How would you feel if you wanted a chocolate cake but someone put the flavors of pineapple in the batter? Very frustrated, right? The same is the case with mobile app development. Technologies that go into building a mobile app are like its ingredients. They shape the experience of your mobile app. If the experience doesn’t match the user expectation, your app is as good as the pineapple cake nobody wanted! Thus, it’s extremely important that you understand how to choose the right technology stack for mobile app development.
But before that, let’s quickly get through what exactly a mobile development technology stack is.
What is a technology stack for mobile app development
A technology stack for mobile app development is the set of tools that you can use to build an app. From programming languages to software development kits, it includes everything that contributes to the development of a mobile application.
Having a robust technology step is a critical component that has an overbearing effect on the success of your mobile app development process. It acts as a roadmap for your mobile app development project. Thus, spending some time selecting a proper technology stack will serve you well. That’s mostly because it will avoid potential pitfalls like the lack of availability of quality developers in your chosen stack. Moreover, you can make sure that what you build is in alignment with your long-term expectations.
So let’s get to essentials now. Broadly, there are four basic components of a technology stack:
This is the face of your app, the interface using which the users will interact with your mobile app.
This stays under the hood and takes care of running the app smoothly.
It’s a place where libraries and interfaces amalgamate. Thus, the development platform enables developers to design and develop a mobile application.
These are the elements that affect the apps performance, security, and robustness.
Technology stacks for different kinds of mobile app development.
Mobile app development can be undertaken in various forms and for many different platforms. To find the right tech stack, you must also understand the different types of mobile app development approaches.
1. Native app development: iOS and Android
Android and iOS are the two most popular operating systems and native mobile app development means that we build mobile applications separately for each operating system.
While selecting the technology stack for native mobile app development, developers need to follow the platform-specific guidelines carefully and employ different SDKs, interface elements, and environments provided by each platform.
1.1 Android Technology Stack in 2020
The following are the major components of the technology stack for mobile app development when it comes to Android apps.
Programming languages for Android app development
Kotlin and Java are the go-to choices while selecting the programming languages for your mobile application technology stack. Java is more popular currently, while Kotlin is gaining ground fast.
Java is an open-source class-based object-oriented programming language with a rich set of libraries and tools. A highly popular programming language, Java is
- Portable and scalable
- Has automatic memory management
- Faster build process
- Good developer community support
However, a major downside with Java is that it is a very slow language which eats up a significant amount of memory.
Kotlin is an exceptional functional programming language that supports higher-order functions and lambadas.
As a programming language, Kotlin is
- Concise and safe language
- Has a lazy loading feature
- Helps in reducing errors
- Supports full interoperability with Java
- Has great extension functions
Kotlin has the support of Google as the company has declared it as the preferred language for Android app development.
Toolkit for Android app development
Android studio is an important component in the technology stack for mobile app development. As a part of the Android toolkit, Android studio facilitates:
- Code editing
- Flexible build system
- Instant build/deploy system
A major benefit of Android Studio is that it has some of the fastest tools for building apps that work on every type of Android device.
Apart from Android specific coding support, Android Studio also helps in leveraging tools like
- Graphical UI builder
- Fully scriptable test automation support
Android SDK is a fantastic software development kit in which the third party add-ons are easily available for download, making it a complete package for Android development.
It also allows the developers to download the components or tools that make up the Android SDK separately, thus allowing them to tweak with different tools and components.
1.2 iOS technology stack in 2020
Most of the iOS app developers rely on Objective C and Swift to build their apps.
Built upon the object-oriented language C, Objective C is an HLL (high-level language).
Objective C is still preferred by many mobile app development companies for the following reasons:
- Tried and tested language
- Expressive message syntax
- High compatibility with C++
- Easy use of private APIs
- Rich third-party libraries
- Better access to Apple’s technologies
The popularity of Objective C is waning with the rise of Swift. This is because Swift allows developers to build complex products easily and quickly.
An open-source, multi-paradigm language, Swift is fast gaining in popularity amongst iOS app developers.
The reasons for Swift's popularity are
- A modern and feature-rich programming language
- Supports multiple devices easily
- Has an active and growing community support
- Safer, as it is less prone to errors
- Has better code readability
- Easy to maintain language
- Has a rich set of dynamic libraries
- It Has a much better and faster performance
Swift is gaining in popularity due to the ease of coding and many companies are hiring dedicated Swift developers today.
iOS app development Toolkit
Apple XCode is a full-featured tool kit used for developing iOS mobile applications.
It also allows you to build desktop applications and is a quite resourceful tool for iOS app development. That’s because Apple Xcode facilitates the following benefits:
- An efficient graphical editor which helps in building engaging UI
- Great instrumentation and debugging tools
- Detailed documentation
- Integrated support for Git repositories
The iOS SDK offers some specialized tools which work efficiently with apple's touchscreen interface for its proprietor re operating system iOS.
The API that comes with the iOS SDK works as a link between the software application and the platform they are running on.
2. Technology stack for cross-platform mobile app development: React Native vs Xamarin
Cross-platform mobile app development deals with the art of building a single mobile app that runs on multiple operating systems.
The technology stack for mobile app development differs for cross-platform apps from native apps.
The idea behind React Native was to build a framework that allowed the mobile app developers in building apps that would look and feel native on both iOS as well as Android devices.
The platform introduces a radical and highly functional approach for constructing user interfaces.
React Native has the advantage that it uses the same fundamental UI building blocks as your regular iOS and Android apps.
The following are the major advantages of using React Native:
- Compatible with major third-party plugins
- Fluid and well responsive UI
- Less prone to errors
- Hot reloading feature
- Matches the performance and speed of native apps in many aspects
- Great development environment
- Allows for a faster debugging of code
React Native needs separate codes for Android and iOS to access some functions like accelerometer and camera. At times, the platform lags behind native iOS and Android and also lacks consistency in releasing updates.
Typescript is a popular language with which you can build your cross-platform application.
Typescript provides an extra level of safety when writing components, allowing you to tighten the feedback loop and helping you to find errors quickly.
Xamarin is another popular cross-platform mobile app development tool that allows the developers to share around 90% of code across major platforms.
The solid backing of Microsoft provides a much-needed cushion to the developers.
Xamarin is based on C#, which is a statically typed language with mature tooling and IDE support. Moreover, Xamarin allows you to use device-specific APIs.
Following are the advantages of using Xamarin in the technology stack for mobile app development:
- The same user interface as that of native
- Common app logic
- Self component store
- Great performance
- Fewer bugs
- Support for MVC design pattern
The drawback of Xamarin is that it is not free for enterprises as they require to buy a license for Visual Studio. Also, you should avoid using Xamarin for visually rich apps, and creating UI is a time-consuming process with Xamarin.
3. Technology stack for Hybrid mobile app development
The three commonly used frameworks for hybrid app development are Cordova, sencha touch 2, and ionic.
Cordova owes its popularity to the following features
- Rich CSS UI
- Easy debugging
- Provides lots of plugins
- Easy to learn
Cordova is slow as the code runs in WebView and as it has a web-based UI, the look and feel of the app is not that good.
You should avoid using Cordova for developing applications like games that require higher memory and plugins that are not currently available with Cordova.
Ionic is a mobile app development framework based upon AngularJS.
It provides the following exceptional features as a part of the technology stack for mobile app development:
- The UI of ionic is highly customizable as the platform allows high adaptability for its components.
- The documentation of ionic is simple, easy, and well structured and covers most of the things that the developers would require.
How To Choose The Right Technology Stack For Mobile App Development
The right tech stack may comprise a combination of the various tools I have mentioned above. Let’s take a quick look at what all you should leverage while building your mobile app.
Choose the tech stack based on the complexity of your project
You can go for a hybrid or cross-platform mobile app development when your app doesn’t have platform-specific requirements. On the other hand, if you want to build a complex app with advanced features, it’s best to go for native app development.
Go for cross-platform development for building MVPs
Because cost is an important consideration while building an MVP, it’s best not to invest resources in building two different apps for both Android and iOS. Instead, use a tool like React Native for quick and efficient MVP development.
Look for tools with a vast eco-system for quicker mobile app development
If your time to market is critical, you can’t afford to develop every part of your mobile application from scratch. Instead, you can leverage ready-made tools as a foundation of your mobile app development and save yourself tons of development time. Thus, for mobile apps with a short time to market, go for a mobile app development technology stack that has an expansive eco-system of third-party tools.
The Bottom Line
Because the success of your mobile app depends on whether or not you choose the right tools, ensure that you study the pros and cons of each option to come up with the right technology stack for mobile app development. Clearly define the goals of your business and outline how your mobile app will help achieve those goals, Understand your target users and figure out the UX you need to deliver to meet their needs. If you fail to align your app development parameters with your long term goals, you are up for limited future prospects. So make sure you take expert advice for building the mobile app technology stack for your business app.