You cannot ignore importance of Xamarin when discussing about the key approaches related to mobile application development. Xamarin has proved its significance for cross-platform mobile app development where the developers are allowed to share about 90% of the code across all major platforms. Though it is a new tool in the app development industry, it is based on the Microsoft technology stack and it has already acquired a community of more than 1.4 million developers.
Earlier, Xamarin was created for the commercial purpose until Microsoft acquires the company in 2016. Soon, it became a popular cross-platform app development product within the ecosystem of Microsoft. After this acquisition, the financial barrier to use Xamarin broke down. As Xamarin SDK has been made open-source by Microsoft, it constituted an important part of Xamarin Visual Studio IDE i.e. Integrated Development Environment.
Like any other technology, Xamarin has its own advantages and disadvantages, which have recently been the subject of a heated discussion. To make an informed decision about Xamarin vs. native development, we have to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of app development with Xamarin.
Let’s have a look:
Pros of Using Xamarin for App Development
Here follow some good reasons why Xamarin is popularly used by numerous companies:
- One Technology Stack to Code for Multiple Platforms.
C# language in compliance with .NET framework is used in Xamarin for creating apps for any mobile platform. Here, you are facilitated to reuse up to 96% of the source code that further speeds up your development cycle. Also, this platform does not require you to switch between the development environments. The entire Xamarin based apps can be built here on Visual studio that is completely replaced by the Xamarin Studio. In this system, the cross-platform development tools are provided as a built-in part of the Integrated Development Environment at no additional cost.
- Performs Quite Closer to Native Apps
Other than the traditional hybrid solutions, based on web technologies, a Xamarin based cross-platform app can still be considered as a native app. Here the performance metrics can be compared to those of Java for Android and Swift or Objective-C for native iOS App Development. Moreover, there has been reflected much improvement in the performance of Xamarin as per the standard of the native apps. You get a complete solution to build, test and track the app’s performance using Visual Studio App Center. It also allows you to run the automated UI tests along with identifying performance issues before the app release. However, an additional fee is charged for this service.
- Native UXs
Xamarin App Development permits the developers to create flawless experiences using platform specific User Interface elements. iOS, Android and Windows based simple cross-platform apps are built using Xamarin.Forms tool that converts the components of app UIs in the form of the platform-specific interface elements during the runtime. As the runtime speed increases with the usage of Xamarin.Forms, it is great to use it for the business-oriented projects. However, there seems a bit decline in the performance because of the extra abstraction layer. So, if you want the custom app UI and increased performance, Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS can still be used separately for ensuring the excellent results.
- Absolute Hardware Support
Xamarin gives your app a native-level functionality. Here, all hardware compatibility issues are eliminated using specific APIs and plugins to collaborate with the common devices functionality across different platforms. With accessing the platform-specific APIs, Xamarin also supports inter-linking with the native libraries. Hence, the customization process and native-level functionality increases with a little overhead.
- Strong Corporate Support for Open Source Technology
As Microsoft acquired the company in 2016, there has been seen radical changes in the Xamarin licensing policies. Xamarin SDK including libraries, runtime and command line tools has turned into an open source platform and available for all under the MIT license as a significant constituent of Visual Studio. Microsoft eliminated the major barrier i.e. the cost of license and paved the way for further growth of the platform. Of course, many supporting organizations has made Xamarin a reliable and powerful tech stack.
- Simplified Maintenance
Xamarin facilitates easy updating and maintenance due to its cross-platform application. The changes or updates can be simply deployed to the source file and further will be applied to both the iOS and Android apps. However, this works only for the Xamarin.Forms based applications. Hence, it saves time and money while keeping the apps up to date.
- Complete Development Ecosystem
Xamarin comes in a single package including its complete set of development tools, including its own IDE Studio, the platform itself, testing, distribution and analytics platforms. Hence, you are not at all required to invest in the additional tools or integrating the third-party apps for building, testing and deploying your Xamarin apps.
Cons of Using Xamarin for App Development
Here follow some reasons why Xamarin is in controversy today:
- A bit Delayed Support for Latest Platform Updates
This totally relies on the Xamarin development team. The third-party tools can hardly provide the immediate support for the latest releases of iOS and Android. It demands some time for implementing the changes and introduce new plugins. Although, Xamarin gives same day support, but there can be a bit delay.
- Open Source Libraries Have Limited Access
In the native app development process, open source technologies are used. But with Xamarin, you just have to use the components that are provided by the platform and some .Net open source resources facing the consumers as well as the developers. Though the choice is not that good as it is for the iOS and Android App Development, thousands of native UIs, themes, graphs and various charts are other features that can be added to an app in just few simple clicks.
- Problems with Xamarin Ecosystem
Xamarin community is obviously a smaller one in comparison to that of the iOS and android communities. Therefore, it could be a challenge to find an experienced Xamarin developer. Although, the significant changes are seen in terms of growth of this platform as it is related to Microsoft. According to the information release from different sources, Xamarin community accounts around 10% of the entire world’s mobile development society where the platform provides extensive support to the developers.
- Basic Knowledge of Native Languages Required
You will still require a platform specific code layer, when you are using iOs and Android tools to build the mobile apps including truly native and look and feel. Therefore, the developers are required to have at least the basic knowledge of the native technologies. However, this does not applies to Xamarin.Forms.
- It justifySuits Apps with Heavy Graphics
Major benefit of using Xamarin is the ability of sharing code across different platforms. However, you can only share the logic as the UI code will mostly be platform specific. Hence, using heavy graphics in the apps like building games, rich custom UI or complex animations becomes difficult. Xamarin becomes an unviable option with a small amount of the shared code.
- Larger Size of App
Xamarin apps are typically bigger in size depending upon their type and complexity. They make take huge ‘mbs’ for a small size of app only due to the use of many content, associated libraries, runtime etc.
Here concludes the pros and cons about Xamarin App Development.