The mobile industry has witnessed an immense change in the last few years, fortunately in a good way, mainly in the arena of application development. The Statista reports that earlier on we have more than two billion of smartphone users all across the globe, and it is expected that by the end of the year 2011, this figure would most certainly increase to more than five billion. Quite a number, isn’t it?
Now of all these smartphones, most of them are running on these three prominent platforms, which is iOS by Apple, Android by Google, and Windows by Microsoft. For the uninitiated, earlier on, mobile application developers for a long time depended on the platform-specific tools in order to develop the native applications, which used to only run on a single platform. Like, in the case of Kotlin& Java, they were primarily used for the development of Android native mobile apps whereas iOS developers were using Objective-C and lately started using Swift. However, that certainly was not enough.
Why the shift from Native Mobile App Development?
So in case of native mobile app development, it proved to be a slow & expensive affair for businesses as it required them to create a separate app for each of the platforms and at the same time have different development teams with the skills for each of the toolkit. And thus, today we have the assistance of cross-platform mobile development tools that have made life easier for these companies and also help them in reducing maintenance costs, development time, and reach more and more number of users. With cross-platform mobile development, one can build mobile apps that run on more than just one platform. Right now, there are a number of cross-platform frameworks out there which can be utilized by the developers, in the form of Xamarin, Flutter, Intel XDK, & Cordova, among the others.
In this blog, we have discussed and compared Xamarin, Flutter and React Native, so you can know about the features, strengths, and shortcomings of each of them. This will help the developers in deciding which one would be most beneficial to them over the others.
But before that let’s know about the advantages of cross-platform mobile development.
Advantages of Cross-Platform mobile development
Cost-effective: As here one needs lesser developers for less working hours, thus one ends up saving a lot of money and this certainly is benefitting for many start-ups.
Testing is easier: With code base being smaller, one doesn’t require a lot of testing as well as can use this time saved on the testing to rather focus on other individual elements of the app.
Needs only one team: It doesn’t require to hire two separate teams for the development of Android and iOS mobile apps, respectively.
Optimized development: One can easily share all the coding across several platforms. This calls for a lot lesser development time as one just requires developing a single app as well as the code is shared between operating systems enabling to make particular adjustments.
Next, let’s compare the most frequently and prominently used technologies, Flutter, React Native and Xamarin.
Comparison of Cross-Platform Mobile Development
It was in the year of 2011 in May, when Xamarin technology was launched and later on it was acquired by Microsoft. The intention with Xamarin was to deal with the pervasive issue of disconnected technology thus encouraging the native application development with the use of its open-source platform.
Xamarin basically is a cross-platform framework with C# & native platform libraries that are wrapped in a .NET layer. The three major components this technology comprise of are Xamarin Cloud, Xamarin Platform &Xamarin Insights. In the case of Xamarin Cloud, well it provides this automated testing platform to assure the quality of your product on a number of devices. Xamarin Platform, which is also said to be an integral element of Xamarin, offers APIs, encryption, runtime engines, controls, virtual machines, authentication, and a lot more. Xamarin Insights, on the other hand, is this monitoring tool helping developers in tracking the app crashes & exceptions.
Take more idea – Xamarin vs. Native: What Should You Choose?
Advantages of Xamarin
- With this framework, you get faster application development owing to its offerings with NuGet&Xamarin plugins.
- Xamarin offers access to the native API. This way you get the platform-specific features in your application.
- A number of controls & layouts that are offered in Xamarin are helpful in the faster development process.
- In the first quarter of the year 2017 itself, more than 1.4 million developers used this framework, owing to its brilliant ability to write native UI codebase for the mobile app development.
- The cross-platform app development framework uses the C# languages which flawlessly functions across a number of platforms, be it Windows, iOS, or Android.
- Being used by the number of prestigious brands, Xamarin offers competitiveness to develop brilliant app interfaces that amazingly outdoes restrictions of hybrid applications.
- In case you are creating a mobile app for multiple numbers of platforms, such as iOS, Android, etc. then with Xamarin you can easily share/reuse most of your coding in your application for other platforms.
Disadvantages of Xamarin
Despite many of its advantages, there are a few arenas where Xamarin lacks, like:
- First and foremost is that this framework is not free. Also, you do not just simply require to buy this framework but its price as well. This way, Xamarin is not appropriate for the startups or the budget-constraint business enterprises.
- Herewith Xamarin, the UI (user interface) development takes a lot of time as core UI creation is not mobile.
- Xamarin deals with this issue of low community activity and this certainly is not good to develop a framework.
- With Xamarin, one has restricted access to various important libraries to create an app with the use of this framework.
Next is, Flutter.
New in the race, Flutter is a free and open-source platform, developed and supported by Google and is based on Dart, which is a quick, easy-to-learn and object-oriented programming language. This enables easy & constant cross-platform app development, without the need to separately create an Android or iOS app. All that is required is this single codebase for both of the platforms. Flutter offers its very own gadgets that are appealing, quick & adjustable and are drawn with its own higher-quality rendering motor. Flutter’s architecture is based on reactive programming that is very prominent nowadays.
Brands that use Flutter:
Advantages of Flutter
- Flutter is best suitable for MVP as here one requires lesser time for creating the application.
- Flutter allows the developers to easily create their own widgets and customize the existing widgets like Cupertino widgets or material design widgets.
- When there is a similar app for two separate platforms, this calls for less time needed for testing and also faster Quality Assurance procedure.
- Here, the developers are required to simply write only one codebase that is used for the apps for both iOS and Android platforms.
- With Flutter, faster code writing is possible and it is also helpful to developers in faster experimentation, fixing bugs and, adding features.
Disadvantages of Flutter
- Even though Flutter has full support from Google and there are even numerous useful libraries with ready-to-implement functionalities, it still is not that rich when it comes to native development.
- This framework is yet is beta and the stable version is yet-to-be-released. At the same time, Flutter is not supported by CI platforms (Continuous Integration), such as Jenkins or Travis. This is the reason that the development team would require using and keeping custom content for app testing, automatic building, and deployment.
Next, let’s comes to React Native.
Brands that use React Native:
Read more – Who will Win the Cross-Platform War- Ionic or React Native?
Advantages of React Native
- React Native offers high-quality mobile User-interface (UI).
- It offers access to the native functionalities such as an accelerometer, camera, and a lot more.
- This framework allows for faster app development with pre-built elements.
- It allows code sharing on both Android & iOS platforms.
- With React Native, direct usage of native code is possible in order to optimize the app to a greater level.
- The framework allows for Hot Reload, which means the developers can reload their app quickly and without recompiling.
- This offers a number of ready-to-apply elements that can faster development time.
Disadvantages of React Native
- Same as Xamarin, React Native also gives the opportunity to create higher-quality apps. However, keep in mind that the applications that are developed with React Native are comparatively slower than native Android applications created with Java & native iOS apps created with Swift & Objective-C.
- Here your mobile app’s navigation won’t be the same as native navigation, as the navigation that is designed with React Native is not as smooth.
Detailed Comparison: XamarinVs. Flutter Vs. React Native
This comparison below would present a clear picture to you about which framework is right for your business, so here let’s begin:
Installation & Setup
Upon comparing Xamarin, Flutter and React Native on the basis of Installation Process, well then Flutter turns out to be the clear winner here owing to the convenience offered by it along with also being a valued tool to inspect the system error, known as ‘Flutter doctor’.
Quite useful for businesses, in Flutter, you get this ‘Hot Reload’ feature that allows in saving the developers’ time. There are numerous of APIs & widgets in Flutter that helps in completing app development work a lot more quickly. Thus, the developers can use this platform to work in a productive manner and to save lots of time as they build an app.
React Native offers the flexibility to work on any desired IDE/text editor. Thus, picking a text editor that saves both money and time would be helpful. The framework has a pre-built feature named ‘Hot Reload’ which would help in the completion of your projects a lot more quickly. Using this feature, developers would be able to reload the app sans recompiling it, thus allowing for further results in enhancing the productivity of the developer.
Xamarin offers this ‘Live Reload’ feature that enables developers in rolling out the improvement to XAML and then see them displayed live, sans compilation & deployment. Now because the application is compiled with Live Reload feature, so it works with all of the libraries & third-party controls. This works on all of the platforms, like Android, iOS, WPF & UWP as well as it works at all the legitimate deployment targets comprising of emulators, simulators and even physical devices.
In the case of Flutter, it uses the Dart language by Google. Even though it is not popularly used in the market, still it is quite easy to understand, and is secure and supports most Object-oriented concepts, thus making it a good choice.
In Xamarin, popularly used C# language is used by the developers. In case you are already skilled in C# and .Net, then Xamarin is easy to use for you. At the same time, you can even reuse up to 96% of your C# code in Xamarin upon leveraging Xamarin.Forms.
Having its presence in the market since the year 2015, React Native enjoys a bigger community on the GitHub. This way, it gets easier for the mobile application developers to discuss & share their coding as well as work to ensure higher performance & experience.
When compared to React Native, Flutter is a beginner and this is why the community support is low on its part. However, market trends suggest that Flutter’s prominence is growing invariably, indicating that it may soon become a lot more popular than React Native.
It has been quite a long time since Xamarin has been there and it enjoys a larger community of supporters who have experience as well as are keen on sharing their knowledge with the other developers. On the Xamarin forum, we often see developers share their code & experience. As well as this platform is supported by Microsoft, which is a great advantage when one needs to resolve common hitches. With Microsoft, developers are offered up-to-date documentation for all of its .NET and Xamarin-related products.
UI Components and APIs
With React Native, Developers only get UI rendering & device access APIs. This means they are dependent on third-party libraries to deliver a thrilling native experience.
Flutter comes with device API access, UI rendering, testing, navigation, stateful management & lots of libraries. Thus, it removes the dependency on a third-party library.
Now with Xamarin, even though the usage of native UI components is admirable, it still comes with a cost as here the platforms are regularly updated, and it may take a longer time for a framework for adjusting to new versions. This way, Xamarin is suitable for only logic code sharing but not appropriate for User Interface code reusing. Also, the usage of native modules is recommended to handle heavy graphics like animations/games.
The architecture of Xamarin consists of visual design platform to create native, like apps, native library support, testing suites, & a nugget-style component store. iOS visual design is given via their IDE so to help the developers open X-Code. Here, the developers can use LINQ with the collections or create custom delegates & events which frees developers from Java and Objective-C constraints.
The app architecture of React Native is called Flux, which is used by Facebook to create client-side web applications. Each of the frameworks usually follows an MVC framework. Also, you must know that unidirectional data flow is a functional idea of Flux.
Flutter’s architecture is quite easy-to-understand and it can be followed easily even by the new developers who begin with the existing app’s code. With its architecture, teamwork gets easier as well as it supports Flutter’s Reactive UI approach and never comprises with the framework’s performance. Its Dart architecture library that comes with the unidirectional data flow is stirred by Facebook’s Flux and RefluxJS. Flutter-flux implements this unidirectional data flow pattern which consists of Stores, Actions, &StoreWatchers. Despite being dependent upon w_flux it’s been altered to use the Flutter instead of React.
Conclusion: One thing that is vital to understand is that cross-platform frameworks are not a magic pill that would work just instantly. Instead, these frameworks would only work fine only when you use them with absolute awareness of each’s strengthens and limitations. Also, give attention to the fact that it is important to gather a good team of cross-platform experienced professionals, as, without their support, the journey to build cross-platform apps would be impossible.