Technologies Used in Mobile App Development

Technologies Used in Mobile App Development

If you wish to build your own app, you must be inquiring about the right technology stack and tools for the project. Here we are going to explain these choices in detail. But, before we start our discussion on technologies used in mobile app development we must spare a few words on the overwhelming competition in the app market.

There are already more than 7 million apps in the market across both iOS and Android stores. In spite of the dominance of mobile apps in every walk of life, there is huge competition within every app category. It is already well known that most people limit their choices within a handful of apps in every category. This is why it is important for your app project to consider what technology to develop an app more seriously.

Let’s start by explaining the tools and technologies used in app development.

Three Different Types of Mobile Apps

Before you choose the technology stack for your app project, it is important to decide the type of app you are going to build. Are you going to target iOS and Android platforms separately with two platform-specific apps? In that case, you need to build native apps. For building one app that runs on all platforms, you go for hybrid app development. For building one app with two distinct user interfaces for iOS and Android, you need cross-platform development.

Let’s explain these three choices and their respective pros and cons.

Native Apps

Native apps are built for one particular OS platform. With this approach, you need to develop a separate app for the iOS platform and another app for the Android platform. While building the native iOS app, you need to use iOS-specific app development technologies such as Objective C and Swift. As for iOS development tools you need Xcode, AppCode, UIKit, SwiftUI, etc. Similarly, for native Android app development, you need Java or Kotlin programming language and Android development tools such as Android Studio, Jetpack Compose, etc.

The pros of native development are superior user experience and performance as they are built for a single platform by using the core language and tools of the platform. On the other hand, native development requires building two separate apps and hence is time-consuming and expensive.

Hybrid Mobile Apps

Hybrid mobile app development is all about building one single app that can run on multiple platforms including iOS, Android and the web. Hybrid apps mostly use tried and tested frameworks based on web technologies. Any developer having experience with HTML5, CSS and JavaScript can easily adopt hybrid development practices. The common hybrid development frameworks include PhoneGap and Ionic.

The pros of hybrid development are mainly faster pace and lower cost of development. On the other hand, the cons of hybrid development are many including lack of platform-specific user interface, compromising user experience, performance glitches and difficulties in accessing platform-specific features.

Cross-platform Apps

Cross-platform development can be called a balanced mix of native and hybrid development approaches. Just like hybrid development it utilises the same codebase for iOS and Android and just like native apps it builds separate UIs for iOS and Android versions of the app. Cross-platform app project reuses up to 85% of the core codebase and for the rest, it uses platform-specific UI components. The leading frameworks used for cross-platform development include React Native, Flutter and Xamarin.

Cross-platform app development results in superb native-looking and high-performance apps while thanks to the reusability of the core codebase the development time and cost are kept at a minimum level. In spite of all these pros, cross-platform apps are still not at par with native app performance and user experience.

What is Mobile App Development Stack?

Now that we have explained the three different types of apps and mentioned the technologies and tools used for these apps, we now need to go further deeper into these technology stacks.

Let’s face the question, what is a mobile app development technology stack? Well, it is basically a neat package of one or multiple programming languages, operating system platforms, frameworks, tools, APIs and UX/UI building software. The stack of mobile app development technologies can be categorised into the following components.

  • Frontend: This refers to technologies used to build the interface responsible for interacting with the end-users of the app. This is also called client-side technologies as it only deals with the interactions and user experience of the end-users.
  • Backend: Backend refers to the software tools and programming languages to handle the processing of the tasks and data on the server. This is also called server-side technologies as it is only responsible for server-side processing.
  • OS Platform: The OS platform or the operating system platform for which the app is being developed provides all the necessary UI elements and libraries for developing the app.
  • Tools: An app development stack also uses a variety of software tools and APIs for optimising the app security, user experience, and app performance.

Now let us begin explaining the technology stack of each type of app.

Android Technology Stack

Let’s first begin with technologies used to develop a mobile app for the Android platform. Android, having a large ecosystem of devices and OS versions, has the most versatile technology stack.

Programming Languages for Android apps

  • Java: Java is the widely used and only dominant language for developing Android apps before Kotlin came. Having been in the developing world for decades it is supported by a worldwide community of developers and provide a wide range of open source and free tools and libraries to fit every different app project. Java is a highly scalable and flexible language and hence it has remained so popular over the years.
  • Kotlin: Being launched in 2011, Kotlin was declared as the official language for Android app development by Google. Kotlin brought several key-value additions over its predecessor Java by ensuring a cleaner code with the least boilerplate code, full compatibility with JVM and interoperability with Java. Yes, Kotlin can be used alongside Java in an app project.

Tools for Android app development

  • Android Studio: It is the official integrated development environment (IDE) for Android apps. Developed by using the same technology as Jetbrain, the IDE also provides a simple and developer-friendly interface.
  • Jetpack Compose: It is a highly sophisticated technology to help developers describe the UI elements more precise.
  • Android UI: This is nothing but pre-configured templates to help developers create user interfaces quickly.

Technology Stack for iOS app development

Since iOS is a closed ecosystem with its own platform-specific languages and tools, technologies used to develop a mobile app for iOS will be a lot different from Android and others.

Programming languages for iOS apps

  • Objective-C: It is Apple’s own language used for building iOS apps. It used to be the de-facto language for iOS development before Swift came.
  • Swift: Swift was developed by Apple specifically to address the shortcomings of Objective-C and deliver better performance, superior user experience and cleaner coding. The simplicity, ease of use and high-performance output made it the first choice for iOS development now.

Tools for iOS app development

Xcode: Xcode is the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) created by Apple and it offers access to all the key features and functionalities needed to develop a native iOS app. Xcode offers every different function starting from the user interface design to coding to app testing.

App Code: AppCode is another IDE for iOS app development that is created and maintained by a third party. With a highly flexible configuration, it is a good tool to enhance productivity.

UIKit: UIKit is a basic level framework to create and handle all graphic UI components of the iOS app.

SwiftUI: SwiftUI is similar to UIKit as a tool to create app user interfaces but it only supports the advanced and latest iOS versions.

Technology Stack for Cross-Platform App Development

Is your app aiming to make its presence in both iOS and Android platforms? Do you want to use the same codebase in both platforms while building befitting user interfaces for both iOS and Android? Well, in that case, cross-platform app development is the solution.

Frameworks used for cross-platform app development

Flutter: Flutter is basically a UI building framework created and maintained by Google and is widely popular for cross-platform app projects. It uses Dart programming language and offers a rich repository of built-in widgets to develop high-performance apps.

React Native: React Native is a JavaScript framework for developing cross-platform applications with highly native performance and user experience. React Native offers a broad range of ready to use components, modular architecture, easy error detection and a simple interface.

Xamarin: Xamarin is another cross-platform framework that uses the C# language and offers easy access to the platform-specific native APIs of both iOS and Android. Offering an open-source platform keeps certain advanced features as premium or paid.

Technology Stack for Hybrid App Development

Do you want to build just a single app that runs on all platforms and do not want to give a fuck about platform-specific user interface attributes? In that case, hybrid app development can just be the ideal solution. Hybrid apps involve mainly tried and tested web development technologies such as HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript.

PhoneGap: PhoneGap is the widely acclaimed open-source hybrid development framework that uses both HTML and JavaScript code. If you want to turn a website into a mobile app, PhoneGap can just offer you the right solution. PhoneGap besides building frontend also supports robust server-side ensuring superb app performance.

Ionic: Ionic is a leading hybrid mobile app development framework that uses tried and tested web technologies such as CSS and HTML5. The biggest benefit of using an Ionic framework is the robust library of ready to use components it provides for saving development time and efforts.

How to Choose the Appropriate Technologies for your Mobile App Project?

Making a choice from the numerous technology stacks that we explained above depends upon a variety of considerations and factors that we are going to explain here below.

Core app considerations

Let’s start with the basic or core aspects of your app. These are the considerations that no app project can afford to undermine. Here are the core app considerations for choosing the right technology stack.

  • The app objective or the business objective behind the app
  • Smartphone devices and operating system on which the app is going to work
  • What kind of network condition the app will need
  • What kind of user experience the app intends to deliver
  • The time frame conceived for developing and releasing the app in the market

Based upon target platforms and devices, user experience and time to market the app you need to choose the right technology or toolset.

Available skilled resources

At times you can opt for an alternative language or framework simply because of the ease of availing the skilled resources you need for the app project. This is why your accessibility to the right resources is a key consideration for choosing the tech stack.

For example, with several team members having exposure and experience to React Native, you can drop your initial plan of using Flutter for the cross-platform app project. Instead of preparing your team with a new skill, it is always productive to rely on the available skills.

The Parent Company Support

Every programming language or framework is maintained by a parent company. The support of the parent company enjoyed by the technology makes a lot of difference in respect of evolution and continuous value additions to the technology.

Some parent companies of popular technologies such as Swift from Apple, Kotlin from Google, React Native from Facebook, Flutter from Google are known for their robust documentation and awesome community support.

The Security Safeguards of the Tech Stack

How technology is equipped to combat the security issues and vulnerabilities corresponding to the app projects can also be a key consideration for choosing the tech stack. For example, a language with great documentation and easy to understand syntax is less vulnerable to errors and bugs.

Compatibility with legacy systems

This is a key consideration, particularly for enterprise app projects. When building a new comprehensive custom ERP app for your company you need to consider whether it will easily allow integration of the data and processes corresponding to legacy accounting or CRM software already existing.

To ensure this you need to choose the technology that is fully compatible with the technologies of the existing software and systems in place. Compatibility with the existing system is a key consideration for choosing the right tech stack.

Conclusion

We probably covered every aspect of choosing the right technology stack for your app project. If you take things in a step-by-step manner and keep all these options and considerations in mind, making the right choice is not as difficult as it appears to be.

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