We’ve put together this brief Xamarin review to help you decide if your company should invest in what has become a very popular cross-platform app development solution. It doesn’t matter if you have in-house developers or not, as this review will enable you to take more informed decisions when selecting partners to build your enterprise apps.
It would be fair to advise before you read any further that the Xamarin development company Iflexion of course has a positive view of the software—but that doesn’t make it the right choice for every business.
Therefore we tried to ensure this Xamarin review is neutral in nature and objectively addresses both the pros and cons of Xamarin as a cross-platform app development tool.
What is Xamarin?
Xamarin, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2016, is essentially a set of developer tools which enables mobile apps to be developed for iOS, Android, and Windows operating systems, without the need to build the code from the ground up for each of the three platforms.
In fact, Xamarin is one of the top cross-platform solutions sharing 70% of overall use as a primary development tool. It’s known in industry parlance as a “write once, run anywhere” development platform, designed to take the complexity out of building cross-platform enterprise apps with native characteristics.
Given that at least 60% of enterprises are developing cross-platform mobile apps (according to estimates by Forrester), it’s no surprise that tools like Xamarin are increasing in popularity and adoption. But what makes Xamarin so popular, and how well does it stand up to the demands of enterprise app development?
Write Once, in One Language
The Xamarin development platform uses the C# programming language, which holds the number four position in the Worldwide Popularity of the Programming Language Index, with around 8% of a developer share, according to Statistics Times.
C# is commonly considered to be more robust than some other languages, particularly Java, the language used for coding native Android apps. One of the reasons for this is that C# uses static type checking, a feature that prevents many errors from ever making it into the production release of an app.
Whether the language used by the Xamarin development platform matters to you or not, what should awaken your interest is the fact that logical algorithms have only to be coded once in C#, and can then be used to construct identical yet distinctly native apps for iOS, Android and Windows mobile operating systems.
Straightforward Cross-platform UI Design
Before the release of Xamarin 3, the amount of code which could be effectively shared was around 70%. This was because the platform didn’t include a solution to overcome the significant differences in UI components employed by iOS and Android.
Thanks to the addition of Xamarin.Forms, the level of code-shareability is up to around 80%, since the user interface code and design can now be applied to mobile platforms, using the relevant controls native to each target OS.
It has to be said that Xamarin.Forms doesn’t really allow for creating highly stylish and intricate UI designs, but for enterprise applications such luxury is often unnecessary. This minor drawback is offset by the substantial reduction in time required to develop clean and functional user interfaces.
Image Source: Xamarin – Xamarin.Forms
When UI design is really critical, developers will probably choose not to use Xamarin.Forms, but will instead use the individual iOS and Android-specific design components, which together with Xamarin.Forms bring total flexibility to the development of native enterprise applications.
Extensive Testing Capabilities
In this Xamarin review, we’re focusing on the software and service components which, as a business leader, you’re likely to consider as vitally important. That’s why we’ve highlighted the use of a single language and the increased code-sharing capabilities delivered by Xamarin.Forms.
It’s also the primary reason why we just have to mention the testing capabilities that become available when developing apps with Xamarin. Nothing can derail an app development project more than inadequate testing, but with Xamarin there’s really no chance for bugs and errors to increase your development effort and expenditure.
Image Source: Microsoft – The Future of Mobile app Development
Along with static type checking, which enables errors to be caught early, a comprehensive support service is available to help developers work through issues. Perhaps best of all, the Xamarin Test Cloud allows apps to be tested automatically on around 2,000 real mobile devices.
Especially useful is the ability to select test devices by their market share, ensuring that your app runs perfectly on the devices most likely to be used. This matters even more if your company operates the bring-your-own-device policy.
What Xamarin Should Still Work On
In an earlier article, we covered the Xamarin pros and cons in some detail, so rather than duplicate those in this Xamarin review, a brief list should suffice, outlining issues that could be solved with a little attention in Xamarin’s future versions, namely:
- Extra software overhead that can slow app download and startup times
- The ability of Xamarin.Forms to work only with basic user interfaces
- A tendency for Xamarin-developed apps to take up more space than true native apps
- The fact that code written in Xamarin can only be used within the platform and cannot be reused for HTML5 or native apps
You will of course draw your own conclusions as to the severity of these issues for your business, and balance them against the benefits of app development with Xamarin. Most software solutions have their drawbacks, but if you have a good team of developers (or work with a high-quality development company) ways and means can usually be found to mitigate them.
Boiling it Down to What Matters
This review has focused on just 3 key features of the Xamarin platform, which together translate into significant business advantages when it comes to developing mobile enterprise applications. Perhaps, the most important of those advantages is the impact on your development time and cost.
For example, one app development company estimated a 35% saving in engineering time by using Xamarin for a client’s iOS and Android project, as reported by App Developer Magazine.
Without the need to create separate apps from scratch for each operating system, the effort to design, code, and test your apps is drastically reduced. Less effort means less cost, which really matters when expenditure to build a single app can fall anywhere between $38,000 and $171,000.
Image Source: Clutch – Cost to Build a Mobile App: A Survey
In addition to the development cost benefits, Xamarin reduces the time taken to get your app completed and deployed to end-users (or released onto app stores for download by your customers). Those end users also get to enjoy performance that’s much closer to the native one than they would experience with hybrid or HTML5 apps. That can only be good news for adoption levels (if the app is for internal use) and will certainly help to ensure your apps stay loaded on customers’ devices.
Do You Have Any Xamarin Experiences to Share?
If you weren’t familiar with Xamarin as a business app development suite before reading this review, we hope it’s been useful in bringing some of the key features to your attention. Of course, there’s a lot more to learn about the Xamarin than we’ve been able to share here, but we’ll be sure to elaborate in future articles.
In the meantime, if you do know Xamarin from a business perspective already, perhaps you’d like to add your own review in the comments below, or just give our readers your perspective on the platform’s pros and cons.