So you're building a mobile app and trying to decide what tech stack to use. No big deal, right? Wrong. This decision is super important because the tech stack is like the foundation of your app. It's made up of the programming languages, frameworks, tools, and platforms you'll use to build and run your app. And trust us, the tech stack you choose can make a massive difference in cost, speed, performance, and maintenance. And not to mention user experience and future-proofing your app.

Then, what are your options? Essentially, there are three main approaches to mobile app development: native, hybrid, and cross-platform. Each approach has its benefits and drawbacks, and the right choice for your app will depend on your specific requirements and goals.

This blog post will break down the different tech stack options and help you decide which is best for your app. We'll also give you some tips and best practices for selecting the right tech stack for your project.

Table of Contents

What is a technology stack?
What are the differences between mobile and web app tech stacks?
Requirements and goals
How to choose the right tech stack
    ➤  Native app development
    ➤  Hybrid app development
    ➤  Cross-platform app development
Tech stacks used in companies for their mobile apps
Final thoughts

What is a technology stack?

A tech stack is the set of tools and technologies you use to build and run a software application, like a website or a mobile app, and it's made up of different layers.

For example, if you're building a mobile app, each layer serves a specific purpose:

  • Front-end: The front-end of a mobile app is responsible for the user interface and the client-side code that runs on the device. This might include technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

  • Back-end: A mobile app's back-end handles the server-side code and the database. This might include technologies such as a programming language (such as Python, Ruby, or Java), a web framework (such as Django or Rails), and a database management system (such as MySQL or PostgreSQL).

  • Platform: The mobile platform (such as iOS or Android) provides the operating system and development tools used to build and run the app. This might include technologies such as the iOS SDK or Android SDK and programming languages such as Objective-C, Swift, Java, or Kotlin.

  • Hosting: The hosting environment runs the server-side code and serves the app to users. This might include Linux, Apache, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

What are the differences between mobile and web app tech stacks?

While there are some similarities between the tech stacks for mobile and web apps, there are also some key differences to consider. Here are a few:

  1. Platform: Unlike mobile apps, which run on specific platforms such as iOS or Android, web apps run on web browsers, and you can access them anywhere. This affects the tech stack you choose, as mobile apps typically require platform-specific development tools and frameworks, while you can build web apps with more cross-platform technologies.

  2. Programming languages: Mobile apps usually use native programming languages such as Objective-C or Swift for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android. You can build web apps with different programming languages, such as Python, Ruby, Java, and JavaScript.

  3. Frameworks: Mobile app development frameworks are specific to the platform they are built for, while you can use web app development frameworks across multiple platforms. For example, iOS apps can be made using frameworks such as SwiftUI, while Android apps can be built using frameworks such as Android SDK or Flutter. Web apps are created using frameworks such as Rails, Django, or ASP.NET.

  4. User interface: Mobile apps have a user interface optimised for the specific screen size and user input methods of the device they are running on. On the other hand, web apps have a user interface designed to be responsive and adapt to many device sizes and input methods.

  5. Distribution: Mobile apps are usually distributed through app stores, while you can access web apps directly through a web browser. This affects the way you update and maintain your app, as well as the way you monetise it.

Requirements and goals

Here are some things to consider when choosing a tech stack for your mobile app:
   

What to consider when choosing a tech stack for your mobile app infographic.
5 criteria to choose a tech stack for your mobile app

   

  1. Type of app: The type of app you want to build will influence the tech stack you choose. For example, a simple app with basic features and functionality may not require a complex tech stack, while a more complicated app with advanced features may need a more powerful tech stack.

  2. Platform: If you want to build an app for a specific platform (iOS, Android, or both), you'll need to select a tech stack that supports that platform. Native app development is generally the best for a specific platform, while hybrid or cross-platform app development can support multiple platforms.

  3. Features and functionality: The features and functionality you want to include in your app will also affect your chosen tech stack. Some tech stacks better suit certain features or functionality, such as games, augmented reality, or machine learning.

  4. Budget and resources: Your budget and the available resources (such as time, expertise, and development team) will also play a role in selecting the right tech stack. Native app development can be more expensive and time-consuming, while hybrid or cross-platform app development can be faster and more cost-effective.

  5. Maintenance and scalability: Choose a tech stack that will hold you back when your app starts to grow. This means considering technologies supporting a stable system architecture as your user base and traffic increase. Your choices of servers, hosting providers, databases, and programming languages can make a big difference of how smoothly your app can expand and grow.

How to choose the right tech stack

The best tech stack for mobile app development depends on various factors, such as the type of app you want to build, the platform you want to target (iOS, Android, or both), the features and functionality you want to include, and your budget and resources. Here are some tech stacks for mobile app development:

Native app development

Native apps use the official software development kits (SDKs) and programming languages for the specific platform (iOS or Android) to build a mobile app.

Here are the most commonly used to develop:

iOS apps

  • Swift: This is the primary programming language used to develop iOS apps. It is a powerful, modern language that is easy to learn and use.

  • Xcode: This is the primary development environment for iOS apps. It is a powerful tool that includes a code editor, debugger, and other tools to help developers build and test their apps.

  • iOS SDK: The iOS SDK (Software Development Kit) is a collection of tools and frameworks you use to develop iOS apps. It includes frameworks for things like UIKit (for building user interfaces), Foundation (for working with data), and Core Graphics (for drawing and animation).

  • UIKit: This framework provides the user interface elements and tools needed to build iOS apps. It includes classes like buttons, labels, tables, and collection views.

  • Other technologies that are often used in iOS app development include databases (such as SQLite or Core Data), networking libraries (such as AFNetworking or Alamofire), and testing frameworks (such as XCTest or Quick).

Android apps

  • Java: This is the primary programming language used to develop Android apps. It is a powerful, object-oriented language that is easy to learn and use.

  • Android Studio: This is the primary development environment for Android apps. It is a powerful tool that includes a code editor, debugger, and other tools to help developers build and test their apps.

  • Android SDK: The Android SDK (Software Development Kit) is a collection of tools and frameworks to develop Android apps. It includes frameworks like UI (User Interface) elements, data storage, and networking.

  • Android framework: This is a set of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that provide the core functionality for Android apps. It includes classes like view management, touch handling, and event handling.

  • Kotlin: Kotlin is a modern, statically-typed programming language that is interoperable with Java and can be used to develop Android apps. It is concise, expressive, and easy to learn and has become increasingly popular among Android developers in recent years. Google has declared Kotlin its preferred language for Android development, fully supported by Android Studio.

Hybrid app development

This involves using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to build a mobile app that can run on multiple platforms. Hybrid apps are developed using frameworks such as Cordova, PhoneGap, or Ionic, which package the app into a native container and provide access to native device features. Hybrid app development is generally less expensive and faster than native app development but can result in slower performance and a less native-like user experience.

Cross-platform app development

This app uses a single codebase to build a mobile app that can run on multiple platforms. Cross-platform app development frameworks such as Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin allows developers to write code in a high-level programming language and then compile it into native code for different platforms. Cross-platform app development is generally faster and more cost-effective than native app development, but it can still result in some performance and user experience trade-offs.

Why building a  Minimum Viable Product matters

Tech stacks used in companies for their mobile apps

Facebook: Facebook uses a native tech stack for its main iOS and Android apps, with separate codebases written in Objective-C, Swift, Java, and Kotlin. The apps also use native development frameworks such as UIKit (iOS) and Android SDK (Android), as well as third-party libraries and tools such as React Native and GraphQL.

Airbnb: Airbnb uses a hybrid tech stack for its iOS and Android apps, with a single codebase written in JavaScript and compiled into native code using the React Native framework. The apps also use native development frameworks such as UIKit (iOS) and Android SDK (Android) for certain platform-specific features.

Uber: Uber uses a native tech stack for its main iOS and Android apps, with separate codebases written in Objective-C, Swift, Java, and Kotlin. The apps also use native development frameworks such as UIKit (iOS) and Android SDK (Android), as well as third-party libraries and tools such as RxJava and Retrofit.

Instagram: Instagram uses a native tech stack for its main iOS and Android apps, with separate codebases written in Objective-C, Swift, Java, and Kotlin. The apps also use native development frameworks such as UIKit (iOS) and Android SDK (Android), as well as third-party libraries and tools such as AFNetworking and Facebook SDK.

Twitter: Twitter uses a native tech stack for its main iOS and Android apps, with separate codebases written in Objective-C, Swift, Java, and Kotlin. The apps also use native development frameworks such as UIKit (iOS) and Android SDK (Android), as well as third-party libraries and tools such as Fabric and Crashlytics.

It's important to note that these are just a few examples and that the actual tech stacks used by these companies may be more complex and varied. Tech stacks can evolve as companies add new features and functionality to their apps and adopt new technologies.

Final thoughts

So, what's the verdict on tech stacks for mobile apps? It all boils down to your specific needs and goals. And this is a crucial decision that can significantly impact your app's cost, speed, performance, and maintenance. So there are a few factors to consider, like the type of app you want to build, the platform, the features and functionality, and your budget.

Ultimately, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. It's essential to do your research and check out our mobile app development process. But make sure you choose a stack to help you build the best app possible.


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