Cross-Platform Mobile App Development – Merits & Demerits

By | February 14, 2014
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Wouldn’t it be simply great for mobile app developers, if they did not have to worry about the specifications of the different smartphone platforms? Considering cross-platform mobile apps to be problem-free on all counts would be rather too naive though. We have here gauged the merits and demerits of such apps against a few relevant criteria.

If you feel that a smartphone is meant only for talking, texting, and maybe for surfing the web a bit – you are, for all purposes, living in the Stone Age. Mobile-users from across the world expect their handsets to serve as fast and efficient multitasking devices. This, in turn, brings to light the importance of mobile applications. With multiple mobile OS platforms being present, professional developers often face the dilemma of whether they should create native apps for each system, or go for cross-platform mobile app development. Let us here take you through some key advantages and disadvantages of the latter option:

 

  1. Ease of development – Apps with cross-platform compatibility features require only a single set of coding. That, in turn, makes the task of mobile application developers easier. If separate, customized versions have to be developed for Blackberry, iOS and Android platforms, risks of a coding error cropping up also becomes higher. Developing a cross-platform smartphone app is a quicker process too, ensuring that there are no delays in its deployment.

  2. Availability of app development tools – The tools and software supported by the different frameworks vary – and that can pose a problem for seamless cross-platform mobile app development. For instance, if an expert is involved in iPhone app development in India – (s)he won’t be able to use most of the tools that work for the Android platform. Of late, tools like Eclipse and PhoneGap have reduced this problem somewhat though.

  3. Security and cloud functionality – While high-end custom mobile applications are not ‘unsafe’ or anything, you do not need to worry about implementing separate security methods for the different versions, while creating a cross-platform app. The overall features and functionality of such an application in the cloud network are generally robust too. A wide range of enterprise features can be smoothly integrated in cross-platform applications.

  4. UI considerations – The key to the ultimate success or failure of a mobile app is its user-friendliness. This is the point where cross-platform app developers face the biggest challenge. Professionals from mobile application development companies have to be aware of the screen size, resolution, layout, and all other features of the popular handheld devices, powered by the different platforms. On the other hand, the design schemes for exclusive iOS or Android apps are more easily optimized.

  5. App speed – There remains a risk of cross-platform mobile apps being just a tad slower than those developed specifically for select frameworks. This generally happens since the umbrella code used for the app has to rendered properly by devices running on different OS. Users might also find that certain features of an app are not working on one platform, and are functioning okay on another.

  6. Help in brand-building – Let’s move away from the technical considerations for a moment. A cross-platform mobile application invariably has uniform display features (complete with logos, punch lines, symbols, etc.) on all the platforms – which helps in maintaining a continuity in the process of brand-building of a smartphone application development company. Customized mobile apps for different platforms can also be broadly similar, but such absolute syncing is almost impossible to achieve.

  7. App development costs – The mobile application development cost associated with most (if not all) cross-platform software is lower than the required expenses for native apps. This automatically enhances the financial viability of the former type of applications. What’s more – the code used for cross-platform mobile application development is mostly reusable, adding to the convenience of developers.

  8. App-upgradation – Yet another major disadvantage of relying solely on cross-platform mobile applications. New software systems are released and framework changes are announced by Google Android, Apple, Windows and the other platforms at regular intervals – and it becomes rather tough to keep tweaking the app code, so that it still remains properly functional on all the platforms. However, an expert from an iPhone app development company in India does not need to closely monitor all the Android and Blackberry updates, (s)he only has to upgrade his/her mobile applications according to the latest iOS updates.

  9. Reproduction of 3D app development graphics – There are a few tools (e.g., Unity) to ensure that the high-res graphics used in cross-platform applications are displayed correctly on all types of mobile devices. However, if the code includes the implementation of 3D features, the chances of it functioning properly on each development platform is extremely remote. Except for gaming apps, it is generally inadvisable to put 3D features in cross-platform apps.

  10. Linking to APIs – Both APIs and additional plugins are easy to access, through cross-platform smartphone apps. Mobile application developers only need to ensure that the linking has been done in an error-free manner, in the app’s source code. An efficient, platform-independent app can also call upon basic mobile resources (camera, voice/video recorder, GPS, etc.) without any hassles.

Most mobile platforms have unique vendor lock-in features, as a result of which reusability of app development codes takes a hit. Testing a single version of a mobile app is, on the other hand, quicker and way easier, than having to look for bugs in separately designed versions for the different platforms. With cross-platform mobile app development having several points going for and against it – there is no way of clearly recommending it, or advising developers to stay away of it. At the end of the day, the nature of the application that is being developed, and the target buyers, should determine whether you should go for a cross-platform app or not.

 

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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