Advantages and Disadvantages of Xamarin App Development

June 30, 2022 by Len Ott | DEV COMMUNITY UPDATES


Cross-platform frameworks for app creation can considerably reduce development time for apps across mobile and desktop environments. Designed to provide a method for writing once and deploying broadly, picking the right framework is vital to avoid starting from scratch and shifting to a different framework later in the development process. 

If you're choosing a framework for Android, iOS, and Windows app development, Xamarin has many advantages to offer - but it's important to weigh the pros and cons before you decide which platform is best for your application.  

The Advantages of Xamarin 

One of Xamarin’s biggest strengths is how well established it is. With its origins in the open-source Ximian and Mono projects, Xamarin was founded in 2011 - making it one of the oldest cross-platform development frameworks around. 

That long history means a wealth of experience, as people have been developing apps using Xamarin and .NET for years, and the process is well-polished by now. Since its acquisition by Microsoft and formal adoption into the .NET ecosystem in 2016, the Xamarin software development kit has attracted more than a million users worldwide. 

It's easy to see why: Xamarin allows developers to use .NET and C# to write native apps which avoid the overhead of some rival frameworks, offering high performance - yet the Xamarin.Forms framework provides a way to ensure a consistent look and feel across devices via a single application programming interface (API). 

Where platform-specific APIs are required, there's Xamarin.Essentials - a cross-platform API that offers translation to features like geolocation, sensor access, device statistics, and secure storage. And while Xamarin targets mobile development for Android and iOS devices, it allows developers to share the underlying code with any platform compatible with .NET - including Windows, macOS, Linux, and more. 

Xamarin also boasts an impressive roster of companies who have developed widely-deployed applications on the framework: UPS' mobile app, including its integrated automated customer service bot functionality, is developed on Xamarin; charity donation platform JustGiving uses Xamarin for its Android and iOS apps; and Microsoft itself uses Xamarin for its Seeing AI app, designed to boost accessibility by narrating the world around a visually-impaired smartphone user. 

For individual developers, early-stage startups, and smaller companies, Xamarin is also completely free to use - though larger companies will need to license Microsoft's Visual Studio development environment. In doing so, however, developers are guaranteed an accessible and well-supported development environment with the weight of Microsoft behind it. 

The Disadvantages of Xamarin 

There are some disadvantages to be aware of before jumping into cross-platform app development with Xamarin - and the above license requirements, which can add up for larger enterprises, are only a small part. 

While it's true that Xamarin is one of the oldest cross-platform development frameworks, it's lost considerable ground to younger upstarts. The two most popular, Flutter and React Native, are used by 42%and 38% of framework-assisted cross-platform mobile app developers, respectively, according to a 2021 Statista developer survey; Xamarin by only 11%. 

A smaller pool of developers may mean that it's harder to find the staff with the skills you need when it comes time to grow your team for further development or application maintenance compared with a more popular framework. That Xamarin has been around longer, though, means that the available staff are typically more experienced - meaning that any struggles you have finding entry-level staff may be compensated by the ease with which you can find senior-level developers. 

Many of Xamarin's competitors have branched out beyond mobile, allowing for a single codebase that can be used to deploy apps on both mobile and desktop. Xamarin, however, retains its mobile focus. There's nothing in Xamarin specifically targeting desktop platforms. Its integration into .NET, however, means there's the possibility to share up to 75% of a codebase between mobile and desktop. You'll still need two development branches, but they don’t necessarily need to be separate. 

Visual Studio has also just launched the .NET MAUI framework, which Microsoft claims is "the evolution of Xamarin." MAUI is a new framework for building modern, multi-platform, natively compiled apps for iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows using C# and XAML in a single codebase. Socket Mobile will launch official support for MAUI development in the coming months and will continue to provide the tools developers need to create high-performance applications. 

Picking a Framework 

There are cases where Xamarin is the only logical choice for a cross-platform mobile app framework. If you're already working in the .NET ecosystem, Xamarin means you can begin development right there and then without having to pick up something entirely new - and within the comfortable environment of Visual Studio to boot. 

For those coming at things entirely fresh, though, it's a trickier decision. As we discussed in our look at Flutter vs. React Native, it's a case of weighing up the pros and cons. 

If you're curious to learn more about what Xamarin can do or the steps involved with developing a Xamarin app with integrated data capture functionality through our CaptureSDK toolkit, view our recorded Xamarin webinar where Socket Mobile Software Engineer, Matt Robbins, walks through an interactive journey through the development process. 


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