What is a Mobile Development Stack?

A Mobile Development Stack is referred to the combining of programming language and software products used to create a mobile app. This technique creates multiple layers on top of each other to come up with a single cohesive result. Most of these tech stacks consist of server-side and client-side components, there will likely be front-end and back-end components as well. It’s very important to get the tech stack right if you hope to successfully develop your apps.

Why is it So Important to Make the Right Decision?

When it comes to developing mobile apps, having the right tech stack from the start is important, since it could really set you back many months if you were to have to start over if it does not work out right the first time. The impact of making a poor decision can have major repercussions and should be avoided at all costs. Be sure that you analyzed everything before you have decided on a direction that your software development team was going to go. This in fact is the primary driver behind this post. We hope to provide you with as much information as possible to ensure that you are going in the right direction.

Technology Stack

As you can imagine there are many different options when it comes to technology stacks. For this article, we came up with a recommended option for each of the three frameworks and platforms. These examples are by no means the only ways to go, but just simply represent strong examples of each.

Native

Android

  •  Language: Kotlin is an open-source programming language designed especially for the Google Android OS and it plays well with the Java Virtual Machine or JVM.
  • Architecture: The Android Architecture Components follow the MVVM, or Model-View-ViewModel software architecture pattern which helps to facilitate user interface.
  • UI: The User Interface features widgets, layouts and components such as buttons and text boxes.
  • Material Design: is a library of many different components that support UI design best practices.
  • Jetpack Compose: Jetpack is a toolkit that simplifies UI development on Android.
  • RxJava/RxKotlin: RxKotlin is a library that adds extension functions to the RxJava and it works well with the Kotlin programming language.
  • Static code analysis: This is a tool that is used to debug the source code of the app before it is run. This is done by analyzing the strength of the source code against a set of standards in order to identify any weaknesses. Klint and Detekt are the essential tools to be sure your code is bug-free.

 iOS

  •  Language: The Swift programming language is an open-source product that is easy for programmers looking to create apps for all types of Apple hardware from mobile devices, desktop machines, and servers. It has a large community following which makes it a really good choice for creating iOS apps.
  • Architecture: The MVVM architecture is one of the preferred architectures for designing Native iOS apps.
  • UI: The UI visual elements are what you visually see in the apps that you are developing. 
  • Snap kit is a domain-specific language that makes it easy to create great-looking layouts in both iOS and OSX platforms. Allows you to build constraints with as little code as possible.
  • SwiftUI: The SwiftUI visual elements are what you visually see in the apps that you are developing natively with the Swift programming language.
  • RxSwift + RxCocoa:  RxSwift + RxCocoa are each programming libraries that each add unique functionalities. RxSwirft makes it easier to use Swift disparately and the RxCocoa library allows us to use Cocoa APIs used in iOS and OS X with reactive techniques.
  • Combine is a reactive programming framework, alternative to RxSwift, that is similar in structure to other programming libraries. Combine has been released by Apple.
  • Static code analysis: SwiftLint is a tool that is designed to enforce the Swift style and conventions when writing code for iOS apps. Using Swiftlint will enable you to stay within the community-accepted guidelines for your code.

Cross-platform

Xamarin (Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS)

  • Language: C# is an object-oriented programming language used for building mobile apps. Is well suited for building Cross-platform mobile apps for both Google Android OS and Apple’s iOS. The apps that are developed are meant to run in the popular Microsoft .Net ecosystem.
  • Architecture: The MvvmCross is a Cross-platform architecture is MVVM framework is designed specifically to enable developers to build powerful apps from multiple platforms. It supports Xamarin. Android, Xamarin.iOS, and many other platforms.
  • Reactive Programing: Rx.NET The Reactive Extensions (Rx) is a library for composing asynchronous and event-based programs using observable sequences and LINQ-style query operators
  • UI: To build the UI (User Interface) for  Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS we can use a  solution that is almost the same as in native approach. 
  • Xamarin.Android: The view is built with Layout Editor or directly inside an XML file. Typically, to define the element (such as a button), we use Constraint Layout. It allows us to create large and complex layouts with a flat view hierarchy. 
  • Xamarin.iOS: We can build the view using iOS Storyboard or Xib, where we can drag and drop elements such as a button and define their exact position. Alternatively, we can use Masonry to create the view from a code. 

Flutter

  • Language: The Flutter framework works with the Dart programming language which works with all platforms. It is classified as a user-optimized programming language that is designed to speed up the mobile app development process
  • Architecture: Uses BloC or Business Logic Component architecture which creates separate components at the core of the code. At the base of the BloC, architecture is the BloC component and everything builds on it
  • Libraries: Flutter uses the built-in libraries that are filled with data and ancillary code when services are needed to run within the app
  • Freezed is a code generator program that that is designed to be run with Flutter
  • Injectable Is a code generator designed specifically to be used with the Get_it library
  • Dio Is a Dart package designed to be a powerful HTTP client for Flutter apps
  • Get_It Is a Service Locator package for both Dart and Flutter

Cross-platform versus Native

When it comes to deciding which framework to go with, there are several factors. Let’s take native first, you get all the benefits of making your apps that are able to take advantage of all of the features and functionalities that come with the operating system and the hardware based on the platform. There will usually be much more tools and support available for Native apps. There are also several pros and cons associated with choosing a native framework. Cross-platform on the other hand is more on the cost-friendly side and benefits your developer team that reduces the number of people that are needed to develop and maintain. However, there are limitations to note and this can present difficulties.

Native 

As the name indicates, using a platform-specific framework for all app development. That also means choosing the language and all the developer tools that are platform and language-specific is also a necessity. This also means that you will need to have one developer per platform. Developers create apps from scratch, and they’re responsible for creating back ends and front ends.

Pros

  • Delivers the desired look and feel of your apps every time
  • Much broader functionality and access to much more development tools
  • Access to a much large developer community for enhanced support availability
  • Enhanced scalability since there is better access to many more tools that are platform-specific

Cons

  • There needs to be one or more developer available for each platform depending on the project needs
  • Costly since there is a need for two full teams for multiple platform mobile app projects

Xamarin 

Xamarin is a powerful open-source tool for building mobile apps created by Microsoft and it extends the .Net developer platform. It was created in a way that you would only have to have one developer to be able to build both iOS and Android apps using shared code for each platform.

Pros

  • An open-source tool for building multiple platform apps with one business logic code
  • Creates a native feel and a better UI for an improved user experience compared to other cross-platform solutions
  • It is supported by Microsoft 

Cons

  • It has a much smaller community of developers to rely on for support and it has bugs in it
  • The library of components is proprietary and limited to the Xamarin library and any custom elements created can be difficult to use later

Flutter 

For Flutter apps, you only need one developer to create Android and iOS app with full shared code per platform

Pros

  • Easily updated when platform feature updates are released
  • A true multiplatform framework that can be used beyond mobile apps
  • Can be used to incorporate hardware for a more immersive and interactive feel
  • Development times tend to be faster than other frameworks

Cons

  • Can be a bit challenging to get platform-specific looks and feel just right
  • Since it is a relatively new framework new features in Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android OS aren’t readily available and take time for Flutter to use them

Where should you not use cross-platform?

 Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS can be used in cross-platform app development however, there are limitations in using this framework as a single code for multiple platforms. Even though Xamarin is over a decade old, its library of objects is limited. This can present problems. You will also have to deal with additional expenses, even though it is an open-source language, the expense comes in when you have to license additional software like Microsoft Visual Studio.

Flutter can be used in cross-platform app building, but its build once, use everywhere concept does present a limitation. While one platform may result in the look and feel that you are wanting, but when it comes to another platform it may not look and feel the same. It is also a relatively new framework that can present its own issues when it comes to cross-platforming.

How to choose the mobile technology stack?

 There are several factors involved when it comes to choosing the best mobile technology stack for your mobile app development. We came up with four things that should be at the top of your list when it comes to deciding which is best for you.

Factors to consider when choosing a technology stack

Type of project, iOS or Android or both – The first thing you need to do is figure out what type of platform your app is going to be created on. Are you going to target Android OS-enabled mobile devices? There are also mobile devices that run on Apple’s iOS or you can go all out and create your app to run on both platforms. In the end, you just need to come up with a decision so that you can move forward.

Budget and timelines – The budget that you set aside for the project must be well thought out. It has to include money for all of the phases of the project to ensure that you do not end up cutting corners. Be sure to evaluate everything to establish each and every timeline. The last thing you want to do is get behind since time is money in business and it will affect your bottom line.

Availability of people – Your people are equally important as the tools and software that you are using. This means along with lining up the necessary tools, you need to be sure that all of the people are ready. The last thing you want to do is get started without having all of your key personnel ready to get started. This could easily lead to delays that will eventually end up costing you money.

Time to market – Last, but certainly not least, you need to be sure that you have figured out exactly how much time it will take you to get your app to market. This can be extremely important depending on the industry or demographic that you are targeting with your mobile app. Some types of apps tend to be time-sensitive depending on what the app is being used for.

Conclusion

As you can tell by all of the information that has been provided there is a lot the will go into making the decision on what is the right tech stack to build your mobile app. Part of making the right decision is knowing the different constraints that are possible with each of the different technology stacks that are available.

You also need to consider what your goal is for the app and what you are hoping to solve with the app in the first place. The other thing is that you need to be sure that you choose the most cost-effective option. Once you think that you came up with the technology stack that works best for your company, consider testing it on a much smaller project first. This will give you a huge insight into whether you and your development team can be sure that it will work for the big project. Before you start the development process, make sure that each nuance was taken into consideration as mobile app development involves many challenges.

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How to Choose a Tech Stack for a Mobile Application - marcel-100px Hi, I’m Marcin, COO of Applandeo

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