For more than half a decade, it is now that the Android operating system has led the mobile app development scene. It now has more than 85% global market share as far as the user base is concerned. With the growth of its user base, the ecosystem of technologies also continued to grow.
Google launched Kotlin to provide Android developers with a programming language option that is interoperable with Java but addresses Java’s shortcomings for Android development. But despite the emergence of Kotlin, many Android app projects prefer to use cross-platform frameworks simply because of keeping the options open for reusing the same code on their future iOS project. This is why it is necessary to shed some light on the leading Android app development frameworks now.
Here are our picks of the top 5 Android app development frameworks.
As the cross-platform UI development SDK, Flutter was launched by Google in 2017. Since then, it has continued to rise in popularity because of several developer-friendly features and awesome flexibility. Flutter now stands as the most lived cross-platform development framework.
- Flutter uses Dart, Google’s own programming language known for its clean code, easy-to-read syntax, and faster debugging.
- Flutter uses an extensive range of UI widgets to shape the look and feel of the Android apps. These widgets ensure modular development allowing incremental value additions like in MVP apps, and hence it is suitable for startups.
- Flutter allows reusing up to 80% of the codebase across all Android, iOS, web, and desktop platforms. With Flutter, you can shape your Android and other platform-specific presences with ease.
- Flutter uses the Hot Reload feature to allow real-time code changes and evaluation in a running app ensuring faster development and testing cycles.
- Flutterby providing out-of-the-box access to Google Firebase can also work as a complete development stack looking after both frontend and backend development.
- Flutter speeds up Android development with out-of-the-box testing and debugging tools.
- Flutter supports an extensive range of IDEs, including Visual Basic, Android Studio, IntelliJ, and several others.
- Flutter, loved by most mobile app developers, boasts of large community support alongside continuous support from Google.
- Flutter apps have a larger footprint, which often requires drastic compression measures for resource-consuming graphics.
- Because of its widget-based development approach, Flutter lacks support for several native APIs, which involves extra work for developers with code writing or fetching third-party packages.
Kotlin Multiplatform is a framework that extends the capabilities of the official Android language Kotlin to cross-platform app projects. Though you can use the framework for building apps across Android, iOS, web, and desktop platforms such as Linux, Windows, and macOS, it suits Android projects best because of using Android-specific Kotlin language.
Kotlin Multiplatform Strengths
- Kotlin’s multiplatform framework is based upon the official Android development language called Kotlin and hence is best suited as a framework for Android app projects.
- Kotlin Multiplatform relies on an extensive range of libraries for various third-party features and tasks ranging from HTTP requests, serialization, coroutines, and many others. This ensures optimum flexibility in feature development.
- Kotlin Multiplatform allows easy and frictionless switching to any platform-specific code to ensure optimum flexibility.
- Kotlin Multiplatform facilitates modular development and value additions by using modules for an existing Android app.
- Kotlin Multiplatform ensures creating a fully native Android experience without needing to deal with a steep learning curve.
- The framework also maintains absolute separation of the app data from the UI layer, and this allows easy value additions and maintenance over time.
Kotlin Multiplatform Shortcomings
- Kotlin Multiplatform is still not mature enough and lacks robust community support.
- Since the original Kotlin language is the official programming option for Android development, the framework doesn’t offer many trade-offs to Android projects.
- The framework has a considerable learning curve for any developer coming from a non-Java background.
- Kotlin Multiplatform also lacks extensive documentation, and hence cross-platform developers can have difficulties adapting.
Despite the emergence of Flutter as a more popular framework, React Native is still one of the most loved frameworks for Android and cross-platform app projects. Having been there since 2014, it has played an instrumental role in shaping the cross-platform development journey of many app projects across all business niches.
React Native Strengths
- React Native has a component-based architecture to help developers build an app and make changes and value additions in a modular way.
- React Native allows reusing 85% of the core codebase across platforms.
- React Native offers a Hot Reload feature to allow developers to make code changes and evaluate the same in real-time and in running apps.
- Supported by Facebook, React Native boasts of one of the largest and most developer communities.
React Native shortcomings
- React Native is still not fully equipped to support cross-platform development by reusing code beyond the mobile OS platforms.
Created and maintained by Microsoft, Xamarin is the leading open-source development framework for Android and iOS app projects. The .NET language used by Xamarin has been used in Android app projects earlier; coupled with Visual Studio IDE, the framework helped many leading brands shape their Android app presence.
- The reusability of maximum code of Xamarin Android apps across multiple platforms ensures greater flexibility.
- Xamarin comes with robust debugging and testing support to ensure optimum app performance and user experience.
- Xamarin enjoys a robust pool of developer communities along with official Microsoft support.
- Xamarin APK size is much bigger, and this often impacts loading time.
- Xamarin developers, when building Android and iOS apps with the same code, need to rely more on the platform-specific code.
- Xamarin is not ideal for building apps with a complicated user interface.
In discussing the Android development frameworks, you must wonder why we have picked up cross-platform frameworks. If you don’t want to use platform-specific coding with Java or Kotlin to build the app from scratch, the above-mentioned frameworks still stand as the best options. When using frameworks for Android app development, these frameworks are still the best choices.