There are plenty of choices when it comes to mobile development tools. Some tools are there just to facilitate the process and make your life easier. But there are toolsthat become virtually irreplaceable during the development process. These are the juggernauts of the app development world and include, but are not limited to, Xamarin, Cordova and React Native.
Last year Microsoft acquired Xamarin, blatantly hinting app developers at the basket where they should be putting all their eggs. But why exactly should you pick this software over its alternatives? Maybe it’s not exactly your cup of tea?
Let’s dive deeper into the specifics of Xamarin and see what makes this product unique and worth the learning curve, if you’re about to embark on a lifelong journey of mobile app development. This post should also be useful for developers who are looking for an alternative to their current app development stack.
Pro: App Development Dream Team
We all like to hate corporations from time to time, but the reality sometimes goes against our expectations. The fact that Xamarin is now part of Microsoft’s software bundle puts it above its competitors. With Xamarin, you’re getting:
- Developer support
- Learning opportunities
- Stability and performance, especially for products like Test Cloud
All of this is possible because Xamarin has the backing of one of the biggest tech giants in the world.
Pro: Flexibility of C#
Xamarin utilizes C# as its main programming language. If you’re a development company that has its hands in many pies at the same time, this is absolutely invaluable. Given the nature of C#, your team can easily switch between developing apps for various platforms, since C# is the shared language for all of the apps developed via Xamarin.
Over 70% of code is reusable between iOS, Android and other platforms in Xamarin and that means lower development costs and more flexibility for your team. Not to mention that these days practically all enterprise-level development companies have a couple of C# devs on board, so switching to Xamarin gets much easier.
Pro: Minimal TTM
Time to market is essential when you’re developing a highly competitive app or when you’re on a tight deadline. With Xamarin’s Test Cloud, you can easily run tests through 2,000 devices and quickly learn about all of the possible code inconsistencies within your app. Don’t underestimate the importance of testing, especially when you have limited hardware and human resources.
Pro: If It Quacks Like a Duck…
With Xamarin you’re getting practically the same level of performance as from a natively developed app. In fact, Xamarin’s Mono implementation is often more efficient than Java code, as proven by various tests a long time ago.
Pro: Houston, We Don’t Have a Problem
With Xamarin Insights you know everything about your app crashes, user interactions, user devices and much more. With this tool, your QA process becomes more effortless and fluid.
Pro: Xamarin Forms
If your apps require little platform-specific functionality, then Xamarin Forms is the right tool for you. It’s currently one of the simplest ways of building cross-platform user interfaces, without having to worry about any specific platform. This tool is essentially the ultimate code sharing experience that any developer, who sucks with UI, will appreciate.
But it’s not all rainbows and daffodils when it comes to Xamarin…
If you feel like there’s a stack of cash that’s ready to burn through your wallet, Xamarin might be the right choice for you. With the Business license starting at $999, Xamarin development becomes pretty much unsustainable for many development companies. Not to mention that such pricing severely limits collaboration options, since only the Business package allows you to create multiple developer accounts.
Con: Component Limitations
Xamarin only supports specific technological components that are available within its library. Yes, the list of available elements is pretty extensive, but you may run into a situation when a specific template or a graph is not available, especially if you’re working on highly custom development projects.
Con: Ghost Town
Probably the biggest disadvantage of all hybrid app development products is the community, or rather its absence. It’s an obvious fact – Android and iOS, on their own, have great, vivid and elaborate communities. But tools like Xamarin aren’t that overwhelmingly popular, since the number of developers working with ALL major platforms at the same time is significantly smaller than the number of developers who dedicate their time and efforts to a single platform. Specialization is the key to success in many app development niches, so communities for Xamarin and other similar tools are pretty limited. At the same time, things are improving in terms of the ecosystem and API robustness, which should give the community the boost it desperately needs.
Con: Code Reusability
If suddenly your team switches to a different tool or you’re adding more people who use a different platform – you’re in for some rough times. Any code, written in Xamarin, can only be used within the platform. This means that you can’t reuse it for a native app or for any HTML5 apps, which severely limits code longevity and usability.
Con: Code Overhead
Xamarin has to work with various platforms at the same time, which means that apps created through Xamarin have an overhead. To put it simply, they’re too overcomplicated to allow that smooth integration. The downside of this is the fact that Xamarin-built apps are ‘heavier’ and may take up more space than native apps. Simply because native apps don’t need that shared functionality.
With all its flaws and certain limitations, Xamarin remains one of the most robust, extensive and productive hybrid app development environments. Many of its flaws are being taken care of, given that Microsoft has the necessary resources and experience to pull off such a multifaceted project.