Do you want your own mobile app? Nowadays it’s a given that one needs to do one for Android as well as for iOS; one is not enough. And more often than not, one also wants a web interface. However, essentially right from the introduction of mobile devices to the market, we’ve heard it said again and again that developing things separately for individual platforms is expensive. That is why various companies tried to introduce alternatives in the form of multi-platform solutions, however none of these really managed to become widely adopted. They had their shortcomings, were unnecessarily complex and held companies which wanted to develop their mobile apps flexibly in a kind of “cage” with limited possibilities. That is why for B2C apps it is often preferred to develop natively; there are no limitations as far as UX, animations and other details are concerned, and these things can be very important for the target group.
However, in the past years we see corporate mobile apps for which a perfect user interface and design is no longer a priority; emphasis is placed on functionality, utility, expedited delivery and flexible adjustments. And that’s where we can make use of selected technologies that can be used in a multi-platform setting. Of course, assuming we adhere to certain rules.
At Cleverlance, we found success with three approaches to implementation. To put it in really simple terms, right from the very beginning we need to decide whether there’s a robust back-end with a MOA (Microservice Oriented Architecture) is available or whether we’d need to create one, and then whether the app will need a lot of business logic or rather will be just a presentation layer. In this case, it is good to use Flutter. If we need the app to include synchronization queues, business logic and we’re implementing some kind of complexity and not just forms, we had good experiences with Kotlin Multiplatform. And then there’s a third option = PWA (Progressive Web Applications), which makes use of the strong foundation provided by modern browsers.
We consider Flutter to really be a multi-channel display layer which allows us to create not just mobile but also web and desktop apps. It’s a flexible solution that allows us to efficiently design B2B, and under certain conditions even B2C apps. One example here is the mobile app for BMW. But if we don’t want to deal with problems, it’s better to rely on the back-end and push all the “thinking” there.
Kotlin Multiplatform is another option. Its advantage is that it allows you program a native app for Android, and then use a part of it for iOS. This usually applies to business logics and the integration layer, which leads to significant time savings in the QA phase later. The visualization layer is programmed natively for iOS and Android, meaning that one can have the “look & feel” of the platform while making use of just one code base for the part of the application that is not visible for users. For some projects, this allows up to 70-80% of the code to be reused.
Progressive Web Applications is one of the latest trends in the area of web application development. To a certain extent, these shatter the boundaries between web and native mobile apps thanks to the ability to work offline, access a device’s hardware and even handle push notifications. They represent a combination of the best of both worlds; we are only limited by the capabilities of web browsers. This opens up a wide range of functionalities; for instance, the use of a phone’s camera or fingerprint reader are among the most basic ones. A request for using deeper device functions can be efficiently handled via a native “envelope” that can make them available. PWA apps can be distributed via all major app stores (Google Play, Apple Store, Huawei AppGallery as well as Microsoft Store) and can run on all Android, iOS and Windows devices.
Where was this used?
As a supplier, we of course want to offer not just standard technologies but also the “new” ones, and that was another reason we were happy to see customers approach us who right from the very beginning wanted a solution based on Kotlin Multiplatform. As an example, we can mention the U.S. based Globstar for which we, as part of the Aricoma Group, deliver mobile apps used to configure and manage modems for satellite internet connections. The use of Kotlin Multiplatform really paid off in this case, because the app was highly demanding as far as data transmission and integration were concerned. Integration additionally takes place via a BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) interface, which can service dozens of devices simultaneously to, e.g., update their firmware. The technology was not only convincing for the customer, but also for us as the supplier; when developing the app we established a well-working business partnership.
We made successful use of PWA technology for instance in the online self-service app for SAZKAmobile customers. Its main advantage is an extremely short Time-To-Market (i.e., the time required to introduce new functions to the market) and a wide range of developers who already know the technology. In addition, PWA is best applied in areas without a large emphasis on using the device’s components, for instance in internal company apps for employees in the field or in production.
If you’re interested in the technical details, feel free to read this article on our mobile it blog; it’ll tell you what to pay attention to when choosing the right technology for developing a mobile app.