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Choosing a tech stack for your project is a crucial step, which defines a lot of qualities in your future product. Yet, the choice of the right mobile app stack can be overwhelming for non-tech specialists. Rightfully so, as the wide range of choice of programming languages, technologies, and integration can be perplexing even for a specialist with a tech background.
With versatile experience in software development, as a Tech Lead, iOS Software Engineer, and Engineering Manager, I have profound knowledge of how different technologies affect the success of an app.
In this guide, I’ll share the different types of mobile stacks and how to choose the right one for your app.
Let’s get into it!
What is a Mobile App Tech Stack?
The term mobile app technology stack or mobile app tech 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.
- Backend - Tools and software needed to create the underlying processing on the server.
- Software Development - A consolidated platform that provides the necessary libraries and interfaces to build the app.
- Post-Release Maintenance - Various tools and technologies that improve the security, flexibility, and performance of the app.
Your options for mobile app technology stack depend 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 Android app stack. 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 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 App Tech Stack?
It’s impossible to suggest a unified mobile app technology stack for all projects. Every app is unique and has its own requirements. The same applies to your startup and the team that’s developing the app.Instead of blindly copying the mobile app tech stack used by other apps, you’ll want to start by asking important questions:
- Is the toolkit a relatively new product? If you’re using SwiftUI, you’re going to be limited to iOS 13 or later. It shouldn’t be your choice if you’re going to target older versions of iOS.
- What is my team good at? Chances are, you’re going to work with a team of developers. Your choice of mobile app tech stack must also reflect the expertise of your team. It will be pointless to choose tools that your team is not proficient with.
- How vast is the mobile app tech stack? Will it be easy to integrate with other third-party tools?
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 the mobile app tech stack. 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 are 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 mobile app 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 communicates 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.
In June 2023 about 90 thousand mobile apps were released through the Google Play Store. 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.
Cross-Platform vs. Native App Development Tech Stack
Depending on your project’s needs, you will choose between cross-Platform vs. Native App Development. While native app development means building a separate app for each Android and iOS platform, the cross-platform option means building a universal one that fits both.
If you want to learn more about the difference between cross-platform and native app development, as well as their benefits, check our blog post article “Native Vs Cross-Platform Development: How To Choose?”.
In this article, we will talk further about how the mobile app stack for these two options will be different. So let’s see the technologies used for both.
Mobile App Tech Stack for Cross-Platform Development
As indicated earlier, cross-platform app development is a more flexible option that fits both mobile systems: iOS and Android.
Therefore, the mobile app tech stack for cross-platform app development includes the languages available on both platforms. Usually, those are React Native, Flutter, Kotlin Multiplatform.
- Flutter is another cross-platform framework, but this one is provided by Google. In essence, this is an UI toolkit, that enables an easy way to build natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase.
- Kotlin Multiplatform. Unlike its older counterparts, Kotlin Multiplatform is relatively new, though rapidly rising in popularity as a cross-platform development tool. Developed by JetBrains, Kotlin Multiplatform allows developers to code their shared app logic once and run it on various platforms including Android, iOS, Web, Desktop, and even backend services.
Native App Development Tech Stack
The things are a bit more complicated with the native mobile app development. I guess you’ve already guessed why – because here you have to build an individual app for each platform – iOS and Android. It obviously takes more effort, but it is rewarding as well in terms of security, speed and performance, stability in maintenance and updates. Here are the technologies that you should put into your mobile app tech stack to make the most of native app development.
iOS Development Tech Stack
The programming languages for iOS development are Swift, Objective-C – the ones officially supported by Apple for iOS app development.
While Objective-C is a tried-out option regularly used for iOS app development, Swift is a relatively new counterpart. The latter one is more progressive and useful, while the first one is more reliable.
Android App Development Tech Stack
The mobile app tech stack for Android app development includes programming languages like Java & Kotlin – languages officially supported by Google for Android app development.
- Java is an older and more seasoned programming language usually used for web development. Java developers enjoy profound and extensive libraries and technologies that make the development process faster. Yet, the language may lag behind in performance.
- Kotlin is a comparatively new Android development tool, which allows developers to practice multi-language development.
Choosing Mobile Development Stack with Uptech
At Uptech, we use mobile app technology stack based on open technologies and supported by a good ecosystem. Our choice of mobile app tech stack 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 app tech stacks.
Since 2016 Uptech has helped businesses to choose the mobile app tech stack that brings impeccable functionality and performance to their apps. Not to sound unfounded, I can offer you to check an article on our blog about how Uptech Keeps 99% Crash-Free Sessions On Aspiration App?
The right mobile app tech stack for your Android or iOS app is crucial to how the product will function and scale. Choosing the mobile stack for a project can be tricky, especially if you need the proper tech background.
A proficient tech partner can help you select the mobile app technology stack that will ensure excellent performance and scalability for your app. So, take a while to choose the outsource partner whom you can trust.