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Apple and Google dominate mobile computing, but their different iOS and Android platforms force developers to make the same app twice to reach both audiences.
This technical hurdle has plagued the industry for years, causing delays in app availability. Smaller companies often lack resources to hire one team for iOS and another for Android, so they must create their app for only one platform first. 
That’s spurred the creation of software tools that try to bridge the development gap. Other services aim to make app development itself easier with no-code or low-code solutions.
“Developers would in general love to be able to say, ‘Okay, you and I write it once. And then I don’t need to choose between iOS and Android’ — it just runs on both at the same time,” said Jason Nieh, a computer science professor at Columbia University. “That’s been a holy grail in computing if you will for many, many years to try to do this, and there have been a variety of pieces of work to try to look at different ways to try to overcome that problem.”
Here are some of the best tools and methods to bridge iOS-to-Android app development:
Kotlin, a popular cross-platform language from the company JetBrains, lets developers create an app that is compatible on iOS and Android platforms and only requires coding it once.
Major companies are also trying to remedy the issue, such as Facebook with its software framework React Native and Google with the software development kit Flutter.
Flutter lets developers build iOS and Android apps from one set of code. Product lead Tim Sneath called the tool a “big bold bet on a big bold problem.” He highlighted how companies would never have multiple payroll or sales systems, yet developers must build the same app twice.
“We want to be able to give people the tools that they need,” Sneath said. “We try and provide all the features to be able to build the best experience on both platforms without having to write from scratch on both.”
Dom Profico, CTO of Mobiquity, said he wants to embrace Flutter but highlighted how a lack of developers who code in its language, Dart, makes staffing a problem. He thinks the tool is on the precipice of taking off and that more people will learn Dart once it does.
In the meantime, React Native is the go-to cross-platform tool at Mobiquity. This JavaScript framework, created by Facebook parent Meta, allows developers to code one app that is publishable on both iOS and Android platforms. It’s currently one of the most in-demand skills on LinkedIn’s job search tool.
Tools from smaller companies are also trying experimental approaches to tackling cross-platform development, such as a new framework dubbed Mutata that “translates” — or matches — an iOS app’s code so that it can run on Android devices.
Not everyone is convinced cross-platform tools will work. Karen Ho, VP of mobile engineering at Swiftly, said the convenience these tools provide on the back-end are ultimately not worth the sacrifices that must be made with user experience.
“Consumers are really really picky when it comes to applications,” she explained. “If an application is not performing or if an application is sluggish or if it’s not necessarily as responsive as they want, they will quickly give up on it.”
Low-code or no/zero-code tools — often drag-and-drop — help people who want to create digital projects without knowing how to code. More importantly for app development, these tools alleviate the need for developers to consider the ever-changing specifications of smartphones.
Nile Frater created NoCode.Tech, a website that aggregates resources to build projects without code. He said these flexible tools are especially key for Android app development, which requires consideration of more than 100 different screen sizes, while developing for iOS only requires considering around five different screen sizes.
“No-code apps take away a lot of problems like logins and sending emails and accepting payments in the app,” Frater said. iOS and Android apps have many similar needs and no-code, low-code and zero-code tools let developers tackle those more easily so they can focus on the unique aspects of their apps instead, he added.
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