Research shows that by 2023, the global mobile application market will reach a staggering $311.25 billion. That represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.2% since its $108.44 billion value in 2017.

Are you ready to cash in on this lucrative and growing market? 

Digital marketing professionals around the world are using innovative mobile app development tools to create a variety of solutions that entertain, assist, and solve pain points for users. From startups to Fortune 500 enterprises, business leaders and entrepreneurs alike are turning to this trending technology to connect with users and grow their platforms.

As 2019 wraps to a close, we’re looking ahead in anticipation of what 2020 brings to this sector. Today, we’re sharing some of the top tools that forward-thinking marketers should know about as they seek to stake their own claim on the mobile app craze.

  • Xamarin
  • Qt
  • Appcelerator
  • Ionic
  • PhoneGap
  • Unity Ads
  • 5App
  • Unity 3D
  • React Native
  • Experitest
  • AppWatch
  • HeadSpin
  • Mobincube
  • BrainTree

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.

What is Hybrid Mobile App Development?

There is a bevy of options for digital marketers to choose from when deciding their initial mobile app design. Will they build their app with strictly native solutions? Or, will they stick with web technologies only? What about hybrid solutions?

As its name implies, a hybrid app blends elements from both native apps and web apps. Native apps are those designed for a specific platform, such as iOS or Android. Web apps are websites that function as apps but are not installed on any device. Rather, they’re accessible via an internet browser instead.

In most cases, the core of a hybrid app is written using web technologies, such as HTML5, CSS or JavaScript. Then, a downloadable native shell encapsulates the solution. 

Hybrid apps can run across multiple platforms, working and behaving much like native apps. However, though they can be installed on a device like a native app, they will run as a mobile WebView object, as they’re technically web apps.

When device access is required (e.g. camera, contacts), the app can utilize native code to access those features, creating a seamless user experience.

In recent years, hybrid apps have gained steam due to their ease of use and versatility. Once developers write the code, they can deploy it across all mobile platforms.

In addition, they can update their apps without resubmitting the new version through the Apple App Store, as long as they haven’t modified the native code.

What is Cross-Platform Mobile App Development?

While native apps are designed for deployment on one specific mobile platform, cross-platform mobile apps can be deployed across a range of platforms.

The rise of cross-platform mobile app development has followed the growing trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) workplace models, which encourage employees to use their personal mobile devices (versus company-issued ones) to access organizational data and programs.

As there’s no standard platform that all global workers access, cross-platform apps are necessary to ensure accessibility among different networks and operating systems.

Digital marketers can choose to create cross-platform apps strictly for internal business use. Or, they can create one to sell in-app stores, accessible to all mobile users. Either way, the end result is an app that can run across iOS, Android, and the Universal Windows Platform with ease.

Developers can choose from a few different approaches when they’re ready to make a cross-platform mobile app. One is to create multiple versions of the same app, each designed to work on a specific operating system. Or, they can make certain parts of the app more abstract or generic in nature, allowing it to work in myriad software environments. The latter is known as a platform-agnostic app, meaning it isn’t tied to a specific one.

What is the Best Tool for Mobile App Development?

Whether you’re creating a new native app, web app, hybrid app, or cross-platform app, you need the best tools at your disposal.

That said, which ones are poised to transform the market in 2020? Let’s take a look at a few top performers that are already making waves.


This Microsoft-owned mobile app development tool is designed for both native and cross-platform operations on Android, iOS, and Windows. Thanks to its open-source license, .NET-based infrastructure, and C#-based source code, it’s one of the most popular tools of its kind.

Beginner developers will especially appreciate free access to Xamarin Forms, a template-based development environment that helps them create and deploy inexpensive yet highly functional cross-platform apps in a few steps. Other helpful tools include debugging and code editing.

Another reason to give it a try? Xamarin allows users to utilize existing data access and business logic layers across multiple different platforms.

This means developers can implement certain functions into each app, including offline mode and image recognition. There is also a high level of code reusability, with most developers maintaining around 75% of their code each time they build it for a different platform.

The top features of Xamarin include:

  • Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA) concept utilizing a single codebase
  • Native user experience with C#
  • MVVM architecture that separates application logic and user interface
  • Visual Studio integration
  • Google emulator manager
  • Portable Class Libraries (PCL)
  • High degree of code reusability (about 75%)
  • Improved Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), including Visual Studio


Interested in creating native apps? Qt made our list due to its ease of use and cross-platform functionality.

Ideal for team-based design environments, Qt allows multiple developers to share a given project across different development platforms (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux), with a single, shared tool for development and debugging. It also facilitates teamwork among designers and developers, with designers working in a visual environment and developers in a full-featured IDE called Qt Creator.

Project wizards make it easy for first-time developers to create beautiful, functional apps and interfaces, while the integrated C++ editor facilitates code snippets, code refactoring, and file outline views.

The top features of Qt include:

  • Allows developers to port apps to multiple platforms via simple recompilation
  • Greater control with C++ coding
  • Single code deployed across all devices and platforms
  • SQL database access
  • JSON and XML parsing


The WORA concept that Xamarin has popularized began with Appcelerator. This web-based platform allows developers and digital marketers to create native apps and proprietary APIs. As long as you have a basic working knowledge of JavaScript, you can make your way around Appcelerator with ease.

Once you sign up, you can begin using the Appcelerator IDE, which comes stocked with plenty of tools to assist newbie and seasoned developers alike. This IDE features a three-column layout, with customizable side panels and the main center canvas featuring two tabs: XML and Design. 

Developers will write the code on the XML side, previewing the changes in real-time via the Design tab.

The prime features of this tool include:

  • Easy-to-use app development studio
  • High degree of code reusability (about 90%)
  • Support for Java, Objective-C, and Swift
  • Innovative and helpful “Live App Preview” feature
  • Hyperloop feature that enables direct API access (iOS and Android)
  • Multilingual interface


Are you most proficient in HTML 5? What about CSS? 

Launched by in 2013, Ionic is one of the top open-source hybrid mobile app development tools. It allows you to create your own apps in the language you prefer.

Thanks to built-in integrations with both PhoneGap and Cordova, cross-platform deployment is also made possible.

Built on AngularJS and Apache Cordova, Ionic is mostly considered a front-end UI framework. This is because it facilitates and empowers all of the UI interactions and visual/operating elements that your app requires. 

Top features of Ionic include:

  • Intuitive Command Line Interface (CLI) to build and test apps across platforms
  • Ability to develop apps with HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript technologies
  • Myriad pre-developed, pre-designed elements
  • High degree of code reusability


Based on JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS3, PhoneGap is another top-performing cross-platform mobile app development tool. 

At its core, the tool is designed as an open-source framework to help developers create dynamic mobile apps using web technology. It eliminates the need to write code in multiple languages (Java, Objective C) for all relevant mobile platforms.

If you’re a digital marketer with experience in web development, PhoneGap is an excellent resource for transitioning into the mobile app space. That’s because it leverages the familiar web technologies you already know and use, allowing for more rapid iterations and releases.

Those familiar with Apache Cordova might inquire about how the two tools are related. In short, PhoneGap gave rise to Cordova, with its codebase donated in 2011 for incubation.

The project has grown since and Cordova continues to power PhoneGap, much in the same way that WebKit powers a majority of modern web browsers.

Premier benefits of PhoneGap include:

  • Access to and support for native device APIs (e.g. camera, GPS, accelerometer, etc.)
  • Single codebase
  • Unique PhoneGap CLI that allows users to create, compile, and run apps from their own command-line terminal
  • User-friendly desktop and developer apps

Other Top Mobile App Development Tools

While we believe that the above five tools are designed to take the development community by storm in 2020, they aren’t the only ones on the market. Below is a list of 10 other tools that can help you take your efforts to new heights.

Unity Ads

This go-to tool for gaming developers allows users to post 2D and 3D ads in the titles. It’s main features include:

  • Verified ad sources
  • Range of supported ad formats (e.g. banners, AR content)
  • User-friendly interface


Looking to design a custom web app for employee use only? If so, 5App is ideal.

With a heavy emphasis on data security, the toolkit facilitates a variety of business functions, from digital learning initiatives to HR consulting. Pre-loaded programs and wizards make rapid app development a breeze, with features that include collaboration tools and reporting/analytics.

Unity 3D

Cross-platform mobile app developers dedicated to creating robust gaming graphics should look no further than Unity 3D. This tool extends past simple translation functionality, offering users to export games to 17 distinct platforms, including:

  • PlayStation
  • Linux
  • Wii
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Windows
  • Web

Top features of Unity 3D include:

  • Strong community support
  • Robust user analytics
  • Social media sharing
  • Ability to create and destroy GameObjects
  • Vector Variables and Timing Variables

React Native

Another native app development tool, React Native relies on JavaScript as its programming language of choice.

Developers will appreciate the flexibility to write code in C, Swift, or Java, as well as the access to advanced editing and video processing functions that other API frameworks cannot provide.

Top features include:

  • Code reusability with pre-developed components
  • Strong community support
  • User-friendly GUI
  • Third-party plugin support
  • Live and hot reloading


Testing is a major stage of the mobile app development process, and Experitest makes it easier than ever.

This tool enables QA specialists to enact a series of manual or automated tests to determine the usability of given app design. Each test can be deployed across thousands of Android and iOS devices simultaneously. 

Other features of this tool include:

  • Live debugging
  • Real-time interaction
  • Visual test reporting
  • Advanced analytics


In the world of cloud-based mobile analytics and security products, AppWatch reigns supreme.

Users can scan each AppWatch app entirely before using it to find resources and information including descriptions, comments, and logos. This is an excellent way for developers to establish all-important trust and transparency around their brand.

Features of AppWatch include:

  • Conversion tracking
  • Referral source tracking
  • Goal tracking
  • Pageview monitoring
  • Campaign management


It’s no secret that the customer experience is top of mind for most developers. As such, HeadSpin is designed to help ensure that these insights are always up-to-date and accurate. 

Marketed as a “Mobile Experience Platform“, the tool offers mobile testing and performance solutions to ensure that your creation is as aligned with customer expectations as possible. 

Top features include:

  • Continuous testing and monitoring
  • AI-powered monitoring technology
  • Real SIM cards
  • The global pool of more than 220,000 devices (sans simulation or emulation)
  • Widespread access (150+ locations)


Need to develop a range of mobile apps across a variety of business verticals? Mobincube makes it possible. Designed for use with Android, iPhone and iPad devices, the DIY tool features four simple steps: Sign up, create, build, and publish.

Free to use with no coding required, it’s a versatile and handy solution for a range of developers. Key features include:

  • Advanced Google analytics
  • Third-party add-on solutions
  • Monetization options
  • Custom designs
  • Remote access


For anyone looking to integrate a payment gateway into their mobile app solutions, most mobility experts consider BrainTree to be the ideal fit.

This open-source payment tool will accommodate any business size and type, with core features that include:

  • Support for more than 20 languages
  • Flexible payment pickers
  • Templated card form for easy debit/credit card entry
  • Extended support for Apple Pay and Google Pay
  • Localization options 

Ace the Development Game in 2020

How will you expand and showcase your developer skills in 2020? Thanks to the abovementioned mobile app development tools, you’ll have plenty of resources to work with.

As this industry continues to expand, so too will the programs and platforms designed to support it. This means there will be even more opportunities to hone your craft and test your limits moving forward.

Looking to learn more ways you can grow as a digital marketer this year? Join Digital Agency Network today and instantly connect with more than 500 member agencies across 57 cities worldwide!

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