The latest survey results reveal that 87% of survey respondents develop for Android and 58% develop for iOS.
In terms of mobile operating systems, not much has changed from a market share perspective in the last 10 or so years. Android is still the most popular mobile operating system around the world, while iOS dominates the U.S. market. This means developers of mobile, particularly of B2C-facing software, almost certainly have to target both platforms. JetBrains’ State of Developer Ecosystem 2023 survey results confirm this point, as 87% of survey respondents develop for Android and 58% develop for iOS. Another 3% develop for “other” mobile operating systems, which include some of the operating systems, such as webOs and Tizen, that have yet to see a lot of mainstream usage.
More than 50% of respondents are using cross-platform frameworks to reach both Android and iOS from a single code base. Gone are the days of stiff, clunky feeling cross-platform applications. Modern frameworks such as Flutter and React-Native are able to create immersive native-like experiences, so it’s no surprise these are the number one and number two cross-platform frameworks in use by survey participants: 47% of respondents reported developing applications with Flutter and 36% use React-Native. Both of these frameworks are likely to feel familiar to web developers, and with the popularity of web applications in general and a rise in full-stack web developers, Flutter and React-Native are natural choices.
Unity and Xamarin suffer mobile falls
Two cross-platform frameworks that saw a drop in usage between 2023 and 2022 on mobile were Unity and Xamarin. For 2023, Unity is reported as the cross-platform framework used by 10% of mobile developers. Unity is primarily used on mobile for game development, and the game industry has been plagued with layoffs this year. Xamarin, dropping as the framework of choice for 12% of respondents in 2022 to only 8% in 2023, has traditionally seen success in the enterprise.
While it’s uncertain exactly why there was a drop in popularity, it’s worth noting that this year the popular Xamarin.Forms platform was replaced by .NET MAUI. While the latter offers a lot of benefits over its predecessor, the architecture is different enough and the learning curve steep enough that developers may have seen this as an opportunity to make the jump to Flutter or React-Native.
Mobile developers and the art of proficiency
If you’re in the market to hire a mobile developer, you may be surprised to learn that it’s still not that common for developers to be proficient on both Android and iOS. In this survey, just 39% of respondents reported that 2–4 developers on their team were working on iOS and Android simultaneously. That’s often because, even when using cross-platform frameworks, developers still need to know and make a number of platform-specific calls, and both Android and iOS have hundreds of platform calls to learn, and those calls can change with each new version of the operating system.
When looking for an integrated development environment for developing mobile apps, developers overwhelmingly agree the most important features are those that facilitate debugging. Sixty-one percent of respondents ranked being able to run the application on devices and emulators as the number one consideration, followed by SDK managers, device managers and device logs, which are all closely related topics.
With the sheer numbers of Android and iOS devices on the market, it’s no wonder. Currently, there are more than 24K unique Android devices on the market. And while the iOS hardware market isn’t quite so varied, supporting the last two versions of the operating system can often mean half a dozen models, which cost $300 to $1,000 each. Being able to emulate or simulate these devices as part of the development process saves time and money.
While the 2023 mobile survey didn’t provide any drastic changes from the 2022 results, it seems clear that cross-platform delivery of applications on both Android and iOS is here to stay. In addition, despite React-Native’s two-year head start, Flutter is the reigning cross-platform framework of choice. It’ll be interesting to see where things are this time next year.