Don’t Pick the One-Trick Pony – Cross-Platform is the Horse to Ride

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Some mobile app developers will do their best to steer you to one platform or another. They’ll saddle up iOS or Android for you. They’ll tell you their choice is the best, easiest horse in the stable. Why it’s the smoothest ride. Why you can’t go wrong.

And they’ll give you some convincing arguments, too.

Arguments like these:

Arguments for Native Single Platform Programming

  • The code runs faster
  • A native mobile app will be more secure and reliable
  • It will be easier to add new mobile app features
  • Better integration with hardware capabilities (like the camera and GPS)
  • Each platform has different UI and UX conventions and expectations
  • It’s easier to rely on Google or Apple for support when you need it
  • Provides better and easier analytics to assess your results

And all those points are true … sort of. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, I want to talk about why mobile developers want to trot out that One-Trick Pony.

It has nothing to do with the results being better for you. It has everything to do with the project being easier for them. And that’s usually because their expertise and technology is tied up on a single platform.

“But wait a minute!”  you say.  “You said all those arguments were true. And they sound kind of important …”

Yes I did. And yes, they are important.

But here’s the secret: you can get all the important benefits from cross-platform development, too.

Making the Comparison to Native Platform Development

You know when you see an ad for a product and they tell you how much better they are than “a major competitor?” Or “the leading brand?”

I’ve seen this quite often recently in wireless commercials. The trouble is … they never tell you exactly what they’re comparing. And they seldom compare apples to apples.

That’s what’s happening here.

When app developers try to persuade you to “launch” with a single platform, and make all those arguments for the benefits of native programming, they’re comparing it to a certain type of cross-platform development. An older type. In the fast-paced mobile application world, you might even call it archaic.

Basically, what it boils down to is this: an HTML-driven user interface is created to appear like a mobile app. But under the covers it’s just “wrapped” around a bunch of web pages – that don’t actually utilize the native interface features of each platform at all.

It’s a cross-platform app in the sense that it works on both platforms.

But you can see how the performance of this mobile app will suffer. You’re not leveraging the native features of each platform, so you won’t have the same responsiveness as a native iOS or native Android app. And you certainly won’t have the same level of interaction.

So if that’s the sort of “cross-platform” development you’re talking about, then of coursenative programming would be better.

But remember the secret I shared above? I’m here to tell you there is another way.

The Real Cross-Platform Development

Today there are cross-platform development frameworks that allow you to code once and then compile the app in multiple native environments.

At Ascendle, we use a framework called Xamarin, which provides the best overall toolset for cross-platform development. With Xamarin, our engineers program the application in C# code. Just once. And then Xamarin takes that code and translates it cleanly into Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and even Windows Store versions – or all four simultaneously.

And because the code is compiled in each platform’s native source, the performance of that user interface is just as fast and responsive as it would be in a natively programmed app.

All that remains is to tweak the user interfaces to match slightly different user expectations and hardware conventions on each platform.

And there you have it. Native cross-platform development done in the best and most efficient way possible.

Long-Term Benefits of Cross-Platform Development

And that’s good news for you. Because there are some significant long-term benefits of your mobile app being on both major platforms:

  • Roughly 53/43 market share split. Android has the lion’s share, but either way you slice it, you’re missing about half of the U.S. market if you opt for single platform development, according to this comScore report
  • Significant cost reduction in building for both platforms at same time. Or you could pay one developer to build your iOS app, and then hire another to design and build your Android app from scratch. Which sounds better?
  • Significant cost reduction in relying and working with a single development team.Building a single relationship is much more efficient and cost-effective on so many levels.
  • Significant cost reduction in maintenance and upgrades. If you have two native mobile apps, then every upgrade and revision will require two separate projects and possibly even two separate project teams. The same could be said for maintaining two separate applications.

Which Horse Will You Ride?

So you could still hire that One-Trick Pony who can build you a great native iOS app. And yes, they can deliver all those benefits I mentioned earlier.

Or you could hire a thoroughbred — a cross-platform developer like Ascendle — using modern technologies to develop cross-platform apps. We can deliver all the advantages of native apps and all the benefits of existing on multiple platforms, too.

Do your business a favor: don’t pick the One-Trick Pony. Insist on riding a cross-platform thoroughbred instead.

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