Choosing Cross Platform Development Tool

It’s a good practice to share code across platforms in order to save the cost of development and maintenance. Apps on different platforms can have similar functionality, but the look and feel (i.e. UX) should be compliant with the platform. At the same time, the app should be able to use device specific features such as Touch ID on iPhone. From that perspective, it is important that the development tool has ability to share common code as much as possible, but also provide platform specific functionality and UX when required.

There are several tools available for cross platform development such as PhoneGap, Ionic, Titanium, Xamarin etc. They can be broadly classified in two categories, ones that run an app in a shell (e.g. PhoneGap, Ionic) and others that generate Native Code (e.g. Xamarin, Titanium).

In case of apps that run in a shell, the shell attempts to make controls appear like native controls for the platform. However, this does not exhibit a 100% native look and feel. When an app is run as bundled JavaScript, it is interpreted at the runtime rather than being run as binary code. This certainly leads to sluggishness in the app. These tools can be used when users are OK with generic UX and not many platform features are required. The cost of such tools is relatively low/free.

Tools that generate platform specific UX maintain the native look and feel of the platform. This gives a familiar UX to the users and reduces the learning curve. At the same time, the app delivers the performance of the binary code and avoids sluggishness. These tools come with a price tag.

Titanium generates native code from JavaScript. However, it lacks third party libraries. It has difficulty in developing complex applications. It can be good for small applications where developers are more comfortable with JavaScript than with C#.

Xamarin supports variety of design patterns. There are several third party libraries and plugins available for Xamarin (e.g. Telerik, Infragistics). Over the time, Xamarin has stayed current with trends in technology in each platform. So new features can be easily incorporated in the apps. The price tag associated with it provides good return on investment when accounted for developer productivity. This would be a good tool to build complex applications with a native look and feel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s