At Zillion, we use Xamarin software development tools to develop applications for Android, iOS and Windows that can perform across multiple platforms. We leverage our specialized experience to build Xamarin apps that will add to the aesthetics of your business profile while aiding in creating innovative tools to capture the market.
Xamarin is a tool used for cross-platform mobile app development that allows engineers to share about 90 percent of code across major platforms. Being a comparatively new tool, it is based on the Microsoft technology stack and already has a community of over 1.4 million developers.
The platform was built by the developers behind Mono, an open source development platform based on the .NET Framework, led by Miguel de Icaza and first introduced in 2001. The Xamarin company was founded on May 16, 2011.
However, unlike its predecessor, Xamarin was created as a commercial project until the company was acquired by Microsoft in 2016. Xamarin became a popular cross-platform product for developing mobile apps within the Microsoft ecosystem. This acquisition broke the financial barrier for using Xamarin.
Xamarin uses C# complemented with .Net framework to create apps for any mobile platform. Thus, you can reuse up to 96 percent of the source code speeding up the engineering cycle. Xamarin also does not require switching between the development environments: You can build all of your Xamarin apps in Visual Studio which completely replaced Xamarin Studio. The cross-platform development tools are provided as a built-in part of the IDE at no additional cost.
Unlike traditional hybrid solutions, based on the web technologies, a cross-platform app built with Xamarin, can still be classified as native. The performance metrics are comparable to those of Java for Android (as explained here) and Objective-C or Swift for native iOS app development. Moreover, Xamarin performance is constantly being improved to fully match the standards of native development. Visual Studio offers a complete solution for building, testing, and tracking the app's performance: Visual Studio App Center allows you to run automated UI tests and identify performance issues before the release. However, this service is provided at an additional fee.
Xamarin allows you to create flawless experiences using platform-specific UI elements. Simple cross-platform apps for iOS, Android or Windows are built using Xamarin.Forms tool, which converts app UI components into the platform-specific interface elements at runtime. As the use of Xamarin.Forms significantly increases the speed of app development, it is a great option for business-oriented projects. Yet, there might be a slight decline in performance due to the extra abstraction layer. For custom app UI and higher performance you can still use Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android separately to ensure excellent results.
With Xamarin, your solution gets native-level app functionality. It eliminates all hardware compatibility issues, using plugins and specific APIs, to work with common devices functionality across the platforms. Along with the access to platform-specific APIs, Xamarin supports linking with native libraries. This allows for better customization and native-level functionality with little overhead.
After the company was acquired by Microsoft in February 2016, Xamarin licensing policies underwent radical changes. Xamarin SDK, including runtime, libraries, and command line tools, has become open source and available for all under the MIT license as a part of Visual Studio. By eliminating the major barrier, the cost of license, Microsoft paved the way for the further growth of the platform. Plus, headed by Microsoft, and supported by Unity, JetBrains, and Red Hat, the .NET Foundation in general and Xamarin specifically has become a reliable and powerful tech stack.
Due to its cross-platform application, Xamarin makes maintenance and updates easier. You can simply deploy the changes or updates to the source file and they will be applied to both iOS and Android apps. However, this works only for the applications that use Xamarin.Forms or the business logic, shared code, updates for Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android apps. Thus, it helps you save your time and money while keeping your apps up to date.
Xamarin comes in one package with a complete development toolset, including its own IDE (Xamarin Studio that is now replaced by Visual Studio), the platforms itself (Xamarin SDKs), testing (Xamarin Test Cloud), distribution and analytics (Hockeyapp and Xamarin.Insights) platforms. Thus, you don't need to invest in additional tools or integrate the third-party apps to build, test and deploy your Xamarin apps.
This depends completely on the Xamarin developer team. It's impossible for third-party tools to provide the immediate support for the latest iOS and Android releases: it takes some time to implement the changes and/or introduce new plugins, etc. Although Xamarin claims to provide same-day support, there still might be some delays.
Native development makes extensive use of open source technologies. With Xamarin, you have to use only the components provided by the platform and some .Net open source resources, facing both developers and consumers. While the choice is not quite as rich as it is for Android and iOS mobile app development, the Xamarin Components provide thousands of custom UI controls, various charts, graphs, themes, and other powerful features that can be added to an app in just a few clicks. This includes built-in payment processing (such as Stripe), Beacons and wearables integration, out of the box push notification services, cloud storage solutions, multimedia streaming capabilities and much more.
Obviously, Xamarin community is significantly smaller than those of iOS or Android. Thus, finding an experienced Xamarin developer could be a challenge. Although the platform is growing its following fueled by the support from Microsoft. Based on the info from different sources, Xamarin community makes 10 percent of the global mobile development society. Despite the fact that the number of Xamarin engineers does not compare to iOS or Android native communities, the platform provides extensive support to its developers. Namely, there is a dedicated educational platform, Xamarin University, that provides resources and practical training for those who are new to this technology. Using this support, the learning curve for an experienced C#/.Net engineer is minimal.
When using Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android to build mobile apps with truly native look and feel, you will still need to write a platform-specific layer of code. Thus, at least a basic knowledge of native technologies (Java/Kotlin for Android and Objective-C/Swift for iOS) is required. This, however doesn't apply to Xamarin.Forms.
Xamarin's main benefit is the ability to share your code across the platforms. Yet, you can only share the logic, UI code will be mostly platform-specific. This makes building games, rich custom UI, or complex animations in Xamarin pretty pointless. With a small amount of shared code, Xamarin becomes unviable option.
Depending on their type and complexity, Xamarin apps are typically larger than native ones (the latter might be half the size of a Xamarin app). A simple "hello, world" app for Android might take up to 16 MB, much of it being used by the associated libraries, content, Mono runtime, and Base Class Library (BCL) assemblies.