In this fast-paced tech world, no business would like to miss the chance to have their own mobile app in the market of Google play store or App store. To make the most of it, it is essential to create an app that runs on as many operating systems as possible. Building a cross platform app can play a key role in this. In this article we’ll explain what we mean by that statement.
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Why choose to develop cross platform apps at all?
If you choose to go down the route of developing separate apps for each of the platforms you want to target, for example Windows, macOS, iOS and Android, this separate app philosophy can attract a number of significant disadvantages which can outweigh any potential benefits. Apart from the version problems of having several different code bases and deployable packages, there are other intangible things like budgeting for potentially different development environments and suppliers. Using a single environment and IDE such as Embarcadero’s RAD Studio which can produce cross platform apps to target all your desired platforms in one place and yet create native apps focuses your development efforts, simplifies your resource requirements and budgeting into one quantifiable number. This is why cross platform app development has become the undisputed option for businesses seeking a presence on both Android and iOS platforms.
Cross platform apps are popular because they reduce – in fact completely mitigates – the need to create a separate codebase to make an app for all the different platforms. A cross-platform app can run on a variety of devices and platforms.
In this article, I’ll give you a run down on native vs cross platforms, the benefits of building a cross platform app, how to build a cross platform app and we’ll discuss the best cross platform app builder. Let’s start!
What is the difference between single platform and cross platform apps for mobile?
The debate on choosing between individual, vertical, single platform – where there is a different app for each target – and cross platform development – where there is one code base which can be compiled to produce apps and packages for all the desired targets – has been significant, often dividing opinion in the tech world. Some believe that creating separate apps for each individual platform is superior to a cross platform apps approach. Companies like Uber, on the other hand, are rewriting their driver app using a cross platform app framework.
Cross platform development has become increasingly common in recent years. To be clear; cross platform app development is the process of designing mobile (and in some cases desktop) apps that can run on a variety of systems. Developers choose this type of development because it requires only one programming effort and the app can run on Android, iOS, or Windows. In the case of RAD Studio, cross platform apps written using its FireMonkey FMX framework can run Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and, with FMXLinux, Linux computers too.
Compare this to single target vertical mobile apps. These kinds of apps are usually only able to operate on one vendor’s platform and, in the case of Apple, for example, also require you to use their own IDE which only works on their hardware. The work done for on such a vertical or narrow platform cannot be repeated for a different platform such as Android, therefore, targeting other devices requires additional app development time and duplicated effort in order to work on the other platforms/version. This may even require a totally different team of developers who are versed in the nuances of a totally different vertical target development environment. Furthermore, when you need to launch for both iOS and Android, building separate vertical apps might be expensive. It could necessitate the deployment of two teams, each working on a distinct platform.
What are the pros of cross platform development?
Here are a couple of pros for cross platform app development
- Cross platform development is cost-effective – to construct a cross platform app, you’ll just need one team of developers instead of two or more. As a result, you’ll save money on development. With RAD Studio, for example, one code base targets all available platforms, without having to purchase different or additional licenses or frameworks. Everything is the same code base, with a few clicks to compile and deploy that app to Windows, iOS, Android, Linux and macOS.
- The cross platform development process is more rapid – to design an app that operates on various platforms, only one development cycle is required.
- You only need a single set of source code when developing cross platform apps – only one code base is built because the app is then developed with a single cross platform development tool. Fewer lines of code – a key tenet of RAD Studio Delphi right from its first days – means fewer places for bugs to hide, fewer lines to look over, fewer areas of logic to puzzle over.
What are the benefits of cross platform apps?
The principle of cross platform software development is “write once, run everywhere.” The cost of development can be reduced by using reusable code and Agile app development procedures and technologies. As a result, cross platform apps are the only option to improve a business across numerous platforms in a cost-effective manner.
2. Code Reusability
Another advantage of using cross platform apps is that the code within it may be reused multiple times. Instead of writing new code for each platform, developers can reuse existing code. Because it reduces repetition in the work of developing codes, this saves both time and resources. The rich runtime library of RAD Studio Delphi helps shield developers from the variances of different operating systems and their quirks such as whether a folder path is separated by a slash or a backslash.
3. Cloud Integration
Cross platform mobile apps are fully interoperable and can take advantage of various plugins that are integrated with cloud settings. Another perspective of this can be, the app’s scalability and usefulness are made to its effective use by coordinating the single source code file with numerous plug-ins and extensions. Using a component-based development ideology such as that of Delphi and C++ Builder makes this process even easier since the functionality of this kind of powerful feature is encapsulated into component properties and methods which are not only very easy to use but ensure a consistent interface and usability paradigm whether that cloud service is being accessed by your cross platform app when it’s running on an iPhone with iOS or the latest Samsung Android tablet. The consistency of this single code base for cross platform apps means not having to relearn how to use the API in different IDES with often wildly different user interfaces and settings. With RAD Studio there is one place to look, one set of settings to configure almost with no need to concern yourself with the underlaying target operating system or device.
4. Easy Hosting
A single and universal application is compatible for running on all platforms in cross platform app development. As modifications to the app are made, this single set of code and resource files makes it easier to maintain, track and deploy. This simplifies version control for things like source code and graphical assets. Furthermore, updates can be synchronized quickly across all devices and platforms from a single IDE deployment screen, saving effort, time and money. Additionally, if a flaw is discovered in the shared codebase, it only needs to be rectified once – not tracked down or repeatedly diagnosed in very different source code views. Developers can save significant amounts of money and time this way – something of a hidden cost which can be easily overlooked when taking a simplistic view of the relative expenditure on the code editor environment itself.
5. Consistency in UI Components
Users can easily recognize user interface (UI) elements and further on they anticipate how they will go about it across different platforms. As a result, for any app or product, User Experience (UX) is critical to consider. This user visual “muscle memory” is an important factor to take into account. If your cross platform apps do not look like they ‘belong’ on the user’s device because they use a non-standard user interface or one which is radically different from what they are used to then your app, no matter how good, may be rejected out of hand by potential users. This is one of the reasons why RAD Studio Delphi has a “platform native” setting for visual controls. This setting tells the compiler and runtime to allow the underlaying operating system to render controls such as buttons and edit boxes. This approach means the apps are first-class well-behaved citizens of the mobile phone, tablet or PC and look like they ‘belong’ there rather than appearing clunky alien programs which were written for another operating environment.
Combine this “platform native” look with the fact that RAD Studio Delphi apps are natively compiled – meaning they are as close to the raw operating system and hardware as possible without any interpreted or ‘runtime frameworks’ getting in the way. Your apps are accessing the full power of the device on which they are running and look like they belong.
Another reason for UI consistency in a single code base approach is it’s difficult to keep up with changes and track down several development projects at once or while working on multiple apps. Developers and more specifically designers can leverage cross platform mobile app builder tools such as RAD Studio to create a consistent (UX) user experience for app users.
How to build a Cross Platform App?
1. Choosing Mobile app development tool
So, the very first thing needed to be done is to choose the cross platform app builder. Since the app market is potentially worth billions and it seems that every business out there has an app they want to release, chances are there are multiple cross platform apps out there.
Choosing the best cross platform app builder software wisely here is your basis for reducing pain points and maximizing efforts and your resources. It should be the right IDE software for maximum efficiency and minimum effort from you.
2. UI/UX design
A great quote is “Design is not just what is looks like and feels like. Design is how it works” – Steve Jobs
So, developers must consider unique UI requirements of their app while catering to the needs of various platforms. When creating a distinct user experience in a cross platform mobile app, this is critical.
Before beginning to build the app, the developer should be aware of the requirements and rules for multiple platform app development. Once the developer is familiar with how each platform’s app works, he or she will have a better grasp and knowledge of how to access the platform’s basic functions to ensure that the app is suitable for all engines.
This process can be greatly simplified by choosing RAD Studio Delphi. Its UI design tools have always been best in class and with the FireMonkey FMX framework this consistency extends into the ability to easily create, visualize and debug a visual design of the utmost quality with the most minimum possible amount of effort.
3. Dedicated API service
It is a common practice to use one API to deploy on a different platform. Developers must tailor the API service to the platform’s specific needs. To do so, developers must divorce the API from other API services that already exist.
Dedicated API services are a way for developers to offer a group of linked functionalities to the back end. Developers can alter the back-end API separately using distinct API services for each platform. Developers can also use dedicated API services to cut down interdependencies between teams and products.
The RAD Studio Delphi runtime library (RTL) understands the differences in how the various APIs work and abstracts that in a clever way so that your code interfaces consistently with that abstracted API, allowing the RTl to do the ‘heavy lifting’ behind the scenes for you. You write the same code no matter what the target operating system and device platform – RAD Studio Delphi does the rest. Working smarter, not harder.
4. Multiple platforms
Dealing with multiple different platforms means, the difference in screen sizes, touch, and gestures, navigation metaphors, push notifications, etc. Having devices on the same platform can also have a different capability and these above-mentioned attributes may vary from app to an app. Again, FireMonkey FMX caters for and understands all the possible modern ways we have of interacting with our apps whether it be on the desktop with a mouse, a touch screen or even more esoteric things such as accelerometers. Your code stays the same; the compiled app deals with the actual differences for you.
5. Test and App store Approval
One onerous task is that the various hardware vendors such as Apple and Microsoft impose a high standard on apps and the ways they can access the resources of the device on which they are running. You mut make sure that your app works well and according to the vendor’s requirements even if it is built on a low-code app development platform. Before being released, mobile apps must go through an approval procedure which can sometimes be lengthy, therefore testing is essential to ensure your app makes it to the market in good time. Testing can take numerous forms, ranging from unit testing at the developer level to organizing beta testing across a wide range of hardware.
Want to have a detailed guide on how to build cross platform apps? Have a look here.
What is the best cross platform app builder?
With all things considered, RAD studio is quite simply the best out there. It is a best low code platform that creates visually stunning and efficient native code apps that are cross device compatible. One code base, one IDE to learn, one easy-to-learn programming language, it really can make a single developer have the efficiency and capabilities of a multi-discipline development team at a fraction of the cost.