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The missing link between a brilliant idea and a successful mobile application could be the app technology stack that you chose. In this guide, I’ll share the different types of mobile stacks and how to choose the right one for your app.
What is mobile development stack
The term mobile development stack or mobile stack refers to a combination of programming languages, platforms, frameworks, tools, UX/UI software, and other technologies required to develop a functional mobile app.
The mobile stack can be categorized into these components:
- Frontend - technologies that are used to develop the interface that interacts with end-users.
- Back-end - Tools and software needed to create the underlying processing on the server.
- Development - A consolidated platform that provides the necessary libraries and interfaces to build the app.
- Supporting - Various tools and technologies that improve the security, flexibility, and performance of the app.
Your options of technologies for mobile stack depends on the platform that the app is targeting.
Android technology stack
If you’re building a mobile app for Android, here’s the core app technology to use.
- Java - Java is arguably the most popular language for building Android app. Thanks to its usage by major companies, the language is well-supported and has great scalability. You’ll have a wide option of tools and libraries to choose from, plus they’re mostly open-source.
- Kotlin - Since its launch in 2011, Kotlin has become a favorite amongst app developers and, more so, declared the second official Android development language by Google. You’ll get a cleaner code with Kotlin, and it saves roughly 30% off code space compared to Jave. Besides, Kotlin is 100% compatible with JVM, which means you can still use Java frameworks for developing the app.
Android app development tools
- Android Studio - It is the official development platform for Google’s Android app. Android Studio is built upon Jetbrain’s technology, and it provides an intuitive interface for developers to build Android apps.
- Jetpack Compose - This modern UI toolkit allows developers to describe the UI elements, and it will do the hard work of rendering it dynamically. Currently, it is still not production-ready but a developer version is available.
- Android UI - Android provides pre-built templates that are handy for developers to build user interfaces quickly.
Technology stack for iOS apps
Here’s the mobile stacks list if you’re building an app for iOS.
- Objective-C - It’s the original language used to build the iOS app, and Apple is still providing support for it. Nevertheless, building an app with Objective-C isn’t easy, and developers are prone to make mistakes with it.
- Swift - Swift is a relatively newer language introduced in 2014, and developers are favoring it over Objective-C. Thanks to its safer syntax, fewer mistakes are committed and apps are developed in much less time. It’s also easier to find developers adept in Swift as it’s easier to learn and master.
iOS mobile development tools
- Xcode - XCode is the official development tool by Apple, and it’s your go-to platform whether you’re using Swift or Objective-C. It has all the features needed to build a native iOS mobile app, including a visual interface builder.
- AppCode - Developed by a 3rd party, AppCode is an open-source alternative to XCode. While it enables iOS mobile app development, AppCode lacks the features of XCode and to an extent, is still dependent on the latter.
- UIKit - UIKit is the basic framework for building graphical components in the iOS app. It contains templates defining the UI elements which form the building blocks of the app.
- SwiftUI - SwiftUI is a newer framework that offers a more efficient way of designing UI elements in iOS apps. However, it only works for IOS13 and above, and there are limited resources as it was just launched in 2019.
Cross-platform technology stack
If you’re building an app that targets both iOS and Android, this mobile stack will save you from having different codebases.
- Flutter (Dart) - Flutter is Google’s answer to a cross-platform development tool. It features a ’hot reload’ that prevents wasted time on emulators and simulators while its expressive widget promises native performance.
- Xamarin (C#) - Developers proficient in C# will find Xamarin a natural choice for building cross-platform apps. Codes written in C# are cross-compiled to native programs for Android and iOS.
Cross-platform apps are popular as it reduces time to market while keeping development cost low. However, the downside of doing so is that you’re limited to functionalities allowed by the toolkit. Some device-specific features are not accessible with cross-platform development.
Backend technology stack
The back end, which handles business logic, authentications, data management, and processes crucial to the app, requires a different technology set.
Backend technology stack includes the choice of hosting provider, database, programming languages, and frameworks.
How to choose the mobile technology stack
It’s impossible to suggest a prefix set of app technology for all projects. Every app is unique and has its own requirements. The same applies to your startup and the team that’s coding the app.
Instead of blindly copying the tech stack used by other apps, you’ll want to start by asking important questions.
For example, is the toolkit a relatively new product? If you’re using SwiftUI, you’re going to be limited to iOS13 or later. It shouldn’t be your choice if you’re going to target older versions of iOS.
Chances are, you’re going to work with a team of developers. Your choice of tech stack must also reflect the expertise of your team. It will be pointless to choose tools that your team is not proficient with.
Questions like how vast is the ecosystem of the tools and if it could easily integrate with other 3rd party tools must also be considered. Ideally, you’ll want a flexible tech stack that does not limit you to working with a narrow range of modules.
Here are more factors to consider when choosing a mobile tech stack.
Mobile app’s goal
What you’re trying to achieve with the app will determine the choice of technologies. If you’re trying to reach both iOS and Android users in the shortest time and performance isn’t critical, you’ll want to go for cross-platform tech stacks.
Apps like Facebook Ads Manager is built with React Native.
However, if you’re building apps that require device-specific APIs like HealthKit, Samsung Health, or ARKit, you’ll need to write native code in ReactNative app to work with native kits or use 3rd party framework. But we can't rely on it 100% to develop the app with native toolkits.
While you’ll be focusing on delivering the primary features in the early stage, you’ll want to plan for scalability when the app grows. This means choosing a tech stack that isn’t restrictive when it’s time for growth.
You’ll need to focus on technologies that support a stable system architecture when users and traffic increases. Your choice of server, hosting provider, database, and even programming languages can mean hitting a bottleneck or seamless operation when you expand the app.
Security is crucial regardless of which platforms you’re building the app on. You can’t afford to be complacent as malicious attackers could manipulate the slightest vulnerabilities.
Thankfully, every popular mobile app technology is built-in with the necessary security features. The problem is choosing one that is properly-documented and with a leaner, cleaner framework. It’s also a good practice to select a toolkit that doesn’t require writing lengthy codes.
Complexity has a different meaning for developers. Just because an app has many UI elements, it doesn’t mean it’s complex. Instead, complexity reflects how the app interacts with the underlying mobile features and communication with the backend.
If you’re building an app that requires data caching or receives data from the phone’s sensors and camera, you’ll need to opt for native mobile stacks. Native app technology allows you to access features specific to the device, which isn’t possible if you’re building in a cross-platform environment.
However, if the app is as simple as displaying data that it receives from the backend, you’ll have a better advantage of using a cross-platform solution. Instagram, which serves as an image and video-sharing social media, is built with React Native.
While it’s possible to build a complex app with cross-platform tools, you’ll need native development to complete the modules involving the phone’s hardware.
On Google Playstore, an average of 113,000 apps were released per month in 2020. That shows how competitive the industry is, and it’s important to choose mobile development technologies that suit the development timeline.
If you’re building an MVP, you’ll need tools to get the app ready in weeks and not months. However, the full version of the app may be developed with tools that allow for more features but with a longer timeline.
Mobile development stack at Uptech
At Uptech, we’re inclined to use mobile stacks based on open technologies and supported by a good ecosystem. Our choice of app technology allows our developers to validate ideas in the market with an MVP quickly.
We’re using mobile stacks that also allow improvements and expansion of the app in the future. Scalability aside, we’re able to easily maintain or develop products using similar technologies as we’re using popular mobile stacks.
Learn more about Uptech’s tech stack here.
FAQs About Mobile App Technology Stack
1. What is technology stack?
Technology stack is a collection of software tools, programming languages, frameworks, APIs, and components that are required to develop a fully functional software.
2. What is the app stack used for?
The mobile app technology is pivotal in ensuring the success of the design, development and maintenance process. Therefore, it’s essential to choose the right app technology as the wrong choice can lead to the premature demise of the app in the market.
3. What is the best platform for mobile app development?
There isn’t a ‘best’ platform to develop a mobile app. Instead, you’ll need to consider factors like support, skill sets, features, users demographic, and time-to-market.
4. How to choose the best technology stack for mobile apps?
It all comes down to your app’s purpose, scalability, security, complexity, and the timeline that’s accorded to the app.
Never take choosing mobile development stack lightly as it could mean the success or failure of your app. Spare some time to consider the various factors involved, and you’ll be spared the pitfall of choosing the wrong one.
Else, drop me a message, and I’ll be happy to guide you in doing so.