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Technology Stack for App Development: Comprehensive Guide

Technology stack for mobile app development

Most of the time, we use our smartphones (to be exact, 88% of the screen-active time) we spend using different apps. The mobile applications industry keeps on developing and growing at a good pace for more than a decade already. It becomes more diversified by its structure - games, healthcare, finance, beauty, sports applications. Each category has its design and some common features.  Millions of companies start new mobile app development projects almost every hour. The first point for all of them is the same - they seek the best technology stack for mobile app development to build the most comprehensive application that they can upgrade whenever they have such an intent. 

The technology stack is the footing for all the components of the future mobile app. Today we’re going to sort out the best mobile app development approaches and pro-level technology stacks. We’ll look in greater detail at all the types of tech stacks - Android app development stack and the tech stack for iOs app development. In addition to those two, we’ll analyze the most useful applications that help build a multiplatform app. 

What is the technology stack?

The mobile app development stack is the compilation of frameworks, languages, and software products used to produce an application of any type (web or mobile). It forms the platform, which later gets more features and functions required by the market for which it is being developed. The elaborating process's main parts are frontend and backend development, also the mobile application development platform.

Frontend development 

It is needed to build up application interfaces - truly a crucial part of the overall process. Why would you ask? Users are exploring apps through its interfaces, and this process must be most smooth and easy-going; mistakes are not forgiven here. 

The main asset here is to create an application that looks perfectly well on all possible screens. The rejection rate is almost 100% when it comes to incorrect work of application interfaces (it's too irritating). Good knowledge of frontend development technologies helps to create an app that would be more scalable and adjustable. Another critical point is performance. An application shouldn't be designed the way that it needs more time to load another page. These issues are carefully analyzed by developers when they choose better frontend technology. 

Mobile Apps Interfaces Development

Backend Development

The real power behind the throne in any mobile app development project is backend development. Business logic, storage system, and sequence of inner processes are produced exactly in this part. Backend stores and sorts all the important information that the end-users explore but never see. In some cases, mobile applications do not need a backend part if only a light version is required. But today, most of us go to bed and wake up holding a mobile phone, and we need smart applications with pro-level features more and more, and it is impossible to develop them without a great backend.

So, what are the components of mobile applications backend development?

The first to come on the list are the programming languages and frameworks for backend development, and here we can mention the main of them, for sure, Java, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Python, and .Net.

When done with them, developers have to find web servers and define database management systems. The most popular DBMS’s are MySQL, Microsoft Access, Oracle, PostgreSQL, and dBASE. Going further through the backend development process, programmers choose microservice platforms and local development environments that form the basis for key application features and services. The final stage is application testing.

Mobile application development platform 

A development platform is fundamental for the mobile app. It’s not a problem for a good IT specialist to create the platform on his own, but today, companies tend to outsource it from external development companies as they have more day-to-day experience with all possible spheres, and they can share useful insights on the better ways of platform creation. The platform can be cloud-based or local, depending on your needs. Other benefits of outsourced platforms include mobile frontend development tools, backend-as-a-service, and management systems for APIs. You’ll be offered to choose the development type you need - native, web or hybrid; and the coding type - codeless or low-code.

Eager to find out what platform would be your perfect choice? Drop a line to our team, and we’ll be fast to respond!

Mobile App Development Technologies Popularity

Mobile application development technologies differ by type - Native App Development, Cross-Platform, and Hybrid development technologies.

  • The first one (Native App Development) means that all the tools you’re going to use (programming languages,  development kits, and environments) are provided only by operating system vendors. Definitely, it gives broader capabilities to programmers as they allow them to integrate with the device’s native features and functionalities directly (no external API needed). Both Android and iOs platforms require different technologies for mobile application development. 
  • A hybrid development stack for mobile applications creation has its pros and cons’. The key advantage of it is that you write an application code once for different platforms. This technology stack's main fault for app development is rather slower productivity than the native app development stack. Simultaneously, hybrid technologies offer much more flexibility in development as they are web app technologies that are suitable for the development of all types of mobile apps. How come? These technologies are packed up the way they can easily interact with any native technologies interface. When hybrid development technologies are downloaded and installed on a device, they can connect to all the capabilities that a mobile platform offers through a browser that's built into the application. The browser and its plug-ins run on the backend and are invisible to the end-user. The two best examples of mobile applications developed using hybrid technologies are Instagram and Gmail mobile versions. 
  • Cross-platform app development technologies are more OS - independent compared to the two described above. Programmers use this app development stack to write the same code that runs on multiple platforms (Android, iOs, web). It’s the most cost-efficient and less time-consuming solution. For sure, nothing is perfect, and a cross-platform mobile app development stack is no exception. The main pain here is that you need a highly professional developer to do it right (and they have higher salaries), and you need better maintenance. Another point to add here - developers can experience difficulties while integrating cross-platform applications to local settings. Nevertheless, mobile versions of Facebook and Skype show that cross-platform technology stack is a cutting edge solution for mobile development. 

Why it's Important to Choose the Best App Development Technology Stack.

Technology stack is truly an essential thing in any mobile application development service. If you’ve chosen the best technology stack for mobile app development, it’s already half of the project’s success.

Tech stack for ios app development

Here in HuskyJam, we know how much pain it can bring if a company had an incorrect start in searching mobile app development stack. In some cases, it’s impossible to go on trying to build or upgrade an app, and the best solution is to start from the very beginning. It’s the worst thing from all the possible points of view - budget, time spent, users migration. When choosing the technology stack, it’s exactly the point when you need to think twice.  

Here it would help if you answered the questions like:

  • Do I need a robust application?
  • Do I need to profit from the advantages of device-specific features like a camera or GPS?
  • Is it essential to have an application able to scale to various versions of the different OS?
  • Which level of customization is needed?
  • What time do I have to develop the app?
  • My competitors have the features that everyone likes - which technologies do I need to have them too?

There’s no need to answer these questions alone; in some cases, you will have two equally good answers for the same question. We’re here to share our experience and advise on the best mobile app development technology stack your business needs. Contact our team for support!

Tons of questions are surrounding the choice of the best tech stack for mobile app development. Many IT specialists in their columns and articles insist on cross-platform technologies stack to be the only reasonable choice whilst others argue soundly that the native development approach is the one that offers the best and the most reliable application development tools.

Everyone has its truth when it comes to a multiplatform approach to application development. Both hybrid and cross-platform are pacemaking, while no other approach guarantees the same efficiency and functionality as native mobile app development technology stack. Let’s go one by one to figure out the main pros and cons of these stacks to help you sort out which one to choose. 

Native Mobile Application Development

An application created using the native development approach is written in one programming language for a particular operating system. These applications are performing far more efficiently, and they are almost 100% reliable.

Programming language depends on the OS type; for example, iOS developers mainly use Objective-C and Swift while Android geeks write in Kotlin and Java. 

Android app development stack

Many owners of applications would be happy to the max to have native apps, but the price is too high as the same application is developed twice (both for iOS and Android) with different sets of code for each platform. Maintenance for each platform is made separately too.  

Technology Stack for Android App Development

Languages 

So, you are building a native mobile application for Android. The choice of programming languages is basically made between the two: Kotlin or Java. These two are best hitting the target when building a truly reliable application that would perfectly sit in mobile devices and use the greater part of their functionality. Still, some differences might be useful for you to go through. Let’s have a quick look together.

  • Java (an open-source language) probably boosts the richest libraries and tools. When it comes to the Android App technology stack, most IT specialists would say that this is the best choice for building top-quality complex apps. It is highly secured, portable, and scalable; it has a great range of core features, automatic memory management, and a huge open-source support ecosystem. No doubt, Java is a go-to language when it comes to developing scalable and complex mobile applications.
  • Kotlin - a rising star of the recent years. No matter how many Java people there are in application development, the number of Kotlin fans grows too fast now. Kotlin is conquering the field with its indisputable reputation of a solution that blends simplicity and power. Today it drives out Java as it speeds up day-to-day development tasks. It gained truly honorable recognition from Google. On 7th May 2019, the company announced that Kotlin is officially the preferred language for android app development. 

Here comes a shortlist of the benefits of using Kotlin over Java:

  • Language is concise and safer
  • Extension functions
  • Supports full Java interoperability
  • Lazy-loading feature
  • Multi-platform
  • Helps to reduce bugs and errors in the code
  • Active community

Feel like trying Kotlin? Or eager to know what advantages you’ll have with Java? Let us tell you! Write a short message, and we’ll get back fast!

Tools

The Toolkit for Android mobile app development includes Android Studio & Android Developer Tools. Both of them offer a great variety of development tools, but each has its strengths that one should keep in mind when choosing between them.  

  • The first one (Android Studio) offers code editing, debugging, performance tooling, a flexible build system, and an instant build/deploy system. Its primary benefit is that it gives you the freedom to focus on building unique and high-quality apps. 
  • Android Developer Tools (ADT) offers IT specialists complete support for Android app development. It also enables the developers to leverage multiple on-device debugging tools, graphical UI builder, emulators, and fully scriptable test automation support.

SDK (Software Development Kit) 

Here you will use the Android SDK  - a Google software development kit created for Android applications development. It is a set of software development tools and libraries that is regularly updated by Google. It has all the tools necessary to code programs from scratch and test them. You don’t need to have any special skills to develop an app in Android SDK; it’s truly a handy toolkit that provides a smooth flow of the development process from designing and debugging to packaging. The toolkit is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Tech Stack for iOS Application Development

Native mobile apps for iOS require their own approach. It will have its own developing languages, toolkit, and SDK too. Let’s go point by point to sort out what they are. 

Languages 

When thinking of the programming language most suitable for building an iOS mobile application, the choice is made between Objective-C and Swift. 

  • Objective-C is an object-oriented superset of the C programming language. It's one of the oldest programming languages, and for many years it has been the core of iOS development. This language offers object-oriented capabilities and dynamic runtime development. IT specialists get excellent language-level support for their object literals and object graph management. The main reasons for choosing this language are as follows:
    • Highly approved and deeply tested 
    • Easy and better use of private APIs
    • Compatibility with C++
    • Plenty of third-party libraries
    • Massive community support
    • Simplicity and access to Apple technologies
  • Swift is reasonably perceived as a more functional choice as it offers a less error-prone code. The reason for that is in its inline support for manipulating text strings and data. Another benefit over Objective-C is that it has dynamic libraries directly uploaded to memory, which in its turn helps to reduce the weight of the app and speeds up its performance. The key reasons to choose Swift are listed below:
    • Modern and feature-rich programming language
    • Better performance
    • Easy code readability and maintenance
    • Safe and less prone-to-errors
    • Compatible with Objective C
    • Works with Apple’s Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks
    • Dynamic libraries
    • Active community support

Tools

Those who develop applications using Objective-C language will use the Objective-C toolkit.  But in most cases today, the developers choose Switch, and then they are using an xCode toolkit, which is a full-featured or a development environment. It is widely used to create native mobile apps and desktop applications. It includes integrated support for Git repositories, an efficient graphical editor for building user interfaces, debugging tools, and integrated documentation. 

SDK (Software Development Kit) 

For building an iOS mobile application, you need the iOS SDK. It comes together with an API (Application Programming Interface) that functions as a link between the software applications and the platform they work on. Developers can create the API’s for many purposes and benefit from vast libraries and other tools. Getting the most of native mobile development for iOS, this SDK offers pro-level tools for Apple’s touchscreen interface and its proprietary operating system iOS. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Native App Development

Why do developers choose to build native applications? The main reasons to go this way include an eagerness to impress with the best experience possible (no matter how costly that would be), a desire to take the advantages of the device-specific features, and a need to have an easily bug fixed app when it is used by truly a large number of people (and fixing a cross-platform code would be a nightmare here). Let’s now have a look at the main pros and cons of native app development.

Benefits

Disadvantages

The highest speed. Native mobile applications have a less complex code that speeds them up seriously compared to hybrid and cross-platform ones. And they really work much faster, and most of their elements are displayed quickly because they are preloaded.

The code is not reusable. Building a native app for Android and iOS means building two separate applications from scratch and, later on, maintaining these two also separately.

Offline mode. As native applications sit in the core of smartphones, they don’t need Internet access to run. Hence its users have no problems using the necessary apps when they are on the airplane with no connection.

Need for more skilled developers. Native applications need more skills to be developed. For Android and iOS, companies need two different teams of developers, whereas cross-platform apps are built up by one group of IT specialists.

Disregarding the growing popularity of cross-platform development, the most popular mobile applications smartphone users install on their smartphones every day are native. The reason is simple - it is incomparably easier to support them, and when you have thousands (or millions) of users - it matters much! 

 Google Maps, Linkedin and Twitter - some of the three most famous examples of native applications. 

Cross-Platform App Development

For sure, a cross-platform applications development approach has the greatest growth perspectives. Functionality - wise it offers the most convenient way of building apps. Big names like Facebook, Skype and Slack have developed their mobile versions using this approach. Nevertheless, cross-platform is far from being perfect today. Before we compare its benefits and shortcomings, let’s see what the technology stack is.  

Languages 

For cross-platform development the most vivid choice is React Native + JavaScript/TypeScript. This is the most popular JavaScript framework to use when developing the most lookalike native apps for Android and iOS. It offers pretty much the same fundamental user interface building blocks as the native iOS and Android apps. But when you’re building a cross-platform mobile app, you need JavaScript and React to put these blocks together. Using React Native with Typescript enables some great features like fast and easy error detection, and together with that, you get an extra layer of security.

Another right choice for developing a cross-platform mobile app is Xamarin combined with C#. It has a unique advantage - almost 90% of the code can be shared across all the major platforms (time to say, WOOOW).  The tool works with C# as the primary language for cross-platform app development. IT specialists widely adore the latter one as it is a statically typed language with a pro-level tooling set. 

 

Pro and Cons of cross-platform mobile app development 

Advantages of cross-platform mobile app development

Disadvantages of cross-platform mobile app development

Cost-efficiency. No other approach offers the same efficiency of budget and time expenditures. Companies are much more independent from IT teams as most of the cross-platform development tools are unreservedly available. You can easily contract separate developers to create apps for different platforms.

Development process complexity. To write a code that would be good for all the platforms, a developer should know all the peculiarities of each OS and keep them in mind when creating a multi-platform solution. It has crucial significance when it comes to complex interface development and advanced features integration.

Code reusability. That’s the point where native app development takes a back seat. Cross-platform app development allows you to reuse the code, and you don’t have to write it for each OS - a common codebase will enable you to transfer the code to different platforms.

Integrations are not smooth. Integrating cross-platform applications to local settings is quite often problematic. The reason behind this complexity is hidden in the code and in the “callback-style” programming needed to interact with native plugins.

Hybrid Applications Development

Building a hybrid application is something in between web and mobile app development. It’s rather a complicated process as it requires several web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript frameworks. Apps developed this way are actually more like websites packed into frames that imitate every platform's necessary behavior that helps to have the look and feel of a native app. The difference with the native apps development is that the IT specialists have to deal with one core code that covers both platforms. Hybrid apps often boast faster performance and better security, but the development cycle is much slower.  

Technology stack for hybrid apps

The frameworks for hybrid app development include:

  • Apache Cordova

Apache Cordova is a mobile application development framework created by Nitobi (later on, purchased by Adobe Systems and rebranded to the PhoneGap). It is an open-source framework to run HTML/JavaScript-based applications inside a special native container on a mobile device. Apache Cordova can offer almost the same native device functionality integration (like sensors and cameras) as native development technologies. Developers don’t really struggle while building user interfaces, as PhoneGap supports numerous frameworks and libraries, including jQuery, AngularJS, and Knockout.js.

  • Ionic

Ionic is an AngularJS-based framework, and this tenancy provides it a great advantage - a supportive community of the famous framework. Ionic can also make the mobile app look natively developed. To make the performance more efficient, it reuses DOM elements to handle one of the reasons for poor mobile performance.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid mobile application development. Let’s start with the advantages, that include: 

  • One code for all platforms 
  • Native look and feel 
  • Not expensive
  • Easy to build and maintain 

Still, a hybrid cannot be called the best solution for mobile app development. Before you decide to go further with hybrid, think of these issues:

  • Lack of nature features 
  • Slower interactions 
  • Rather a poor UX
  • Limited access to OS-specific features 

How to Choose Tech Stack for Your Project?

The choice is never easy - there are many different technology stacks for mobile applications. How to sort out which would be the most appropriate for your case? As by our experience here in HuskyJam, the first thing to do is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the type of my project? 
  • How to validate project ideas? 
  • How much time do I have before the start?
  • What is the competition that I need to conquer?

Having answered these simple questions, you analyze your needs and create a well-structured brief for the development.

Conclusion

Native, cross-platform, or hybrid development technology stack - all of them can become a solid basis for a great mobile application. It’s okay if you can examine your needs correctly and make the right choice.

Back in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg said at a TechCrunch Disrupt conference: “The biggest mistake we’ve made as a company is betting on HTML5 over native.” He added that maintaining a native app on iOS has proven to be faster and much easier.  Later on, the company has shifted from HTML to React Native — a framework designed to create native Android and iOS apps. That's why it's important to make the right strategic choice about the technology stack for mobile app development.

Simultaneously, too many IT specialists agree that cross-platform development technologies will be leading the role in the future as businesses profit from it. In the era of mobile technologies, you need to be as fast as possible, and your “go-to-market” period cannot be too long. The debates will not stop until a perfect approach is found. 

Our team’s experience is that all three approaches have indisputable benefits that companies need to learn to benefit from. 

We’re here to help you sort out which technology stack works better for you! Do not hesitate to call our specialists to get an in-depth consultation!

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