Eugene Saturow Head of Flutter

    Cross-Platform Mobile Development: How to Build Multiplatform Apps

    Cross-platform mobile development is the future of app development. Why? Using frameworks that support building cross-platform apps is the optimal solution for various business areas, from e-commerce to entertainment apps, and more. This is an efficient way to develop a mobile application from scratch and reduce the app development budget without compromising on quality.

    Surf is a cross-platform app development company that has been creating mobile, web, and desktop apps for our clients since 2012. In the article, we’ll analyze in detail the specifics of the cross-platform approach, what projects can be implemented by using such frameworks, and when it is better to turn to native app development, with which our team has extensive experience as well.

    Take a look at Surf’s projects

    Read our case studies

    Cross-platform and three more approaches to developing mobile apps

    There are four main directions with which you can implement a mobile solution: ready-made solutions, native, cross-platform, and PWA.

    Ready-made solutions

    Also called app constructors or builders, off-the-shelf solutions can be a great option for testing startup ideas or product hypotheses with MVPs. The key advantage of the approach is lower cost and faster implementation as compared to any variant of custom application development. 

    It is important to keep in mind that it will be hard to customize the app to your particular needs compared to native solutions or using the frameworks mentioned below. If your project idea has been successfully tested or the standard toolkit of off-the-shelf solutions is insufficient, we suggest taking a closer look at the other three options described below.

    Native technologies

    With native frameworks, the development process implies building separate apps for each operating system (Android, iOS). As each OS has certain guidelines, development environment, design requirements, and tools, you’ll likely need two teams of developers with different expertise.  

    Native technologies are a good choice for creating advanced native apps with flawless performance and high speed. These advantages are partly because native applications are built using official frameworks that are developed exclusively for a particular OS. This makes them the best choice when you plan to implement sophisticated application features with top reliability and security.

    Read more about SBI Group banking app here

    However, if you have tight deadlines for releasing the application as well as development budget restrictions, it may be best to consider using one of the options reviewed below.

    Cross-platform apps

    A cross-platform or multiplatform app development approach implies using a single code base for several OSs and applying ready-made libraries and components. It is a solid alternative to the native approach and even leaves it behind in some aspects. It can deliver excellent performance without compromising on quality, while also providing a high level of flexibility and customization.

    Story of creating mobile application for KFC is here

    Cross-platform app development is a good match for projects where it is vital to get high quality (high performance, well-thought-out UI, etc.) at an affordable price. Besides, it makes team management and communication more transparent and easier to synchronize since you don’t have to switch between two different teams for two different OSs.

    As for performance, it varies greatly, depending on the technology used. For example, Cordova is not recommended for heavy graphics and games as it can lead to poor application performance. Meanwhile, Flutter can handle animation and multiple graphic elements so that they look just as good as in native apps.

    The release of new OS-specific functionality for cross-platform is somewhat delayed. But don’t forget that introducing new features into native code also takes some time. Therefore, the second cross-platform drawback is better to keep in mind, but it is not critical.

    PWA (Progressive Web Application)

    PWA allows transforming a website into an application from a visual and functional standpoint. With the website at its core, PWA can be used via a standard web browser or installed on a smartphone to provide mobile app functionality.

    PWAs consist of two main components: Service Worker and App Manifest. Service Worker acts as a mediator between the application and external servers, enabling fast loading, offline access, push notifications, and more. App Manifest, on the other hand, is a JSON file that is linked to the application HTML page and defines the look and behavior of the PWA.

    PWAs are a great asset for businesses that want to create a mobile solution without spending too much money. However, it’s important to keep in mind that some OS-related restrictions have to be taken into account.

    Popular cross platform app development frameworks

    Today, the market offers a wide choice of cross platform frameworks. Businesses should weigh all the pros and cons to choose between Flutter, React Native, Apache Cordova, Ionic, and many others. The choice will depend on the type of future app, the features you plan to add, the devices you need to cover, and other factors. Let’s review some of the most popular cross platform development tools.


    We start with Flutter, not at random. Surf is the framework’s early adopter and has been creating Flutter applications since 2019, shortly after its release. In our experience, Flutter has proven to be a reliable tool for implementing any functionality, from online stores and banking solutions to multimedia projects. So it is not without reason that the technology is among 10 most popular frameworks globally. For more facts about Flutter, check our dedicated article.

    Read our case study about a video streaming platform built with Flutter

    Flutter gives freedom in choosing logic and makes it easy to follow the SOLID principles that reduce dependencies among app components. The code is cleaner, and it takes far less time to debug and adjust errors, which reduces the time to market. Flutter delivers the vital thing for modern applications and services — flexibility, as well as the possibility to quickly add and change product features without disrupting its performance.

    In general, we consider Flutter a revolutionary framework for multiplatform app development as it covers not only mobile apps but also desktop applications and PWAs, allowing companies to build apps for iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Linux from a single code base with minimal changes. This allows for saving up to 60% of the development budget compared to using other technologies.

    Check our approach to Flutter apps development

    More info here

    React Native

    React Native can provide high performance and the users will hardly see the difference as compared to native applications as it provides for smooth scrolling of screens, animations and transitions.

    But compared to Flutter, it has a different operation principle. Flutter uses Skia and this results in excellent performance. Besides, it is possible to use platform integrations. ReactNative uses exclusively native elements, and with complex interfaces it can cause a drop in performance due to bridge in communication. With small projects, the difference can be not obvious.

    Just like Flutter, React Native can be used for building cross platform mobile apps. However, there is no official support for desktop applications yet.

    Check out a more detailed comparison of the two frameworks in our blog article.

    Apache Cordova

    Apache Cordova is an open-source development environment released in 2009. The framework runs on standard web technologies, which allow it to be employed for creating prototypes or quick apps with little complexity. The Cordova-powered applications consist of several HTML pages in the “shell” of the OS and use a special widget to perform the actions to make the cross platform application close to the native one. However, the technology lacks the performance capabilities of more modern frameworks like Flutter, which gives better results in terms of graphics and animations as well as responsiveness.

    You can find more on the differences between Apache Cordova and Flutter in our blog.


    Xamarin is a cross platform framework released in 2011 as an open-source project. Xamarin is free for individuals and small enterprises. However, large companies will pay for its commercial use because it is integrated with Visual Studio.

    Xamarin is supported by Microsoft, has a solid architecture, and the apps built with it show overall good performance. However, in some cases, the performance of Xamarin-based apps can be subpar. For example, Xamarin.Forms, which shares most of the code across platforms, is not the best choice for heavy graphics. Part of the components also have to be developed separately for iOS and Android, and consequently, the framework might not be a great match for UI-heavy apps.

    We also describe Xamarin in more detail in our dedicated article.

    Summing up

    Cross-platform development is a game-changer for businesses looking to optimize efficiency and minimize costs. By adopting cross-platform frameworks, you can reduce development expenses by up to 60% while enjoying rich functionality and performance. However, to fully realize these benefits, it’s crucial to assemble a team of adept and experienced specialists in cross-platform mobile application development who can navigate the strengths and limitations of each approach.

    If you have any open questions left, do not hesitate to contact us. We are ready to discuss with you the specific aspects of each development approach and find the one most suitable for your project.