Cross-platform development tools allow developers to write apps in one codebase and then deploy them across a variety of platforms – a valuable asset given today’s fragmented mobile ecosystem. Such tools have been mostly been skewing toward enterprises over the last year, given big companies’ need to rapidly cater to their mobilised workforce and customers – and the valuable market therein. But cross-platform tools are also important for smaller indie developers who are likely on a much tighter budget. So with that mind, we’ve rounded-up five of the best cross-platform tools that are cheap, affordable or completely free-to-use. If you think we’ve missed anything off this list get in touch and let us know. Also check out our round-up of the best cross-platform tools for enterprises for more suggestions.
The Best and Cheapest Cross-Platform Tools for Indie Developers
One of the big reasons for PhoneGap’s popularity is that it’s completely free whether your app is paid, free, open source or any combination of the above. However, PhoneGap Build, which is the cloud-based version, does come with a subscription fee, starting at $9.99. Phone Build is also available via Adobe’s Creative Cloud Membership program.
Cost: From $25, with special pricing for some indies
Xamarin is the most costly tool in this top five, but we’re including because it does offer discounts for indie devs and it’s received a great deal of praise from developers overall. Xamarin lets developers write apps entirely in C# and share the same code across Android, iOS, Windows and Mac versions. Xamarin says its apps use native UIs on every platform and the tool consistently stays up-to-date with the latest Android and iOS releases, so you can always use the latest features in your apps.
In terms of pricing, Xamarin features a free starter edition to try out, which doesn’t include cross platform functionality, then charges $25 per month at its next pricing tier, which still relatively cheap compared to other platform. However Xamarin does offer “special pricing” if you’re a start-up that’s less than three years old, a small business with 20 or fewer employees, and have three or more developers – though you’ll have to contact them to find out more.
MoSync went bankrupt a little over a year ago and is no longer being updated, so bear that in mind before beginning a project. But the framework is open source and completely free to use (as long as users make their apps open source under the terms of the GPL license, which you can read more about on the Free Software Foundation’s website). The github for MoSync can be found here, although even that hasn’t been updated for quite a while. MoSync also free to use if you develop apps privately within an organisation. If you don’t want to go open source with your creations then you can pay for a commercial subscription, which costs 199 EUR (around $230) per year.
When it comes to cost, Adobe Air is completely free to use, so it’s great for Flash devs on a budget. Of course, if you’re a Flash/Action Script developer then you’ll probably already have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription anyways.
Ok, so let’s be clear, you’re not going to create anything ground-breaking with AppsGeyser. The platform is extremely limited in terms of the kind of apps you can produce and is entirely based on templates. But, if you’re looking to very quickly create an Android app based on your business’ website, or your YouTube channel, then AppsGeyser may be worth a look. The platform is codeless and there’s also inbuilt distribution and monetisation features that you can take advantage of. No iOS support. Just Android.
AppsGeyser is free-to-use. The company makes its money by running ads within the created apps, although if you don’t want to monetise your apps you can turn off this feature.