If you’ve come to this article, you’re either part of a growing business or a large organization (1000+ employees) with a bit of cash to spend—or perhaps to save—by switching to a robust platform. In this category, I’ve included tools that cater to organizations with legacy systems, nuanced integrations, an overwhelming number of applications to maintain, and business processes they need to turn into into mobile experiences. In other words, these are designed to provide cross-platform development on an enterprise scale.
Because these are the big-ticket items and most popular with enterprises swarming with developers and with deeper pockets than independent developers and small businesses, you can easily find “pros” and “cons” for each on sites such as G2 Crowd and Gartner Peer Insights. Analysts such as Forrester and Gartner also rate the merits of these solutions. For that reason, I’m letting those reviews speak for themselves.
If you are looking for smaller-scale options, check out guides for free cross-platform tools and small-budget cross-platform mobile tools.
Xamarin is backed by Microsoft—a company known for its enduring product support. Xamarin is also built right into Visual Studio. So, if you’re familiar with C# and working with Microsoft tools, Xamarin is a strong choice. Microsoft adds a lot more to Xamarin and expands its front-end development scope with testing, analytics and back-end services running on Azure.
With users like 3M, Alaska Airlines, Slack and Kellogg’s, it’s clear to see why Xamarin is a dominating force in cross-platform mobile solutions for business. According to their materials, Xamarin is relied on by over 15,000 companies. Those organizations build mobile apps in Visual Studio that compile to native Android, iOS and Windows Phone applications. Xamarin allows developers to build mobile apps in two ways: fully-customized interface with platform-specific APIs or by using Xamarin Forms.
Xamarin Forms mirrors the functionality of NativeScript, Flutter, Weex and React Native; it provides a set of common interface elements that compile to their platform-specific versions. Xamarin claims that by using Forms, developers can recycle up to 95% of their code (approaching the write-once-run-anywhere paradigm). However, without Forms, developers may be forced to rewrite a large portion of their application when targeting multiple platforms.
Without Xamarin Forms, code reuse can plummet to levels unjustifiable (some developers complain of as little as 40% code reuse across platforms). And as of 2017, Xamarin is the second-most dreaded technology according to Stack Overflow’s developer survey (the only tool they dread more is Cordova).
3. Telerik Platform
and NativeScript have the same parent company: Progress. It comes as no surprise then that NativeScript is recommended and bundled with Telerik’s mobile solution: the Telerik Platform. The Telerik Platform itself is another cloud-based application management and development solution, but it plugs into Visual Studio and other popular IDEs.
Telerik pulls out all the stops. They go as far as to provide a code editor, visual interface designer, 3rd-party connection manager, rich analytics reporter, direct-to-app-store publishing interface, and cloud device testing suite into one rolled-up mega tool. Their clients include NASA, Dell, Microsoft, IBM and others.
Telerik is another all-in-one provider for your mobile development needs. It promises to streamline the development process by removing a lot of the friction for web developers trying to get into mobile, but according to some users, it falls short
in terms of application lifecycle management.
4. Salesforce App Cloud
Take a deep breath, because we’re about to talk Salesforce
. Salesforce App Cloud combines the hosting, distribution, development, integration, and management of applications into a monolithic entity. It offers three distinct ways to build mobile applications with their platform: drag-and-drop no-code with Force.com/Lightning, by hand with the Salesforce mobile SDK, or by hand with Heroku’s toolchain for a fully customized process. Yes, that’s complicated. To get an idea of how Salesforce may complicate things further, look here:
INSERT WEBINAR PICTURE
If you want to build an app in 20 minutes with Salesforce, prepare to set aside 31 minutes. I’m teasing of course; the demo portion only required 20 minutes (preceded by 10 filled with marketing). And Lightning is the only cross-platform aspect of Salesforce that contributes to the mobile front-end, the remainder of their services are backend-focused.
Basically, Salesforce stitched together the heart of Heroku with the brain of Force.com under a skin made of Lightning components. It’s only a matter of time before the local townsfolk come after this Frankenstein’s monster with fire and pitchforks. it certainly is not a developer favorite. according to Stack Overflow, it’s the second most dreaded platform, which may be the cause for some of the comments related to its learning curve and adoption
. In short, their kitchen-sink-style vertical integration may be overwhelming — especially if your data exists outside of Salesforce.
5. Alpha Software
Alpha Software’s Alpha Anywhere
platform is another low-code entry for our list: an all-drag-and-drop solution for mobile application development. Alpha uses a hybrid approach with WebView-based PhoneGap builds.
Alpha Anywhere integrates with 3rd party REST or SOAP services and offers offline mode to enterprise customers. The IDE is limited to Windows users or those with Windows installed in a virtual machine.
They tout features that will sound familiar to those comparing similar tools: develop applications visually, develop 10 times faster than by using conventional tools, integrate with every database on the planet, enterprise-grade security, etc. The one sticking point for me is their apparent lack of focus on UI: even their sample applications look a bit dated
. That doesn’t seem to have kept big hitters from building applications with their platform: companies like Motorola, Xerox, Accenture, and Boeing.
is another low-code tool. Mendix offers user interface elements right out of the box and the familiar drag-and-drop tools you’ve come to expect from low-code solutions. Its mobile apps are powered by Apache Cordova. However, if application developers want to build native applications, they have to go through PhoneGap.
Its model-driven development environment holds appeal for citizen developers, allowing them to build departmental apps easily. Although Mendix does offer automation, monitoring and more, their sweet spot appears to be citizen developers.
In Mendix’s app store
, much like Salesforce’s AppExchange
, developers can download additional interface and logic elements to help them connect to 3rd party services and provide unique user experiences. One can also write custom back-end scripts using either Java or Scala.
is yet another cross-platform tool for the enterprise on our list, and it too offers a low-code option with Kony Visualizer
for the front-end. They've also recently released their Kony Nitro Engine for web and mobile development. Visualizer is a little more involved than simpler drag-and-drop solutions, so their development acceleration claims are modest compared to no-code options: 50% faster than traditional development.
Beyond the front-end, Kony also offers their own MBaaS: MobileFabric. MobileFabric provides layers of application monitoring and deployment. Developers access these from native SDKs or restful APIs and connect MobileFabric to any number of external data sources.
Kony works much like NativeScript and React Native in the background: converting designs into native components on the fly. And due to its architecture, Kony grants developers access to native-only environments like watchOS.
Last year, I got a glimpse of this world of paid, enterprise-grade mobile application development platforms when I started working with OutSystems. As a result, I can’t in good conscience review it here without bias.
Instead, while you’re doing your homework and checking out the other solutions in this guide, I encourage you to try OutSystems for free by signing up for the personal edition
And with that, you’ve reached the end of the enterprise cross-platform mobile development solutions list — finally, right? If you felt the options in this list were beyond your budget or needs, take a look at our guide to free cross-platform tools and small budget cross-platform tools.
Thanks for reading! Has your company tried any tools on this list? Are they excited to try a new one? Let me know in the comments.