April 4th, 2014

The only mobile app cross-platform solution that works

Are you planning on developing a mobile app across multiple platforms OS such as iPhone, Android and Windows Phone? As a part of this are you considering a cross platform solution such as Titanium, Antenna, Kony or similar? Then hopefully this blog will help you.

What is the best way of developing one app on multiple platforms without necessarily tweaking code for each native?

Over the past 8 years we’ve developed well over 1000 mobile apps and mobile websites. We’ve used pretty much every platform and standard there is including native across all platforms (iOS, Android, Blackberry, J2ME, Symbian, WebOS, Bada, Tizen, Windows Phone), Hybrids based on web technology (Phonegap/Cordova and Sencha), Cross platform tools (Unity, RhoMobile, MoSync, Kony, Corona, Xamarin and Appcelerator) and others such as Adobe AIR, Worklight and SAP Mobile. We even built our own cross platform tool called Tino Mobile.

All have their pros and cons but in the end we’ve come to one conclusion. The only cross platform solution that works for a majority of developers is web app development with PhoneGap as an app wrapper. Here’s why and how.

Cross-platform tools

The purpose of most cross-platform tools is to enable developers write a single codebase for apps that can eventually be built, downloaded and run across different operating systems. True cross-platform tools use one code base to generate native code across the different platforms. Xamarin uses c# to build cross platform application, while Appcelerator only uses JavaScript and not HTML or CSS.

Why does this not work?

It does work for some developers but not for most. The reason is that there is still substantial effort required to optimise the user interface for each platform and the user experience is never as good as native development. Despite this, the development effort is almost as great as native app development if you want to create a decent user experience. In addition to this, you are faced with the cross-platform struggle to keep up with the native platform roadmap. Appcelerator for example won’t support Windows Phone 8 until earliest end of 2014.

Web hybrids

Hybrid apps basically run web code in webview but allow the developer to add native plug-ins. With PhoneGap, developers write their mobile applications using HTML, JavaScript and CSS. These assets run in a “WebView” inside a native application container on the target platform.

Why does this work?

This is by no means a perfect solution but it’s a good compromise in terms of effort, user experience, functionality and maintainability for developers that don’t have the skills or budget for native development. Every company needs a good cross-device web experience so why not leverage this to distribute your service across the appstores as well? Phonegap doesn’t promise a native experience and the performance is slower than native and some of the cross-platform tools, but it does offer the most viable option.

Conclusion

In conclusion, our recommendation to clients that require an app is to either

A) develop native apps per platform required or

B) develop a HTML5 app or responsive design website and wrap with Phonegap, adding any additional native functionality required.

There is no one size fits all, so many of the cross-platform tools still have a place for developers, but for us there is only one cross-platform solution that works and that’s Phonegap.

For more information about our experience across each of the platforms please e-mail or call us and in the meantime, good luck!

 

 

Tags: App development hybrid apps

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