The Ultimate Guide to Mobile App Frameworks
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Other Notable Frameworks for 2023
Mobile App Development Frameworks Supporting Innovation
Deciding on the framework to implement your next big mobile app idea is both the biggest and earliest decision you will have to make in the project. The development framework you choose will create the foundation to enable a successful app to be updated and maintained long into the future. How we make the decision then, when it comes to choosing the right framework, is a question that deserves our full resources and attention.
The ideal mobile app framework provides high-quality support tools, testing, and libraries to enable your teams to reach success. Whether targeting cross-platform compatibility, code reuse, or UI improvements—the right framework chosen for the right application will enable your teams to put their best foot forward to enter the marketplace.
When compared to native application development, frameworks can reduce time to market, improve testing across devices, boost quality assurance efforts, and cut down the amount of code required to target multiple platforms by 50% or more.
Yet, there are some pitfalls to watch out for when it comes to framework development. Applications produced using any of the frameworks described here should take extra care to ensure they match the expected user experience of the platform they target. Additionally, users have come to expect modern applications that don’t suffer from performance, user experience, or functionality drawbacks as a result of the framework chosen.
Whether you’re building web, native, or hybrid apps using the best practices of mobile development when it comes to the technologies you deploy should always be a key consideration. A framework should never get in the way of the app it supports. Here, we’ve gathered together the top choices you should consider when it comes to evaluating your upcoming mobile app projects.
The Best Mobile App Frameworks to Consider 2023
The single most popular mobile app development framework of the last two years, React Native has earned its place in a prime position amongst exceptionally tough competition.
Built by Facebook and released in early 2015, React Native boasts an impressive showcase of mobile applications currently using the technology. Capable of deploying apps to Android, iOS, macOS, tvOS, the Web, and Universal Windows Platform—React features a wide range of modern development and debugging tools. Additionally, direct access to the capabilities of each of these platforms creates a powerful tool for developers to lean on.
The framework is built to integrate platform native code alongside React Native code in a single application. One of the key features this provides is the ability to integrate React Native into existing applications; even those which are already built and deployed. Teams can trivially reconfigure existing mobile apps to React Native ones and merge code across multiple platforms in incremental steps.
Drawbacks of React Native
Another significant drawback, borne from the same issue, comes from a noticeable drop in performance compared to native applications. The framework claims near-native performance, but at times can leave something to be desired in benchmark testing. While likely only significant in extremely heavy-use applications, it is an issue worth considering in certain use-case scenarios.
Although less mature and currently less popular amongst developers, Google’s cross-platform mobile app development framework includes a rich and promising feature set and highly robust design credentials.
Initially launched in 2018, Flutter has grown into a stable and dependable platform built with app performance and UI in mind. The framework’s architecture is designed around a reactive programming paradigm, something which is all but the de-facto standard across modern mobile application development.
Flutter supports building for Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows, and web applications from a single codebase with truly near-native performance. Unusually, the framework uses Google’s Dart language, one that is gaining traction but is still less commonly found amongst developers outside of the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.
One of the framework’s strongest unique selling points is its extensive support for legacy devices running old versions of operating systems. For Android OS, in particular, the framework supports sharing identical UI between modern and legacy versions. This feature alone makes it an ideal way to target a broad user base with comparatively lightweight apps.
As another key feature of the framework, Flutter also features UI components tailored to each targeted platform. To ensure each app has the right look and feel for its environment, iOS widgets and layouts are deployed to Apple devices, while Google’s material design targets Android, desktop, and the web.
Our complete guide to the pros and cons of Flutter development takes a deep dive into the framework and looks at what makes it so productive and useful for mobile app development teams.
Drawbacks of Flutter
While the framework has come a long way in four years, the libraries and support available for Flutter are not as rich as those available to native application developers. The result is that developers may often find themselves implementing features that would take a fraction of the time to deploy and test in a native application.
Similarly, support for continuous integration and related tools is still somewhat lacking, particularly compared to other frameworks available.
Comparing React Native and Flutter directly, our guide to the superior cross-platform framework breaks down the important features of each to highlight the critical choices between these highly capable frameworks.
One of the most mature mobile app development frameworks available today, Xamarin does more than enough to keep up with younger upstarts and modern competitors.
Xamarin has been around in one form or another since May 2011. In 2016, Microsoft acquired the company and ever since has done a great deal to ensure Xamarin remains an up-to-date, modern, and well-supported application development framework. Like React Native and Flutter, Xamarin has remained open-source and cross-platform since its initial release.
Xamarin supports targeting Android, iOS, tvOS, watchOS, macOS, and Windows using Microsoft’s ever-popular C# programming language. Xamarin is capable of sharing up to 96% of code between applications across multiple platforms.
In practice, the opportunities for code reuse are somewhat reduced due to the need for bespoke UI elements serving individual platforms. Nevertheless, the impressive level of business logic, data access, and even UI code able to be reused across platforms allows for some considerable time savings.
Under the Microsoft umbrella, Xamarin has gone from strength to strength. The framework now boasts a complete and feature-rich ecosystem with abundant support for continuous integration, test suites, and tools for the ever-popular Visual Studio IDE.
Similar to Flutter, Xamarin supports access to the underlying system’s native SDK when required. This means support for leveraging platform- and device-specific functionality such as sensor data or hardware acceleration. In contrast to React Native, developers don’t necessarily need to know the platform’s native language to debug it.
The support for developer tools alone makes Xamarin one of the stand-out entries among the currently available mobile app development frameworks. Creating applications at the forefront of mobile app design, Xamarin supports many of the features and functionality highlighted in our guide to the future of mobile app development.
Drawbacks of Xamarin
Adopting any framework comes with challenges inherent to extending the distance from the underlying platform. Support for platform updates, for example, will be delayed compared to those available for a native application. Xamarin seems to suffer from this issue more than most, with delays coming further behind than might be expected.
Xamarin also features more limited access to open-source libraries compared to native app development. Similarly, the talent pool of developers is significantly more limited than is available for either Flutter or React Native.
Finally, licenses for Xamarin at an enterprise scale are costly in comparison to related tools.
Unique on our list here, Swiftic is a no-code framework exclusively for iOS application Development. Designed to create, manage, publish, and market apps from the Swiftic control panel—the framework offers a quick and effective way of building applications for small businesses.
Created first in 2010 as Como, the platform now boasts well over one million apps for small to mid-sized businesses today. The brand’s unique selling point centers around getting businesses into the mobile app marketplace with a rich array of store integrations, booking systems, and customer-facing features.
When it comes to starting from scratch to gain a foothold and a well-earned place in the iOS marketplace, few solutions are as easy to use or quick to set up as Swiftic. In addition to building, the platform offers extensive analytics, marketing solutions, and pointers to maximize business through mobile engagements.
Drawbacks of Swiftic
Being a no-code solution, Swiftic heavily relies on application templates that make the design choices and functionality necessarily more limited than other solutions listed here. While there are customizations to implement your branding, there isn’t much scope for diverse designs and custom functionality when you inevitably go looking.
Similarly, the framework is missing some of the more advanced features that can be implemented with relative ease in other frameworks. As a trade-off for providing easy access to the iOS app store, however, these may be worth sacrificing.
One of the industry’s most mature mobile app development frameworks, Titanium has supported cross-platform mobile application development since the field’s earliest days in 2009.
Titanium’s well-established credentials have resulted in a sizable online knowledge base. The available support is some of the best out there, which is a strong attraction for many teams.
As a unique selling point, Titanium offers a lot more than just its mobile application framework. Titanium delivers real-time analytics to teams on their deployed applications. Providing lifecycle data and crash analytics, Titanium’s services do a great deal to supplement additional information above and beyond those already available on the Android and iOS platforms.
Appcelerator has put similar amounts of time into understanding how developers utilize their framework’s tools. Titanium features strong operability with continuous integration systems and strives to provide immediate support for every new release of the OS coming from every platform.
Drawbacks of Titanium
In common with other framework-based apps, Titanium apps are less suited to building instant-run mobile applications that do not need prior installation. The small size requirements of these apps make them better suited to native development, which has a smaller storage footprint by design.
Titanium’s well-defined API, while being feature-rich, is somewhat limited in flexibility. Designers are hemmed in by the available options, particularly for apps with slightly more “out of the box” ideas. Overall, the framework’s model-view-controller-based architecture is rapidly becoming outdated in favor of reactive programming paradigms.
With Adobe pulling support for Phonegap in the last year, the most notable choice for new apps and those looking to migrate away from Adobe’s ecosystem is the framework’s open-source alternative.
Cordova, somewhat unique to the frameworks already mentioned, builds hybrid—rather than native—mobile apps. A hybrid app is neither truly a web app nor entirely a native mobile application, deploying instead to devices inside a WebView container. The advantage is straightforward cross-platform compatibility which comes closer to the build-once, deploy-anywhere methodology that cross-platform frameworks aim to achieve.
A wide range of plugins and tools exist to extend Cordova’s functionality when needed. The Ionic mobile app development framework, for example, extends Cordova with a UI SDK to create truly native-feeling mobile applications and platform-specific styling.
In modern versions of the Cordova framework, mixed native and hybrid apps have been made possible, though the necessary increase in complexity makes the approach prohibitive for many use cases.
Drawbacks of Cordova
Leaning on web technologies for mobile application development has a significant performance impact on the resulting apps—even compared to other mobile app frameworks. Similarly, the limited styling options made available by deploying applications as a WebView turn off many users who often expect a more consistent look and feel across applications on a single device.
Cordova applications in the iOS marketplace have had a tough time getting approval in the past. Performance issues and a markedly different look and feel to most iOS apps have both been cited as reasons for rejection in the past.
Other Notable Frameworks for 2023
To make our list as thorough as possible, here are some other frameworks that are getting attention in 2023:
- Ionic is a complete open-source SDK for hybrid mobile app development created in 2013. The original version was built on top of AngularJS and Apache Cordova.
- Framework7 is an open-source and free framework. It enables you to develop mobile, desktop, or web apps. It can also be used as a prototyping tool.
Mobile App Development Frameworks Supporting Innovation
The framework you choose, if any, will ultimately be decided on by weighing up costs, familiarity, intended audience, and deployment targets. Impacting how you hire your mobile app teams,
Choose carefully and with expert advice, because the decision you make today will define your app’s success for many years to come. But you may be wondering: where do I get such advice? Pangea.ai has got your back. Simply tell us what you need and we will do all the research for you. In just 72 hours we will provide you a free list of 5 companies that are experts in the frameworks you are considering, and let you know how to connect with these experienced software development gurus!
Q1. What are the top 5 mobile app development frameworks?
React Native, Flutter, Xamarin, Cordova, and Appcelerator are five of the most highly productive and effective mobile app development frameworks in regular use today. Each one is capable of producing highly attractive, feature-rich, and performant mobile applications that support multiple target platforms for developers.
Swiftic is an additional framework similarly worthy of consideration for its no-code approach to producing iOS mobile applications for small to medium-sized businesses looking to gain a mobile app presence.
Thinking carefully about the requirements of your application and the specific advantages you want your app to have will inevitably lead you to one of these leading frameworks for use in application development. Taking the time to weigh up costs, familiarity with the technology, intended audience, and deployment targets is well worth the investment early in the process to make the decision easier going forward.
Q2. What is the most used mobile development framework?
React Native is the most popular mobile development framework in use today. Capturing more than 16% of the development market, React Native is a highly productive and highly efficient choice for professional app developers.
Since being officially released in 2015 by Facebook (now Meta), the React Native framework has rapidly grown to be a leader in the field. For the last two years running it’s been the most used and most popular mobile development framework amongst mobile application developers. Capable of deploying apps to both iOS and Android devices, the framework now boasts an impressive honor roll of supported apps outside of Meta’s in-house ecosystem.
In second place, Google’s Flutter framework holds a little over 13% of the market share amongst professional app developers. Less mature than React and currently less popular, competition between these two giants in the mobile app marketplace is proving to create better tooling and functionality for everyone with more than a passing interest in application development.
Q3. What features are most valuable in a mobile development framework?
Ease of use, productivity, performance, and user interface are amongst the most highly valued assets of a good mobile development framework. Ideally, the choice to utilize a framework to deploy a mobile application should have minimal negative consequences on an application while providing libraries, features, and development assets that make an app faster to build and easier to maintain.
Depending on the use case, cross-platform functionality, device testing, and customizations may be highly valued by developers implementing a mobile application for their clients. A framework such as Swiftic may additionally offer an easier method of access to application development with no-code solutions or drag-and-drop coding interfaces.
The most valuable features of simplicity, branding, security, and customization will depend primarily on what the framework is being used to create and the industry it’s being created in.