Which Mobile Development Framework Is Right For You?

Application icons in human hand. Wireless technologiesChoosing The Right Mobile Development Framework

Staying ahead of the curve these days means a business must use every tool at its disposal to reach more leads to create more customers. One way to ensure optimal financial success in today’s world is the development of mobile applications. Mobile Applications are critical for a business to remain competitive and can be used along with a robust digital marketing pipeline to reach leads on platforms that are used the most - mobile platforms where over 4 billion people in the digital landscape operate. Clarion noted that “the mobile app development market is growing at a rate of CARG 14% and expected to touch 100 USD Billion by 2022.” It is clear that it is up to businesses to get on the mobile app train or risk losing millions of potential leads, customers, and brand ambassadors.

Developing a mobile application, however, is a critical process that must be undertaken with the right tools and software development kits. One of the most essential tools that are often used to develop and engineer robust mobile applications is a mobile development framework. Mobile development frameworks are commonly used with hybrid approaches (i.e., mobile development platforms) to deploy mobile apps as crucial business assets working alongside business websites.

Aligning these robust tools - frameworks - with the aspects of a powerful, quality mobile application is essential. Excellent Mobile apps should have certain qualities and characteristics, namely:

  1. Scalable
  2. Secure
  3. Fast
  4. Supplies great usability
  5. Solves a key problem
  6. Is Cross-platform and operable in offline mode
  7. Offers excellent performance at all times

In an age of the Internet of Things - where wearable technology becomes the norm, and location-based devices help everyday laypeople carry out business and personal tasks - mobile apps will drive the evolution of such advanced technologies and will serve as the foundation for how optimal such technologies will operate. The bright future of mobile apps makes it critical to use the best development framework available for building your company’s mobile apps.

What Is A Development Framework?

Mobile development frameworks are robust toolkits that operate as skeletons  - or frames - for your mobile application and provide a pattern-derived set of code libraries and software development kits (SDKs) tools - along with API tools - to help developers engineer a powerful and robust mobile application without having to start from scratch. Working with an already-existing skeleton means that developers need only to supply the “meat,” or in other words, to “flesh out” the application’s code with custom code to integrate with the supplied frame. This is an optimal way for developing custom mobile apps.

There are two major different types of mobile development frameworks to choose from:


  1. Native mobile development frameworks: Used to develop native apps on a specific platform.
  2. Cross-platform development frameworks: Used to develop cross-platform apps that work on multiple hardware platforms and Operating Systems.

Some frameworks can also work with mobile development platforms for running the application after it is developed via the framework.

While frameworks make development for mobile platforms easier, it is possible to develop mobile applications without the use of a framework or platform, which includes using the Java language to develop for Android, and the Swift language to develop for iOS devices.

Why Choose At All?

To fully understand what makes a quality mobile application, and how frameworks can help with the process, it helps to dig deeper into what mobile applications are:

  1. Native mobile application: An app designed for a specific platform, such as Android or iOS. Native apps can work via offline mode on smartphones.
  2. Cross-platform: An app designed to work on multiple hardware platforms or Operating Systems. Such apps work in offline mode on mobile devices such as smartphones.
  3. Web mobile application: A mobile app that opens up and executes via a web browser, and which requires an internet connection.

Further understanding of the Mobile Software Development Lifecycle (MSDLC) will clarify how frameworks contribute to successful mobile app development:

  • Planning/Strategy
  • Analysis/Requirements
  • Design
  • Development
  • Testing/Security
  • Deployment
  • Support/Maintenance

Additionally, DevOps and iterative SDLC models - such as Agile/Scrum - are often used to engineer robust apps via robust frameworks.

Different tools and framework systems assist developers with different MSDLC processes at different phases, namely the design, development, and testing phases. However, whether one is developing a cross-platform mobile app or a native mobile app, be aware that different frameworks have different features, which may make each of the above phases easier or harder, depending on the mobile app’s requirements.

Choosing to develop a native app versus a cross-platform app, or vice versa entails that the SDLC phases above need to be aligned with specific mobile development frameworks that support native app development or cross-platform app development.

Some frameworks excel at helping developers produce fast and efficient apps with exceptional performance for wearable technology, for example, while others may excel more at providing security to a mobile banking app, and others may provide a more user-friendly user experience (UX), etc. When developing custom mobile software, the requirements and end-goal are critical when choosing the aptest application development framework to use.

Factors To Consider

Several factors will inform a company’s decision to choose one development framework over another. A variety of industry standards (below) should always be taken into account when deliberating on which framework to use.

Platforms

Perhaps the most critical aspect of a mobile application development framework is the platform that it is associated with and is supported by its code. Despite there being a variety of platforms for mobile apps, there are two major platforms that act as industry standards:

  • Android: The Android OS is a major, multi-platform OS that is the home of thousands of mobile applications, spanning many hardware platforms such as smartphones, wearable technology, tablets, smartwatches, and more.
  • iOS: The Apple-based OS is a closed OS platform associated with a variety of Apple products, such as Apple iPhones, Apple iPads, and more.

Developing for fragmented OS versions and types - such as the many Android variants and different iOS versions - is a crucial part of supporting a post-developed mobile application. As you can see, choosing a framework that supports the requisite platform for your app is important. 

Platform Feature Support

Several applications in today’s ecosystem of mobile apps are cross-platform: they are developed to operate on a variety of platforms without having to recode for each native system. This standard helps developers spend less time developing code for specific platforms when they use cross-platform development frameworks, and helps users in that they can often obtain mobile applications on a variety of platforms that they own, allowing for seamless data integration between systems.

Speed Considerations

Native and cross-platform mobile applications, like websites, need to operate fast and efficiently, so as to not create an undesirable user experience. This is important for virtually all apps but is critical for certain apps, such as gaming apps, which require a certain measure of speed and performance to be usable. Frameworks that can help a developer use the best code and libraries for optimal speed are vital for many apps.

Cost of Development

When executives strategize the development of a new business application for mobile platforms and devices, measuring the ROI versus the cost of development is a critical talking-point when considering the differing costs of employing different development frameworks. The cost of developing a mobile app - which can range from $10,000 to $500,000 - can help a company determine how much value they wish to obtain from their application, and how much money they expect to receive from deploying such an app after development with a particular framework, thus determining its ROI.

Security Risk

In an age of increasing data breaches, mobile apps - which must utilize a combination of software security, mobile network (Wi-Fi) security, and cellular network security - are increasingly targeted. As noted by OWASP in their Mobile OWASP Top 10, testing and securing mobile apps is different from testing and securing other types of applications.

Along with complying with data legislation - such as HIPAA, CCPA, and GDPR - certain types of mobile apps, such as banking apps and e-commerce apps that include a payment system or gateway, must be hardened, secured, and tested with risk assessments, vulnerability testing, and practical penetration testing.

Choosing a safe and secure framework so payments and transactions can be made in a safe environment will pay off in the long term.

Enhance Efficiency

When choosing the best framework to use, working within the scope - or skeletal code pattern - of a system that a developer is familiar with can help him or her to engineer the most efficient mobile application possible. Choosing a framework that enhances the developers’ experience ensures the final output is of high quality.

After-Launch Updates

When deliberating on the best framework to use for mobile app development, choose a framework that enhances the processes of all future, regular maintenance (patching, upgrading, updates, support, fixes, etc.) workflows of the app after its deployment. This consideration is essential since engineers must always adapt to ever-changing technology.

What Is The Best Framework For Mobile Development?

There are a variety of different mobile development frameworks that have existed for decades and have helped to drive forward the ecosystem of native mobile app and mobile cross-platform app development systems. These frameworks include industry standards, open-source systems, and hybrid cloud-development platforms (PaaS).

For any given framework’s inner workings, there are three primary factors that companies should take into consideration:

  1. Goal: For what reason was the framework created?
  2. Specifications: What is the programming language used to write the framework and what are the integrated platforms the framework uses?
  3. Advantages: What makes the framework a good option?

Some widely known mobile development frameworks include Flutter, React Native, Xamarin, Ionic, and PhoneGap.

Flutter

Flutter is an open-source framework that was designed by Google and released in 2017 to develop mobile applications and render consistently at 120 frames per second.

Being developed in C, C++, and Dart, the framework is primarily used to create apps for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Google Fuchsia, and the web.

Flutter is mainly advantageous due to being open-source and offering cross-platform development. It is disadvantageous due to mostly requiring the use of the Dart language, which is not a major language.

React Native

React Native is an open-source mobile application framework developed by Facebook and released in 2015 to enhance the native Facebook app - and all native mobile app - experiences.

React Native was coded in JavaScript, Java, C++, Objective-C, Objective-C++, and Python, and is used to develop apps for Android, iOS, Web, and the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) - all while using the respective native platform’s capabilities, making React Native a performance-heavy, robust framework.

Xamarin

Xamarin is a Microsoft-owned array of Android and iOS cross-platform frameworks operating as implementations of the CLI (Common Language Infrastructure) and Common Language Specifications/Microsoft .NET.

The framework was released in 2011 and works alongside C# code to develop apps for Android, iOS, and Windows, along with offering native user interfaces and the ability to share code across multiple platforms, which include Windows, macOS, and Linux. Xamarin is advantageous in that it offers cross-platform or native app production that is coded in C#.

Ionic

Ionic is an open-source SDK/framework that is used to develop hybrid mobile apps (mobile apps that are produced via web technologies) and was released in 2013 to offer a framework that can develop hybrid mobile apps in a feasible and robust way.

Ionic was coded in JavaScript and can be used to develop apps that are customized for Android, iOS, Windows, Desktop, and Web browsers, which are then distributed via native app stores and installed via Cordova.

Ionic is a highly flexible and robust framework that can be leveraged for the development of hybrid apps.

PhoneGap

Known as Apache Cordova (formerly PhoneGap), the mobile application development framework was developed by Nitobi and purchased by Adobe Systems in 2011. As a hybrid mobile app development framework, PhoneGap/Apache Cordova is used to build hybrid web/mobile apps using front-end web development languages, which combines with a wrapper to run on native mobile devices with access to native device APIs.

PhoneGap/Apache Cordova was coded in C#, C++, CSS, HTML, Java, JavaScript, and Objective-C, and works with apps for Android, iOS, Windows 8.1 and 10, etc., and is advantageous for the production of robust hybrid apps that are developed with performance and interoperability in mind.

Which Framework Should You Choose?

Deciding which framework to use for mobile app development is a critical and vital step that requires considering a large number of variables. The most important variables of mobile app development include the singular end-goal of the mobile app along with its requirements and major challenges, along with the most critical advantages of the chosen development framework and how those advantages align with the important factors of the mobile application itself, such as its speed, performance, security, scalability, etc.

The selection process itself is a key step in the mobile SDLC and will help shape the way that the mobile app is designed/developed, and how it operates. In the end, your choices will determine how the app influences your company’s bottom line.

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