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Which mobile development platform is the best for a beginning programmer?

Making an app has never been easier, and there are many mobile development platforms to help any aspiring programmer. The hardest decision can be choosing which platform to use. The six leading platforms are C2, Unity, Buildbox, Ionic, Android Studio and Xcode.

Here is a rundown of these platforms in order from easiest to hardest, with their pros and cons illustrated and discussed.

1. Construct 2

Construct 2, or C2 for short, allows users to drag and drop functions and features to create an app. C2 is perfect for 2D game development. After using a few quick tutorials, any beginner programmer can quickly build any 2D game within a few hours.

By downloading a few sprites from Google, you can create a working level of any popular 2D game such as Mega Man with ease. Here are the main pros and cons of using C2 for developing apps.

• Pros — C2 is highly visual and intuitive as opposed to being code-driven.; just drag and drop whatever you need. There is a vast community with many helpful forums and valuable opportunities for discussion. You don’t need much in the way of programming skills to make good games quickly.

There are free, personal, and business editions, and while the free version is quite limited, there is no difference between the personal and business agreements regarding features. It is cross-platform, meaning you can export control for all major platforms.

• Cons — C2 only runs on Windows, but you can export to Windows, OS X and Linux. Mobile performance of apps can be weak due to the reliance on Javascript, which isn’t as fast as native code. C2 only export to HTML5 and cannot export natively to mobile devices; this limits its power and speed.

2. Unity

Unity is a simple platform for beginner programmers to use but as with C2, it’s only suitable for game development. You can create other apps in Unity, but you would be doing more work compared with using different platforms.

Game development with Unity is perfect for beginners as many game app templates are available from websites such as that enable any novice to produce and release an app very quickly. Here are the main pros and cons of Unity.

• Pros — Unity is one of the best options for game development, with a wide range of game app templates from which to choose. No coding experience is required to re-skin many game app templates, and all apps come with comprehensive instructions, some even have tutorial videos.

It is easy to monetize apps with Unity Ads and AdMob, and because Unity is cross-platform, you can release Android and iOS apps easily. Unity is great for apps that need 3D rendering and many resources in the Unity store will simplify development.

• Cons — Unity isn’t ideal for anything except game development. It isn’t suitable for creating complex user interfaces (UI) as to use native UI. You will have to use some native plug-ins that significantly add to the complexity of building the app.

3. Buildbox

Buildbox is an expensive but simple to use option for beginning programmers looking to develop apps. Despite the high cost, the pros certainly outweigh the cons for the novice user or programmer.

• Pros — Buildbox is incredibly easy to learn as it is primarily a drag-and-drop engine. There are many tutorials to help beginners get started, and you don’t need to write any code or learn any programming language. Like Unity, there are over 20 different game templates that are easy to modify and release, and with built-in ad support, you can monetize apps quickly.

You also can insert banner ads from multiple networks, and they work with the Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon app stores. Buildbox is cross-platform, so you can develop once and publish it everywhere.

• Cons — Buildbox is much more expensive than other platforms at $99 per month or $1,000 per year. Unlike alternatives such as C2 which have free versions, you need a license to use Buildbox. Only certain types of games are available and apps developed using Buildbox won’t have native UI, you will have to use some native plug-ins.

4. Ionic

The Ionic framework lets any beginner user quickly develop cross-platform apps that are highly interactive. Here are the pros and cons of using Ionic as a beginner programmer.

• Pros — Inonic is cross-platform meaning that you can develop your app once and release it for any device. Apps developed using Ionic framework are very robust as you can use mobile-friendly HTML, CSS, or JS CSS components during development. That means fast development times and low costs. Ionic is best if your cross-platform app requires no high-speed rendering of any kind.

• Cons — Apps developed natively for each device will have faster in-app performance than those produced using the Ionic framework. A beginner programmer may find Ionic complicated because of its reliance on AngularJS, which makes it challenging to build ways for users to navigate around the app.

5. Android Studio

While there are many cross-platform tools such as PhoneGap and Titanium to help beginning programmers create great apps, the best way to develop apps is to do so natively. That means building iOS apps with Xcode and Swift and building Android apps with Android Studio and Java.

Android Studio is perfect if you have experience with Java. You can start developing simple apps with Android Studio and then start publishing them.

• Pros — Studio is perfect for programmers with knowledge of Java, and it is fantastic for programmers beginning with Android Development. Of all the options listed here, Studio has by far the best emulation software: Genymotion plugin. JetBrains has a highly unified UI, as all of their tools have the same look and feel, making it easy to learn.

Apps developed with Studio are lightweight, they load and index fast and consume far fewer resources on an Android device. Studio has by far the most tutorials available, and all the latest tutorials are for Studio.

• Cons — If you’re a natural C# coder, other platforms may be easier to get into as Studio requires knowledge of Java. If you want to develop a game and lack coding skills, Studio may be difficult.

6. Xcode

Xcode is entirely free and integrates every tool you need to take advantage of Apple technology. It contains everything you need to create, debug and upload your app to the App store. Here are the main pros and cons of Xcode.

• Pros — The Xcode workspace keeps you focused on app creation as you can do everything in one window. It is easy to test and debug apps in the Xcode simulator or on your iOS device. There are many resources available to learn Objective-C and Swift.

As you type, you see any compiler errors or issues in real-time. This feature alone means that for many programmers, Xcode completely outperforms all other mobile development platforms.

• Cons — Xcode only produces iOS apps for Apple devices, and you’ll need a more expensive Mac instead of a PC, although you could install Mac OS X on a PC within a virtual machine. You can publish Xcode apps for your use for free, but you’ll need an Apple account and an Apple Developer Program license if you want to publish apps for others to use. You need to learn Objective-C and Swift to use Xcode.

Overall, the best option for creating the best apps is to learn how to develop the apps natively using Studio and Java for Android or Xcode and Swift for iOS. However, if you’re just starting out, you’ll need to learn Java to use Studio and Objective-C and Swift to use Xcode.

The real question is whether you are willing to put in the time to learn to code, or just want to pay for the convenience of C2, Unity, or Buildbox. Ionic is a happy medium between putting in the time to learn and having a platform that releases cross-platform without any hassle; however, Ionic apps won’t be as good as natively developed apps.

As this list demonstrates, there is no single “best” platform for beginner programmers. It depends on your level of experience, your knowledge of coding, and the amount of time you are willing to invest in learning. Hopefully, this overview has helped you decide which platform is best for you.

Which Mobile Development Platform is the Best for a Beginning Programmer?
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