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Simplifying Cross-Platform Apps for Startups and SMBs

Quick Summary - Cross-platform apps are based on the idea of creating one codebase that will work on all platforms. Many companies are attracted to them for offering lower upfront development costs while maximizing their potential audience.

Simplifying Cross-Platform Apps for Startups and SMBs

Cross-platform apps vs native apps

Having covered technical (and marketing) considerations for Native Apps (iOS and Android), let’s look at Cross-Platform Apps. At the risk of oversimplifying, a cross-platform app is a viable consideration when you don’t require high-performance software that requires a constant Internet connection to work. A cross-platform app is also an option for cost-effectively* maximizing your potential audience. Additionally, cross-platform apps may be your only option for supporting obsolete and legacy systems.

We have to put an asterisk on “cost-effectively” for a couple of reasons. It is true that you can save time and money creating one cross-platform app compared to an app for Android AND iOS. Cross-Platform Apps, however, are more complex to develop and require more skillsets. This considered you’re likely to save between 40-60% on a single cross-platform app vs two native apps – in development only. However, long-term support (testing, debugging, etc.) can run up to 300% more compared to a single app.

Understanding cross-platform apps

A lot of companies turn to Cross-Platform Apps on the idea of “build once, run everywhere.” That’s true for fairly simple apps with limited functionality. However, more features add complexity and risks for security vulnerabilities and feature functionality on a device by device and operating system. This makes it imperative to work with an experienced software architect to determine its optimal specifications to avoid budget and time overruns.

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Compile-time, runtime, or web-based?

n most cases, a good portion of the technical stack for native apps is already defined for you – or at least limited in number/variety of options. You’ll use either Java or Kotlin for Android, and Swift or Objective-C for iOS, for example. With cross-platform apps, there are many more options and possible combinations.

The easiest way to narrow these options down to get started in defining project requirements is to determine what’s most important for your app — performance, appearance, features, and functionality, etc. Fortunately, you have three main options to choose from:

  • Compile-time options are interpreted by the OS and are the best choice for high-performance apps with close to native UI/UX look-n-feel. Developers will need to know the APIs for all targeted platforms, and write code specific for each.
  • Runtime options rely upon a virtual machine (a virtual OS), look and feel just like native apps, but their APIs are limited and extra functions create risks.
  • Web-based options work through browsers and are usually the least expensive, offer universal coverage, but tend to have more limited functionality than native apps.

To compare the various pros and cons of each:

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The key issue with cross-platform apps is that they often require 2-4 programming languages. This inherently increases the complexity of the app, increases testing requirements, and makes debugging more difficult compared to native apps.

Cross-platform technical stacks

The sheer number of possible combinations of technologies that can be used to develop a cross-platform app is daunting. By defining whether your app will be compile-time, runtime, web-based, or a game, provides some direction – as with the following chart. But, nothing compares to discussing your software with an experienced software architect.

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Debugging and maintaining cross-platform apps

As we’ve noted, the upfront costs of creating a cross-platform app run about 50% less than creating native apps for Android and iOS. This can work well for startups engaging an international audience. It’s important to note that long-term support will cost more comparatively, though this may not be quite so bad as it sounds with respect to the software development lifecycle.

You will likely need to maintain peak development efforts following the launch of your app. But, as continued improvements reduce bugs, improve the customer experience, and app performance, it will decline over time. You can reduce your team size or reassign the developers from the first project to subsequent projects.

Risks and vulnerabilities

With the ongoing escalation of ransomware and cyberattacks, the software development industry is about to get serious about software security and secure software development. Cross-platform apps have greater risks and vulnerabilities to cyberattacks –

Malicious code can:

  • Attack different platforms in the same way.
  • Specialize in attacking specific platforms.
  • Attack one platform and migrate to other platforms

An Android app, ostensibly, is mainly only at risk of attacks against the Android OS. However, threats like Androidos_USBattack.A and Troj_Droidpak.A can transfer between connect PCs and Android devices. A cross-platform app would be vulnerable to attacks targeting Android, iOS, Windows, etc.

This warrants reviewing our post about President Biden’s EO on CyberSecurity

Cross-platform development team considerations

With so many technology choices available even after determining the type of app you wish to develop, a software architect is essential for defining all of your project requirements. If your project requirements are ambiguous or ill-defined, odds are high that changes will be necessary midstream in your app’s development. This can significantly increase costs, create delays in launching your app, and actually – increase the chances of your app failing. That’s really bad news if you have a tech-first startup reliant upon it.

Many established companies with their own development teams specializing in say desktop software, mobile, or web-based apps will want to bring on specialists for whatever segment their team lacks. This may also extend to outsourcing or augmenting your team with specialists in specific technologies, programming languages, and even development tools.

Cross-platform developers for your team

PerceptionBox is a staffing agency specializing in sourcing highly-skilled software developers from Ukraine. We have an extensive pool of developers who can be ready to start work on your project within ten business days. Ukrainian developers are ranked #5 globally in terms of technical skill – scoring 8.58% and 13.62% better than their American and Israeli counterparts, respectively. More than high code quality, Ukrainian developers are stable and have lower turnover than US and EU developers.

You can outstaff or outsource with 2-4 Ukrainian developers for the same fully-loaded cost as one in-house developer – check out our wage comparisons for Tel Aviv and San Francisco.

BONUS TERMS! With PerceptionBox, for projects anticipated to last 12 months or more, you get a 5% discount straight off the top. By prepaying for 3-months on projects of 4+ months, you can get another 10% off. We welcome you to try out our developer cost calculator for free – to see how much you can save by outstaffing through PerceptionBox.

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