A Brief Guide to Cross-platform Mobile App Development in 2023

There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding regarding the terminology and approaches to cross-platform app development. One of the reasons for this is that the term “platform” may refer to different types of hardware (mobile/desktop platforms). But it also may refer to different operating systems within the same type of hardware (Windows/Linux or iOS/Android).

First of all, cross-platform approaches are different in software development for desktop and mobile devices. The core principle in cross-platform mobile app development is the concept of single, reusable code for all potential platforms. This is not always the case in cross-platform software for desktops and consoles, where versions for different platforms may have different codebases.

Also, some specialists tend to use terms “cross-platform” and “hybrid” as interchangeable synonyms. This is not entirely justified in the case of software development for mobile platforms, so this article distinguishes these two types of applications.

Progressive web applications can be also considered “cross-platform” in a sense that they are accessible across various platforms and operating systems with the help of web browsers. They can run on mobile devices but are not built exclusively for mobile platforms, so they will not be described in this article.

What Is Cross-Platform App Development for Mobile Devices

The term “cross-platform mobile app development” refers to one of the approaches to building a software program for mobile devices. Overall, there are three approaches to mobile software development, and all of them have their pros and cons. They are:

  • Cross-platform. This type of software application is designed for use on different mobile platforms. The distinguishing feature here is that a cross-platform app usually has a single codebase. This means that the whole code, or at least its significant percentage is shared or reused on versions for different mobile operating systems. This is possible thanks to a variety of specialized frameworks. They help developers to minimize the limitations of this approach while attempting to deliver a “native-like” user experience.
  • Native. This type of application is written exclusively for one particular platform. It is designed to utilize all relevant software and hardware features available on that platform. Because developers focus on one mobile platform, the same code cannot be reused on other platforms.
  • Hybrid. This approach to mobile app development combines native and web technologies.  The code is written in programming languages for web development, such as CSS or HTML, and then is wrapped in a “native” shell. In many aspects, hybrid applications are similar to cross-platform apps, and their differences are often rather subtle. That’s why many specialists choose not to distinguish these two types for the sake of simplicity.

Mobile OS market share for cross-platform app development

There are only two operating systems that dominate the industry of mobile devices: Android and iOS. Combined, they cover over 99% of the market, while the share of all other operating systems is negligible. That’s why, these days, a “cross-platform mobile application” generally means a software product designed to work on Android and iOS devices.

Main Advantages of Cross-platform Mobile App Development

  1. One code for all platforms. The main concept of cross-platform mobile apps is the single codebase that can be fully or partially used on all target platforms. The realization of “reusable code” has its limitations but also leads to several further benefits.
  2. Lower costs to cover platforms. “One code fits all” is a cost-effective approach that makes the most out of a limited budget. For example, there is no need for two dedicated teams to cover separate Android and iOS versions of software. Besides, native app developers charge more and are not easy to find. Cross-platform development reduces costs by using a single team with a single stack of technologies to deliver a software product on both mobile platforms.
  3. Less time to deliver a final software product. Using one codebase and one team simplifies the process of software development compared with managing two teams at the same time. For example, managers do not need to synchronize the progress of two teams to release the software product at the same time on iOS and Android. Two native versions of an app would mean double coding, double testing, etc.
  4. Larger user coverage. Thanks to cross-platform development, an application can reach more users. This approach offers a sufficient level of compatibility for different operating systems. It also maintains some level of “native” experience, so users feel more comfortable with their interaction with an app. That’s why cross-platform development is preferred if a project’s budget is not large enough to build two separate native applications.

Over the years, developers have created many tools for building cross-platform applications. Here are the top 5 most popular frameworks that are currently used for this purpose:

Most popular cross platform mobile app development technologies

  1. Flutter. Created by Google in 2017, Flutter uses the Dart language to create software compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, and other platforms. Thanks to its versatility and performance, this is the most popular framework with a high potential for further improvement. Google Pay and eBay applications are examples of using Flutter for cross-platform software development.
  2. React Native. This framework was created by Meta in 2015 and allows building apps for mobile and desktop platforms. It also supports operating systems for smart TV, such as tvOS and Android TV, as well as virtual reality devices. For example, Facebook, Skype, Shopify, and Microsoft Office mobile apps are created using this framework.
  3. Apache Cordova. This framework is almost exclusively focused on mobile platforms: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Its predecessor, PhoneGap, supported a much larger variety of phones and operating systems, such as Blackberry, Nokia Symbian OS, Tizen, etc. Apache Cordova uses the combination of CSS, HTML, and JavaScript and the capabilities provided by native WebView.
  4. Ionic. Though Ionic focuses on building hybrid apps, it is considered the fourth most popular cross-platform framework these days. It supports Android, iOS, and the Universal Windows Platform. Ionic allows developers to combine web code written in such languages as Sass, CSS, and HTML with native code.
  5. Xamarin. Microsoft bought this framework in 2016 and maintains it as a tool for building applications for various types of smart devices. It allows developers to use Microsoft .NET and Visual Studio to create software for Android, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS. Xamarin enables reusing and sharing code written in C# across different platforms. It also supports the Universal Windows Platform and macOS.

Tips For Developing Mobile Cross-platform Software

There are several factors you need to consider before deciding to make a cross-platform mobile application.

  • Your target audience. Should you cover both Android and iOS? Is it better to narrow down your audience?
  • Your budget. Will it be enough for two teams or only one?
  • Your potential development team. Does it have enough specialists? What tech stacks do they use?
  • Your time to market. When would be the optimal time to release your software? Can a team meet this deadline?

Do marketing research. Analyze your plans. Find answers to these questions before moving to development.

To sum up, you should consider cross-platform development instead of a native approach when:

  • You lack budget for two native apps;
  • You need to release your software as fast as possible;
  • You need to cover both Android and iOS at the same time.

However, the benefits of cross-platform app development come at a certain price. There are certain drawbacks you need to consider if you decide to make a cross-platform mobile app.

  • Lower performance compared to native apps.
  • More testing is required to ensure compatibility with several versions of different mobile operating systems.
  • Inability to use the full extent of hardware and software features provided natively.
  • Higher maintenance requirements to adapt to system updates on all target platforms.

All those drawbacks can be mitigated to a certain degree by a proper choice of cross-platform mobile app development technologies. A skilled team will be able to make the most out of the selected framework and other tools to ensure good quality.


As you can see, cross-platform development can be confusing at first glance. But once you learn more about it, you become impressed by its numerous advantages. Modern frameworks for cross-platform development are supported by such IT giants as Google, Microsoft, Meta, and many others. Thanks to the efforts of the loyal community, these tools have become very effective in delivering native-like experience across various platforms.

At Intellectsoft, we have skilled specialists in various cross-platform technologies. We offer a wide range of mobile app development services to create software for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Whether you want to release your application on all these platforms or just one, we can deliver the solution. Contact us and tell our solution advisor what kind of native or cross-platform mobile application you want.

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