In the digital era, where one is almost always online, mobile has become an integral part of life, both personally and professionally. Today’s consumers prefer to interact with their smartphones and tablets, whether for banking transactions, for travel or leisure bookings, to control appliances, or to keep tabs on their health parameters. By 2021, the number of smartphone users will reach 3.8 billion worldwide. Mobile app revenue will reach $693 billion, increasing to almost $1 trillion by 2023.

Over the last decade, as mobile applications have grown in terms of functionality, user interface, and complexity, the average daily time spent on the internet on mobile devices has also increased. By 2021 we will spend more than 2.5 hours per day on our mobile devices. It is hardly surprising that so many companies are focusing more on mobile-first or mobile-only strategies. Choosing the right mobile strategy/platform has become a critical decision. In this article, we will discuss different mobile application development strategies and platforms available in the market and where they stand in 2020.

Hybrid Apps (Hybrid Web)

A hybrid app is bundled in a native application but run on its own browser within the app, trying to mimic the look and feel of native components. Essentially, these are web apps for mobile. Hybrid apps are created using web technologies such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Adobe PhoneGap and Ionic are widely used frameworks for hybrid app developments. Some other hybrid app development frameworks worth mentioning are Framework7, Monaca, and JQuery.

Hybrid apps are best suited for quick prototyping or when the app does not require much computing power. Hybrid app development is also popular among developers who want to use the same codebase for mobile and desktop applications.

JavaScript-based Native Apps

Also referred to as hybrid native apps, these apps are created using JavaScript-based frameworks. Applications built with these frameworks render native components, providing users an experience close to the native application.

ReactNative is the prominent player in this space due to its wide adoption, code sharing capabilities, community support and, of course, due to ReactJS being the top web framework. Potential downsides can include lag as the tool uses a bridge to communicate with native platforms. Facebook is increasingly investing in overcoming current ReactNative limitations, improving the architecture, and developing a single codebase for mobile and web – watch this space. Other popular frameworks include Titanium, NativeScript, and Vue-Native.

Cross-compiled Apps

Apps that are written in other languages and compiled natively for a specific mobile platform are called cross-compiled apps. These mobile development platforms try to overcome limitations faced by other non-native platforms and still achieve the same code – across multiple platforms. Xamarin has dominated this space, but now faces fierce competition from Flutter.

Flutter has been designed to create beautiful interactive client apps. It is a Dart language designed for client-side apps. It comes with its own set of components for iOS (Cupertino widgets) and Android (Material design). There is also Flutter for the web on their roadmap.

Native Apps

Native apps are developed using the native development environment and platforms, meaning any platform-specific changes are easier to implement. Native apps are the best performing apps among all available development options. In recent times, cross-platform development frameworks have matured and gradually become more stable. Native app development has declined as a result, specifically in new app development. On the other hand, Apple and Google are adding new features into iOS and Android, making an increasingly strong case for native development, especially if newly added features are core to your product.

PWAs (Progressive Web Apps)

These are indeed web apps that can do the job of mobile apps and can serve as an alternative to mobile apps. PWAs are gaining much attention due to the support provided by the mobile OS and the fact that you can easily convert an existing responsive web site into PWA. They are cheaper to build and are cross-platform, out-of-the-box solutions with the capability to access native features such as:

  • Camera
  • GPS
  • Local & Push notifications
  • Offline data access
  • Faster than website
  • No need to install them from AppStore/PlayStore (Google accepts PWAs on PlayStore though)

Although Steve Jobs promoted the concept of HTML/JS-based apps, Google coined the term PWA. Traditionally, PWA capabilities and support have been more available on Android as compared to iOS. On iOS, they are referred to as HTML5 apps or Home Screen WebApps. Although it has offered some support from the beginning, Apple started adding real support for PWAs in iOS 13 from last year.

Low Code Platforms

Low code platforms have gained more traction in recent times. These platforms allow mobile applications to be created via visual interface without writing code. Low code platforms are more suitable for internal and B2B applications, which are relatively simple and more focused on processes or workflows. Creating custom UI, animations, and overall user experience can be challenging. Major low code platforms include Appian, Outsystems, Appsheet, Mendix, PowerApps, and Salesforce AppCloud.

Tool Selection is Ultimately a Strategic Decision

In a mobile-first world, organizations are in the fortunate position of having plenty of choice when it comes to tooling up for their mobile app development. However, with so many options offering seemingly similar benefits and capabilities, the challenge is to select the right one. Organizations should evaluate platforms not just on their features but also how well they support their overall mobile development strategy. Selecting the right strategy depends on many factors. Some of the factors worth considering are:

  • What is your go-to-market time?
  • Are the product’s core features depend on device hardware functions?
  • How important is it for your app to support new features quickly?
  • What is the product road map and lifetime? Concept prototype vs. long term product.
  • Do you have an existing skillset? Is the team ready to adopt new technology?
  • Product complexity, the target audience, and long-term maintainability
  • A million-dollar trade-off: cost vs. time vs. reusability vs. experience

Infostretch has worked with many of the Fortune 100 companies in advancing their mobile development. Why not put us to the test with your most critical mobile development challenge? You can get in touch via the form below.

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