When you’re about to drop a few grand on a custom app, it’s good to know what’s the best mobile app development platform for 2021. Because most web traffic now takes place via smartphone, it’s never been more important to make it easy for customers to reach you wherever they are via a mobile app.
While most of your planning should deal with what your app will do, it’s also important to figure out which platform best suits its purposes. And since apps are so common, development platforms have sprouted up to follow suit.
Will customers need to download your app or can most functions be done online? How much data needs to be stored for the app to work? Is the app for customers or for internal use only?
The more questions you can answer about your app’s purpose, the easier it will be to figure out which platform is right for you.
So what’s the best platform for building a mobile app in 2021?
What Is an App Development Platform?
App development is tough. As if programming weren’t enough of a challenge, each app has to be built within a specific framework, called a platform. Each platform is unique, with its own tools and formats that must be followed if an app is to work properly. This is why many developers have one or two favorite platforms they stick to.
Some development platforms require using one specific programming language while others are much more universal. One platform’s selling point might be its ease of use while another’s is its customization. If you need to launch quickly, a simple platform will work better than an intricate one.
Why are there so many different platforms? Because no matter how well something works, it can always be better. Like all of us, programmers don’t want to do any more work than necessary. Different app development platforms and programming languages exist to do more work in fewer steps.
Apple’s Swiftic, for example, is a platform designed for beginners with no programming skills. This platform offers step-by-step options to get a simple, functional app up and running in minutes. The problem? It only works for iOS devices. Plus, there’s hardly any customization for more complex features.
On the other end of the spectrum are platforms like Unity—an extremely powerful development engine used by game designers and virtual reality products. If you’re a programmer with lots of experience and skill, Unity provides opportunities to do just about anything, but for most people, it’s just too much.
You can see how choosing a platform can be a serious decision, but before we talk about the different mobile app development platforms out there, you should know about the different kinds of apps.
Storing Data on Your Server vs. Their Smartphone
Apps come in one of three forms: hosted entirely on the internet, downloaded to a device, or something in between. When stored on the cloud, they’re known as web apps. Those stored on someone’s phone or computer are called native apps. Hybrid apps blend the two approaches.
While web apps are easier and cheaper to build, native apps seem to be the preferred way to go. The problem is that they require a lot more development (sometimes requiring separate apps for each device) and take much longer to launch.
As a result, the game now is all about building a web app that feels and behaves just like a native app. When done correctly, these apps use a lot less memory and computing power than their native counterparts, and people are generally happier.
The best mobile app development platforms in 2021 all compete with each other to build fast apps that still have that native functionality and feel. Let’s take a look at some of the platforms out there.
Flutter, Google’s Free Flagship
Few companies do as much for the open-source software world like Google, and Flutter is a great example. Building an app on Flutter is free! There’s no monthly cost to use their engine, and the platform is powerful enough to be used by companies like Google, eBay, and BMW.
Flutter works because of its expansive library of widgets and functions. Because developers don’t have to build much from scratch, they can assemble an app filled with powerful features in far less time than with more customizable engines.
Another perk of Flutter is that it only requires developers to learn one code language, called Dart. It’s this language that allows Flutter apps to look and feel like native apps without requiring all the extra work associated with such programs.
If your app plans are fairly simple and make use of mostly existing technology, take advantage of this free platform and get your app off the ground.
Appery for Fast, Easy Template Development
Another great platform for simple programs in Appery. While this platform isn’t free, it uses drag and drops template features to make development a breeze.
Appery is used for hybrid app design. This means that while the program will be downloaded onto a user’s device, the guts of it will be stored and accessed online. Hybrid apps are great for fast development because they cut down on testing bottlenecks common with native apps.
Because Appery is a paid service, you get the benefit of a committed customer service team. If you’re building an app on your own, having a team like this can be helpful for getting to launch.
Rails for Ruby—a Community of Creators
One programming language is called Ruby, and it works on its own platform called Rails. This platform considers itself a fun community where anything is possible.
Like Flutter, Rails is an open-source software that’s free to use and develop. Their community regularly contributes to GitHub, making it easy to find answers to coding problems and implement someone else’s solution when you come across an obstacle.
If you feel your app won’t fit inside the boxes laid out by the more conventional app development platforms, it may be worth it to explore Rails.
Choosing a Developer for Your Project
Unless you’re prepared to program a mobile app yourself, you’ll probably end up hiring a professional who has a favorite platform or two. Make sure to ask a few prospective developers which platforms they prefer and why. Knowing why they choose a platform can help you in choosing which route to take with your own app.
If you have a preferred mobile app development platform, it’s better if you can find someone versed in that platform’s practices. However, more importantly, is the developer’s understanding of how to launch an app in your market. This is a priceless experience. If the developer knows what they’re doing, listen to what they have to say.
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