Cross-platform mobile app development has taken the world by storm. But is it that great, or are you better off focusing on native app development? It’s not a question we can answer right away, as there are many considerations.
Depending on the tools you use, you may experience a challenging or smooth development experience. Then, there’s the matter of how adaptable you and your team are at deploying to more platforms. And let’s not forget about the costs involved in using some of the leading cross-platform tools in the market today. We cover all these matters in more detail below.
Cross-Platform Versus Native App Development Environments
It’s tricky attempting cross-platform development, especially if you’ve been developing native apps for a single platform. And you may be wondering if it’s worth the additional costs and challenges. Will you find success developing for multiple platforms? Or will you get burned out dealing with a more bloated development environment and new technical requirements?
- Advances in cross-platform technology: There was a time when cross-platform tech stacks couldn’t compete with native solutions. But the performance gap has narrowed significantly, especially with the introduction of Xamarin.
- Integrated Development Environments (IDEs): Having access to several of the world’s best IDEs is a huge boon. All serious app developers should have Android Studio, Visual Studio, and Xcode installed on their machines.
- Transferable skills: If you’re already a competent Android developer, making the jump to iOS should be a quick process. Most mobile development skills transfer from one platform to another easily.
- Additional hardware: If your studio only has Windows or Linux PCs for development purposes, you won’t be able to target iOS. So you’ll need to purchase at least one Apple Mac and various iOS devices to develop and test your apps.
- Higher difficulty curve: Targeting multiple platforms is far more challenging than native app development. While cross-platform tools promise a ‘write once, run anywhere’ experience, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s necessary to write user interface (UI) code for each platform.
- Worse performance: One of the benefits of native app development is the better performance it brings to the table. Even the best cross-platform tools and languages don’t quite match native solutions.
Creating Cross-Platform Mobile Games
The popularity of mobile gaming continues unabated. Moreover, the gaming market is massive yet fragmented since it encompasses PC, console, mobile, and the web. So, savvy game developers will want to target most if not all of these platforms. But there are several factors to consider before heading down this road.
- Development tools: There’s no shortage of excellent game engines and frameworks facilitating cross-platform development.
- Device ownership: Most users own multiple devices and will likely play games on all of these at one point or another.
- Esports: The phenomenal growth of mobile eSports presents new opportunities. Given the multiplayer nature of eSports, it’s only natural that Android and iOS users will want to compete against each other.
- Reaching new audiences: Releasing simultaneously on Android and iOS ensures that your mobile games reach as many users as possible. But it doesn’t have to end there when the web and desktop platforms have millions of potential new users.
- API integrations: The more platforms and storefronts you target, the more APIs you’ll integrate. Thus, increasing costs and time to market (TTM).
- Different audience expectations: iOS users have different expectations from Android users. Creating mobile games that appeal to both groups will prove challenging.
- Maintenance and updates: You will need additional team members to maintain and update your game on two or more platforms. And this is especially true if you’re creating live service games or rely on subscriptions and in-app purchases.
- Profiling and testing: It’s a lot easier to profile and test a mobile game when targeting a single platform. With cross-platform development, you’ll use additional tooling to test across devices with different CPUs, GPUs, displays, and memory.
Consider The Costs Of Your Development Tools
Targeting multiple platforms is not cheap, especially when weighing the costs of the development tools. Let’s start with the good news, both Android Studio and Xcode are free to use. Even Microsoft offers the community edition of Visual Studio for free. But now — the bad news — several cross-platform tools and game engines can get offensively expensive.
And many of these tools are only available via subscription. Thus, you’ll need to consider how long you plan on using these tools to determine their costs. But be forewarned, it’s never a good idea to cancel a subscription after completing an app. You still need access to these tools as long as you’re maintaining and updating the app. So, make sure that you’ve planned for this eventuality.
Now, let’s take a look at several popular cross-platform tools that could drive up your development costs considerably:
- Embarcadero Delphi 11: It’s a mobile-first IDE aimed at developers comfortable with the Delphi language, which natively compiles to the target platform. The professional edition costs $1,599 for the first year with a $399 renewal.
- Unity: As the most popular tool for mobile game development, Unity has garnered a massive community thanks to its free personal version. But professional studios and teams will opt for the pro edition costing $1,800 per year and per seat, or the enterprise edition costing $4,000 per month and for 20 seats.
- Xamarin: For small indie developers that want to write their apps in C#, Xamarin offers a subscription for $25 per month. Professional studios will likely opt for the enterprise edition, which costs $1,899 per year.
Open Source Solutions Are Viable Options
If you’re a startup, you may not be able to afford the steep prices of proprietary development tools. However, not all is lost as there are several good free and open-source tools for your cross-platform development needs. We’ll briefly look at several of the more popular solutions:
- Flutter: It’s a versatile framework for creating apps for embedded devices, desktops, mobile platforms, and the web. It uses the Dart programming language, which developers coming from a mobile or web app background will pick up quickly.
- Godot: As a close competitor to Unity, Godot has made significant strides in becoming the game engine choice for indie developers. Furthermore, it’s an indispensable and lightweight tool for creating augmented reality (AR) apps, virtual reality (VR) experiences, and mobile games.
If you’re considering cross-platform mobile app development, then there’s never been a better time to pursue this avenue. And the wide range of excellent paid and open-source tools make this path a lot more accessible. Contact NS804 to learn how we’ll help you deploy phenomenal native apps on Android and iOS.