Why use Xamarin for mobile app development? In short, because this is a perfect tool to live out a dream of millions of developers – to create code once and use it across various platforms, without impairing the app’s performance, maintainability or user experience.
In today’s competitive market conditions, businesses should build their mobile solutions compatible with all (or, at least, the most popular) mobile operating systems. It is both time- and cost-consuming to create apps separately for each platform using native technology stacks. Fortunately, there are reliable cross-platform development tools that allow a developer team to deliver near-native solutions to use single code across various platforms with minimal adaptation and correcting.
In this article, we’ll tell you in detail about the benefits of mobile cross-platform development with Xamarin.
What Is Xamarin?
Xamarin is a software company that created implementations of the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) and was acquired by Microsoft in 2016.
Xamarin is a development platform as well that aims at creation of mobile applications for iOS, Android and Windows.
How good is Xamarin? Judging by the statistics, Xamarin’s products are quite popular around the world: according to the company’s reports, more than 15,000 organizations and 1.4 million developers were using them in 120 countries as of April 2017. Among the most renowned customers are Bosch, Siemens, Slack, Pinterest and others.
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Statista also proves the popularity of Xamarin by including it in the list of the most used frameworks among software engineers.
Most used frameworks among developers, worldwide, as of early 2017
Xamarin Cross-Platform Development Features
Cross-platform development is becoming widespread as it has certain advantages over native development. The reality is that the majority of mobile apps are created for more than one platform today, and developers inevitably face the following issues in case they create a native app for each platform:
- Different approaches to the interface design
- Different APIs
- Different tools and environments (e.g., for iOS solutions you need Mac OS X environment, a number of special tools, such as Xcode, and Objective-C or Swift programming language; for Android apps, you can use Android Studio, Eclipse and other environments, plus Java language; Windows apps should be built in Visual Studio environment, using C#, VB.NET or C ++ languages)
Hence, to make one app compatible with three platforms, you will probably need to hire three separate teams, and the total price of your project may be three times higher, not to mention the delayed time-to-market.
Xamarin is a universal tool that allows you to create a single application logic using C# and .NET for all three platforms at once.
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Xamarin platform features
- A single code for all platforms
- Direct access to the native APIs of each platform
- Usage of the .NET platform and Xamarin language C#, which is quite productive, clear and simple to learn and use
Xamarin development approaches
There are two ways of developing cross-platform apps using Xamarin.
- Forms technology allows you to design a visual interface once, attach some C# logic to it and share this codebase across Android, iOS and Windows platforms with some minor code changes. In this case, the UI code and the backend are pulled together for all solutions.
- Xamarin Native includes Xamarin.iOS, Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.Windows libraries that allow you to design separate applications for each platform. In this case, the UI code is unique for each solution, but the backend is shared just as with Xamarin.Forms.
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Main Reasons to Use Xamarin
Let’s discuss several important reasons to use Xamarin for cross-platform development.
1. Native User Experience
Xamarin has full access to native APIs and toolkits used on Android, iOS and Windows platforms. Consequently, it can provide native (or near-native) design and performance for every application. This fact makes Xamarin-based solutions surpass their hybrid competitors.
2. Single Technological Stack
One of the main pros of Xamarin cross-platform application development is that a single language C# creates all kinds of solutions. Moreover, there’s no need to switch between environments — everything can be done in Visual Studio. This is convenient and time-effective because developers perform the same process using one language instead of two different languages. Hence, Xamarin is easy to learn.
3. Enhanced Time-to-Market
A sharable codebase significantly reduces the development cycle. You code once and then can reuse a greater part of this code for other solutions, making only slight adjustments and not spending time on the same procedure. This greatly reduces the time of the development cycle and improves the time to market.
Xamarin also cuts costs due to its simplified development procedure and a full range of cross-platform tools that are built in the IDE without requiring additional expenses.
4. Simplified Maintenance
It is remarkably easy to maintain apps developed with Xamarin.Forms as they share code. If you need to update applications and fix some issues, just do it in the source code, and all changes will be automatically applied to other solutions. Again, it saves time, developer involvement and finances.
What’s more, the Xamarin community deserves respect. They provide comprehensive customer support backed with well-organized documentation and training opportunities.
The platform offers comprehensive solutions to test and monitor application performance and UI – the Xamarin Test Cloud and the Xamarin Test Recorder. These tools allow you to run automated tests on multiple real devices in the cloud and find performance issues before the release.
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Certainly, Xamarin, as any other platform, has its cons, such as:
- The large size of app files (they can be twice as big as native files and require additional adjustment)
- Slight delays for updates (one or two days)
- Limited ecosystem (the number of Xamarin developers is approximately 10% of the total number of mobile engineers)
Xamarin is undoubtedly one of the leading and powerful tools for mobile engineering available today. It combines the best of native and cross-platform features. However, it may be a challenge to find professional Xamarin developers, since the community is not as large as for Android or iOS.
If you are interested in using Xamarin to create iOS and Android apps, SaM Solutions can become your reliable partner. We have skillful Xamarin specialists who actively use this framework for cross-platform app development.