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Xamarin for Cross-platform Development: Pros and Cons

The web is definitely a great platform in order to connect with users and exchange data and information with them. But when it comes to taking the highest advantage of a mobile device, a native app is the best option. Native apps still remain the best way to get most out of a user’s mobile phones, laptops, and tablets.

But apart from native and hybrid options, there is one more option- cross-platform apps. Xamarin is considered to be one of the best tools for cross-platform development.

What is Xamarin?

When using Xamarin, developers can use C# language to write an application. Xamarin allows developers to use a single codebase across different platforms. If your developers have worked on Android app development earlier, chances are their understanding of how to build apps on Xamarin is strong enough.

The same functionality of Objective-C and Swift and can be used while coding on C#. Xamarin helps in saving time here. Developers will not have the need to write two different code bases and maintaining them simultaneously.

Major features of Xamarin

  1. Single language. One of the best features of Xamarin is that it makes use of a single language to write apps for different platforms. Xamarin has become a go-to option for those who are looking to create high-performance apps that look and work like a native app.
  2. .Net Framework. C# comes with a strong safety-typing. This prevents the code from behaving unexpectedly. C# incorporates a number of useful .Net features, as it is one of the .Net framework languages. Even though apps developed using Xamarin will be cross-platform, they will still look absolutely native no matter what device it is. The app will definitely provide a user experience that is far better than generic hybrid apps.
  3. Compilation. There are two parts here: Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android. The process in both is quite different, but it is automated. But no matter the process, it will handle issues like garbage collection and memory allocation.
  4. SDKs & Code Bindings. There is access to platform-specific SDKs in Xamarin. Xamarin allows you to make use of some modules again or some platform-specific functions.
    Wearable apps. Xamarin supports developing apps for Android and Apple watch devices. Xamarin also supports Android Wear completely.

Advantages of Xamarin

  1. Single tech stack. Xamarin apps are build using a single language i.e. C#. It then covers them in a .Net layer which allows cross-platform development. With this feature of Xamarin, more can be achieved in less time.
  2. Quick Prototyping. Developers will be able to access a complete UI toolkit to create interfaces that are functional on any device. This way developers will be able to share more code without bringing any changes to the UI for every platform.
  3. User Experience. Xamarin is able to take full advantage of the system and hardware-specific APIs. Users will not know the difference between your app and a native app.
    Time-saving. While using Xamarin, you will be saving a lot of time as you will be sharing a codebase. So the time that is usually wasted translating and rewriting can be used for better purposes.
  4. Maintenance. Apps that are built using Xamarin actually require less work. The need to update your source is eliminated here.

Disadvantages of Xamarin

  1. Expensive. For small companies and individual developers, Xamarin is completely free. But enterprises will be required to purchase a license for Microsoft Visual Studio.
  2. Complicated. Most .Net libraries are supported by Xamarin, but not all available third-party libraries for Android and iOS are supported by Xamarin.
  3. Heavy graphics not supported. If your apps require rich UI/UX then it won’t be supported by Xamarin. It will have to be developed natively.
  4. App Size. When an app is developed using Xamarin, the app size increases to 3-5 megabytes. This can go up to 20 megabytes for debugs.

Summary

No matter how good cross-platform app development is, there will be a few things that will definitely be very different from native development. Xamarin is a great option if your app is mostly for internal usage. But if you are building an app that is going to face a lot of customers, Xamarin might not be that great. But Xamarin will surely be appropriate for startups or developing an MVP.

Dhruv Pandya

Dhruv Pandya is a Tech Writer and Social Media Marketer at Nimblechapps, a top hybrid app development company based out of India. He writes about new technology, tips relating to new trends, and mobile apps. He likes providing new ideas in order to give out updates about all the latest tech.