Cross Platform App Development

September 9, 2015

Cross Platform App Development

As the dust settles from the wild adoption of mobile devices over the last few years, there appears to be some clear winners and losers. The businesses of Blackberry and Nokia were negatively affected, and attempts to enter the device market by Amazon and Windows are largely failures. But instead of having one clear winner (as is often the case in technology), we have two. Both Apple and their iOS mobile operating system, and Google's Android appear to have carved out significant space in this new mobile world. But the segmentation looks like this: Platforms are Complex And that’s to say nothing of supporting the web, or existing enterprise or proprietary software.

Finding a Cross Platform App Development Solution

For building mobile apps alone, finding a good cross platform app development solution helps businesses iterate faster, maintain less code and keep a consistent user experience across devices. There are several cross platform development tools to choose from, which we will break out into gaming vs non-gaming, which programming language they are built for, and any other differentiating characteristics.

Non-Gaming

PhoneGap - built on Apache Cordova (and sometimes referred to as such), PhoneGap enables developers to code in HTML, CSS and JavaScript and export to a wide variety of mobile platforms. PhoneGap is free and open source framework from Adobe, and is a popular choice for businesses and developers who either have or want to deploy to the web, or have those skillsets. You can see apps created using PhoneGap here: PhoneGap Apps PhoneGap can access native features including the camera, accelerator, contacts, geolocation, push.

Titanium from Appcelerator

  • another option for developing mobile apps in Javascript, Appcelerator shares that over 250 million devices are currently running apps built in the open-source Appcelerator framework. Another “spin-off” from Adobe, Titanium and the rest of the suite helps developers publish apps across mobile OSs and HTML, with analytics, bug and crash reporting and mobile-optimized APIs. Their client app showcase includes many familiar names: Titanium Apps Xamarin - if you or your team are Microsoft .NET developers, Xamarin is your choice. Write apps in C# (or Ruby) and deploy to Android, iOS, Windows and even Mac. Used by enterprises like JetBlue, Berkshire Hathaway, McKesson and Honeywell, Xamarin recently secured $54 million in funding, and reports that 20% of the Fortune 500 are clients. Xamarin Apps If none of these meet your needs for a non-game app - some other options for cross platform app development include:

Gaming

Unity 3D - want to export your games to the Wii, Playstation, PC, web, iOS, Android and more? Unity 3D is the reigning king of building games, mobile or otherwise. Program in C#, Javascript or Boo. Access Unity services including Unity Ads and Unity Analytics. Top mobile apps including Crossy Road, Monument Valley, Angry Birds 2 and more are all built on Unity 3D. Unity3D Games Check out their showcase here. The personal edition is free, and professional starts at $75/mth.

Cocos2d

  • an open-source framework that has been forked to support different programming languages and destinations. For example, Cocos2d-x supports programming in C#, Lua and JavaScript, and can be deployed on iOS, Android, Tizen, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Linux, Mac OS X. Cocos 2D Forks One of the primary benefits of Cocos2d is developers can quickly build two-dimensional games for multiple platforms without large costs sometimes associated with Unity3D. Corona - another Adobe alum! The Corona SDK can be used for 2D games and non-games alike. The primary promise is super-fast development for iOS, Android, Windows and Kindle. Corona Hall of Fame As more devices become connected, from TVs to watches to the promise of the "internet of things", expect cross platform tools to continue to grow to support the mobile app at the center of them all.