With most brands focussing on cross-platform app development, it is of extreme importance to ensure that app development takes place on the right kind of platform. According to Statista, by the year 2020, mobile apps are predicted to generate $581.9 billion in global revenue via paid downloads and in-app advertising. With multiple options available in the market, we explore two popular ones: Xamarin and React Native and help you to choose the best one for you.
Founded in 2011 and later acquired by Microsoft, Xamarin is one of the most popular platforms for the development of cross-platform apps. The software was developed by the same engineers that developed Mono – a free and open-source .Net Framework. Xamarin allows developers to target Android, iOS, and Windows via a single, shared codebase.
React Native: An open-source framework for building native apps
A comparatively newer platform for app development, it has gained massive popularity within a limited time. React Native boasts of strong community support and a good market share since it has been introduced. According to the Github Repository Statistics in February 2019, 2,058 contributors have committed 19, 311 times in 108 branches with 335 releases. In addition, React Native is also the 14th most starred repository on Github.
What are the advantages of React Native?
1) A large community of developers
2) Cross-platform compatibility
One of the biggest advantages of React Native is its cross-platform compatibility. What was originally introduced only for iOS, was quickly developed for Android as well owing to its wonderful capabilities and features. The majority of the APIs are now cross-platform that enables developers to build cross-platform apps simultaneously via the same codebase.
Image Credit: Github
3) Known for optimal performance
React Native has a true advantage when it comes to improving the performances via native control and modules. The platform gets connected to its native components that help in operating systems and generating code to the native APIs freely and upfront.
4) Affirmative developer experience
One of the most positive things about React Native is the fact that it offers a great development environment. It grants implementations and modifications that are required while an app is running, thereby removing the need to restart. It also makes the iteration cycle easier by removing the tiring re-building and deploying. React Native also deploys flexbox layout that is an engine that essentially helps in generating app layouts for cross-platforms. Thereby helping you in understanding one layout that works on both platforms.
What are the disadvantages of React Native?
1) It’s still new
As opposed to other Android and iOS languages, React Native is still comparatively new. The programming language still has a lot it can do especially in terms of improvement. It constantly lacks consistency especially when it comes to new updates which unfortunately ends up confusing developers. These updates especially become a problem because every time a new update is released; the developers find it difficult to make changes and hence make regular updates.
2) Lack of custom modules
React Native is still underdeveloped as it lacks certain components. While most of the customer modules are easily available, and work well, however it happens every now and then that one requires to build a solution from scratch.
3) Limited third-party components
While React Native has a large number of native modules available for both Android and iOS however one of the limitations of this tool is the limited number of third-party components available. This is a disadvantage because it limits the possible features that may be implemented in apps by developers.
Apps built using React Native
- Uber Eats
Xamarin: An app platform for building Android and iOS apps
One of the most popular platforms for cross-platform app development in the market has Xamarin. It is an open-source platform and can be used to develop apps via .NET and C#. Xamarin community, with time, has grown to 1.4M developers across 120 countries. Xamarin is also preferred by many companies in various fields such as energy, transport, healthcare, etc.
What are the advantages of Xamarin?
Image Credit: Microsft
1) API integration
Xamarin brings together the same APIs and UI controls that are required to build Android and iOS apps in their languages. In fact, Xamarin along with Microsoft Visual Studio can develop apps for Windows Phone as well as Windows desktop. Code-sharing is easier b/w these multiple platforms and getting support isn’t a task.
Xamarin allows a developer to write the apps in C#. C# is an extremely modern, simple and general-purpose language that is purely object-oriented. It prevents error and is a preferred language for a lot of developers. It is also a popular language. Xamarin allows code written in C# to be easily ported to Android or iOS apps.
3) Effective offline applications
Xamarin is a brilliant tool that allows developers to mobile applications that function flawlessly without internet connections. This especially helps when the app has a target audience that may not necessarily always have access to good internet.
4) Testing environment
While most languages allow you to test your code after its completed, Xamarin allows you to test apps while you are developing them. This results in an error-free and flawless code.
What are the disadvantages of Xamarin?
1) Software overheads
Owing to one of its biggest advantages, Xamarin helps saves time by making a single app for all possible platforms. However, despite this, it requires code linkage and putting references between the target operating system of devices. This increases the time taken for downloads and initiation of apps.
While Xamarin is a free and open-source language, commercial development and its licensing are usually very expensive. The annual fees for Microsoft IDE aren’t usually a problem for a professional development company but need to be considered especially when going with in-house development.
As compared to platform-specific languages, Xamarin has limited community due to the lack of developers working on cross-platform. Many developers focus on specializations and hence, the overall community for Xamarin is limited.
Apps built using Xamarin
- Alaska Airlines
- The World Bank
React Native vs Xamarin: Understand the difference
While both may seem like the right kind of choice for cross-platform app development, there are various differences between the two:
1) Market share and availability
React Native is the most wanted framework with 13.1% votes while Xamarin has 4.9% votes. However, since both are open-source and available for both Android and iOS platforms, the availability becomes almost the same. What largely differs is the community.
2) Community support
React Native gets very strong support from its community and is quite large in number. The material available in case of any problems in React Native is aplenty however since its comparatively new the availability of exclusive tools, tips, etc become limited. Rest assured, it is growing every day.
For Xamarin, there is community support of around 1.4 million developers available, meaning the availability of support, tips, tricks, tools, etc is easy. Other than community support, Microsoft also provides courses, etc to learn the language.
3) Code compilation
However, in the case of Xamarin, C# makes use of JIT for android and uses AOT (Ahead-of-time) compiler for iOS, for compiling managed codes. The AOT compiler is substantially better than JIT hence Xamarin is the ideal choice for both iOS developers as well as android developers.
Both frameworks are open-source and free, but Xamarin is free only for individuals and small companies. Meaning, for larger companies and enterprises, licenses start at $999 and can go up to $1899 annually.
5) Development environment
React Native is flexible when it comes to the development environment as it allows developers to use the text editor & IDE of their own preference and choice. One of the best features in React Native is the Live Reload feature which allows developers to see the changes made to the code real-time.
Undoubtedly, Xamarin has a friendlier development environment because it allows developers to write code on Windows and the same code can be compiled on a Mac as Apple doesn’t allow developers to do so any other way.
React Native vs Xamarin: Which one is better?
While the best choice for you depends on various factors but React Native is a promising overall choice. In today’s scenario, React Native has steady growth, flawless code structure, and brilliant and large community support. We suggest you go for React Native for your next project owing to its outstanding support from developers, it’s easy availability and cost-effectiveness.