10 Reasons for Choosing Xamarin Cross-Platform Mobile Development

The Best Language for App Development

February 24, 2016  | by Victor Shilo

Building a mobile app isn’t as simple as it used to be. With multiple devices to cater to, development teams must ask themselves a few questions:

  • “What platform should we optimize the app for?”
  • “What tools should we use to develop our app?”
  • “Should we go native or use a cross-platform development tool?”

Cross-platform mobile app development platform technology has been around for a while, but hasn’t always lived up to expectations. Several solutions have evolved (notably Xamarin) that make the process of developing these apps less complex, less messy, with an end-product that meets quality standards. Let’s look at the options you have for cross platform mobile app development today and why we think Xamarin is the way to go.

Building Apps Natively

The “build apps natively” method has its place. If you’re looking to develop an app for one specific platform, it’s a great approach. But if you’re looking to reach a broader consumer audience or equip your teams, then you’re looking at building an individual app for each major platform – iOS, Android, and Windows.

For this you’ll need multiple codebases and a large team of highly-skilled developers dedicated to each platform. You can also expect to encounter delays in delivering the app since one platform has to be prioritized during the development process, while the other two play catch-up. It also reduces innovation, as developers are focused on platform-specific issues rather than spending time developing new features and focusing on what matters most – building great user experiences.

Furthermore, once up and running, organizations are tasked with maintaining three to four different applications – something most enterprises choose to manage in-house. Again, this can prove costly as different skill sets must be retained to maintain each app.

Write Once, Run Anywhere

Another way to handle multi-platform app development is the Java-based “write once, run anywhere” (WORA) approach. Sounds great in theory, but, in practice, can equate to a miserable user experience, incomplete API coverage, and high abandonment rates. Several hybrid mobile app frameworks have evolved that can help with cross-platform app development, such as Apache Cordova (ex PhoneGap), Appcelerator Titanium, Kendo Mobile and others but each comes with serious disadvantages that won’t delight your users.

Xamarin

The Xamarin development environment has emerged as a powerful cross-platform development tool that eliminates the hassle and challenges inherent in native development and WORA approaches. A Microsoft-owned company, Xamarin utilizes a C# codebase to allow code sharing across platforms and testing across whatever platforms you choose to develop for.

It’s a tried and tested approach that we’ve had significant success with developing commercial and public sector cross-platform apps.

Here are 10 reasons why we recommend Xamarin for cross-platform mobile app development:

  1. Best-in-Class. It’s a buzzword, we know. But using Xamarin with Visual Studio or Xamarin Studio for building native apps, you get all the advantages of a modern and powerful integrated development environment (IDE). Together, it’s a powerful solution that helps boost the development process and simplify the development and support process.
  2. Full Access to Native Capabilities. While other solutions attempt to universalize mobile platforms, ultimately limiting developers to a common subset of features, Xamarin delivers the full power of each individual platform without any constraints. With full access to native APIs you can create native apps with device-specific experiences. Anything you can do in Objective-C, Swift or Java, you can also do in C# with Xamarin.
  3. Leverage Native User Interfaces. Build apps with native user interface (UI) controls. This preserves native performance while offering full API coverage, a shared codebase, and application logic. It also eliminates duplication of effort across development teams. Skills, teams, tools, and, most importantly, the code can be re-used, saving time and resources.
  4. Code Once, Develop Faster. Because Xamarin is integrated with the software development kits (SDKs) of each different operating system, you have the ability to utilize native controls that exist for iOS, Android, or Windows, but only coded once. Linked files, conditional compilation, and portable class libraries make it possible for developers to share the code. This ability to reuse 60-80% of the code cuts the development time in half. Additionally, a single codebase dramatically reduces costs for support and new feature introduction. Compare this with the time-consuming task of writing the same code for each native platform one-by-one.
  5. Xamarin is now part of Microsoft. With Microsoft’s purchase of Xamarin, this platform is here to stay. Unlike most mobile technologies that come and go, the time and effort you invest in learning Xamarin will likely still be relevant a many years from now.
  6. Build Native Apps in Visual Studio. Windows Mobile and Windows 10 development is natively supported by Visual Studio with Xamarin, while Mac platforms can leverage Xamarin Studio. This allows you to write apps in C# and share your code between iOS, Android, and Windows using Portable Class Libraries and proper application architecture.
  7. Test Quickly, Anywhere. Xamarin Test Cloud allows you to automatically test your iOS and Android apps immediately, on hundreds of devices, offering continuous integration, beautiful reports, test for fragmentation, and object-based UI testing.
  8. The Best Language for App Development. Because Xamarin leverages the simple, modern, and general purpose approach of C# object-oriented programming language, you can leverage the power of strong typed language, lambdas, language integrated queries (LINQ), and asynchronous programming.

    LINQ introduces standard, easily-learned patterns for querying and updating data, and the technology can be extended to potentially support any kind of data store. Visual Studio includes LINQ provider assemblies that enable the use of LINQ with .NET Framework collections, SQL Server databases, ADO.NET DataSets, and XML documents.

    Furthermore, Xamarin also supports the Microsoft Task Parallel Library (TPL). TPL drives productivity by simplifying the process of adding parallelism and concurrency to applications. Parallelism is crucial for responsive mobile application user interfaces. Unfortunately, existing approaches with callbacks and synchronization make the code, complicated, confusing, and less readable. Conversely, with the TPL you can focus on business logic and let the framework deal with asynchronous code. In addition, the TPL handles partitioning of work, scheduling of threads on the ThreadPool, cancellation support, state management, and other low-level details. You can use async/await C# syntax to develop asynchronous code in a nice and clean way.
  9. The App Development Tool of Choice. Today, over one million developers are using Xamarin to create amazing apps.
  10. Xamarin is Leader. For cross-platform mobile application development, Xamarin is hard to beat. So much so, that Gartner recognized Xamarin as a “leader” for Mobile Application Development Platforms, based on its ability to execute and completeness of vision”

Is Xamarin right for you? Having implemented Xamarin across a variety of use cases, we’d highly endorse it as a cross-platform development tool. If you appreciate maintaining control over the native UI, developing in C#, and sharing the same code on any platform – iOS, Windows, Android – and still easily incorporate platform-specific libraries and frameworks when you want to, Xamarin is for you. Only after ruling Xamarin out would we endorse a native development as an option.

To learn how EastBanc Technologies’ mobile experts can help your organization thrive, contact:

Jill DaSilva | Director of Sales Operations | jdasilva@eastbanctech.com

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