A well-developed mobile application is an important pillar that supports the growth of businesses. It can help you engage your current customers, open doors to new ones and even provide you with an opportunity to exploit a completely new market.
Cross platform apps are those that can run on multiple platforms. The rise in competition and the trend of Bring Your Own Device to work has done nothing but fuel the demand of this category of apps. Cross platform apps are also great for startups entering the market.
Once the call has been made to develop a cross platform app, the next question that arises is about the framework to use to build the app. There are a lot of options in the market that could do well.But our vote has been set on Xamarin. It is considered one of the best framework for cross platform mobile app development by a majority of agencies. It has been used widely since its launch in 2011.
Let’s have a brief look at what Xamarin is:
What is Xamarin?
Xamarin is a framework created using C# that is popularly used to create cross platform mobile apps. Xamarin works on a single language i.e. C# and offers a runtime that works on three major mobile platform (Android, iOS and Windows). This allows the mobile app to look and feel like a native one on the respective platforms.
Xamarin was founded by Miguel de Icaza, Nat Friedman and Joseph Hill in May 2011. These were the same engineers that had also created Mon, Mono for Android and MonoTouch. In February 2016, Microsoft acquired Xamarin and has been a Microsoft owned company ever since.
Xamarin was built to provide a very unique function i.e. the ability to make cross platform apps easily whilst providing the apps a native feel and look depending on the platform. The core logic is written in C# while having the flexibility to design native user interface specifically for each platform.
Under the UI layer of code which is specific to each platform, lies the shared application logic. This needs to be written just once and it works across all platforms similarly. Developers can share as much as 75% of the code across platforms depending on the UI.
Advantages of Xamarin for Cross Platform App Developmen
Few reasons why Xamarin stands ahead of all other frameworks in cross platform app development are as follows:
1. Native Interface: The most preferred solution for the development of any application is to be able to provide a native interface to its users. This where Xamarin’s unique approach gains leverage. The comprehensive Integrated Development Environment of Xamarin provides a way for each C# code to be able to access device-specific features and provide a native UI and performance.
2. Faster Development: Writing more code takes more time and money. But Xamarin allows us to code application logic once and then share it across the iOS, Android and Windows platform. With up to 75% of the code required to write only once, a lot of time and resources can be saved and the app can be launched more quickly.
3. Perfect Quality Assurance: Any app needs to be tested under various circumstances in order to make sure that the app functions as desired in all of them. The Xamarin Test Cloud provides testers this capability. Testers can perform their tests across a number of real devices of different models and makes to ensure that the app is perfect.
4. Fewer Bugs: C# is a simple, general purpose, type safe and object oriented language. When you Hire a C# developer to write your code, the type safety will help him/her prevent typing errors that could result in flawed program behavior. Another reason for this is the fact that since most of the code is shared, the code is not exceptionally long for all platforms. Lesser code also leads to a less chance of bugs.
5. Cost Saving: Although it seems a little obvious, however, the immense cost saving is a crucial advantage of using Xamarin that cannot be left out. Making use of Xamarin help you drastically cut costs on manpower and resources.
Firstly, since only a developer skilled in C# is required for developing apps on Xamarin, you save on developer costs.
Secondly, since majority of the app logic needs to be coded only once, the development lifecycle is reduced significantly and hence you save on development costs.
Thirdly, the Xamarin Test cloud is an effective and inexpensive option for testing your app. It also provides a lot more real devices (up to 1000) to test on than the others which provides a more practical result. Hence, you can save a lot on app testing.
Lastly, since your app is cross platform, you can launch it on all platforms at once and gain monetary value of your app from a much larger market quickly rather than having a small audience of just one platform. Hence, you save on product launch costs.
These are just a few of the benefits of employing Xamarin for your app project.
It is important to appeal users from different platforms to ensure complete satisfaction across different devices. The last thing you want is to develop an app for a particular platform just to realize that you need to target another platform. It is abundantly clear that multiple platforms are here to stay and you need a strategy to deliver applications in a high demand scenario. So make sure to make a wise choice.
I have heard that there are quite a few prominent companies that use Xamarin for their mobile apps. Are there any examples of these?
@Kenny V yes there are quite a few. Some of these include the Fox Sports app, Alaska Airline app that is used by their employees, Aviva Insurance’s Aviva Drive, a survey app that the employees of the World Bank use in around 30 countries, Honeywell’s Total Connect Comfort Europe app etc.
Just a slight out of context question, but I heard that even the Facebook app is built with Xamarin?
@Victor Sheen Not the Facebook app, but Facebook Messenger was built with Xamarin. Facebook made use of Xamarin very cleverly. They launched their messenger app for all mobile platforms using Xamarin in order to study the market. After receiving a good response, they started building native versions for each platform whilst the Xamarin built messenger app being in the market. Once the native versions were ready, the Facebook messenger app was updated.
Is it possible to use other languages while building Xamarin apps or just C#?
@sebastian Parker Xamarin provides facilities for directly invoking Objective-C, Java, C, and C++ libraries, giving you the power to use a wide array of 3rd party code that has already been created. You will be bale to use existing iOS and Android libraries written in Objective-C, Java or C/C++.