A mobile strategy has become a must for businesses striving for online success because an increasing number of users access the internet via smartphones. Going mobile for a company means creating a solution compatible with several mobile platforms, mainly Android and iOS. That is why talking about cross-platform mobile app development is urgent.
This article will tell you in detail about the benefits of mobile cross-platform development with Xamarin.
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
This data proves that creating a solution (especially a mobile e-Commerce application) compatible with several platforms results in a much more flexible and complete customer experience.
What Is Xamarin?
Microsoft acquired Xamarin, which had been initially based on the Mono project, 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 reusing up to 95 percent of the code, enables the quick and easy creation of mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows operating systems.
Xamarin is a software company that created the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) implementations and was acquired by Microsoft in 2016.
Xamarin is a development platform that aims to create 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. The fact that several industry leaders have based their solutions on this platform proves its reliability and efficiency.
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 2019
Xamarin Cross-Platform Development Features
Why use Xamarin for cross-platform development? In short, because this is a perfect tool to live out a dream of developers – to create code once and use it across various platforms, without impairing the app’s performance, maintainability, or user experience.
Xamarin is a universal tool that allows you to create a single application logic using C# and .NET for all three platforms at once.
|Read also: A Mobile App: Why Your Business Needs It|
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.
Building Cross-Platform Apps with Xamarin: Advantages
Let’s discuss several important reasons to use Xamarin for cross-platform mobile 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.
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.
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 — you can do everything 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. Shareable Code
Xamarin is often referred to as a “write once, use everywhere” development platform because it creates a 60-95% reusable code. A single codebase can run on various platforms providing native performance and may require slight changes only.
4. Time and Costs Saving
A sharable codebase and a single technological stack save time spent on the development cycle. You code once and then can reuse most of this code for other solutions, making only slight adjustments and not spending time on the same procedure. This means you can release your product faster.
Since everything is written in C# and within the .NET framework, there is no need for separate teams working on the app. The development, testing and deployment are significantly streamlined when performed by a single team, eliminating additional expenses and ensuring quick time to market.
It is especially beneficial for companies with limited human and hardware resources.
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 – Xamarin Test Cloud and 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.
|Read also: Mobile App Testing: Types, Tools, Benefits|
6. Technical Support by Microsoft
Xamarin guarantees stability, continuous technical backing and fast issue resolution because Microsoft — one of the world’s leading tech software companies, supports this platform.
Moreover, 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.
Building Cross-Platform Apps with Xamarin: Challenges
Like any other software product, Xamarin is not a perfect fit for all projects. Here are some challenges that may prevent you from using this cross-platform development tool.
1. Heavy Applications
Xamarin-based solutions can be twice as big as native files and require extra adjustments because they use numerous core libraries and functionality. A couple of additional megabytes may be critical for some projects.
2. No Complicated Graphics
It’s tough 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 gaming apps.
However, nothing is impossible: since the platform is open-source, developers are free to create new APIs and plugins to expand the capacity and add new possibilities.
3. Updating Lag
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 an updating delay (one or two days) and may affect the company’s reputation.
4. Smaller Community
Platform-specific mobile developer communities (for iOS, Android) significantly outnumber the Xamarin community. That’s why creating new features, solving problems or improving technology can be more difficult.
The number of Xamarin developers is approximately 10% of the total number of mobile engineers. 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 two specific user groups to collaborate. Developing different 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 in smart home systems.
Our Xamarin team was responsible for system architecture design, development, quality assurance and automated testing. They successfully created and launched this IoT mobile application.
Making a Mobile Choice
Developing mobile applications with Xamarin makes programming more efficient and cost-effective while still maintaining all native apps’ features. 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.
Specialists at SaM Solutions have deep experience in creating both native and cross-platform mobile apps. We can become your reliable partner, so don’t hesitate to contact us for a detailed discussion of your future project.