Today’s smartphones use different operating systems, allowing users to choose the platform that better caters to their needs and preferences. To sell competitive apps and cover a maximum target audience, you need to keep in mind the features and requirements of all the most popular OSs, such as Android, iOS and Windows.

Does this mean that you need to create multiple versions of the same app, wasting tons of time, resources and effort that can be spent on other projects? Cross-platform app development tools take this burden off your shoulders, providing the functionality necessary to create and maintain a single universal codebase.

Apps Used on Mobile Devices

Let’s cover the basics before delving into the specifics of cross-platform mobile app development. Smartphone owners use software products of different types:

  • Web applications that run on remote servers and upload information to client browsers. They can be accessed exclusively via the Internet and cannot be acquired in app stores.
  • Hybrid cross-platform applications wrap a basic codebase in platform-specific containers, ensuring organic display and smooth function on different devices. Such products are usually built using a traditional web dev trio, HTML, CSS and JS. They can be downloaded from app stores and run offline.
  • Native applications are tailored to a specific OS and built using a specific toolkit and set of languages.   
  • Native cross-platform applications combine the best characteristics of hybrid and native software products, allowing you to build a single template and reuse it for multiple OSs. There can be slight performance losses compared to native development. But they pay off with significant savings on time and resources. 

cross platform apps development

Advantages and Disadvantages of Universal Apps

Like any other solution, universal mobile applications have both positive and negative characteristics. Being aware of both will help you make an informed decision about which format suits your needs.


  • A reusable codebase can be exported to multiple platforms, without the need to customize a unique app version for each OS.
  • A lower learning curve and reduced requirements for programming skills compared to native software development. You don’t need to master stacks specific to each OS.
  • If you need to update different versions of your app, you simply edit a basic codebase, and changes will automatically appear in native environments.
  • Financial gains. You can build software products several times faster and invest less in human capital. Instead of hiring multiple teams to assemble different versions of the same application, a single team creates a general codebase, while other teams can be involved in additional projects. Since most all-purpose technologies and tools are available for free, it won’t be expensive to equip your staff with everything they need for productive work.
  • By releasing universal software products, you reach an extensive target audience, increasing your number of sales and profits.


  • Even though one-size-fits-all app building solutions promise upscale performance, it is never as good as the performance of platform-specific apps. If high performance is a key project requirement, you should stick with native app building.
  • The same refers to apps with rich graphics and advanced 3D features, especially mobile games. Cross-platform solutions rarely have access to native graphic libraries. This forces programmers to seek third-party libraries that are difficult to integrate into different devices, and they don’t run as smoothly.
  • You receive access to a wide range of generic features. But you’re unlikely to find something OS-specific in a universal app dev environment.
  • It is nearly impossible to connect to device hardware. Universal apps can transfer signals to GPS and cameras, but they can’t establish more complex connections like native apps.
  • You update your product with respect to the updates of all OSs for which it’s designed. If Android releases new features, you will need Windows and iOS to release the same features before you can update the app’s general codebase. The delay could make your Android audience abandon your obsolete product and shift to your competitors.

There is no point in building universal mobile applications for projects geared to a single OS. It makes more sense to use platform-specific development tools and avoid performance drops.

cross platform mobile development

The Best Tools for Universal App Building


  • Released by Microsoft
  • Open-source
  • To get started, you need to know C#
  • Allows for app distribution via app stores
  • Viewed as the most complete development stack compared to similar technologies
  • Smooth syncing with the Visual Studio IDE
  • Advanced testing possibilities and analytics
  • Performance falls slightly short of OS-specific apps
  • Provides a wide range of APIs and plugins
  • Access to hardware and native libraries
  • Easy to learn, thanks to the availability of high-quality educational content
  • Platform-specific UI components
  • Xamarin apps take up a lot of memory
  • Updates are sometimes delayed

React Native

  • Released by Facebook
  • Open-source
  • To get started, you need to know JavaScript with JSX, ES6 and React.JS
  • More challenging to master than other tools
  • Allows for app distribution via app stores
  • Performance falls slightly short of OS-specific apps
  • Native UI components
  • Real-time preview of code edits
  • Easy testing and debugging
  • Cross-platform code can be combined with native code

Apache Cordova

  • Open-source
  • To get started, you need to know HTML, CSS and JavaScript
  • Allows for app distribution via app stores
  • Supports all the most popular OSs, making it possible to create universal software solutions
  • Extensive plugin choice, which still does not  compare to native functionality
  • Easy-to-learn thanks to the use of common web development technologies
  • Can be used with your favorite IDE, without needing to master an official environment
  • Performance of hybrid apps built with Apache Cordova is relatively low
  • Mainly optimized for web, which makes it not the best solution for mobile app building
  • Complex debugging – you need to fix OS-specific errors on each platform instead of adjusting the general codebase
  • Many platforms supported by AC have lost relevance, and nobody knows if their support will continue in the future
  • Updates are often delayed, which can cause your app to be removed from the app stores

Some other popular technologies for universal app development include ManifoldJS, Apache Weex, Adobe PhoneGap, Native Script, Framework7, Flutter, Ionic, Titanium and Jasonette.


Cross-platform development can greatly accelerate and improve the cost-efficiency of projects geared to multiple OSs. It gives a competitive edge to app builders who want to reach a large customer audience and saves money on development costs. A short learning curve lets you tap into cross-platform development with limited knowledge and skills compared to native development.