Xamarin Forms vs Xamarin Native
A good knowledge of C# can be an excellent opportunity to expand the scope of activities and start creating mobile software. In the Microsoft ecosystem, mobile app development is completed with a help of the renowned Xamarin framework. Xamarin significantly reduces the entry threshold to this IT sphere for C# programmers because it does not require knowledge of platform-specific native languages such as Objective-C/Swift for iOS or Java/Kotlin for Android.
A problem that one may face before starting to work on a project is deciding which is better: Xamarin Forms (a tool for creating cross-platform software) or Xamarin Native (the creation of separate applications for each platform with a help of Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android libraries). Let us review this question in more detail.
The Difference between Xamarin Forms and Xamarin Native
First, let us review the fundamental differences between development using Xamarin.Forms and Xamarin.iOS/Xamarin.Android.
Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android: What are they?
The Xamarin framework is based on the concepts and tools of the Mono open source project. The company itself was founded by the engineers who developed Mono. Thier toolset includes C# compiler, implementation environment, Common Language Runtime, and .NET libraries. The goal of Xamarin creators was to make deploying C# applications to operating systems and platforms other than desktop Windows possible. For this, the framework is equipped with various platform-specific compilers. Their outputs result in the efficient applications (their performance does not rely on the technical specs of the browser rendering engine) that have direct access to native APIs.
The actual platform functionality is implemented using Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android. These are the C# object libraries that give developers access to iOS SDK and the Android SDK, respectively. They wrap the APIs, native for these mobile platforms, allowing accessing the required functions through the standard C# toolkit. In fact, in Xamarin developers employ the same action algorithms as in the case of working in native languages.
Experienced developers note that about 75-80% of the codebase can be reused between native app versions--which is very important in the backend development.
Xamarin.Forms: What are its Capabilities?
Xamarin.Forms is a complete array of instruments for the creation of cross-platform software. It works on top of the Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android libraries and allows writing front ends in C# and XAML and may even share this code between implementations. Applications created with Xamarin.Forms are fully endowed with all the characteristics inherent to the best cross-platform solutions. In particular, they allow developers to save time and money (about 80-95% of the code is cross-platform, the remaining 5-20% contain commands to establish connections with native APIs).
What to Choose and When?
And now let us compare Xamarin Forms vs Xamarin Native and find out which option, and in which situation, it is better to choose.
Why Xamarin Native?
Despite the fact that Xamarin Native approach is more resource-intensive, it is still chosen in the vast majority of cases (this is a reason why it is also called the traditional approach). Let us clarify the reasons to choose this approach:
- The future application employs a large number of interactive elements and dynamically updated content. Cross-platform applications are much less efficient in performance than native ones, so in the comparison of Xamarin Forms vs Xamarin Native performance, apps created with the latter are notably more efficient. This fact can negatively affect the user experience when it comes to creating applications with capacitive graphics, as well as, with numerous interactive elements (for example, in the case of gaming software) with Forms. Thus, you simply have no choice but to resort to the traditional approach. In this case, the entire front end for each platform will be made using native routines and the rendering speed will not give you any problems.
- There is a need to provide the smallest possible app size. These days, the leading mobile software developers are waging a kind of "cold war" on the size of software products they create. It is not just that "small" applications load faster. Modern people are trying to capture as many moments from their life as possible with photographs and videos. This means that if some of them for some personal reasons (for example, to provide additional privacy) do not decide to use the cloud to store media files, then most of the smartphone storage will quickly get occupied and little space is left for applications. Due to the fact that, when working with Xamarin.Forms, a fairly large amount of code has an abstract implementation, the size of the resulting application would be notably larger than "almost native" one, which can be obtained with Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android. That is why Xamarin Native's approach is more desirable, if the future application would be rather capacitive.
- The UI of the application should feel as native as possible. When creating a user interface for a specific platform, there is no question that it should follow the platform design guidelines. The two most common mobile platforms - Android and iOS - have fundamental differences in design (for more details check another of our articles). These two mobile OS's differ significantly in the presentation of navigation elements, action bars, toolbars, buttons, instant notifications, etc. If the created software product will use these elements, building them with Xamarin.Forms would be quite hard. Therefore, in this case, the choice in favor of Xamarin Native is obvious.
Despite numerous advantages, the Xamarin Native approach is not always the best choice. Below we will describe in which cases using Xamarin.Forms would be more appropriate:
- Little experience of development team in the creation of the mobile software. If the decision to use Xamarin for mobile development was mainly due to the fact that the development team decided to master a new niche (which means that they do not have a reliable knowledge of working with mobile platforms), it would be better to start with Xamarin.Forms. In this case, almost 90% of the time allocated to work on a new project will not be something new and rather would look like the usual process of developing software in C#.
- Limited timeframe and budget. The money and time required to develop a mobile application are two key points that most concern the product owners. Mobile development is a process that requires serious financial and time investments. Consequently, the planning should be treated very thoughtfully. In particular, if we are talking about a project that needs to be implemented as soon as possible (for example, if an MVP is created), or if the customer has limited funds, Xamarin.Forms here will be the only possible way out of the situation (note that this does not mean that the product will be of poor quality).
- The simplicity of scaling and further maintenance. When 80-95% of the code is common between platforms to which an application would be deployed, such software is much easier to maintain and scale. This fact is an undeniable advantage for those customers who plan to further refine the functional and, in general, somehow transform their solution (again, in the case of MVP, Xamarin.Forms is an ideal choice).
All in all, on top of all the mentioned above, the Forms technology is constantly in the state of rapid development, has a well-structured documentation, and a large community that even provides readymade components.
If your solution is expected to feature standard or almost standard user interface, which is a sufficient enough option in most cases, and not to require the highest possible performance, Xamarin.Forms will be the best choice of the developmental framework.
Let us summarize the results of comparing Xamarin Forms vs Xamarin Native. When you plan to work on a project for a mobile platform, both of these solutions can be a beneficial choice. However, if you do not have the proper level of expertise in working with this framework, to create a commercial product it will be better to contract professionals. Applikey Solutions, for example. Our team has tremendous experience in developing, deploying, and maintaining the mobile solutions for a wide variety of industries. Therefore, we can easily implement your project. To get in contact with our staff, simply fill out the form on the website.