Cross Platform Mobile Application Development Tools: Bridging The Platform Divide

What are your considerations while shopping for a smartphone? Entertainment, infotainment, communication, professional aids, or something else? On the prowl, you learn that your hunt for the best buy doesn’t seem to end anywhere soon. You find yourselves in an ocean of smartphones having features with very little noticeable differentiation. Nearly all smartphones offer you similar features that you’re craving. Even if you’re ready to settle down for one or two unique features, it’s not always easy to spot them. But a platform vendor or an app developer never misses them – nor can they afford to.

The Lone Differentiator

No matter how much platform vendors try to differentiate their platforms from their competitors, it all basically boils down to two aspects: apps and UI. And the one that seeks more attention is UI, since user experience starts with a great visual appeal. With the fusion of technology and devices, user experience takes the front seat when it comes to luring potential customers. Major platform vendors are banking hard on UI; here’s what they’re up to:

  • It all began with Apple during the 80s, when it brought out the first set of standards for the earlier computing platforms. No wonder the ever popular Mac OS still remains popular.
  • Microsoft followed suit by borrowing a lot from Mac OS, which over the years saw their Windows OS’s UI getting major makeovers. And now they are putting their best into their latest releases such as the Metro UI. It’s an UI that’s touted to work on all the platforms of Microsoft. That’s going to be groundbreaking.
  • The ever-lasting legal battle between Apple and all others over design patents says it all.

This is a wake up call for cross platform mobile app developers mainly because their app’s user experience should be in line with the platform’s user experience expectations. The increased sense of identity and an urgency on the part of major smartphone platforms to draw lines of distinction is creating all sort of problems for web app developers. Meaning to say that platform vendors are doing everything to make their platform’s user experience standout; and mobile apps that don’t match their standards are not going to have a place in the app stores.

Smart Cross-Platform Mobile Tools

Cross-platform mobile tools that provide user experience like native apps are the ones that’re in huge demand. Vision Mobile published a list of tools as a percentage of developers using them. The top three spots were occupied by:

PhoneGap (32%)

Employing a hybrid model using a codebase built on HTML, JavaScript and CSS, PhoneGap is based on the wrapper concept wherein the browser is mated to a native app wrapper. A JavaScript API does the job of accessing the device capabilities. It supports iOS, Android, WebOS, Windows Phone, Symbian and BlackBerry. Support for Bada is on the anvil. Customization of native wrapper coupled with “drop-in-library” makes PhoneGap highly liked by developers.


Sencha Touch (30%)

Supporting BlackBerry, Android, Kindle and iOS and being built around the so-called futuristic HTML5, Sencha Touch features GUI components for touch operations. Being HTML5 based gives it the ability to access apps while offline. Since it’s often used with PhoneGap, Sencha gains access to native devices or apps such as GPS, camera, maps, etc. CSS enables few basic animations.

Sencha Touch

Xamarin (26%)

Xamarin, which is 3rd in the list, is based on .NET framework. It supports iOS, Android, Windows Phone, OS X, Unix, Solaris, and few game consoles. It claims it can give full access to almost all native features – the result being a native looking app. The tool provides a debugger which boasts of advanced features. It adapts to almost any platform built on any programming language. The user-experience is enhanced through high performance made possible by compiling the app to native code rather than accessing via browser.


Wrapping Up

Apple and Google are turning themselves into invincibles and it appears that they would remain so for sometime. This can only stiffen the fierce competition between them as well as between native and web apps. Cross-platform mobile app is a level playing ground and it has to be always, but the two titans are capable of playing the spoilsport.

About the Author:

Rohit Singhal is a writer/emarketer working with PixelCrayons, a web/mobile development agency specializing in CMS development and mobile apps development. You can get in touch with PixelCrayons if you are planning to hire experienced Android developers and iPhone developers.

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