Cross-platform mobile app development makes a strong presence in today's dev market. This is dictated by the increased use of mobile platforms by the users and its overall efficiency. The industry keeps up with the trends, focuses on optimizing and saving the production costs while improving, or at least retaining the existing productivity.
This and many other factors contribute to the spread of cross-platform tendency that is here to stay. We decided to analyze all significant elements of this type of mobile app production and count the estimates of the cost to succeed with such tasks. Let's go through the issue one step at a time.
It's time to dig into the matter and determine the main factors that determine the popularity of this approach and its rationality.
Saving large chunks of dev budget. If the decision to go for multiple mobile platforms is made, a price must be paid. Developing separate applications for each dominant OS (iOS, Android, BlackBerry in some cases) requires multiplying the work hours and the budget by the number of target OSes. Going for all at the same time may substantially decrease the expenditure and allow to focus on better productivity and more useful functions. Not to mention better payment for the most skilled developers.
Bigger reach. The clash of two industry giants goes multiple ways throughout the years. To stay on top of the wave, you have to cover all potential customers, and that means spending time and money to develop an app both for Android and iOS. It will strengthen your visibility and increase the chance of success due to an increase in the target audience.
Better speed. You need to develop one algorithm, one set of functions and then adapt those to the OS requirements. The results for both platforms come much faster than when building native apps separately. You can reuse the existing code for multiple situations (you'll have enough chances to face them) and thus reduce the amount of effort required to build a decent app.
Bright future (so far). Cross-platform frameworks are getting improved as you read this and even more are on their way to emerge on the market. Xamarin, Appcelerator Titanium, RubyMotion, and others offer great help to the developers and make their lives a lot easier. Since this approach is only warming up, we can expect better frameworks and environments to appear in the nearest future.
Like any other approach, it has its flaws, and they may become too big of a deal to pursue it further.
Complexity may be a danger. While cross-platform development offers a quick way to duplicate the code and produce multiple apps for various OSes at the same time, the process may turn into a disaster once you scale the functionality or dive into complex algorithms. Long story short - more significant complexity means more bugs and time spent to remove them. The implementation will most likely be different for each OS, and thus you'll need far more effort to succeed.
Performance drops. You're developing an app to fit all operating system simultaneously, and it may backfire a bit. The app will most definitely get more prominent and will not respond as well as native mobile apps do. You are free to keep optimizing, but you'll end up spending as much time as you would have needed for producing two separate native apps. Isn't that the contrary of what cross-platform development strives to achieve?
Hard to compete with native devs. If you're in a hot niche and competing with other apps, then it's time to admit that the native guys will be faster. Each update will take them less to publish, and bug fixing process may be much smoother. You, in turn, will be tasked to adapt both apps while coping with OS restrictions.
The inevitable sacrifice of the perfect UI. The brilliance of reusing the same code for each platform dims when the development team gets to this part. You won't be able to go for a neat design with smooth animations while you're on common code. Again, customization can solve every issue, but that means more time and money spent.
If you're reading this, then you have probably figured the main pros and cons of cross-platform development. It gave you a basic understanding of the cost of development and its main modifiers. Let's take a closer look at those.
Factors that reduce the cost:
Synchronized development. You will get all apps for target OSes at the same time (roughly) and drastically cut the expenses compared to the native development of each app.
One team. Cross-platform development will require only one team which is easier to manage and cheaper to sustain.
Reusable code. Programmers will do at least two times more work while using common code for all platforms, cutting the working hours and price as a result.
Existing frameworks. Frameworks developed precisely for cross-platform app building allow to speed up the process, and unique framework libraries are a helping hand you never expect to see.
Factors that increase the cost:
Performance optimization. A common code may (and will) have its destructive influence on the apps, and if you want them to compete with native apps, optimization is a must.
Bypassing UI limitations. Quick development means adapting the code to the requirements and restrictions of all target OSes at the same time. Better UI means more native tinkering and time of your programmers.
Time to learn new frameworks. Specific tech requires specific knowledge and either you teach your team or hire a ready master, it will hit the budget.
Security maintenance. The frameworks may offer less security as the native ones do, and thus potential security breach can become a massive problem.
We agree that synchronized development with reusable code significantly reduce the time and price to build cross-platform apps. If that is the primary goal - no negative factors will, and you will be able to save up to 50% of your budget or even more.
The chance of security failure is lower than the benefits of reduced costs alongside covering the niche on all platforms may neglect the difficulty to keep up with native developers.
If you’re pursuing a good result and desire to shrink the budgets even further, there are some methods to do just that.
Supporting only the latest OS versions
Focusing on latest updates will save tons of time and money. Older versions of any OS often prove difficult to support. Taking into account the common code, saving desire and lack of time, going for the newest releases is a wise move. Legacy OS and devices may even double your maintenance spendings.
Designers and programmers in one team
Hiring two separate teams of developers and UI masters may bring tons of problems due to lack of personal communication and longer than usual response times. This, in turn, may increase the development cost. Try to work with the teams that offer both code and design services to save time and money.
New teams charge less
Outsourcing business is highly developed, and new companies emerge on a daily basis. If you're patient and careful, you can find teams that have all the skills but are lacking portfolio. These programmers and designers will charge you multiple times less to make a name for themselves.
The costs vary greatly and solely depend on the number of features and their complexity. The prices can start around $5,000 and go beyond $1,000,000, according to Clutch 2017 survey. Location of the development company and their reputation play an important part in adjusting the development costs.
Small app with just a handful of functions may indeed cost you from $5,000 to $10,000, but the feature-packed project will require a lot more. Offshore outsourcing companies (in Ukraine, Russia, etc.) will offer quality services.
Their prices will vary roughly from $5,000 to $60,000 depending on the app you want to build. The numbers are estimated as it's all up to you. To request a pack of functions and performance level that may even go beyond the max average value or settle down with a smaller project.
Do your homework and research the market. Talk to different service providers and make a decision that will benefit both your budgets and your future cross-platform mobile application.