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Microsoft replaced React Native with Electron for a new version of Skype on Windows 10. Meanwhile, the Shopify engineering team decided to build all-new mobile apps using React Native. While the Google team is releasing a new version of Dart DevTools for performance analysis and debugging of Flutter code, Microsoft is working on .NET MAUI - the next generation framework for building native cross-platform apps across mobile and desktop.
The question about the best cross-platform tool is endlessly debatable, but what we can see for sure is the growth in demand for cross-platform software for the last five years. The increased frequency of search queries can be seen by looking at Google trends’ indicators from 2015 to 2020:
Source: Google Trends
It means that cross-platform technologies are increasingly being used. However, cross-platform is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It works well in case your product is mostly based on UI and business logic. And it doesn’t make sense if the primary business goal is mostly based on native components.
Still, cross-platform app development is continuously growing, and the reasons are the following, and in this article, I’ll describe the potentials of three of the most requested cross-platform technologies now: Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin. Since there is a lot of contradictory information across the Internet about the pros and cons of each technology, here I’d like to focus on their future potentials.
“It’s all widgets!” is Flutter’s motto - a cross-platform app development SDK from Google. By using the Dart programming language and Skia 2D rendering engine, Flutter can launch UI on any platform, not adjusting it before transferring. Just-in-time (JIT) compilation and Hot Reload features allow Flutter to display code changes in seconds, which speeds up the development time. Companies that used Flutter for app development include Google, Tencent, Alibaba Group, Nubank, Groupon, and others.
More details on why companies choose Flutter app development.
Having a mission to have a single codebase for Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Linux, and Web, the Flutter team is aiming to reach game-quality visual and native compilation for all platforms. iOS, Android, and Web are already way past that, and the desktop is the next step forward. The newly announced features include:
UWP and Win32-based architectural approaches for providing coordination with the underlying operating system
These new updates are good news for those who are going to build a multiplatform app since it will cover not only iOS, Android, and Web users, but also Windows, macOS, and Linux.
You can also read how React Native app development works under the hood.
Companies that utilize React Native include Facebook, Bloomberg, Walmart, Uber, Shopify, and others.
The main controversial point of React Native is its bridge architecture. The bridge that translates JS code into the native ones, that is what might cause performance issues. Thus, when you are going to develop an app containing many interactive animations, 3D, or complex computations, old React Native’s approaches might not be the best choice. But it’s worth remembering that this framework is still in beta, and it means that the React Native team is actively working on improvements.
In 2018, Facebook announced the new React Native architecture. As they said, the new approaches would be expected to overcome bridge limitations. The updated architecture contains:
Currently, Xamarin platform consists of:
Visual Studio utilization allows the building of iOS Apple Watch and Android Watch apps, which can be debugged from the desktop, devices, or emulators.
Companies that adopted Xamarin for app development include the World Bank Group, Olo, Alaska Airlines, Aggreko, HCL, and others.
In May 2020, Microsoft announced the .Net MAUI (.Net Multi-platform App UI) framework that is technically the evolution of Xamarin.Forms. This framework is expected to create native UI for mobile devices and desktop, and to have the following features:
The release of .Net MAUI is scheduled for November 2021, and there is also the roadmap of its development milestones on GitHub.
Talking about the popularity of each platform, I would introduce stats by Google Trends:
Source: Google Trends
As you can see, at the moment, Flutter and React Native are the most searchable technologies. But I’d like to emphasize that all three platforms have big future potentials towards smooth cross-platform app development. Google, Facebook, and Microsoft do their best for the development and support of platforms. Thus, the choice of the best cross-platform app development tool depends only on business goals and requirements.