Top 21 Frameworks For Building Hybrid Mobile Apps
App development has come a long way over the years. A decade ago, making an app for a smartphone was a challenge that required hefty amounts of knowledge in both Java and XML. The evolution of apps OS and the technology surrounding it has made development of an app significantly easier.
The Top 5 App Frameworks for 2019
2019 was the year when app frameworks were no longer an alternative but rather a genuine proposition for app development. Slowly and steadily, the industry is moving away from traditional app development and switching to framework-based development.
2019 marks the year where excellent frameworks came to the fore and there is now an intense competition between them. Many frameworks popular within limited circles were launched with stable builds across the year to aid businesses with app development.
Given below are the top 5 frameworks for the year of 2019.
Xamarin is a commercially developed app development solution for making cross-platform apps. Made by the creators of open-source development platform Mono, Xamarin was acquired by Microsoft in 2016. Ever since its acquisition, Microsoft made its SDK open source and Xamarin consequently became one of the most popular app development platforms.
Xamarin uses C# language for coding all apps. Coding in Xamarin is similar for all app platforms. C# coding allows Xamarin to use .Net features and leverage native API access for its apps.
- Singular Technology: Since Xamarin uses C# based on the .NET framework for all mobile applications, more than 95% of code can be reused for a different platform.
- Performance is as good as a native app: Unlink other hybrid solutions, Xamarin is comparable to other Java and Swift-C in terms of app performance. Its visual studio is also effective at building apps, and testing & tracking app performance.
- Hardware Support: Apps made on Xamarin connect with hardware through plugins and specific APIs which provide excellent functionality.
- Complete Development Ecosystem: Unlike other platforms, Xamarin has a complete ecosystem for development that covers all aspects of app development and also provides good technical support. Xamarin already provides provisions for Wearable and IoT apps along with traditional apps.
- Limited access to technologies: Native development makes use of a wide variety of open source technologies but with Xamarin, you need to use the ones provided by the platform.
- Costs: Xamarin for professionals and businesses is relatively expensive when compared to other development platforms.
- Lack of experienced developers: Unlike its competitors, Xamarin has a very limited talent pool since many professionals use other alternatives.
#2 React Native
Developed by Facebook, React Native is the most popular hybrid app development platform among developers. It was first released as a web interface development platform ReactJS in 2013. The first React Native build was released, specifically for hybrid app development in 2015. In June 2019, Facebook released the first stable build for React Native.
- Performance comparable to a native app: Just like Xamarin, React Native can use device features making it almost as good as a native app.
- Cost-effective: React Native is cheaper than other competitors.
- Simple UI: The UI of React Native is simplified and easy to understand.
- Third-Party Support: React Native supports third-party plugins which allow for greater customizability of apps created through it.
- Lack of documentation and expertise: Since React Native is a new platform with a huge number of amateur developers, there is a severe lack of standards, documentation, and expertise. Finding good developers for the platform is often a challenge.
- Limited Third-Party Solutions: While React Native has bundles of third party plugins and software, they are still limited and are made with regards to the current build of React Native. There is a high chance that these solutions will stop working when a new build of Native is released
- Instability, & Compatibility issues: Due to the point given above, apps made with React Native are prone to instability and may even have compatibility issues.
#3 PhoneGap/Apache Cordova
Originally known as Phone Gap, Apache Cordova was originally created by Nitobi in 2009. One of the older app development platforms, it was extremely popular in limited circles as PhoneGap. Adobe acquired PhoneGap in 2011 and renamed it to its current name. Cordova, however, had a limitation that dictated using a Mac for developing apps for iOS and Windows for windows apps.
- Use of HTML5: Everyone loves HTML5. That alone gives Cordova a brownie point. The use of HTML5 opens up Cordova to a large audience of developers who want to try their hands at app development.
- Designing is easy: App design if often trickier than the underlying logic of an app. Cordova simplifies the design part of the app.
- Fast development: Developing apps on Cordova is faster, easier and can be done in a short amount of time.
- Plugins: Cordova gets a huge number of plugins and its community keeps pushing out more and more to the developer’s delight.
- Apps are slow: Apps on Cordova are slower and it is observable. The difference of languages in rendering & logic and lack of direct access to native APIs and functionalities makes Cordova slower than its competitors.
- Lack of support from enterprises: While Cordova is popular among small businesses and gets rave reviews from developers, bigger industry-specific businesses tend to look away from Cordova for developing their apps.
- Better suited for app prototypes: For enterprises, Cordova is better suited to prototype apps to test the potential of an app idea.
- Has been niched: 84% of small businesses use Cordova. It has found a niche for itself and its unlikely Adobe will try to abandon its niche.
Flutter is what you would call a true future proof hybrid development platform. Released just over a month ago in July, it is Google’s behemoth answer to the hybrid app industry. While it is still new, saying that it will be a new benchmark is an understatement.
Designed specifically for Google Fuchsia, Flutter’s championing feature is that it can be used to create apps for all platforms using a single codebase. Flutter works on its own programming language called DART, which happens to be a combination of Java & Kotlin.
- Extreme levels of cross-platform capability: While Flutter is and will be used chiefly for the Fuchsia, it is designed to work effectively with Android, iOS, Windows and other platforms. Its cross-platform capability is unmatched.
- Tried and tested: Not only Google but Alibaba uses Flutter for some of its functions.
- Speed: App speed on Flutter is impressive for a hybrid app framework.
- Seamless UI design: Apps designed on Flutter have a good feel and futuristic design elements are easy to implement.
- Limited community: Currently, the only ‘experts’ in Flutter are the workers at Google and Alibaba. The community for Flutter is limited and will take time to develop.
- New Platform: The real-world application of the framework is still being worked on. It will take time to break the software and test its true capability. Flutter is like the new kid on the block who happens to be a prodigy. It’ll take time to know if he actually is worth all the hype.
- Apps are larger: Apps made with Flutter are 40% larger than even native counterparts.
Ionic is one of the figuratively ‘older’ app development platforms. Launched in 2013 with the goal of creating a hybrid app development platform, more than 5 million apps have been made with Ionic.
- Singular Codebase: Like the others Ionic has a single codebase making development easier.
- Abundance of UI components: Since UI styling is different for different platforms Ionic provides an excellent array for choosing the right components. The list is quite impressive.
- Excellent documentation: Ionic has a classy community and its documentation is almost unbeatable. Exhaustive explanations exist for every possible feature.
- Strong community: Ionic has a community that is well-experienced, supportive and positive. Just ask the community every time you hit a wall.
- Falters with heavier apps: Ionic cannot compare to the speed of other hybrid applications. The more complex the app, the less the speed of the apps.
- Depends on plugins: Ionic has too many plugins for its apps which may hamper the apps’ performance.
- No hot reloading: Hot reloading allows you to make changes in real-time. It is a standard feature among other frameworks. However, Ionic doesn’t support hot-reloading.
Other Platforms to Consider
While the platforms given above were stellar this year, they are not the only ones in the market. They were the best for the year and maintained a good reputation among developers this year. The app frameworks given below are their true competition. While they aren’t as good as the top 5 for 2019, they are extremely good in their own right and can hold their own against the big 5.
Some of these frameworks are fairly new so they will take time to reach their true potential. Do check them out if you want an alternative to the popular ones and want a particular feature lacking in the top 5. You might just find the one that fits your needs perfectly.
1) Onsen UI: Onsen UI is an open source and free hybrid app development platform.
- Free to use initially
- Based on Cordova
- Pricing is fluctuating and has increased in recent times
- Lack of components
- Smaller community
2) Framework7: Framework7 is a very popular HTML5 based hybrid app development platform. It is one of the best frameworks for prototyping. It is completely free and open source.
- Apps made on it are extremely fast.
- An excellent community of developers
- Free licensing for apps
- Lack of proper documentation
- No integration available for other frameworks
- Only supports newer versions of iOS and Android
- Web-oriented SDK makes it great for developing apps that interact with the Internet.
- An excellent plethora of API related functions.
- Has a community that is constantly growing.
- A knowledge of XML is required to understand few API related functions.
- Complexity drags up the prices of developing an app on it.
- Not flexible enough.
4) Mobile Angular UI: It works by combining AngularJS and Bootstrap into one package.
- Completely free to use and open source.
- Apps are coded with HTML5.
- One of the best platforms for light apps.
- Complex apps are hard to design.
- Dependency on Bootstrap 3 causes a lag.
- Limited amount of features.
5) NativeScript: Nativescript is slowly gaining popularity. First released in 2014, it is a fairly advanced app development platform. While it lacks the popularity of others, it is a solid cross-platform development software.
- Works on all PC operating systems
- Excellent performance of apps
- Supports Angular 2.0 and TypeScript.
- Community is still small.
- Doubts on the approach to making apps.
- JSON storage allows communication between data and objects.
- Doesn’t require a server for storing app data.
- Is the most advanced example of a BaaS solution
- JSON affects performance.
- Not usually prefered by enterprises.
- Limited querying and indexing.
- Creates a complicated database.
7) jQuery Mobile: jquery is less for app development and more geared towards the shell of the app. While it is not recommended on its own, it can work in conjunction with other frameworks.
- Excellent for designing apps for different screen sizes.
- Easy to debug.
- Excellent 3rd party support.
- Apps are sluggish and slow.
- Design capability is limited unless the designer is proficient.
- Apps usually look bland on big screens.
8) Sencha Touch: Sencha Touch is one of the older development platforms. It gives great support for a wide variety of operating systems.
- One of the few frameworks to support Tizen apps.
- Easy HTML5 and CSS3 based codebase
- Has an excellent and passionate community
- Great documentation
- Apps are heavy.
- Sluggishness is an issue.
- Proprietary license is not available
9) Ruby On Rails: While prefered for web apps, Ruby on Rails can be used for mobile apps, although it will need a shell framework to be published to app stores. That being said, it can work as a tool for developing apps in conjunction with other frameworks. It is owned by MIT.
- Strict standards on development ensures the best practices.
- Vibrant community of developers.
- Great for beginners to learn framework based app making.
- Slow at runtime.
- Limited features.
- Efficient architecture design is tough to make.
- Excellent multi-framework support.
- Used by enterprises alongside popular frameworks.
- Underrated for the features it offers.
- Is technically a replacement for jquery Mobile.
- Widgets are under commercial licenses.
- Lack of a good community.
11) Longrange Studio: Quite an obscure app development platform, it claims the ability to make native apps. Weirdly enough, it uses COBOL as the coding language.
- Is obscure and does not really have a community to access information on this software.
- Requires signup to use.
- Apparently only for servers
12) Alpha Anywhere: Alpha anywhere is a low code app development software. It provides excellent features for a low code development platform and deserves its place among other frameworks.
- Security is high with efficient encryption
- Provides good access to backend for a low-code platform
- Lack of support
- Less of framework and more of a commercial business.
13) Swiftic: Swiftic, unlike others on this list, is dedicated to making apps for the iOS. It provides existing tools to the developers who can use it to create efficient apps for their businesses.
- Easy to use and fast.
- Access to basic templates.
- Good for amateur developers
- Lack of tech support and a community.
- Lack of cross-platform development.
- Requires more access to the backend.
14) Qt: Qt is free and open-source cross platform software that uses widgets for the creation of apps.
- Extremely old and stable. Was initially used for creating software for Windows and Mac.
- C++ base and a large community of experienced developers.
- Great design and years of available documentation.
- Doesn’t have proper platform support.
- Lagging performance.
- Paid versions pack better features.
15) VuForia: VuForia is specialised app-building framework and development kit. Apps made on VuPhoria are made for AR(Augmented Reality) based apps. It is one of the best in the market for creating an AR based app.
- Competitive enough to combat the dominance of ARCore and ARKit.
- Only cross-platform AR app creator.
- Has a free version.
- Requires you to get proficient in a completely different coding environment.
- More in the AR app territory than the hybrid app territory.
16) Adobe Air: One of the latest releases in the field of hybrid app development. Adobe Air is Adobe’s answer to a hybrid framework.
- Fast execution of app functionalities.
- Cross-platform support also includes windows and macOS.
- Limited access to APIs.
- Better suited for desktop applications.
- Adobe’s Apache Cordova is far superior.
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