Cross-platform development is a hot topic in tech right now, with more companies opting for hybrid frameworks over native ones. The market is flooded with options, making it tricky to choose the right framework. Among the contenders, two popular ones are Flutter and Xamarin. Xamarin has been around longer and is well-known. Flutter, backed by Google, is newer but gaining attention.
This guide serves as a complete exploration of Flutter vs. Xamarin, analyzing their distinctive features and capabilities. Through a detailed comparison, we aim to equip you with the insights needed to make an informed decision regarding the most suitable framework for your specific cross-platform development requirements.
What Is Cross-Platform Development?
Cross-platform development is the process of producing apps that can operate on different platforms like Android, iOS, and the web. It is done by using the same codebase and technology stack. Instead of making separate versions for each platform, you write the code once and deploy it everywhere.
Moreover, cross-platform apps are another approach to reducing app development costs because it can be costly to make distinct apps for iOS and Android. It saves a significant amount of money and speeds up the development process.
Pros of Cross-Platform Development
Advantages of cross-platform development include the convenience of writing code just once and using it across all platforms. This keeps your app consistent across various devices and systems. Deploying your app across multiple platforms using a single codebase saves both time and resources. Plus, it broadens your audience since you can reach users on different platforms easily.
Cons of Cross-Platform Development
There are also some downsides to cross-platform development, particularly concerning performance and compatibility. The approach’s one-size-fits-all nature might limit the performance benefits specific to each platform. Also, access to native features can be restricted, leading to the need for workarounds.
Next, before we cover the difference between Xamarin and Flutter, let’s have an overview of both platforms.
What Is Xamarin?
Xamarin is an open-source, cross-platform development framework established in 2011. With Xamarin, you can craft applications using .NET languages that operate seamlessly across multiple platforms, eliminating the need to rework or transfer code.
What Is Xamarin Used for?
Xamarin comes in handy when you want to share code and business logic across various platforms. Using C# with Visual Studio, Xamarin streamlines the development of cross-platform applications.
In simpler terms, Xamarin relies on the .NET legacy. If you have a basic grasp of .NET and Visual Studio, building apps with Xamarin is straightforward.
One standout feature is that, unlike other options like Flutter, you don’t have to learn a whole new programming language. The simplicity speeds up the creation of prototypes and small cross-platform app development via Xamarin.
Some well-known applications made with the Xamarin programming language include:
- Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences
- Seeing AI | Microsoft
- American Cancer Society
- Mile of Music
Why Opt for Xamarin?
Why opt for Xamarin over other cross-platform options? There are several compelling reasons to consider, outlined below:
One notable reason is Xamarin’s performance. Xamarin-built applications are known for their impressive performance. This is credited to Xamarin’s well-optimized API and dedicated efforts by the Xamarin team to mirror native-like performance.
Xamarin’s Android architecture, for instance, employs a Mono kernel alongside Android Runtime virtual machines. This setup eliminates the need for an additional layer (as seen in React Native), thus enhancing overall performance.
Hot Reload Functionality
Though not part of its original release, Xamarin recently incorporated hot reload capabilities. This feature allows developers to instantly see code changes in real-time, significantly improving the development process.
Additionally, Xamarin supports hot restart, enabling swift testing of substantial alterations like multi-file code edits or resource changes without undergoing the entire build and deploy cycle, enhancing efficiency.
Xamarin offers a comprehensive development ecosystem encompassing frameworks like C#, .NET, and Microsoft Visual Studio. This diverse toolkit equips developers to create top-notch cross-platform applications.
With Xamarin.Forms API, developers can leverage Xamarin’s standard interface elements, ensuring code reuse across multiple platforms. For finer customization, platforms like Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android allows tailored, platform-specific designs.
Xamarin has transitioned into a fully open-source, free-to-use framework, even for commercial purposes. This means setting up a project in Xamarin incurs no framework-related costs. Whether it’s the coding environment or scaling up apps in the future, using Xamarin doesn’t impose any financial burden.
Limitations of Using Xamarin
Despite its advantages, Xamarin does have some limitations worth noting:
Xamarin often takes time to catch up when new platform features are introduced. This lag in updates can pose challenges during development, impacting the overall developer experience.
Increased App Size
The cross-platform nature might inflate Xamarin apps by approximately 5–10 MBs in the released versions. This added size could burden end-users with increased storage requirements.
Complex UI Graphics
Crafting apps with intricate user interfaces using Xamarin can be challenging. Tailoring UIs to individual platforms involves a significant amount of platform-specific customization, sometimes diluting the efficiency of a cross-platform approach.
Aligning with platform-specific standards may demand customizing the codebase for each platform. This additional work might necessitate a deeper understanding of platform-specific APIs offered by Xamarin, such as managing languages like Kotlin, Java, Swift, and Objective-C for Android and iOS, respectively.
What Is Flutter?
Flutter is an open-source, cross-platform app development framework developed by Google in 2018. Its primary aim is to provide developers with a user-friendly interface for cross-platform development while prioritizing optimized performance for end-users.
Flutter has gained recognition for achieving genuinely native-like performance, particularly on modern devices. Additionally, it offers the adaptability to create high-performing applications for the web.
What Is Flutter Used for?
Flutter empowers developers to create mobile apps that function simultaneously on both iOS and Android. Its standout features include exceptional performance and a streamlined experience for developers.
Flutter operates on the Dart programming language, offering strong code portability, which enhances its usability across different platforms.
Notable applications developed with Flutter include:
- Abbey Road Studios
Why Opt for Flutter?
There are a lot of reasons that drive Flutter’s growing popularity in the cross-platform domain. Here are a few key factors to consider Flutter for your next project:
Simplified Learning Path
Flutter takes a user-friendly approach, making it easier to grasp compared to numerous other cross-platform frameworks. By streamlining the codebase, it minimizes unnecessary complexities, reducing boilerplate code.
Rapid Updates with Hot Reload
Flutter’s remarkable speed sets it apart. Its hot reload feature allows immediate visualization of source code changes on your testing device. This agility streamlines the development process, similar to Xamarin’s hot restart, which swiftly reloads and tests app changes, bypassing the need for a complete rebuild.
Leveraging ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation, Flutter boasts near-native performance levels. Its exceptional code reusability and top-tier performance position Flutter as an ideal choice for expansive projects seeking cross-platform compatibility.
Open Source and Cost-Free
Like many open-source frameworks, Flutter comes with no price tag, making it accessible to all developers looking to dive into cross-platform development.
Limitations of Using Flutter
Despite its notable advantages, Flutter does come with its share of limitations. Let’s explore the downsides associated with the development of the Flutter app.
Increased App Size
Similar to many other cross-platform frameworks, Flutter brings along extra baggage. Its ability to function across multiple platforms results in larger application file sizes.
Limited Third-Party Libraries
A notable drawback of Flutter app development lies in the relatively fewer community-generated libraries available for the framework. This scarcity stems from Flutter’s relatively recent entry into the technology market.
Challenges with iOS Support
Given Flutter’s origins under Google, it naturally leans towards Android compatibility. Consequently, its iOS support plays a secondary role and tends to encounter issues more frequently.
Xamarin vs. Flutter: Which One to Choose?
Having examined Xamarin and Flutter’s strengths and limitations, it’s time for a head-to-head comparison between the two.
For a broader perspective on cross-platform frameworks, you can also check out the Flutter vs. React Native comparison guide.
Here, we’ll examine Xamarin vs. Flutter comparison based on the following factors:
- Development Languages
- Code Reusability
- Support and Ecosystem
Xamarin vs. Flutter: Performance
When weighing cross-platform frameworks against their native counterparts, one thing to consider is application performance. It’s essential to measure the performance variance to ensure that while aiming for cross-platform versatility, the user experience isn’t compromised.
When it comes to Xamarin vs. Flutter performance, the spotlight has been on Flutter’s exceptional performance, owing mainly to its intelligent ahead-of-time compilation strategy. Nevertheless, Xamarin.Forms, using SkiaSharp instead of the platform APIs, has also shown impressive performance in specific scenarios.
Recognized for generating nearly native-like performance metrics, Flutter stands out as the go-to choice for developing efficient applications!
Xamarin vs. Flutter: Popularity
Given Xamarin’s more extended presence in the field, it has been utilized across a broader variety of projects. However, according to StackOverflow’s Developer Survey, Flutter has garnered more favor compared to Xamarin. In the survey, Flutter was notably preferred, and when developers were asked about their interest in exploring new technologies for application development, Flutter secured the second position overall.
Contrarily, considering Xamarin vs. Flutter’s popularity, Xamarin’s popularity has shown a declining trend since 2020, with the number of respondents expressing their fondness for Xamarin decreasing from 45.4 percent to 38.53 percent. Consequently, sourcing a proficient Xamarin developer might be more challenging compared to finding a skilled Flutter developer.
Xamarin vs. Flutter: Development Languages
The choice of a development language impacts the learning process when adopting a new framework. If a framework demands learning an entirely new language with limited applicability beyond its scope, it might warrant a second thought before investing time and effort.
Xamarin relies on .NET languages like C# and F#. These languages enjoy widespread usage beyond Xamarin, making learning them a valuable investment. Acquiring skills in C#, in particular, significantly broadens opportunities for developers.
However, while .NET languages have versatile applications, Dart’s utility primarily lies within Flutter development. Learning Dart might result in potential limitations and tie-ins specific to Flutter. In the dynamic industrial landscape, it’s worth contemplating whether investing time in mastering Dart aligns with your long-term goals.
Xamarin vs. Flutter: Components
Flutter boasts extensive UI component collections in Material and Cupertino, streamlining the developer experience and alleviating concerns about application styling.
In contrast, Xamarin.Forms present a comprehensive cross-platform UI toolkit featuring components resembling native elements adaptable to cross-platform settings. These components are compiled into platform-specific variants for application use. For finer control over the app’s appearance, developers can explore Xamarin.iOS or Xamarin.Android.
Both frameworks are closely matched regarding component support, making either Flutter or Xamarin a reliable choice.
Xamarin vs. Flutter: Code Reusability
Efficient code reusability is essential in cross-platform app development. It significantly influences the selection of a development framework.
While Flutter enables writing shared code for both platforms, it accommodates platform-specific differences, necessitating considerable platform-specific code for seamless operation across all platforms.
Conversely, Xamarin emphasizes achieving up to 90 percent code reuse, facilitated by tools like Xamarin.Forms, simplifying code sharing.
Xamarin vs. Flutter: Pricing
Considering Xamarin vs. Flutter pricing, both technologies offer free access, providing open-source availability for their source code. This accessibility is advantageous for developers considering scalability, ensuring cost-efficiency regardless of the chosen technology.
Xamarin vs. Flutter: Support and Ecosystem
When weighing Xamarin vs. Flutter app development frameworks, considering community support is crucial. It encompasses resources for beginners, forums for discussions among developers, and more.
Flutter has one of the most robust communities among all frameworks and associated languages. Its Google documentation is notably user-friendly for beginners, complemented by an extensive array of content available on public platforms and forums like Stack Overflow, offering readily accessible assistance.
Conversely, community support for Xamarin is comparatively more limited. While Microsoft offers some free Xamarin courses and learning paths to aid newcomers, the quantity and depth of available content fall short of Flutter’s comprehensive standards.
Xamarin vs. Flutter: Comparison Table
|Not quite as good as Flutter’s
|Heavy Load (graphics and animation, compared to native apps)
|Simple, shared codebase that works on multiple platforms
|Custom controls and renderers need to implement the same advanced UI components on multiple platforms
|Lower than Flutter
|.NET Languages like C#, F#, etc.
|Easy to learn
|Easy to learn
|Many options for components and plugins. It’s simple to integrate
|Many components are accessible; however, integration isn’t very seamless
|Large and extending
|Large but slowly reducing
Cross-platform frameworks are game changers, enabling code to operate seamlessly across various platforms. Businesses benefit from this versatility in establishing a foothold across multiple domains with ease.
When choosing a framework, understanding your project’s needs is vital. Xamarin’s seasoned status contrasts Flutter’s innovative community-driven approach. Ultimately, the right framework depends on your project’s specifics. There’s no universal choice; it’s about aligning the framework with your project’s goals and requirements.
If you require help with cross-platform app development, feel free to get in touch with our experts. At Codment, we offer top-tier app development services regardless of what your needs may be. Schedule a consultation with us today!