So the question I want to answer in this post is this:
- 1 The Mobile Platform
- 3 History of smartphones
- 4 Programming languages for mobile app development
- 5 Pros and cons of cross-platform frameworks
- 7 Bonus Section – Flutter
- 8 Conclusion
The Mobile Platform
The mobile platform is one of the fastest growing platforms. Since the introduction of smartphones, the industry has changed revolutionarily.
Smartphones offer tremendous flexibility and usability in more than just a fixed set of tasks. Now, you can use your smartphone for performing almost everything, including using it as your main computer! Unless, of course, you need to edit a 4K 60 FPS video or working with a heavy load workload like AutoCAD. That’s something a mobile can’t handle, not yet.
Jokes aside, the point is, nowadays, the smartphones are capable of performing almost every single task that a normal computer can do. You can browse the internet, you can chat with your friends, share images, videos and other contents, capture your memorable moments in an ever-lasting frame, and play games and what not! Moreover, you also get the traditional features like sending SMS, calling your friend instantly and others.
Keeping the power of smart devices in mind, the development focus of the world has shifted dramatically towards the mobile platform. Now, any online service will focus on the mobile platform the most. Smartphones are everywhere and from a business’s perspective, that’s completely reasonable. Because everyone is now using smartphones, the mobile platform is the fastest way to reach more people in a fast and efficient manner.
History of smartphones
At first, let’s take a look at the mobile platform (the smartphones, to be honest). The smartphone platform has come a really LONG way since its debut about 27 years ago. It’s an evolution that took over the market by storm!
Interestingly, the first smartphone developer wasn’t Google or Apple, or Nokia, Motorola or any famous brand. The world’s first smartphone was developed by IBM and released back in 1992. With features equivalent to the current “modern” age, it was surely a marvelous achievement. At that time, it held revolutionary capabilities other than its preceding cell phones. The device included many of the modern-day smartphone features, for example,
- Touch screen
- Apps and widgets
At that time, it was a bold move. Unfortunately, it was way ahead of its time and people didn’t jump on board.
Next came BlackBerry into the field. The first BlackBerry device was BlackBerry 5810 with all the classic “BlackBerry” features –
- Full keyboard
- Internet access
Yet, you were forced to call through a headset. The primary target of the BlackBerry back then was the business professionals. With more and more investment in advanced devices, BlackBerry soon earned the title of the “mainstream” smartphone brand.
It didn’t take time to change the picture. Apple was already on the field of portable devices, starting with the iPod. Once the stage was ready, Apple unveiled its next big step in the market with its flagship iPhones.
iPhone was one of the most advanced consumer products to date. Priced $499 for 4GB and $599 for the 8GB model, people simply flooded the stores. In the first year of the release, Apple sold more than 1.4 million iPhones in the market. In 2008, the number boomed to 11.6 million!
Compared to the old, classic smartphones, modern smartphones are way more “modern” in every sense. For example,
- Comes with higher memory
- Powerful and faster hardware with optimized smart OS
- HD camera
- Easier multitasking
- Easier video and audio streaming
- Smartphone games are very enjoyable
- Higher battery backup
Since the path of evolution, 2 major operating system emerged in the market – Android from Google and iOS from Apple. Both came with their own pros and cons.
Android is an open-source solution from Google. Since Android is open-source, manufacturers are free to use Android on their devices free of cost. Moreover, manufacturers also enjoy the freedom of customizing the default code into their own. With regular updates and performance improvements, Android is now the leading operating system for the smartphone market. Due to its flexibility and customizability, the Google Play Store contains billions of apps with millions of new apps published on a regular basis!
You don’t have to take my word for it. Check out the current condition on GlobalStats StatCounter.
On the other hand, we got iOS from Apple. It’s Apple’s proprietary software that’s only used for Apple smartphones (mobiles, tablets, and other gadgets). iOS isn’t that much flexibility in terms of customizability and others. However, it’s tighter on security with a number of tweaks and limitations on how the user should use the platform.
Programming languages for mobile app development
With the emerging market of the mobile platform, it’s obviously a necessary thing to have a powerful mean to develop apps that will run on these platforms without any issue. Android uses Java, Kotlin for creating its native apps. If you’re willing to develop an iOS app, then you have to use Objective-C and Swift.
Then, how about the mobile platform? Well, let’s check them out as well. For mobile app development, there are already some great frameworks and tools. For example, Apache Cordova, NativeScript, Ionic, React Native, etc. All of them are full-fledged frameworks. You can also build apps for both Android and iOS. Need the app for other platforms? They got you covered!
Before jumping into the list, it’s important to note the difference between a “web app” and “native app”. In the case of web apps, there’s a small native client that connects with the web for enabling direct access to a certain web service. Because of their nature, they’re more known by the term “hybrid apps”.
Apache Software Foundation is a well-known and reputed brand for all it’s open-source and powerful Apache software. You’ll find various Apache apps everywhere – servers, desktop apps and now, even mobiles!
Ionic is a powerful platform for building hybrid mobile apps. Originally developed by Max Lynch, Adam Bradley and Ben Sperry of Drifty Co. in 2013. Ionic is an open-source SDK that’s built on top of the Angular and Apache Cordova.
Ionic doesn’t target building native mobile apps like React Native or NativeScript. Instead, you get to develop powerful web apps for mobile, or, hybrid apps. For accessing OS features like GPS, camera, and flashlight etc. Ionic implements the Cordova plugins. You can easily customize the apps according to the target platform – Android, iOS, Windows and any modern browser.
Now, for the performance, don’t expect to match the power of NATIVE apps. However, with clever optimizations and tweaks, Ionic offers dramatic performance improvements, unlike traditional hybrid apps. Ionic depends on the hardware acceleration for providing the result extensively, especially GPU acceleration for doing all the CSS transitions and animations.
React Native is based on the React library developed by Facebook. While React is targeting the web front-end, React Native is targeting the mobile.
React is the most popular front-end library at this moment. With React Native, the popularity is very high and is still trending with future updates.
Next on the list is NativeScript. NativeScript is one of the finest frameworks for developing mobile apps using web technologies. Like React Native it allows developing high-performance mobile apps for both Android and iOS using web technologies.
In addition, NativeScript is free and open-source (Apache 2 licensed). You don’t have to learn any additional programming language. Put your web development skills into work to build native apps for both Android and iOS with NativeScript!
How does it work? The following demonstration shows it with 100% precision.
Pros and cons of cross-platform frameworks
However, they are not without their drawbacks. Let’s check them out as well.
There are tremendous benefits for such app development frameworks. The flexibility of coding is extremely beneficial for any mobile app developer. All you need to do is develop your program using the web techs once. Then, tell the compiler/framework to build an Android/iOS app. In the case of any future patch/update, all you need is modify the code once. No need to check out all the thousands of lines of codes for every single platform.
With so many frameworks at hand, it’s really a tough place to get started. Fortunately, there are numerous resources online that you will be enjoying for free to become a master app developer! Of course, there are some really good paid training courses that are worth the investment.
Now, for the paid tutorials, I’ll be linking the popular tutorials available on Udemy.
- The Web Developer Bootcamp
- The Complete Web Developer Course 2.0
- Build Responsive Website Using HTML5, CSS3, JS And Bootstrap
- React Native
Bonus Section – Flutter
There is also a cross-platform mobile development framework from Google called Flutter. I just want to mention this before concluding with the article.
Flutter is an open-source mobile app SDK from Google. The target is using the web techs for crafting high-quality apps with the native-like performance for both Android and iOS in record time.
Just like Cordova, Flutter also follows the “one code base” motto. Essentially, all you need is develop the app the way you like; no platform constrictions. No need to craft Android and iOS apps separately when Flutter can take care of it. That’s why I find developing mobile apps using Flutter more engaging and intuitive. As it’s from Google, Flutter uses Google’s trademark Material Design for the UI. A good UI is also a major part for any mobile app and Flutter takes care of that effortlessly. Material Design is highly appreciated in the community for a nice, attractive UI. That’s a bonus for Flutter.
Well, how about the performance? A major concern for apps developed using web technologies require an intermediate layer to connect with the OS. This can decrease the performance in lots of cases. Flutter takes care of that very easily. By taking care of all the critical functions like scrolling, navigation, fonts, and icons, Flutter improves performance dramatically. In normal eyes, you won’t even be able to tell the difference.
Flutter learning resources:
- Learn Flutter & Dart to Build iOS & Android Apps
- Flutter & Dart – The Complete Flutter App Development Course
- Flutter – Beginners Course
- Flutter – Intermediate
- Flutter – Advanced Course
Start learning the frameworks today and enjoy being a master mobile app developer right away!