Is Xamarin the Best Tool for Developing Cross-Platform Mobile Apps?

As highlighted by a number of studies, the worldwide market share of a mobile operating system does not make the apps running on it profitable. At present, Android dominates the worldwide smartphone OS market with a massive share of 84%. But the Android apps are less popular than iOS and Windows Phone apps. Hence, it becomes essential for each business to build mobile apps by targeting multiple platforms to reach more users and get higher returns.

However, it is also important for the business to explore ways to reduce the time to market of its cross-platform mobile app. A number of advanced tools make it easier for developers to build cross-platform mobile apps within a shorter amount of time. But the number of mobile app developers switching from other cross-platform mobile app development tools to Xamarin is increasing consistently.

Unlike other cross-platform mobile app development tools, Xamarin enables developers to build mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone with a native user interface and the same set of APIs. It further allows programmers to write the code once in C#, and share the same code seamlessly across three distinct mobile platforms. Xamarin also comes with a number of features to help developers build robust and cross-platform mobile apps without putting extra time and effort.



What Makes Xamarin Different from Other Cross-Platform Mobile App Development Tools?

Shared C# Code Base
Xamarin enables developers to write iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps in a single programming language, i.e., C#. The programmers also have option to use the same code base, APIs and data structure across three distinct mobile platforms. Thus, it becomes easier for developers to reduce the development time drastically by sharing 75% of app code and the app logic across multiple platforms. The feature further helps enterprise to reduce the time to market of cross-platform mobile apps without deploying additional manpower and resources.

Portable Class Libraries
The developers can further use portable class libraries (PCL) to share the same code base across multiple mobile platforms.  PCL enables programmers to make the same code and libraries available to Xamarin.iOS, Xamarin Android and Windows Phone. They can even create the app logic as a PCL, and reuse it across different mobile operating systems without any restriction. Also, the programmers have option to use several commonly used PCLs like Json.NET, SQLite or ReactiveUI on each mobile platform.

Shared Project
Xamarin 3 allows programmers to make different application projects refer to a common code base through Shared Project. Shared Project allows developers to write the code once, and make it available to various application projects. Also, it allows users to get the platform-specific code compiled as a subset of a project that refers to the Shared Project. The developers can use an IDE to manage the compiler directive, and check how the code looks on each version of the app.

Native Performance
Often hybrid mobile apps developed using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript fail to take advantage of the native features of each mobile platform. Xamarin tools enable programmers to create apps that can avail the native features of individual mobile devices and platforms. The Xamarin apps are further compiled to deliver native performance, while taking advantage of platform-specific hardware. At the same time, the app developers also have option to convert the app code written in Java or Objective-C into C# code.

No Need to Create or Use Additional Plug-ins
While developing cross-platform mobile apps, developers often have to create and use custom plug-ins to facilitate device-specific processing.  Xamarin allows programmers to create apps using standard UI controls. These standard UI controls make the app access functionality specific to a mobile platform like Android Fragmentation or iBeacon. Hence, the Xamarin mobile apps deliver richer user experience on each mobile operating system, without requiring any additional plug-in for device processing.

Xamarin.Form
As an API, Xamarin.Form is designed specifically to help programmers share user interface (UI) code across three distinct mobile operating systems. The developers can write the UI code once in C#, and use the same code on iOS, Android and Windows Phone fully.  Each Xamarin.Forms page represents a specific screen in the mobile app. But it supports advanced gesture supports, and contains common controls like buttons, labels, lists and layouts. At runtime, the Xamarin.Form page along with its components are mapped to native user interface elements of iOS, Android or Windows Phone.

Xamarin Test Cloud
The developers also have option to test the mobile apps across a wide variety of devices by using a robust integrated testing environment like Xamarin Test Cloud. Xamarin Test Cloud enables users to test the mobile app continuously over a thousand real devices. The testing professionals can further write custom test scripts in C# or Ruby to speed up the mobile testing process through automation. At the same time, Xamarin Test Cloud makes it easier for testers to assess the functionality and performance of a mobile app across a variety of devices at once.

Xamarin Studio
The developers can further reduce the amount of time required for developing cross-platform mobile apps by using a robust integrated development environment (IDE) like Xamarin Studio. Xamarin Studio includes a variety of tools to facilitate development of applications for Mac, iOS and Android. The programmers can use the IDE to create both desktop applications for Mac and native mobile apps for iOS or Android. Xamarin Studio further comes with a rich editor, debugging tools, and integrated source control. The users can further extend Xamarin Studio easily by installing a variety of add-ins.

Xamarin Components
The developers also have option to boost the mobile app’s functionality and performance by adding a variety of components to it. They can download these components directly from Xamarin Components Store through the IDE, and add them to the applications without putting extra effort. Hence, it becomes easier for programmers to boost the application’s functionality by adding web service APIs and other controls. At the same time, Xamarin also allows users to access make the mobile app secure through authorization, authentication and similar security features, while accessing commonly used backend solutions like SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft Azure and Parse.


However, Xamarin tools are commercial. So a business has to incur additional expenses to take advantages of the robust cross-platform mobile app development tools. Some users even complain that Xamarin increases both download and start-up time of mobile apps. But Xamarin has been evolving consistently. Also, Microsoft recently acquired Xamarin. Hence, the developers will soon have option combine Xamarin tools with Microsoft Azure, Visual Studio and Office 365. The integration will enable users to avail enhanced end-to-end workflow across different mobile platforms and devices.
Is Xamarin the Best Tool for Developing Cross-Platform Mobile Apps? Is Xamarin the Best Tool for Developing Cross-Platform Mobile Apps? Reviewed by Ellora Sarkar on 05:25:00 Rating: 5