Frameworks are a collection of tools, libraries, and guidelines for building Android apps in a particular way.
They act as shortcuts, helping you speed up development with pre-built components or standardized methods.
For instance, React Native is for building cross-platform apps, while Onsen UI is for creating UI components with HTML5.
The biggest challenge with Android frameworks is figuring out which one to use.
And that’s what this article is for.
We’ll list ten of the best Android app development frameworks, their features, and the best times to use each.
At its core, Cordova is a native app shell that houses a WebView.
This component displays the app’s user interface built using web technologies. It’s essentially a web browser masquerading as a native app.
But what gives Cordova more power than your typical hybrid app is that it also uses plugins to access the underlying hardware.
For instance, it allows Cordova apps to use the user’s camera or accelerometer.
The main selling point of Cordova is leveraging a web developer’s existing skillset to create mobile apps. It eliminates the need to adopt native languages like Swift, Java, or C++.
This is useful if you have a web app that you’d like to port over to Android easily.
Another advantage is that Cordova can be integrated directly into Android Studio, allowing you to effectively use its development, testing, and building tools like the excellent Gradle system.
Flutter is an open-source software development kit (SDK) developed by Google.
It enables developers to build visually appealing and highly customizable user interfaces with its proprietary programming language, Dart.
This framework mainly focuses on the UI, as evidenced by its extensive toolset. At the center are widgets, pre-designed components that you can edit infinitely to suit your needs.
These will help you create complex and visually appealing UI much faster.
This allows you to create
consistent UI designs across platforms with relative ease, something that’s more difficult with other frameworks.
But it also supports native design approaches, like Android’s Material Design, if you prefer to create platform-specific UIs.
Aside from the UI, Flutter also offers useful features for developers.
Notable is Hot Reload. This powerful feature lets you change the code and see the effect in real time without re-compiling the app.
As you can imagine, this can speed up development and debugging dramatically.
Flutter also supports an extensive animation library that supports the creation of complex animations, transitions, and interactivity within the apps.
Yet performance isn’t hampered, thanks to Flutter’s excellent rendering engine.
Dart is also a very powerful yet easy-to-learn language, making Flutter a
no-brainer addition to the Android developer’s toolkit.
Framework7 is an open-source framework for creating hybrid Android apps but with a native feel.
It includes a WebView component inside a native app shell, similar to other hybrid platforms.
But Framework7’s edge is its extensive collection of pre-designed UI components like modals, pop-ups, navigation bars, and more.
These are styled to match the native look and feel of Android, which helps remove the hybrid feel of the app.
Framework7 also supports a powerful interactive toolset, such as gesture support, smooth animations, and transition effects.
All of these help UX designers deliver a polished app experience.
Because of these features, Framework7 is a fantastic wireframing and prototyping tool.
The powerful components and intuitive features enable you to put together a UI design in record time and optimize it.
Best of all, Framework7 is free. This makes it one of the best UI design frameworks on this list.
Ionic is a cross-platform framework that combines web technologies and native Android plugins to create hybrid apps.
It’s yet another example of the classic hybrid platform that places a WebView component inside a native app.
Ionic is built on top of Apache Cordova, which facilitates access to native device features. It then adds pre-designed UI components, themes, and tools to streamline app development.
Ionic’s edge is that it provides a flexible UI design environment. Apps can be customized with themes, making it easy to maintain consistent design across platforms.
The Ionic framework is also highly integrable with other platforms like Angular or React JS for building the core logic and UI.
This enables developers to leverage the power of these frameworks to streamline development further.
What Ionic lacks, though, is animation support.
Because of this, Ionic is best suited for apps with simple and clean UI and basic features.
While still considered a hybrid approach (see the architecture below), what sets NativeScript apart is that it compiles the JS code into native components.
This makes them essentially native apps with a native look and feel.
Thus, NativeScript enables developers to create complex apps that are impossible or inefficient with other hybrid models.
However, don’t expect NativeScript apps to be faster than true native apps, as they still need to access native APIs using a single-thread approach. This creates overhead and delays.
NativeScript also has capabilities that put it a step further. One is Hot Module Replacement, similar to Flutter’s Hot Reload.
This lets you edit and debug the code in real time without restarting the app.
The bottom line is that NativeScript is a more robust and flexible hybrid development platform.
It uses pre-built components that you can put together to create functional UIs quickly. You can also edit these accordingly to fit your design theme.
Onsen UI uses a modular architecture that comprises CSS components, web components, and framework bindings. You can use one or all of these layers depending on your project needs.
For example, if you have a simple app and only need to re-design the UI, you might use the CSS or web components.
This flexibility allows you to use only what you need, reducing the app’s size and improving performance.
Plus, Onsen UI has an active community that develops plugins and extensions for the framework. This extends its capabilities and provides access to additional features.
React Native is perhaps one of the most popular and well-used cross-platform paradigms. After all, they were one of the first to bring web technology to app development.
Its popularity stems from the fact that React Native can achieve a near-native look and feel.
It can mimic Android UI components accurately, and its performance is close to (but not quite equal to) a native app.
Due to its popularity, React Native has a large developer community and a vast collection of third-party libraries and tools.
You can use this to your advantage, as you’ll always have the resources to further improve or speed up your development.
But perhaps React Native’s claim to fame is its code reusability.
Studies and evidence prove that you can reuse up to 90% of your codebase across platforms, which makes porting your Android app into iOS a breeze.
Of course, conversions between platforms don’t always work as planned, which is one of the cons of React Native.
Sencha Ext JS
As such, it includes powerful data management tools that are more basic or nonexistent in other frameworks.
For example, Sencha Ext JS offers data binding, allowing UI components to update when the connected data changes automatically.
This approach can simplify development and troubleshooting.
It also supports robust data models, stores, and proxies that simplify data management, including handling CRUD (Create, Read, Update, and Delete) operations.
Apart from that, Sencha Ext JS has a decent UI toolset with 140+ components that can help you easily build interfaces.
Now, note that Sencha Ext JS is primarily a web application tool,
not a native Android development framework.
However, it can be used to make web apps optimized for Android. Alternatively, you can convert that web app into a hybrid using tools like Apache Cordova or Ionic.
Xamarin is Microsoft’s cross-platform app development framework. It works similarly to Flutter and React Native but boasts 80% code reusability.
Because it’s a Microsoft tool, Xamarin’s native IDE is Visual Studio. Consequently, it also uses .NET languages like C++ and C# for coding.
Xamarin uses a different approach to cross-platform development by compiling the app’s code into native binaries for each platform.
That gives Xamarin apps near-native capabilities and aesthetics. You can also use the Xamarin Forms UI toolkit to create a more consistent UI across platforms.
Here’s the architecture:
One of the biggest reasons to go for Xamarin is if you’re a .NET developer who wants to expand to mobile apps.
For instance, you might have enterprise software that you want to port to Android.
Another hidden benefit of this approach is that you get to use the libraries, functions, and toolset of Visual Studio, which is impressive enough.
Of course, don’t expect it to have the same breadth and mobile support as Android Studio.
jQuery Mobile is a UI framework that’s simpler yet more robust than we’ve covered on this list.
One highlight feature is the Theme Roller.
This tool lets you edit your UI components in greater detail through a clean and simple-to-use UI. You can then export it as a Zip file, ready to be applied to your project.
This capability allows you to easily create a unique and consistent look for your Android apps.
jQuery Mobile also supports gestures, page transitions, theming, dynamic content loading through AJAX, and accessibility.
However, note that jQuery Mobile is still just a UI design tool. On its own, it’s only capable of creating simpler apps.
For anything more complex, you’ll need to integrate it with other frameworks like React Native or Apache Cordova.
Nevertheless, as a UI design tool, it’s one of the best in its class.
Can’t decide on which framework to use?
We hope this summary of the best Android app development frameworks has been useful to you.
Though it’s understandable if you’re still confused about which one to use.
In these cases, consulting with an experienced agency like DECODE might help you decide.
Simply schedule a consultation session with us (backed with an NDA) and tell us about your project.
We’ll come up with the best frameworks, tools, and approach that fits your requirements!
Get in touch with us today to get started!