Android has always been a mobile platform with a large share of the market. Together with iOS, they accounted for 71% of all digital traffic in 2019 (in just the U.S.A)! Besides, mobile use is going really strong worldwide as well. With this in mind, it’s only natural that you should master at least one Android framework (preferably more) for your android app development needs.
But why Android, and not iOS instead? That’s a very valid question, and the answer is that it’s indeed best to have an app that’s native to both Android and the iOS platform. However, it’s no secret that Android app development has always been highly customizable, while iOS was less so.
This has led to some developers strongly preferring to create an app that’s native only to the former.
Additionally, Android development is supported by a global community forum, and the OS’s rapid growth has given rise to a large number of helpful tools.
Even if you aren’t a developer yourself, it’s of great help to know what your android app development team is using to create your product more easily. Understanding the process and the technicalities behind it is the first step to making sure that the project will be a success.
Only when you really comprehend what a framework is (and which ones are the best), will it make sense to you why your team has chosen one or another.
So, to help you out along the way, we’ve created this toplist of our favorite Nine Android frameworks for great android app development:
- Android Native/NDK
- React Native
- Corona SDK
What is a Framework?
When you’re building a mobile app, you’ll have a few elements that are core parts of your process. These will be your integrated development environment (IDE), your architecture, your programming language, and your framework.
To put it simply, your IDE will define the tools that you have available to create an app. You can write your app in both Android Studio and in Notepad, but the latter would be very time consuming and complicated.
The architecture and the actual code define how well the app will work, and also its speed.
Frameworks (also sometimes called Software Development Kits/SDKs) are a bit more confusing, as they could be anything that you use in your application’s development. In other words, they provide strings of code, scripts, APIs, and other tools for developing, debugging, and testing apps.
Most importantly, and what you should remember, is that frameworks provide “pre-built” solutions to parts of your app. These can range from already written code for standard features, to providing additional functionalities and complex layers. They usually come in the form of a collection of libraries, and help you not reinvent the wheel each time.
So, broadly speaking, a framework is a collection of libraries. Libraries are suites of data and code. Programmers use them to develop web and mobile apps easier and faster than they would otherwise.
From a technical standpoint, libraries also help the programming language compiler when building and executing the software.
Criteria for The Top 9 Android App Development Frameworks (2022)
This will of course be a subject for debate, but here’s how we’ll go about this top list.
First, we’ll look at what exactly the framework is and how it works.
Second, we’ll clarify who we think should be using this framework, and for what.
Third, we’ll tackle its features, advantages and disadvantages.
Fourth, we’ll clarify when exactly you should use the given framework.
Fifth and final, we’ll give you the framework’s unique selling proposition (USP). The one specific element that makes it stand out from other options.
If you want to learn even more about how we tackle and resolve situations (for Android, iOS and web apps too), check out our work process.
1. Android Native/NDK
What is Android Native?
Exactly like the name suggests, it’s a Native Development Kit, and very popular for android app development for this reason. This Android framework places API libraries and other essential tools at developer’s fingertips in a very organic manner. Everything about it is built around Android, much like Cocoa Touch is natively suitable for iOS.
Who Should Use Android Native?
All developers that have to implement any part of their app in native code. The used languages for this would be C and C++, allowing access to some native libraries directly from the native code. For example, the Native Android Game framework should be used when developing Android native mobile games.
Android Native Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
- Native shared libraries from your C/C++ source code
- Native static libraries
- Java language
- CLI and jetpacks development interface
- A support community consisting of ~6M developers
- Manifest (if an app is written without a Java component, the NativeActivity class must be declared in the manifest)
- Java Native Interface (JNI)
- Application Binary Interface (ABI)
- Native APIs and API access (Java framework)
- Intuitive native UIs
- Native MVC architecture
- Open Source
- Using third party prebuilt libraries in the app needs extra care
- RTTI/exceptions may not work across library boundaries
- Some features could be restricted on older Android versions
When to Use Android Native
If you’re looking to create an app that’s native to Android, this is an SDK made specifically for it. Needless to say, it is used by Google, but even some businesses with multi-platform apps (like Slack) use it. Even if you’re developing your software for iOS too, hybridization shouldn’t be your go-to solution.
You can use native frameworks for each version of the app.
Android Native USP
Android NDK presents itself as being the fastest set of tools available for quality and innovative android app development and games on the OS. It’s definitely worth researching it further, as it is true that it places a considerable amount of tools at your disposal for building a rich application.
What is Flutter ?
The latest release of Flutter is from March 2021, but it’s an already well established name. This Android framework was (and still is) particularly popular for integrating Google Ads with your app. What’s more, it was built by Google themselves, so you know that if you’re looking to monetize your Flutter app, you won’t encounter major headaches.
This UI SDK is also free and open-source! Additionally, it’s been lauded for taking a different approach from regular Android SDKs. Besides simplifying your life during Android app development, it’s completely usable for iOS too! It’s written in the Dart language, and it works with existing code.
If excellent multi-platform mobile development is what you’re after, put Flutter on your radar.
Who Should Use Flutter?
Of course, Flutter is recommended for Android development overall, but that’s not everything it’s good for.
Even if we’re adding it to an Android frameworks toplist, you should remember that Flutter is amazing for hybrid iOS and Android app development. Traditionally, it’s advisable to create native apps whenever possible, rather than hybrid ones (because hybrid apps usually suffer from some issues).
However, this SDK has been cited globally by many organizations as being a very helpful tool for quality hybrid app development. This is mostly thanks to it using a single codebase, and its apps fully compiling to native code. The compiling is done through Google’s Skia, a 2D rendering engine, and its purpose is developing visuals that are akin to the Material Design and Cupertino style.
Other elements that will make your cross-platform development are the tools that allow you to do tests easily. You can perform unit, functionality and UI tests with a top-rated Rot Reload feature! In other words, continuous testing without the need to restart the application.
Flutter Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
- Screen reader
- Hybrid app development
- Dart, C, C++ languages
- MVC architecture (Skia)
- CLI tools
- Fast development
- Quick rendering
- Native Google Ads
- Android and iOS themes
- UI rendering components
- Material Design and Cupertino widgets
- Large support communities on GitHub
- Hot Reload function
- Large file sizes
- Few third-party libraries
- Still a relatively “young” framework, not as developed as native ones
- Can be difficult to create 100% platform-specific looks and feels
- Platform updates are rolled out to other native SDKs before Flutter (mainly more problematic for iOS apps)
When to Use Flutter
Flutter is usually suitable for beginner and advanced Android app development. It allows simple creation of multi-functional and multi-platform apps. You get high speeds, convenience, and intuitive tools.
All of these advantages are brought without the app even being natively made. However, the performance will be very similar to native apps. It is highly unlikely that a user would be able to tell the difference, but a developer will find it significantly easier to adapt the app to both Android and iOS.
The framework also comes with a web app development option, called Flutter Web (previously “Hummingbird”).
If you’re not looking to create native Android app development, but want to do a high quality native compiled one instead, Flutter is for you. Development for both iOS and Android can be done in record time, by using a single codebase.
What is Xamarin?
We can definitely say that Xamarin is a “must-try” framework for Android app development. It’s open-source, and you can use it for building high-performance and modern apps for 3 operating systems: Android, iOS and Windows with .NET.
Xamarin is typically “friendly” towards programmers, with the development environment coming with an abstraction layer. This layer manages all communication of shared code with the underlying platform code.
Who Should Use Xamarin?
Anyone that wants to build native apps that have shared UI code that’s written in C# or XAML. The main advantage is that Xamarin allows business logic to be written in a single language.However, it also achieves the performance, look and feel of native apps on all platforms!
Xamarin Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
- .NET native API access
- Great for mobile, desktop, web and PWAs (progressive web apps)
- UI components (both standards-based and rich)
- MVVM architecture (model-view-view-model)
- Support communities on Stackoverflow and Xamarin Forums
- Forms technology (design the UI only once, attach C# logic to it and share the codebase)
- Native user experience
- Shareable code
- No need to switch environments (can do everything in the Visual Studio IDE)
- Single language (C#)
- Large file sizes (many core libraries)
- Tougher to use for complex graphics
- Android, iOS and Windows update delays
When to Use Xamarin
If your project is dependent on sharing code and testing business logic across multiple platforms, then give Xamarin a shot. It’s also great for writing across-platforms apps in C# with Visual Studio.
The framework is already used by many businesses worldwide (together with .NET) to create native mobile apps. In the end, the apps have a very “natural” feel and look to them, with the UI being beautiful and easy to navigate.
Create code once, use it across multiple platforms. That’s the basis of Xamarin, and its most important feature. There are also no negative effects on your app’s speed, UX or maintainability. The developers using Xamarin just have to know C# and .NET.
4. React Native
What is React Native ?
It was developed by Facebook, and it’s considered to be one of the best frameworks for both Android and iOS app development.
Who Should Use React Native?
Anyone that’s looking to build a customized Android app development, but also wants to focus on its speed and overall performance. React Native makes use of built-in interface components that are platform specific, and its APIs allow developers to create “natural” experiences and feels for both mobile OS.
The app won’t be native, but hardly anyone will be able to tell the difference.
React Native Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
- Native widgets for the UI
- Flux and Redux MVC architecture
- Support forums on GitHub, StackOverflow and Dev Community
- Open source
- End-product is indistinguishable from a native one (through the use of Swift, Objective C or Java)
- Hot reload function
- Fast Refresh function
- Code reusability
- Ready-to-use components
- Consistency across platforms
- Modular architecture
- Not the best for a complex UI
- Not very beginner-friendly
- Third-party libraries are a big part of its utility
- Can require a native developer
When to Use React Native
Some of the core issues many developers face are iteration periods, Imperative Programming and differences between codebases. React Native simplifies all of these aspects and more, while also making custom code reusable in an easy manner!
The framework is also focused on having its technology be community-driven, so anyone can contribute to the framework. In other words, React Native is best used for speed and simplicity during development, when you’re not making a native app.
React Native USP
Native-like user interfaces that have an elegant feel cross-platforms. Reduced iOS and android app development time and costs. Used by industry leaders such as Facebook, Tesla, Bloomberg, Uber, etc.
What is NativeScript ?
Who Should NativeScript?
Like with other options in our toplist, NativeScript is for developers looking to minimize time-to-market. However, it’s different from React Native or Xamarin. Native UX is the focus here, which becomes a great multitool once you take into consideration cross-platform code sharing.
NativeScript Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
- NativeScript UI
- Composable MVVM architecture
- Support communities on Stack Overflow and GitHub
- Open Source
- Executes fastly
- Custom content can be split (even CSS styles) into multiple files
- Vue.js support
- Visual Studio code
- Access to data binding and dependency injection through Angular
- Larger file sizes than native apps
- Some open source plugins need fixing before using them
When to Use NativeScript
Currently, the framework is used mostly by B2B tech companies like Microsoft and Dell. Take NativeScript into consideration for “techy” apps projects. Some great benefits when you’ll use it for cross-platform development is how easy it is to reuse CocoaPods and Android SDKs.
What is Ionic?
Who Should Ionic?
The Ionic framework is for building hybrid and interactive apps (mobile, desktop, and PWA) from a single codebase. Its many sets of animations, gestures, elements and other tools are designed for creating quality-driven software products.
Ionic Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
- Native plugin library (through Cordova and Capacitor)
- AngularJS MVC architecture
- Deeplinking plugin
- Open source
- Great for all app platforms (web, mobile, desktop, PWA)
- Rich and standard UI components
- Developer-friendly CLI
- Very large support community on the Ionic forums, StackOverflow and Ionic Slack
- Many types of integrations
- Quick prototyping
- Easy testing
- Strong documentation
- Not recommended for all app types (such as 3D games)
- No Hot Reload
- Apps tend to be heavy in file size
When to Use Ionic
If you want to make your app accessible and fast without having to sacrifice development speed, Ionic is for you. It integrates easily with many libraries (for example AngularJS), and functionalities like Bluetooth, fingerprint authentication and the Health kit allow you versatility.
The CLI (Command Line Interface) is also simple, with features such as emulators, logging and live reload. The Cordova plugins also let developers access device components like the camera and GPS.
A very developer-friendly platform, oriented towards cross-platform apps that share a codebase.
7. Corona SDK
What is the Corona SDK ?
A highly advanced 2D/3D mobile development platform. This Android framework is a cross-platform solution, and free to use. It helps you achieve development goals by leveraging the Lua scripting language, and by having 1,000+ built-in APIs.
The selection of plugins is also massive, and Corona Native extensions will help you build core functionalities within your app.
Who Should Use Corona SDK?
Usually, game developers, since the SDK is amazing for creating games for mobile, desktop, and even connected devices like TVs (with a single codebase!).
The Corona framework gives you the ability to see changes in an instant within the simulator, so iterations can happen lightning-fast.
Corona SDK Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
- Lua programming language
- Native API access through REST and Corona APIs
- UI frameworks and plugins
- MVVM architecture, structured around game controllers
- Open source
- Interactive Corona Simulator
- Drag and Drop GUI
- Apps have high FPS (frames-per-second)
- Adjusts well to various screen resolutions
- Can replace HTML Canvas with GPL
- Easy integration of media into the project
- Brisk compiling thanks to the the SDK’s emulator
- Lua is easy to learn, but hard to master
- Debugging can be tedious
- The Pro version is $600/year
When to Use Corona SDK
If your development team is familiar with Lua, and you’re developing a video game, have a look at Corona SDK. The entire backend framework is Lua-based, which is a light and powerful multi-paradigm language. Speed, portability and extensibility are all core features.
What’s more, you should put it on your radar for testing in real time, native UI support, and a built-in engine! There’s also support for advertising.
Additionally, it’s well-suited to beginner developers, and amazing at placing a multitude of tools at your disposal. For example: TestFairy, GameAnalytics, MoonScript, Lua, Helpshift.
Corona SDK USP
If you know your games a bit, it’s enough to say that Corona SDK was used for Warcraft and Civilization games. If not, then keep in mind that it’s a very approachable Android framework, having only plain syntax.
What is jQuery?
An HTML5 based cross-platform Android framework. It’s usually used for when you want to create an app suitable for both iOS and Android, but you want to emphasize speed-to-market. Development tends to be easy for the cross-platform app, and jQuery is suitable for web apps too.
The core concept of the Query Mobile framework is “less code, more results”.
Who Should Use jQuery?
Developers that want their app to execute flawlessly on basically any platform. Even if you want it to work on Blackberries or Windows Phones, it won’t be a problem. The end result will be a mobile app that’s highly branded and responsive.
jQuery Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
- jQuery and JQuery UI native API access
- ASP .NET MVC architecture
- Great for both mobile and web
- Form Inputs and UI widgets that are touch-friendly
- Large library
- Requires little code
- Easy to use
- Ajax support (templates, sleeker interface, etc)
- Loads of plugins
- Sometimes favours quantity instead of quality
- Can have plugins compatibility issues
When to Use jQuery
Web pages are also made simpler and more interactive through plugins such as Image Slider, Content-Slider and Pop-up Boxes.
jQuery is also best when you need simple Android app development. Its ThemeRoller even features a drag and drop functionality, and the framework is compatible with SDKs like Worklight.
The framework is pretty much a “go-to” solution for creating simple apps fast, that will run on virtually all platforms.
What is Framework7?
One of the latest Android frameworks that you can use, Framework7 is a full-featured SDK for iOS and Android app development. It is also open source, and all you need to know to make it work is a simple HTML layout (and some associated CSS and JS).
Who Should Use Framework7?
Framework7 Features, Advantages and Disadvantages
- Framework7 API, Apache Cordova, flexible router API
- Ready-made impressive UI elements
- DOM7 MVC architecture
- Open source
- Many templates and plugins
- Independent from third party libraries
- Custom DOM7
- Can be used together with the React and Angular frameworks
- Easy to pick up
- More limited platform support than other options
- The documentation and support is less great than other options
- Centered around HTML5 mark-up-based solutions (could be a pro, depending on if you like this approach)
When to Use Framework7
Since Framework7 can also be used as a prototyping tool and it isn’t hard to be picked up, it’s a great pick for developers still learning the ropes. The focus that’s mainly on HTML keeps things simple, while still allowing the delivery of a quality-driven multi-platform app.
Looking for Android App Development?
We’re experts at both – iOS and Android app development, having created simple and complex software products for over 10 years. Are you looking to have your own idea turned into a great app?
As you can see, it can be tricky to use a framework if you aren’t sure of what you’re doing, even if it’s designed on the intuitive side.
However, we’ve done it dozens of times before! Whether it is Android app development or iOS or web, it doesn’t matter. We have the needed specialists for all fields. Let’s talk about it today.
If you’d rather keep the project in your own house, great! We also do a full range of staff augmentation. You only need to call us at (972) 200-9120.