Top 5 Tools for Multi-Platform Mobile App Development

Create an app with one of these cross-platform tools

A mobile app being used on a tablet outdoors

 Mareen Fischinger / Getty Images

Cross-platform app development tools are programs that let you build apps for more than one platform, like apps for Android and iOS, using the same code base.

The reason cross-platform mobile development tools are so handy is that there are so many different types of devices out there. If you want to release your app on as many app stores as possible so that lots of phones and tablets can use it, you'll need the app to support multiple platforms.

In other words, you will miss out on potential users if your app doesn't run on their devices. A cross-platform app builder can save you from needing to program the same app in different languages and in different mobile app making programs.

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Screenshot of the PhoneGap logo
What We Like
  • Extensive documentation and online support.

  • Easy to configure.

What We Don't Like
  • Multiple namespaces make managing packages confusing.

  • Restrictive plugin integration.

PhoneGap is a freeware, open-source program for creating apps for Android, Windows, and iOS mobile devices. It uses standard web development languages like CSS, HTML, and JavaScript. 

With this cross-platform app developer, you can work with device hardware features such as an accelerometer, GPS/location, camera, sound, and much more.

PhoneGap additionally offers an Adobe AIR app and online training courses to help you access platform-specific API’s and build mobile apps on its own platform.

You can build apps with PhoneGap on Windows and macOS, and there's an Android, iOS, and Windows Phone app that will run your custom app on your device to see how it looks before going live.

Visit PhoneGap

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Screenshot of the Appcelerator logo
"Appcelerator" (CC BY 2.0) by aaronparecki
What We Like
  • Powerful API that is easily extendable.

  • Ideal for mobile development beginners.

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks support for Windows Phone.

  • IDE interface is bare bones and a bit sluggish.

Appcelerator is a cross-platform app development program compatible with Windows, Android, and iOS that's advertised as "everything you need to create great, native mobile apps - all from a single JavaScript code base."

The app designer includes drag-and-drop for easy placement of objects, and the included Hyperloop feature lets you use JavaScript to get direct access to platform-specific APIs in iOS and Android.

Another neat feature with this cross-platform app development kit is the real-time analytics and the Performance & Crash Analytics, which gives you the ability to find and fix issues with your app.

The Titanium Development Platform from Appcelerator aids the development of mobile, tablet, and desktop apps via web programming languages like HTML, PHP, JavaScript, Ruby, and Python.

It powers over 75,000 mobile apps and gives users easy access to over 5,000 APIs and location information.

The Appcelerator multi-platform app developer has a free option but there are also a couple of other paid versions with more features.

Visit Appcelerator

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What We Like
  • Access core APIs directly; easy to integrate custom modules.

  • An impressive amount of flexibility for a free tool.

What We Don't Like
  • Styling and layouts for Android and iOS are often inconsistent.

  • Requires a good deal of setup to get started.

The great thing about NativeScript is not only that it's a cross-platform development tool but that you can use it absolutely free since it's open-source and doesn't have a "pro" plan or paid option.

You can build mobile apps for Android and iOS with NativeScript using JavaScript, Angular, or TypeScript. It also has Vue.JS integration and supports hundreds of plugins for extended functionality.

NativeScript, unlike some of these other cross-platform mobile app development tools, requires knowledge of the command-line, which means you also need to supply your own text editor.

NativeScript has tons of documentation if you need it.

Download NativeScript

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What We Like
  • Fast porting; easy to keep up with frequent platform changes.

  • Easy third party API integration.

What We Don't Like
  • Hasn't been updated in a few years.

  • Community support has dwindled over time.

Another free, open-source cross-platform mobile development framework you can download is Monocross.

This program lets you create apps using C#, .NET, and the Mono framework, for iOS devices like iPads, iPhones, and iPods, as well as Android devices and Windows Phone.

The developers behind Monocross wrote a book about cross-platform development that might come in handy while you're using the program, but there's also some online documentation on their website and built-in project templates that come with the installation.

You'll also need MonoDevelop in order to build apps.

Download Monocross

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What We Like
  • Ideal for designing apps for wearables and other smart devices.

  • Powerful testing capabilities including real-time previews.

What We Don't Like
  • Steep learning curve.

  • The manual is confusing.

  • Limited support for languages other than English.

With Kony, and a single IDE, you can build JavaScript apps to run on all platforms. However, Kony does come at a cost if you want more than one app, more than 100 users, and some other features.

This cross-platform app development tool supports all sorts of things, like chatbots, API management, voice, augmented reality, customer reporting, pre-built apps for reference, and more.

Kony can be installed on Windows and Mac computers, and the companion mobile app is used to preview and test your app on the actual device you expect it to run on.

Download Kony

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