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Cross-platform App Development

What Is Cross-platform App Development?

Many businesses are venturing into mobile app development today. Apps are useful in various ways, from providing a secure shopping platform to delivering a service. It can help them generate revenue, build brand awareness, promote brand loyalty, and bring them more benefits. A customized app can be a worthwhile investment and bring meaningful ROI for businesses.

If you are planning to create an app to boost your business or develop a brand-new application that you believe has the potential to be as big as today’s most popular apps, you have to know about cross-platform app development and the advantages it can bring to your business. 

What Is Cross-platform Mobile App Development?

Cross-platform mobile app development is creating mobile apps that can function on different operating systems (OS). It is the opposite of native app development, which builds apps for a specific OS. If developers want to make an app for Apple phones, they have to code it for iOS; and if they want this app to be available to Samsung phone users, they have to redo the code for Android

Since cross-platform apps (also known as multi-platform apps) run identically across different platforms, they are more convenient to code and cost-effective to fund. 

When people talk about cross-platform app development, they usually mean apps that can operate on iOS and Android, the two most popular smartphone operating systems today. 

Examples of Cross-platform App Development Frameworks

To build a cross-platform app, developers must choose frameworks created for this purpose. These frameworks don’t use languages that are native to every OS. Instead, they repackage the code into native containers that can, in turn, communicate with their respective operating systems.

Here are the most popular app development frameworks used for coding mobile applications that run seamlessly on iOS and Android platforms using a single codebase:

  1. Flutter: Flutter is an open-source UI toolkit created by Google. This framework uses a special language called Dart and has different design options, which developers can further customize. With Flutter, devs can make appealing apps that work well on any device. Flutter is also known for being fast and reliable. It produces apps that don’t quickly slow down or suddenly stop working.
  1. React Native: This is another popular framework for cross-platform app development, this time created by Facebook. Renowned for its efficiency and code reusability, React Native employs a component-based architecture, enabling developers to make modular and reusable UI elements – a helpful feature for maintaining consistent design patterns throughout the app. Testing and debugging are quick and easy through this framework; developers can access extensive library support and pre-built components and modules. 
  1. Xamarin: Acquired by Microsoft, Xamarin produces native-like applications using the C# programming language. One major advantage of Xamarin is its integration with Visual Studio, a widely-used Integrated Development Environment (IDE). This integration streamlines the development process for developers familiar with Visual Studio, allowing them to build and test their mobile apps using a toolset they know. Another helpful feature is the Forms library, which simplifies the development of user interfaces (UIs) for cross-platform apps.
  1. Kotlin: Kotlin Multiplatform is a software development kit for coding iOS and Android apps. It can be integrated into existing projects. The best part is it allows developers to write platform-specific code. This means they can build native UI components while creating a cross-platform app. Kotlin is easy to use and offers lots of documentation and support from a fast-growing community of loyal developers.
  1. Ionic: This framework uses a mix of web and native technologies and uses JavaScript as its primary programming language. EA Games and T-Mobile are among the high-profile users of the Ionic framework. What’s great about this framework is that it is made specifically for mobile OS. It offers multiple UI elements and uses Cordova and Capacitor plugins, which provide access to a device’s built-in features like its camera, audio recorder, and GPS. Finally, it has a powerful IDE called Ionic Studio, which allows developers to build and prototype apps with minimal coding.

Other Types of App Development 

Knowing other app development approaches will help you understand cross-platform apps better. Let’s briefly review and compare them to cross-platform mobile app development.

  • Native mobile app development makes apps specifically for a particular operating system, like iOS or Android. Developers who create apps natively tailor the front-end and back-end specifically for their chosen OS and use programming languages specific to that OS.
  • Progressive web app development enhances mobile app features with web development solutions. As such, these apps can be accessed through web browsers on desktops, smartphones, and other mobile devices. However, these apps have limited functions on a web browser. Users will still have to download and install the app on their mobile devices to enjoy its functionality fully.
  • Hybrid app development is sometimes used interchangeably with cross-platform app development, but these two are different. Developers write the code for cross-platform apps once and reuse it for other platforms. However, for hybrid apps, they take code written with web development languages like CSS and HTML and embed it into native apps using plugins and frameworks that enable access to native functionalities. The embedded code can then be used for different operating systems, which makes hybrid apps similar to cross-platform apps.

Each type of app development has advantages and disadvantages, and they dictate which method a business should take in making their app. We’ll focus on the advantages and disadvantages of cross-platform app development.

The Pros and Cons of Native and Cross-platform App Development 

Let’s start with the benefits of cross-platform apps and development approach:


Cross-platform apps are convenient from users’ point of view because they are supported on all platforms, so they are likely available on all major mobile app marketplaces like Apple Store and Play Store. Users can download and install them no matter which manufacturer their smartphone and mobile devices are from. 


From a developer’s perspective, cross-platform development is the more practical choice because they only have to code once. It saves a lot of time and money compared to creating a native app for every platform where there’s a demand for the app. 

Fast to Launch

Releasing a cross-platform app means users won’t have to wait long for a version to become available on their OS, a common issue with native apps. There have been many cases where users had to wait months, even years, for a company to release a native version of an app. 

For example, when Instagram was first launched in October 2010, it was only available to Apple users. It wasn’t until two years later, in April 2012, that Instagram was finally available to download for Android users. Although Instagram grew to become the world’s most downloaded application, the company missed out on potential income during those two years when Android users couldn’t access the app. 

Easy to Maintain

One would think that maintaining a multi-platform app would be difficult, but it can be simpler than maintaining multiple native apps. Cross-platform frameworks are already programmed to handle platform-specific details, like how an OS processes user input data. The work is simplified, allowing developers to focus on other crucial aspects like user experience (UX) and aesthetics. 

Not being able to program the most minor details of how an app works in a specific OS is an advantage in maintenance because developers are less likely to face the common development pitfalls on every platform. 


Users can have a more consistent experience with cross-platform apps regardless of which OS they use. Suppose a user has an iOS and Android phone and sometimes has to switch between these two devices. Their experience using the app through their iPhone won’t be too different when using their Galaxy. This is advantageous for businesses that target users of both (and other) platforms.

Now let’s discuss the areas in which the other approaches are better and how some of the advantages above have a catch:

Native Apps Perform Better

Cross-platform apps function well enough on any OS that can support it. However, since this approach focuses on common parameters across all platforms, developers may have to sacrifice some functionalities unique to an operating system. As a result, cross-platform apps can’t be too complex or developers will risk it working exceptionally well on one OS but performing terribly on another. The imbalance in performance across operating systems won’t win over users and can make the company behind the app look bad. 

Therefore, native apps generally perform better than cross-platform apps because they are made for the OS where they are installed. They are faster and load better on the small screen. They are more likely to access built-in hardware and features like a phone’s camera, GPS, volume controls, and touch sensors, allowing users to enjoy an app’s features fully. 

Overall, native apps often rank higher than cross-platform apps in terms of performance. The exception would be cross-platform apps with simple designs and straightforward functionalities requiring specs present in all operating systems. 

Limitations on Function and Appearance

Consistency across operating systems can come at a cost: the app would have a standard layout and simple UX. Each OS has its own design guidelines and user interface (UI) elements that apps must follow, so slight differences in how an app appears on various platforms are inevitable. However, since cross-platform frameworks lean towards consistency, developers are also forced to seek uniformity, limiting an app’s appearance and features to what all platforms can reasonably support. Developers may not be able to leverage the full potential of every OS.

Inevitable Dependence on Framework Updates

iOS, Android, and Windows run system upgrades independently. However, since cross-platform apps have the same codebase, developers must rely on framework updates to ensure their app can keep up with the constantly changing OS and hardware specs. If a framework delays its updates for a specific OS, users of that platform may experience app performance issues and glitches. 

This dependency introduces an additional layer of complexity and maintenance for the development team as they have to monitor and adapt their codebase to the evolving landscape of cross-platform tools and underlying platforms.

When to Choose Cross-Platform App Development

Learning what is cross-platform mobile app development and its pros and cons will help you assess if this approach is right for your business. No doubt the decision-making process will be more complex, but to help you out, here are some guidelines to go by:

  • If you have budget and time constraints, cross-platform app development may be the best option. With a shared codebase for multiple platforms, the development costs will be lower than creating separate native apps.
  • If you want an app that you can deliver to your target market right away, building a single codebase that can run on various platforms is key. As long as you choose a framework that rolls out regular and timely updates, maintaining the app across multiple platforms will be easier with the framework’s simultaneous update deployment. 
  • If consistency across platforms is a priority, you’ll have a better chance of achieving it through cross-platform apps.
  • If you want to reach more people and broaden your target audience, you don’t want to focus on just one OS. Launching a cross-platform app on all platforms simultaneously allows you to maximize your market penetration and user engagement. 

Why Invest in a Mobile App?

Sometimes, users can view an app on a web browser and not have to download or install an app. However, the browser view is often minimal and cannot perform crucial functions like scanning a QR code. 

Having a branded app makes everything easier for everyone. Once on an app, customers can focus on the business and its products and services. They can have a more seamless and satisfying experience using the app to book a service or buy a product. Since customer experience is a powerful driver of buying decisions and customer loyalty, a functional app that works exactly as it should can be highly beneficial to a B2C company. 

Leverage mobile apps to grow your audience and your business with the help of Jackrabbit Mobile. We are a Clutch Top 1000 Company and Top Mobile App Developer entrusted with designing and developing mobile applications for different industries like health services, smart home technologies, gaming, and transport. 

We’d love to help you make your ideas for a custom app a reality. Call to schedule a meeting with our experts. 

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