NOVEMBER 11, 2019
12 min read
Which programming language should we choose? How should we store our data? What’s the most advantageous technology stack for mobile applications? These are just a few questions that we often hear from our partners and new clients.
In most cases, business owners have a clear vision about the business part, understanding who will use their app, what problems it’ll solve, and how it’ll generate profit. However, when it comes to the technical feasibility and selection of the best technology stack for startups, most companies need assistance from a reputed mobile software development company that has experience and skills to bridge the gap between your business needs and actual implementation.
The selection of the right mobile stack not only gives your software solution life but can also cut the development costs, quicken time-to-market, and make your app easily maintainable and scalable to support your future growth. But first things first, let’s start with the technology stack definition and review the most sought-after mobile development approaches that you can utilize to deliver on your business plan.
What’s a Tech Stack in Mobile App Development?
In simple terms, a mobile technology stack means a blend of software products, programming languages, frameworks, libraries, platforms, tools, and UI/UX solutions employed by your mobile app development team.
Technically speaking, software development projects consist of front-end and back-end app development, while other critical elements of a mobile solution like security or user experience are heavily contingent on the adopted stack.
The app tech stack that you and your engineering team choose can become a strong competitive advantage, contributing to your market resilience and business growth.
Native App Development: iOS & Android
Native mobile app development means building software solutions individually for each operating system. Engineers should carefully follow platform-specific guidelines and employ separate software development kits, interface elements, and environments offered by each provider.
These days most companies invest in Android and iOS app development due to a great number of benefits offered as compared with hybrid or cross-platform native mobile app development. Native software solutions can be easily integrated with the whole ecosystem (like Apple or Google Pay, Siri or Google assistants), while providing users with exceptional speed, security, and stability. Famous native app examples are Uber, Lyft, Pokemon Go, Trello, Evernote, and Dozens.
The Overview of iOS Application Development
- Programming languages: Objective-C, Swift
- iOS mobile development tools: Xcode
If you decide to create a native iOS app, you can opt for either Objective-C or Swift.
The former has been the principal coding language for years, and it is still widely used for projects of varying complexity. Mobile application development teams can opt for Objective-C if there’s already a large legacy project written in this language, and they need to support it or if there are no skilled Swift developers within the team. On top of that, you can pick Objective-C because:
- it’s a well-tried and tested language;
- it offers good compatibility with C++;
- it provides easy use of private APIs;
- It has an expressive code syntax.
Swift is comparatively young, but it is reasonably called the future of mobile programming. If you’re looking for the best technology to build a mobile app for iOS, then we’d recommend Swift, since it is more functional and robust. The main reasons why it is so popular are:
- faster work and better performance;
- safe and more resistant to errors;
- clear syntax guarantees better code readability and easier support;
- progressive and versatile language;
- huge community support.
iOS app development with Swift is faster, so it’s more cost-efficient for business owners. We also utilize this language to build our own products, and recently, we’ve released a PurchaseController — library that facilitates the embedding of in-app purchase functionality into mobile solutions.
Summary of Android Mobile App Development
Programming languages: Java, Kotlin
Android app development tools: Android Studio
We’ve already confronted Kotlin vs Java in one of our previous blog posts, but when it comes to native Android app development, these languages are in great demand.
Java is a seasoned coding language used not only as an app stack for Android, but it is also applied to web development, Big Data, and others. It comes with various open-source libraries and tools to facilitate the implementation for software engineers and shorten your time-to-market. Mobile teams prefer it because:
- it’s highly secure;
- it’s easily-scalable and portable;
- self-operative memory management;
- multi-threaded capability;
- vast functionality.
Kotlin is younger than Java, but it has already gained a reputation of a stable and powerful coding tool. It is completely interoperable with Java, enabling mixed-language teams and projects. It’s often called a better alternative for Android native development due to:
- lazy initialization feature to prevent threads;
- a clear and effective syntax that results in up to 35 percent fewer lines of code compared to Java;
- better security and fault tolerance;
- large ecosystem and good support;
- extension function;
- strong community.
If you’re looking for tools and technologies required for Android app development, then we’d recommend Kotlin, since it’s inherently coherent, lightweight, and concise. Currently, we employ Kotlin for our internal products and most clients’ projects.
Pros and Cons of iOS and Android App Development Services
Comprehensive integration with particular devices and ecosystems
Exceptional user experience
Require versatile or large mobile development teams
Cross-Platform Mobile App Development: React Native vs Xamarin vs Flutter
When companies create cross-platform mobile apps, they expect them to work well on multiple operating systems. Mobile developers write a single codebase that is later used for different OSs simultaneously and is well-adapted to most devices.
Most business owners choose cross-platform solutions for mobile app development because this approach guarantees faster coding and requires a smaller budget for actual implementation and further support. Besides, you can reach a wider audience, thus increasing your profit.
However, every mobile technology stack cuts both ways, so be ready to compromise on performance, user experience, and malfunctions. Even if you employ the best cross-platform mobile app development tools, your general codebase can’t access a particular OS directly. It “builds bridges” to reach native modules, and that’s why the performance of complex graphically-rich apps may be slower, as compared with native software, while users of simple solutions may notice no difference. The implementation of system-specific effects, graphics, or gestures may extend the deadline and result in cost overrun.
Overview of Cross-Platform Technologies Used in Mobile App Development
Programming tools: React Native, Flutter, Xamarin
Multi-operated software solutions can be developed using different frameworks and technologies, but let’s elaborate on the most popular ones.
- good performance, close to the native;
- high responsiveness;
- live reloading;
- strong community and rich ecosystem.
Flutter is one of the newest UI kits for creating attractive and functional software solutions for multiple mobile platforms, web, and desktop systems from one codebase. It is originally introduced by Google and includes all the necessary widgets and tools that mobile teams may require for viable computing. Making a comparison between React Native vs Flutter, we’ve already defined their strengths for business, and talking about the latter, they are:
- hot reload feature to see all the changes to the code right in the solution, in real-time;
- ability to reuse existing Swift, Java, or Objective-C code and get access to native features, like GPS or camera;
- fast time-to-market;
- smooth and quick performance, close to native.
Xamarin allows software engineers to share up to 96% of their code, still leaving room for the redesign of some UI elements for a particular platform. Xamarin developers use C# language or .NET framework to write code and then compile it into native iOS and Android binaries. The top benefits for companies to stick with the Microsoft stack and opt for developing mobile apps using Xamarin are:
- ability to use MVVM and MVC design patterns that hasten the development process, enhance team collaboration within the project, and facilitate debugging;
- functional and high-performing code;
- shared application logic;
- massive community support.
Pros and Cons of Cross-Platform Technology Stack for Mobile App Development
Operating system coverage
Faster development for several platforms at a time
Restricted support of OS or device features
Hybrid Mobile App Development: PhoneGap vs Ionic
As for the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid apps, they’re very similar to cross-platform solutions: prompt implementation, lower cost, but lower responsiveness and performance, along with limited UX and integration capabilities.
Overview of Hybrid Mobile App Development Tools and Frameworks
Programming tools: PhoneGap, Ionic (plus Cordova)
Let’s take a closer look at the most widely used frameworks to drive the coding process.
- a vast number of libraries to eliminate excessive coding and improve app functionality;
- predefined templates to accelerate the engineering process;
- good compatibility with external tools.
Ionic is an AngularJS-based framework, and it is often called one of the best ways to develop hybrid mobile apps. It should be combined with PhoneGap/Cordova to access device hardware features such as GPS, sensors, and more. Moreover, it supports a myriad of external plugins and extensions, while reusing DOM elements to ensure better solution performance. The advantages that come with Ionic mobile application development are:
- fast implementation due to the rich ecosystem;
- material design support for beautiful UI;
- helpful community.
No matter if you opt for PhoneGap or Ionic app development, both approaches allow you to go beyond browser-only limitations and access the complete set of mobile device capabilities. If you need admission to TouchID or Bluetooth, you just choose and add a necessary plugin. However, if you plan to scale and require high software security, then we’d recommend choosing Android or iOS development stack.
Pros and Cons of Hybrid Mobile App Development Technology Stack
One solution for multiple platforms
Lower development cost
Lack of scalability
High risk of code vulnerabilities
More costly post-release maintenance
Are Progressive Web Apps the Future of the Mobile Web?
If you consider mobile application development for your company and have been researching this topic lately, then you must have already heard about progressive web applications (PWA). They generate much hype in the software engineering field, so we can hardly miss them as well.
What’s a progressive web app? It’s a mobile-optimized version of a webpage that can be installed on a mobile device via a browser. This solution is often called an in-browser app since it looks like a standard app, minus the need to download it from an app store. Google employees first introduced the term in 2015, but today such solutions effectively help businesses increase conversions and push up sales. Among the best examples of progressive web apps are Forbes, Starbucks, AliExpress, Lancôme, Flipkart, and many others.
This approach acts as an additional option for those firms that don’t have enough budget to invest in mobile app development or want to trial a new revenue stream. Among other progressive web app benefits are:
- offline availability;
- good performance and smooth user experience;
- seamless responsiveness to any screen size;
- connectivity to the native device or system features;
- prompt deployment at a low cost.
Despite the pre-mentioned advantages, we can’t ignore progressive web app limitations, since they can have a significant impact on your business. So far, PWAs are not supported by all browsers and software, so if you need such features as fingerprint scanners or GPS, you’d better go native.
Criteria to Consider While Choosing a Mobile App Development Stack for Your Next Project
The selection of tools and frameworks for mobile development is wide, and the amount of information may be unsustainable, so how to make the right choice? Choose a reliable IT partner or development team and a practical plan when selecting an app stack. This will provide not only a functional solution, but also other perks like easy scalability, high security, and smooth maintainability. Trying to identify the best technology to build a mobile app, pay special attention to:
#1 Project type
It’s the determinative factor when considering full-stack technologies for your mobile software solution. For example, if you want to build a fintech app that is quick, secure, and compelling, then you should opt for Android or iOS mobile app development. In such cases, we recommend Swift or Kotlin stack, depending on your business strategy and target markets.
#2 Time to market
Timing is important if you have a game-changing idea that your competitors are working on too. To be the first and gain a competitive edge, you may consider React Native or Xamarin app development, based on your team skillset. Some of our clients still lean toward native technologies and just give preference to either Android or iOS development stack for a start.
It goes without saying that money is the core driver for any business. Often companies can’t afford to invest in concurrent development of iOS and Android apps, especially if we are talking about idea validation. In such scenarios, you can choose any approach, but if you have a JS team in-house, then proceed with React technology stack, and if your company is a Microsoft fan, then consider Xamarin. Both technologies allow developers to reuse code, which means faster delivery and full platform coverage.
#4 Long-term strategy
Scalability and stability refer to the ability of your software to manage growth outbreaks and seasonal spurts. These are the key metrics that can either rise or sink your business because, in today’s competitive environment, users become less loyal.
As the number of consumers increases and the company matures, your application should be able to handle this growth and adapt to your needs, allowing both horizontal and vertical scaling. Post-release maintenance should be done regularly to guarantee seamless performance and prevent customer churn.
Questions to Ask When Deciding on a Technology Stack for a Mobile Application
We’ve prepared a list of questions that every business owner or engineering team should ask before going for their big suite of technologies.
- Is it well-documented?
- How helpful is the community?
- Is it new? How often are new versions released?
- Who owns and manages the technology?
- How small/large the talent pool is? Will there be any difficulties with recruiting?
- How long does it take to learn it?
- How large is the ecosystem (plugins, modules, others)?
- What are the maintenance needs?
- How my business may benefit from this technology?
Asking those questions, remember there are no right or wrong answers. Each business is unique, and this list will help you make the right choice.
Wonder How DashDevs Can Help?
DashDevs has over nine years of experience in the web and mobile engineering field. We’ve started as an Android & iOS app development company and have already created over 500 great software solutions for various companies worldwide. Our team performs business technology consulting and mobile application development services in the areas of strategic planning, data analysis, DevOps, software testing, and design, using extensive knowledge, established track record, and competent mobile app developers. Click here for more information.