross-platform mobile development by enabling developers to use a single codebase for both iOS and Android, streamlining the whole process.
- Native app development offers platform-specific optimization but is more costly and time-consuming, while cross-platform development is cost-efficient and quicker, using one codebase for multiple platforms, but with some limitations in optimization and platform-specific features. However, the choice depends on your project requirements and budget.
- Among the leading cross-platform frameworks are Flutter, React Native, Kotlin Multiplatform, and Ionic, each providing distinct advantages. The choice of the most suitable framework for your project hinges on specific project needs and the expertise of your development team.
- The demand for agile app development is increasing cross-platform development’s popularity, thanks to its speed and efficiency. Advancements in frameworks like Flutter and React Native are enhancing performance and user experience, making them competitive with native apps. Additionally, these frameworks are increasingly integrating advanced technologies like AI and IoT, leading to more sophisticated, feature-rich applications.
- Cross-platform app development frameworks provide substantial advantages for App Owners, notably in reducing development and maintenance costs for their digital products. Additionally, this strategy shortens the time to market and, when transitioning from a native to a cross-platform solution, can expand an app’s reach to a broader audience, further reducing costs.