Xamarin Programming Language: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


Whenever you hear the phrase “app development” as a programmer, what names do you recall first, Objective – C, Swift or Java? These days there are much easier technologies to design software applications for both iOS as well as Android, among which Xamarin has been really popular. After reading this post you will get pretty much familiar with Xamarin programming and to what extent this could limit as well as expand the potential of your business app.

What is Xamarin all about?

Xamarin is a programming language that enables you to design mobile apps compatible with all platforms. The technology currently stands upon Microsoft stack while enabling programmers to share the source code across all platforms (iOS, Android and Windows). Presently, the community has exceeded 1.4 million.

The developers behind Mono, led by the same Miguel de Icaza back in 2001 is the same team behind the creation of Xamarin in 2011. The latter was designed solely for commercial purposes and became quite a popular language for Microsoft developers soon after their acquisition in 2016.

Following the acquisition, Xamarin SDK has been open sourced and later combined with Xamarin Studio Integrated Development Environment. Let’s discuss some key features below.

Uses C# programming for designing apps for all platforms. In contrast to Titanium, Xamarin is structured natively, thus, making it the only language for designing user-friendly mobile apps.    

The C# is a core language that doesn’t cause unexpected errors during execution of code. As a part of the .NET framework, Xamarin can be utilized for a number of highly useful features mainly Lambda, LINQ and even Asynk.

As a matter of fact, Xamarin utilizes C# and combines with .NET layer required for app development across multiple platforms. Moreover, Xamarin is capable of utilizing all the recent APIs like the ARKit for iOS as well as Android Multi-Window.

Xamarin enables you to formulate intricate lines of codes based on different platforms, thus making apps look native while ensuring optimum user experience at the same time.

Wireframe: Xamarin comprises two major integrations for both iOS as well as Android. For both products, the processes are automatic and have been designed for allocating memory, deleting redundant codes and ability to exchange OS by itself.

Xamarin.Forms: This is a completely different product primarily used for designing prototypes and/or simple mobile app by sharing each and every line of code for Android and iOS.

Xamarin.Mac: This allows engineers to design applications for the operating system used on Macbook.

Platform SDKs: You can gain access to platform-based SDKs with C# syntax.

Platform-specific code bindings: Xamarin enables developers to build applications by holding onto the native look as well as user experience. On a different note, the language enables programmers to re-execute certain functionalities or APIs such as the barcode scanning, integrate Paypal and sometimes, Google Analytics.

Compatible with wearable: The coolest part about Xamarin is that it allows you to program both iWatch as well as Android smartwatch. There’s Visual Studio that supports Mac and Windows designed for developing apps for smartwatches.

Relevant projects using Xamarin: The majority of Windows-based projects can be run with Xamarin and Visual Studio installed on your computer, and can be debugged using emulators. Using Visual Studio one could easily connect with iOS storyboard designer and simulator.

Let’s find out some usefulness and drawbacks surrounding Xamarin. Let’s start with benefits first.

One stack that binds them all:

The Xamarin programming language is comprised of C# and .NET capable of creating fully interactive mobile apps for all platforms; as a result, more than 90% of any source code can be re-utilized to reduce both timeframes as well as cost.

Neatly designed UX & UI:

Developers now have the ability to design impeccable mobile applications by using elements of distinct platforms. Hybrid apps are often designed using Xamarin. Forms that enhances the development process for business apps.

You still have the option to use either Xamarin.iOS or Xamarin. Android to customize the UI and high-performance mobile apps.

Complete hardware compatibility:

Xamarin eliminates all hardware related configuration problems through its plugins, APIs, and commonness among platforms. Xamarin links you with its native libraries, which ensures high customization combined with features as close as any native development.

Open source stack with efficient customer support:

Xamarin licensing policies underwent massive changes ever since Microsoft acquired their company in 2016. Following the event, everything from Xamarin SDK to command line tools has become open under the MIT license, which is a significant portion of the Visual Studio. The .NET Foundation today is now an immensely powerful tech stack when developers at Microsoft, JetBrains, Unity, and Red Hat are working for turning it more powerful.

Simple maintenance:

Due to Xamarin’s cross-platform technology, users are able to update simply by deploying the latest additions to any source code, and changes will be made for both iOS and Android automatically. Keep in mind that this will work specifically for Xamarin. Forms or created using business logic for both Xamarin.iOS as well as Xamarin.Android.

Own tools for app development:

Xamarin is equipped with its own set of tools such as IDE, SDK, Xamarin test cloud, Hockey app, and Xamarin.Insights. As a result, developers are no longer required to integrate any third-party apps for designing, testing and deploying any Xamarin app.

Xamarin.Forms: something for simple app designing:

There are practically two different ways to design mobile apps, the usual method is by using either Xamarin.iOS or Xamarin.Android. Another method is using Visual Studio as it enables you to share one interface across multiple platforms without designing multiple times. Moreover, you could design a portion of an app using. Forms and the remaining with native UI kit.

Xamarin Live Player:

You could install this app on your smartphone and immediately get down to debugging and/or testing a beta version without connecting to a separate workstation.

Once the installation of Live Player app is complete, you could scan the QR code on Visual Studio through the phone’s camera, and you get access to apps under development.

Any app on your phone will synchronize automatically with the app on your phone.

Xamarin.Mac for Macs:

Developers now have the ability to design fully native apps for Macs using .NET and C#. The same libraries are also utilized for integrating Objective-C with Xcode. With Xamarin.Mac infused with Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin. Android, developers now have the ability to share 90% of any source code across all platforms. It further allows you to build Xcode UI if the Xamarin. Mac is embedded.

Learn Xamarin from its online study portal:

If you’re planning to get started with Xamarin and how all its functionalities work, they have an e-learning platform available with resources for training. If you’re going to hire new engineers for developing any Xamarin based product, the University will guide you including your team starting from beginner level courses to the really advanced level comprising lecture notes and guides from live classrooms.

Limitations in Xamarin:

Now, let’s delve into the limitations surrounding Xamarin and ways it could limit your ability to code.

Prolong delays in backend support:

Unlike the native platforms for both iOS and Android, it takes a bit of time before the latest updates for Xamarin become available. Although they claim to be having efficient support yet there are frequent delays still experienced by users.

Limited open source libraries:

On Xamarin, you only have a limited number of options to choose from .NET open sourced platform and everything included on the platform. There isn’t any liberty to choose from options; however, there are thousands of tools for coming up with simple UI, graphs, charts and heavily powerful options available for integrating into any mobile app with a few clicks. Such features include fast payment processor, wearable, push notification support, ability to store on the cloud, and the ability to stream for music and/or videos online.

Significantly small community:

Obviously, the Xamarin community has been comparatively smaller than that of Android and iOS, thus, finding a reliable Xamarin expert is challenging. Based on recent statistics, Xamarin covers 10% of the app development community. With Xamarin University, anybody who is willing to become a Xamarin expert could do so much faster compared to the learning curve for other programming languages.

Still requires basic native programming knowledge:

Whenever you’re using native Xamarin.iOS and/or Android, the programmer is required to write platform-centric codes; as a result, they have to possess basic knowledge on Java/Kotlin and Objective-C or Swift native, but not in case if you’re using Xamarin.Forms.

Not compatible with heavy graphics:

One of the best perks of using Xamarin is that it allows you to share any source code across all platforms. However, designing video games with highly interactive UI using Xamarin would be a complete waste of time and resources.

Consumes enormous memory:

Simple “Hello World” application on Xamarin.Android takes up to 16MB of space, the majority of which is taken away by libraries, contents, and even Base Class Libraries (BCL). As a result, you have to further optimize in order to keep the apps consume a reasonable amount of space.

Incompatible with third-party plugins:

You are likely to face issues at times for integrating APIs into any Xamarin made mobile app. The majority of the tools including libraries are designed for supporting the native tech, but Xamarin compatibility may not be suitable always. As a result, you might have to adopt certain API that is made particularly for Xamarin made apps.

Xamarin Visual Studio IDE:

The Visual Studio is a Microsoft owned software primarily used for debugging, designing as well as launching apps compatible across all platforms. There are 3 versions of Visual Studio,

  • Visual Studio Community
  • Visual Studio Professional
  • Visual Studio Enterprise

Therefore, depending on the level of experience and the size of each team, developers have to choose the right version for themselves. You’re free to design software for web, server, and even desktop using any of these 3 versions available.

Visual Studio Community:

This one is designed specifically for students in which you can add five users without incurring anything at all. Really useful for a small development team even if they’re new to Xamarin.

Visual Studio Professional:

The professional version is a set of tools dedicated to pro developers working in small teams. It has really powerful features that allow you to see references, check for changes made when and also by whom, including the ability to figure out whether the tests are passed or not. The annual charge is $539 per user.

Visual Studio Enterprise:

This version enables you to maintain coherency between developers and IT support. There are specialized tools to help you track the quality of work, enjoy multiple training programs, and of course, the entire engineering and testing platform will be in your grasp. Starting at $2,999 per user, this package is offering Test manager support, Package management, including Private pipeline.

On a different note, you could also check out the Visual Studio App Center quite useful for organizing the entire workflow across multiple technologies. Developers now have the ability to automate app packaging through Github or Bitbucket, you could even add integration for various testing to check for crashes, as well as for tracking analytics.

Visual Studio Online:

The online version enables you to set up recurrent integrations on any platform you’re currently working, by altering codes real-time and adding them to the main source. Oftentimes, this version has proven itself to be the best interest among developers working with Xamarin programming language.

Shifting from Android or Xcode to Visual Studio:

Fortunately, with a not-so-steep learning curve, developers could easily catch up with Visual Studio if they are willing to shift from Android or Xcode simply because there are similarities between the platforms.

Xcode, on the other hand, is perfectly compatible with other source codes of the most common platforms, currently used for coding. If you are frequently using CloudKit, then be aware that Xamarin and Visual Studio, both allow CloudKit integration. In terms of usage and flexibility, both tools are simple with a remarkable level of service. However, the latter is favored among companies employed 1000+ employees. As you may have already read about Visual Studio Online, saying how the stack is powerful enough to calculate multiple variables in seconds!

Considering how mobile interfaces have become important, Xcode and VS are tied, but Android.studio has fallen behind in terms of their testing capacities.

Conclusion:

It’s true that the majority of the business owners are considering Xamarin, simply because the stack is enabling them to save more of their time since the same coding is applicable across other platforms.

Xamarin has brought about huge possibilities for corporations due to a generalized UI for all platforms covering almost 90 percent. However, the case is completely the opposite of interfaces with heavy graphics.

Although there are multiple tech stacks such as Cordova, Ionic and Appcelerator built on HTML5 and JavaScript. It is one of the underlying reasons why none of these technologies is going to be as responsive and useful as Xamarin.

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