In addressing the fact that an increasing number of internet users access the internet via smartphones, a mobile strategy becomes an obvious necessity for businesses striving for online success. The question of going mobile for a company means satisfying the needs of several platforms, which is why we should talk about cross-platform mobile app development
Mobile Market Penetration in Figures
The statistics are core indicators in evaluating the significance of mobile devices in today’s life. Let’s take a look at the market as of 2019:
- 3.3 billion people — 42.62% of the world’s population — are smartphone users, according to Statista
- 5.15 billion people — 66.6% of the world’s population — possess mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, IoT devices), according to GSMA Intelligence
- Statista estimates market shares of mobile operating systems as: Android — 76.08%, iOS — 22.01%, KaiOS — 0.81%, Windows Phone — 0.2%
Mobile operating systems’ market share worldwide
Creating a solution that meets the needs of multi-platform systems will result in a much more flexible and complete experience for customers.
Native vs. Cross-Platform Mobile App Development
When considering the creation of your mobile application software, you should take into account all of the major platforms on which it will run.
Native development implies creating a separate version of an application for each mobile platform, which means using different technologies, languages and tools.
For instance, a solution for iOS requires Swift or Objective-C languages and the Xcode environment, while an Android version must be written from scratch in Java or C/C++ using app development software such as Android Studio or Eclipse. As a result, two teams are needed to develop two separate code bases and then maintain them.
Although native development has always been preferable in terms of better performance and user experience, it leads to significant expenses both during creation and in the long run, for maintaining the solution. This can be financially crippling for start-ups and can even drain the budget of bigger companies.
Cross-platform development is the process of building software that can run across multiple platforms using a single technology stack and without sacrificing user experience. Such an approach solves the problem of high expenses and the long timelines of traditional native projects and results in secure and stable custom solutions.
The core feature of cross-platform development solutions is platform agnosticism, meaning that the software is not tied to a specific platform and is compatible with different devices and operating systems.
What Is Xamarin?
Initially based on the Mono project, Xamarin was acquired by Microsoft in 2016 and integrated into the .NET platform. Today, it is a highly popular open-source framework for cross-platform mobile development. A single technology stack of Xamarin, C# language and .NET framework, together with the ability to reuse up to 95 percent of the code, enable the quick and easy creation of mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows operating systems.
An independent tech media site Hacker Noon cited $7.9 billion as the value of the cross-platform application market in 2019. Xamarin’s current share in this market is 18.89 percent, according to Datanyze. The fact that several industry leaders have based their solutions on this platform proves its reliability and efficiency.
Advantages of Xamarin
To understand what makes Xamarin so popular and why a company should opt for it instead of developing native mobile apps separately, let’s take a closer look at Xamarin’s prominent features and core advantages for business.
Xamarin is often referred to as a “write once, use everywhere” development platform because it enables creating 60-95% of reusable code. That is, a single codebase can run on various platforms providing native performance and may require slight changes only.
You don’t have to sacrifice user experience when developing a cross-platform solution because Xamarin provides the look-and-feel that is comparable to native applications.
The nativeness is possible due to the usage of platform-specific elements and technologies available in C# and Visual Studio:
- Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS give .NET developers access to complete Android and iOS SDKs
- Xamarin.Essentials library provides access to core overlapping native APIs
- Xamarin.Forms exposes a user interface (UI) toolkit for all mobile platforms
Thus, you can take advantage of all the unique elements in one place and create a single solution with platform-specific interfaces.
Time and Costs Saving
Since everything is written in C# and within the .NET framework, there is no need for separate teams working on the app. Using a single team reduces development costs and maintenance expenses.
It is especially beneficial for companies with limited human and hardware resources.
Moreover, the processes of creation, testing and deployment are significantly streamlined when performed by a single team and using a single technological stack, which also provides minimal time to market.
Technical Support by Microsoft
Xamarin guarantees stability, continuous technical backing and fast issue resolution as it is supported by Microsoft — one of the world’s leading tech software companies.
What’s more, Microsoft provides access to robust educational opportunities, including Xamarin courses, which can be self-paced, and comprehensive tech documents on the official Microsoft Learn platform. So, developers are not working in a vacuum and can receive support while improving their expertise.
Disadvantages of Xamarin
Like any other software product, Xamarin is not ideal for all projects. Here are some cons that may prevent you from using this cross-platform development tool.
Compared to a native app, the size of a Xamarin-based application is bigger. This is caused by the usage of numerous core libraries and functionality. A couple of additional megabytes may cause an inconvenience and require extra adjustment.
Not for Apps with Complicated Graphics
It’s extremely hard to build appealing Xamarin solutions loaded with complex graphic elements or animation. Hence, this platform is not the best choice for creating apps with advanced visualization or for gaming development.
However, nothing is impossible: since the platform is open-source, developers are free to create new APIs and plugins that will expand the capacity and add new possibilities.
When updates for Android, iOS, Windows are released, Xamarin developers can’t use them immediately. They need some time to properly integrate new features into the ecosystem, which causes some lag time and may affect the company’s reputation.
Platform-specific mobile developer communities (for iOS, Android) significantly outnumber the Xamarin community, which may also have a negative impact on creating new features, solving problems and improving the technology. But the community keeps growing and seems very promising.
Our Experience with Xamarin
SaM Solutions’ Xamarin experts have been providing services for more than five years and have successfully completed more than ten projects. Our competencies include:
- Business needs and requirements analysis
- App development
- Support and maintenance
- UI/UX design
- Legacy native mobile apps improvement and performance optimization
- Mobile testing services
One of our clients needed a solution with two separate mobile apps for the collaboration of two specific groups of users.
Developing separate apps for iOS and Android would have been time-consuming and would have resulted in high expenses along the way. That’s why the client opted for Xamarin cross-platform development.
As a result, the cross-platform solution was developed and successfully launched on iOS and Android. Our team was involved in the following stages of product creation: requirements definition, application development, testing, design, execution, support and maintenance.
In another project, the challenge was to develop a mobile application for both iOS and Android platforms that would control electronic locks and groups of locks in smart home systems.
Our Xamarin team was responsible for system architecture design, development, quality assurance and automated testing. This IoT mobile application was successfully created and launched.
Making a Choice
Developing mobile applications with Xamarin makes programming more efficient and cost-effective while still maintaining all the features of natively developed apps. But this is not a “one fits all” solution.
In many cases, we have found Xamarin to be a successful tool that dramatically cuts both creation and maintenance-related costs without compromising quality. So, we see it as a potential game-changer for many.
Still, Android and iOS continue to rule the mobile industry, and you have to weigh the pros and cons of native vs. cross-platform development while choosing the fastest, cheapest and most efficient way to build your solution.