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Development Architecture: Cross-Platform Mobile Apps


Believe the hype, mobile is here to stay. And if mobile is the future, then mobile development becomes a hot topic. Everyone today lives a mobile lifestyle and therefore as a company or developer, reaching as many users as possible is paramount. The irresistible rise of smartphones and increasing availability of internet has largely contributed to this explosive trend. It is important for enterprises to understand the app landscape and identify the devices that require focus that are not limited to smartphones but also include tablets, laptops and PCs. Wearable devices will also have to be reckoned with in the near future as part of development architecture.

Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that there are several approaches to developing apps for diverse range of platforms. But to a write specific application for each platform means unnecessary increase in efforts and higher expenditure in terms of resources and costs. The ideal solution is cross-platform architecture using tool kits that allow you to write the back end of a mobile app just once and deploy it to a range of devices.

Development Architecture: Cross-Platform Mobile Apps

There are several options within this. Some frameworks only require you to write the frontend for each platform (iOS or android). You may even choose to write a dedicated version of the app for each form of device (smartphone or tablet). This is called divergence and this is not specific to cross-platform. This is basically devices on the same platform that different capabilities especially considering variety of devices available that run an Android OS. The most common feature that comes into play with divergence is screen sizes. Some platforms like iOS or Windows phones have standardised screen sizes which are easier to design for compared to the diversity of Android devices. Some other universal characteristics include feature selection, scrolling, data view and navigation (forward or back).

And while native apps have the advantage of being able to utilise the entire platform and accessing all the sensors, they can be very costly to write. It is smarter to determine the minimum features required for an app and then deciding what additional features can be taken up in the different available platforms. This way additional coding will be required only to detect and access to native features on the device. But using native apps means that it is distributed through an app store which means they become easy to find and marketable.

Hybrid approach is also a worthwhile option where a native wrapper is used to wrap a conventional web-based mobile app. This allows the app to use most of the phone’s hardware sensors and features using JavaScript as a bridge. It finds its best application when you have an existing website from which you want to share content. In case your site is already a mature one, then converting the site design to a responsive one is a good option to support mobile devices. Embedded web browsers interpret and execute the application code whereas cross-compilation translates the code from the one it was written in to the one that runs on the target platform. As mobile apps run on various platforms written in different languages (Andriod in Java, iOS in Objective C etc) this is a useful method.

Writing for a multitude of devices means it is advisable to share code and leverage existing knowledge. Otherwise a developer is forced to learn several coding languages. This is a more viable option for deploying apps on multiple platforms. This will help you develop, market, launch and ship you app much quicker and by-pass the app store. It is not necessarily true that you need to target the most popular platform. Developers can create apps simultaneously functioning in different platforms.

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