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A Brief Introduction of Xamarin - By Phil Smith

With the modern age of computing allowing consumers access to information, products and services on their mobile phones and tablets, there is an ever increasing demand for powerful and dynamic native applications, that live on their devices rather than the web. More often we find that potential customers will search for a service, not through browsing the internet, but through their device’s app store, meaning that businesses need to produce high-quality apps to stay competitive in their target market.

Traditionally, companies have been required to recruit a team of developers for each individual platform they want to build their apps for. Although from the perspective of an end user the look and feel of the app would be identical on either an iPhone or an Android phone, the development process differs significantly enough that developers must utilise a different set of skills for each, resulting in either the developers learning multiple skill sets, or the company hiring multiple teams of developers. Either one of these options can be expensive, especially for smaller startup companies, or those companies requiring complex apps to be built.

Xamarin is a new and modern piece of technology specifically developed to bridge the gaps in developing iPhone and Android apps, as well as many other platforms, such as Mac, Windows Phone, and Samsung’s Tizen. By leveraging C# and the .Net platform, developers can design and create their apps once and deploy to many different types of devices, reducing the need for multiple teams, reducing the need for multiple skill sets, and promoting improved productivity since in the best cases, there is no duplication of any development work. We find that many businesses in the north-east are already utilising Microsoft’s .Net technologies for their websites or desktop applications and so many of the skills required to develop mobile applications can already be found within their development teams when utilising Xamarin.

Xamarin apps are built using native user interface designs and controls, so they look and perform just as you would expect an iPhone or Android app to be, as if it were developed using the traditional methods and tools. This approach would allow a developer to build iOS and Android user interfaces separately, but write a single set of logic to control each one, massively reducing the time spent developing. With the introduction of Xamarin Forms, however, even the user interfaces can be developed all at once, allowing the entire app, including layouts, logic and tests to be written once and turned into beautiful, native mobile applications that can be deployed anywhere.

This is certainly a game changer for small and large businesses alike, where utilising this technology can both save money and improve the performance of their development team. With the recent acquisition by Microsoft, we can see that it’s not a new fad that will fade away shortly, but a product that businesses can depend on to provide quality native mobile applications to support and improve their customer experience. In short, any development team presented with the task of creating a new mobile app across multiple platforms should be considering using Xamarin.

By Phil Smith (Senior Xamarin Developer)

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