Best Cross-platform App Development Tools in 2021

As technology trends come and go, developers are always looking for new tools and frameworks that promise to help them bring products to life faster. It doesn't matter whether you're a pro developer or just a beginner; you’re probably searching for app development tools that accelerate the development process and make you write as little code as possible.

 According to Statista, 83% of businesses today launch apps in the Google Play Store, and 59% of companies develop Apple App Store applications. The Android and iOS operating systems are leaders in the mobile development scene today.

However, developing a native Android and iOS application can be costly. That's why more and more companies consider cross-platform mobile app development solutions. They’re here to help developers accelerate the process by using a single code base, implement testing quickly, and target more significant sections of the market by developing for both Android and iOS at the same time.

 So, which cross-platform tools should you consider exploring in 2021? Continue reading to find out. 

 

Table of contents:

  1. React Native
  2. Flutter
  3. Xamarin
  4. Other tools

React Native

A top choice among cross-platform frameworks, React Native was launched by Facebook in 2015 and quickly gained appreciation among developers working with JavaScript. React Native is based on JavaScript and offers an excellent toolset to develop enterprise-level applications.

According to Statista, 42% of developers considered developing applications with React Native because it allows writing modules in major native languages that include Java, Swift, Objective-C, Python, and C++. In addition, designing an app with React Native is faster and more comfortable for developers since it's an open-source framework and allows reusing the codebase during app development.

Popular applications built with React Native: Facebook, Walmart, Bloomberg, Instagram. 

Pros of React Native

  • It helps to speed up the development process because developers can create applications for two platforms using only one codebase. This saves both time and money.
  • React Native is surrounded by a large community that offers plenty of support and learning materials.
  • React Native has a set of components that simply know how to display the app on a given platform.
  • It allows developers to focus on building applications without going into the details of each platform. As a result, the process of building apps is far more stable and tolerant of discrepancies between platforms (differences may arise when you're dealing with two separate code bases).
  • React Native offers a rich ecosystem of tools, libraries, and packages. And many of them are used strictly for cross-platform programming.
  • React Native is equipped with mechanisms that allow easy integration with an already existing native application.

Cons of React Native

  • React Native is a cross-platform technology, not a native solution. This means that the framework creates communication mechanisms between JavaScript and the native world. That's why applications built with React Native might be slower when compared to native applications.
  • React Native supports only the basic components out-of-the-box. And many of them are adaptive to a given platform out-of-the-box (think buttons, loading indicators, sliders).
  • Apps built with React Native might end up larger than native ones.
  • React Native offers weaker support for Android.

Flutter 

Created by Google in 2018, Flutter is currently the most popular cross-platform technology next to React Native. It comes with a completely different rendering approach that allows developers to run the development process very quickly. Moreover, it supports native out-of-the-box design for both Android and iOS. Flutter is based on the Dart language, which is less popular than JavaScript - this means that you're also dealing with a smaller number of libraries and smaller community than React Native.

Popular apps built with Flutter: Google Ads, Xianyu app (from Alibaba), Hamilton app (created for the Broadway show). 

Pros of Flutter

  • It helps developers write code much faster.
  • It includes hot reload, which means that the changes applied to the code can be seen right away. This helps to fix bugs faster.
  • Developers get one codebase for two applications that cover the Android and iOS platforms.
  • The Quality Assurance process is faster as well because of a single codebase. This means developers can write automated tests easily while developing the app.
  • Flutter allows building high-performing applications that offer an excellent user experience thanks to unique design and widgets. You can easily create your own widgets or customize the existing ones to give your app an attractive look.
  • Moreover, Flutter delivers the same UI on all devices, so you don't have to worry about how the end-users will see your app.

Cons of Flutter

  • Flutter is still in the early years of its development. As a result, it's surrounded by a much smaller community than React Native.
  • It also doesn’t have a rich ecosystem of tools and libraries.
  • The support for continuous integration might be problematic.

Xamarin 

The oldest framework we mentioned in this article, Xamarin, is based on Microsoft’s technology - the .NET framework - and the C# programming language. When developing mobile apps with Xamarin, developers can share 75% of the source code when building for iOS and Android.

Popular apps built with Xamarin: Microsoft Azure, Microsoft News, Alaska Airlines. 

Pros of Xamarin

  • Developers can easily build applications without compromising on their quality. They can take advantage of Xamarin to build native apps that use platform-specific APIs and hardware features with native user interfaces.
  • Xamarin also brings you time savings. It streamlines development tasks and enables rapid prototyping so that you can save a lot of time in the development process.
  • Maintenance and updates are simpler in Xamarin.
  • An excellent technology for delivering fast results.

Cons of Xamarin

  • Xamarin is free for small organizations and individuals, but large enterprises need to invest in Microsoft’s Visual Studio license that can be quite expensive.
  • Xamarin doesn't work well for applications with heavy graphics, and every operating system has its way of visualizing content.

Other cross-platform development tools you should know 

1. Ionic

Ionic is surrounded by a strong community and many libraries for native components. Developers can use it to build high-performing applications for Android and iOS. More and more teams are using Ionic to build progressive web applications too. Some popular use cases include MarketWatch and McDonald's. 

2. Apache Cordova

Just like React Native and Flutter, Apache Cordova is an open-source mobile development framework that allows building apps for multiple operating systems. It uses HTML 5, CSS, and JavaScript for development so developers can submit their applications to any mobile operating system.

You can quickly create applications with a lot of features thanks to standard web technologies and plugins. It's owned by Adobe and currently used by 157 companies. Apache Cordova gives developers access to native resources such as messages, geolocation, network, and much more. It’s a cost-effective technology that takes advantage of native features. Major use cases include Walmart, JustWatch, and Buildr. 

3. Solar2D (previously Corona SDK) 

Solar2D is a free cross-platform framework that developers use to build gaming apps that require high-quality graphics. It's a cross-platform framework that simplifies the development of gaming apps for mobile, desktop, and TV devices. The framework is friendly to both beginners and pros. 

4. Appcelerator

Appcelerator is a rapid prototyping tool that allows developers to get a solution to the market faster. Appcelerator has recently become a common choice for cross-platform development. It allows building native apps much faster than other technologies.

It also provides access to different API service features via Hyperloop that enables developers to use the APIs of iOS and Android with JavaScript directly. Teams can reuse 90% of the code across platforms to make the process faster. Major use cases include The Body Shop and Comerica Bank. 

 

Conclusion 

We hope that this list helps you decide which cross-platform technologies are worth pursuing in 2021. 

Are you planning to learn one of them this year? Did we forget to mention any frameworks or SDKs? Which one are you going to use in your next project? Share your thoughts in the comments section – we look forward to starting a conversation about cross-platform tools critical to the growth of the mobile development landscape.

And if you’re a mobile developer on the lookout for new job opportunities - we’ve got plenty of exciting roles open. Feel free to check out our Codete career page >