Mobile platform development languages
At LiSC, mobile computing plays an important role in carrying out a diverse range of research, with the development experience passed into our undergraduate teaching. Our new Social Computing programme which starts in September also has a strong focus on the moving target of mobile development. With mobile a central theme in what we do in our group I felt now would be a good time to write up some timely reflection on the topic as I recently attended a cross platform mobile event.
Developing mobile applications for a rich user experience is not easy, pretty far from it. You need a deep understanding of the programming languages and development tools for each mobile platform you want to reach. There are pros and cons to going native – it offers the best opportunities for a developer in terms of the end-user experience, by having access to all that the latest and greatest smartphones have to offer in terms of hardware and sensors. However it involves developing an entirely different codebase if you want to reach out to other mobile platforms. For example the top 3 platforms are Android, iOS, and Windows Phone (in that order) – you’d need to develop and maintain an app silo for each of these platforms and submit to different app stores. A massive amount of work.
At LiSC we teach native app development for Windows Phone (WP) in our degree programmes, the tools are fantastic, and easily match and best competitors Android and iOS in terms of the developer experience. It’s still not ideal, especially given the current market share of WP. In setting the scene for mobile app dev we tell students this: first and foremost we teach the fundamental approaches in developing mobile applications for any platform that covers design & resource constraints, asynchronous programming, saving state, and cloud-connected. These approaches are universal when developing any mobile app, regardless of platform or tools. Inevitably, students pop the burning question with a critical slant – “why don’t we do development for other platforms as well – why can’t we do Android, iOS AND WP?” There are lots of reasons why we don’t do this, amongst them are setting up multiple development environments, emulator configuration complexities, and different hardware needs in the case of iOS – not to mention the unrealistic requirement of having to learn three sets of completely different languages and development tools. Note I’m also making the safe assumption they would be disappointed with their mobile app efforts after a few weeks of native Android or iOS dev – I know I was, in fact actually quite bitter about it.
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It is hybrid of native app and web app architecture. The code is placed on the application servers and client device will download it on the first launch and check the latest updates on each launch automatically.
Game developer can get the benefit of fast updates like web apps. though I am wondering if this type of architecture will work on iOS platform.