It will not be wrong to call our mobile phones as “saviors’ because they actually are. From shopping to security, enterprise to consumer, and marketing to gaming applications, we are becoming increasingly dependent on our mobile devices that include iPhone, Android, tablets, Windows Phones, BlackBerry Phones and several other handheld devices that are facilitating our daily lives. Keeping in mind the demand of an end user, one cannot expect developers and development companies to stick to native application development for all types of projects. Therefore, cross-platform mobile application development is the biggest need of the hour.

Cross Platform Mobile App Development methodologies have facilitated the development of applications that run seamlessly across multiple mobile platforms. In short, you get to see the following types of applications running on each mobile platform just the way a native app would, with a single executable file and a single code:

  1. iPhone Applications (Objective-C development for native apps)
  2. iPad Applications
  3. Android Applications (Java development for native apps)
  4. BlackBerry Applications
  5. Windows Applications (.NET development for native apps)
  6. Symbian Applications
  7. Facebook Applications

Cross platform mobile app development answers all big concerns that a developer may have, such as:

  • How to develop one app that runs on multiple platforms without tweaking the code for each native version
  • How to avoid continuous revisions of applications on every platform
  • Version Control without losing track of applied updates
  • Develop cost-effective smartphone solutions
  • Maximum utilization of resources in terms of expertise and time consumption

The next concern would be about using the correct cross-platform mobile development tool and technology. What is Tool A offering in comparison to Tool B? Which technology suits a particular project and why?

Cross Platform Mobile App Development Frameworks Comparison

Now that we’ve talked about the benefits of cross-platform mobile app development, the next step is to educate our readers on the best tools available to develop flexible mobile applications with seamless compatibility.

1. PhoneGap (Apache Cordova)

This is an open source, award-winning platform that enables developers to create mobile applications compatible with Android, iPhone, iPad, Palm, BlackBerry, and Symbian. This framework is based on simple technologies like CSS3, HTML, and JavaScript. The overall efficiency is further enhanced as it provides free access to hardware components like GPS tracker, Accelerometer, and the device camera. This is the most famous platform especially among the beginners, due to being in use for a large number of apps being used by around 2 billion Android and iOS users.

2. Sencha Touch

This is an HTML5 based cross-platform framework that provides fully functional APIs and offers a component based approach for building mobile applications. The latest release is Sencha Touch 2.4 which has empowered developers to build powerful applications that run on iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone, along with advanced BlackBerry components for BlackBerry 10, Q5 and Q10 devices. Moreover, this framework makes application performance faster and more responsive, while creating unparalleled user experiences.

3. MonoSync

This framework supports C and C++, PHP, Java, JavaScript, Python, and ROR. The ideal characteristic of this framework is that it allows the native mobile applications to be transformed for other platforms including Symbian, Linux Mobile, iOS, Android, iPad, and Windows Phone platforms without any complications.

4. Appcelerator

This is an SDK (Software Development Kit) that is used for the development of native and hybrid mobile applications while using a single codebase. This platform enables developers to mobilize all types of data sources while enabling faster application testing due to its live prototyping and fully optimized code.

5. Corona

Again, an SDK that uses Lua along with C++ and OPenGL, it enables cross platform mobile applications development with one code, while building the application to iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, and NOOK.

6. Adobe AIR

A perfect framework to build cross-functional apps for Android, iOS, BlackBerry Tablet OS platforms. Applications with in-app billing, push notifications and browser based games are built quite commonly using this platform.

7. Xamarin

This should rather be referred to as an advanced and versatile framework mostly used by remotely operated development companies. Xmarin is a C# based platform that enables users to call the native APIs in the resulting mobile applications. The code is executed on a .NET framework at the runtime, while giving a native dialect of either iOS or Android.

8. RhoMobile

This is an integrated framework based on ROR, while enabling developers to create apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian, and RIM with several add-on features.

9. jQuery Mobile

This is also a very famous cross-platform mobile app development framework used to create websites that mimic the iOS look and feel. This framework also enables developers to use Windows UI and Windows Phone specific features.

10. Unity 3

Unity platform is a powerful development platform best for creating multi-platform 3D and 2D games as well as interactive experiences. It’s a comprehensive ecosystem that anyone can use who wants to create high-end content and connect with their enthusiastic and loyal players and customers.

11. Adobe Flex

Adobe Flex is an open source application framework that is best for creating and keeping expressive web apps that install on all major browsers, desktops, and devices. This programming language has a model that is suitable for developers of various backgrounds.

% of developers using each tool

Cross Platform Mobile App Development Through Visual Studio

A developer’s biggest goal is to develop a cost-effective application or game that reaches the target audience on multiple mobile platforms (cross-platform enabled) in the shortest possible time. On the other hand, end-user is looking for feature-rich apps including animations, special effects, and several other intricate features. In short, they require an all-in-one app that is capable of handling the entire functionality in case of a business app and provides great enjoyment in case it is a gaming or entertainment application.

Great news for both the developer and end user is that Visual Studio 2013 Update 5 is now available and empowers cross platform mobile app development with advanced tools for Windows Phone 8.1, Universal Windows apps and several other new features. Applications can now be built for a multi-device environment while using the technology of choice that includes JavaScripting, C++ or .NET

Visual Studio in Combination with Apache Cordova

The latest release of Visual Studio offers tools for cross-platform mobile app development, especially for Apache Cordova. Visual Studio together with Apache Cordova serves to be the perfect combination for developing hybrid apps that are supported by multiple mobile platforms including iOS, Android and Windows Phone while using a single project based on JavaScript and HTML.

Why Combine Apache Cordova and Visual Studio?

1- Apache Cordova comprises of entire device’s APIs required for accessing the device’s native functions including camera, GPS, and Accelerometer from JavaScript. Therefore, developers do not need to explore more or acquire more training; they can simply use the existing HTML and JavaScript knowledge to create cross-platform apps.

2- The tools offered by Visual Studio cover end-to-end development of cross-platform mobile applications.

3- Project Templates are available in multiple formats including JavaScript and TypeScript, while enabling developers to pick the framework of their choice such as Jquery UI, Angular.JS, WinJS, and BootStrap.

4- The developed applications can run on several devices, emulators, and web-based mobile simulators. By installing vsmda-remote npm package on Mac, you can start your app on the iOS Simulator directly from Visual Studio.