If you’re interested in cross-platform app development, you’re likely comparing Xamarin vs React Native. Both React Native and Xamarin are popular cross-platform development frameworks. Despite the similarities between these two mobile app development frameworks, there are major differences that you might want to consider before you choose to use one of these frameworks in your next app development project.
However, before we dive into the specific features and differences between React Native and Xamarin, let’s explain cross-platform development and why it is an attractive option when compared to native development.
What is Cross-Platform Development?
The simplest explanation of cross-platform development is the process of building a mobile app for multiple platforms, most commonly iOS and Android, with a single technology stack. Were you aware that Apple and Google have preferred programming languages for the apps on their stores? If you didn’t know until now, you likely won’t be surprised to learn that they both prefer different languages.
This leaves developers in a bind. In order to create a native app for both platforms, they would need to basically create two separate apps. This is time-consuming and costly, but if you don’t want to exclude an audience, what choice do you have? The answer is cross-platform development.
A cross-platform mobile app reaches both iOS and Android users, takes less time to create since there is only one source code, saves development resources, and allows teams to keep uniformity in their User Experience across platforms and devices.
I’m sure you can understand how attractive cross-platform development is to developers. In order to make this type of project a reality, they need to use a mobile app development framework. React Native and Xamarin are two of the most popular frameworks developers use to create cross-platform mobile apps. Now that we have an understanding of what cross-platform development is, let’s look at Xamarin and React Native and see how they differ.
Xamarin is an open-source, cross-platform mobile app development framework that was released by Microsoft in 2011. However, despite the fact that it is open-source, Xamarin will cost you money if you plan to use it on an enterprise scale. This development framework is best suited for writing cross-platform mobile apps in the programming language C#.
Xamarin can also be used to share business logic and code across multiple platforms. Microsoft and the official Xamarin documentation claim that when using Xamarin, you can share around 90% of your code across platforms. Xamarin files can be compiled into native packages such as APK files or IPA files.
Benefits of Using Xamarin
Some of the main reasons that developers like using Xamarin for developing cross-platform mobile apps are:
- High performance
- Great development ecosystem
- Solid User Experience
The main reason developers choose to create native apps is because they have a higher performance threshold and are able to take advantage of native features and hardware. Mobile apps built with Xamarin perform really well. Developers like Xamarin because on iOS and Android devices, Xamarin apps have performance levels that almost reach native apps.
Great Development Ecosystem
You can almost build an entire app using C#, .Net, and Visual Studio. This makes Xamarin one of, if not the most comprehensive and complete cross-platform mobile app development frameworks available.
Solid User Experience
Developers using Xamarin can take advantage of Xamarin.forms. This is a complete library of standard interface elements that can be used repeatedly across different platforms. Xamarin also has iOS and Android libraries that give developers the ability to customize their interface elements based on the devices they are building for.
Downsides to Xamarin
As great as Xamarin is, there are some downsides that are commonly associated with using this framework, including:
- App size
Apps built with Xamarin are larger than native apps. This is mostly due to the libraries that are required to translate C# calls into native code calls on the device being used. Large app size might turn users off or lead them to uninstall your app.
Xamarin is really great at building apps with simple User Interfaces, but if you want to create a game or a mobile app with a lot of graphics or animations, Xamarin won’t be a great choice to use because you will have to spend a lot of time writing platform-specific native code to render the graphics. Once you have to start writing a lot of native code, the advantage of using Xamarin for cross-platform development is null.
Apple and Google are constantly rolling out updates for iOS and Android. When new updates are released, there is typically a delay until they are reflected in the Xamarin tools. The period between new updates and reflection of these updates in the Xamarin tools could cause issues for your mobile app.
React Native is truly an open-source, cross-platform mobile app development framework. Unlike Xamarin, there are no size limitations to the free use of this tool. React Native was created by the team at Facebook, and it was released to the public in 2015.
Benefits of Using React Native
React Native has gotten very popular with developers because of the following benefits:
- Large UI component libraries
- Native UI components
- Access to native functions
Large UI Component Libraries
Thanks to the vast User Interface libraries of React, developers have access to a large selection of pre-made UI components. Using pre-configured components helps speed up the development process, and it ensures that components are coded securely and free of bugs. React Native allows your development team to spend less time writing repetitive code and more time innovating.
Native UI Components
React Native gives developers the ability to implement native components in their cross-platform mobile app. This makes apps look and feel like native apps even though they are cross-platform. Native UI components help you deliver a higher quality User Interface experience to your users.
Access to Native Functions
A big part of the mobile app experience is being able to use native functions like your cameras and other tools in the app. Just imagine the app Snapchat if it wasn’t able to use the camera function on your phone.
React Native apps have the ability to use and take advantage of the native functions present on each user’s phone. This allows developers to deliver a more immersive and sleek User Experience.
Reliability is an important part of development. You want to make sure that the tools you are using are reliable and have lasting power. React Native is backed and fully supported by the team at Facebook. React Native is constantly being updated by Facebook’s developers to create one of the best and most reliable cross-platform app development frameworks.
Downsides to React Native
Despite all of the good aspects of React Native, there are some downsides too that include:
- Complex graphics
If you’re trying to build complex graphics or animations, you will struggle to do so using React Native. This development framework is great at creating User Interfaces, but it struggles when the demands reach the level of complexity that you would see in a mobile game or other heavy graphics application.
Navigation elements created using React Native are noticeably less seamless than native navigations. This is the one big mark against React Native since navigation is pretty much essential to basic app functionality.
Comparing Xamarin and React Native
Looking closely at these two cross-platform development frameworks, you see a lot of similarities. For one, if you’re trying to build a graphics-heavy application like a mobile game, neither React Native nor Xamarin will serve your purposes very well.
The other major similarity between these two is that they both take advantage of native features and functions to deliver an app that looks and feels like it could almost be a native app. React Native probably has more UI tools and components, thanks in large part to the React library, but both mobile app development frameworks create good User Interfaces.
The major differences are price and app size. Apps built with Xamarin are larger than apps built with React Native. If you’re concerned about the size of your app and the effect this could have on user retention, you might want to consider using React Native.
Additionally, while both mobile app development frameworks are open-source, you will have to pay for Xamarin if you want to use it on an enterprise scale. React Native is completely free and open-source. Depending on your needs and resources, you may not want to pay for access to Xamarin when you can use another framework like React Native for free.
We understand that choosing between two mobile app development frameworks can be difficult. That is why you should reach out to an app development partner. They can help you determine which framework best meets your needs and fits your project. They have the industry experience and technical expertise to help you find the right technology solution for your development project.