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Xamarin vs React Native: Pick the Right Platform in 2021

A total of 5.22 billion people use mobile and 4.66 billion people have access to the internet. The race to create innovative applications with new ideas is now greater than ever. All types of businesses across the scale have set budgets to build the most relevant mobile applications to address their customers’ needs and preferences.

At the same time, there has been an upsurge in the ways and means of mobile app development. Gone are the days when developers would have to choose between Objective-C and Java. Cross-platform development has come of age and allows developers as well as businessmen to deliver one application that works on the platforms.

Ever since cross-platform development has picked up the pace, several technologies are up for grabs. Xamarin, Ionic, Flutter, React Native are some of these technologies to keep an eye on. Choosing between these frameworks in the mobile-first world can be confusing. Fresh out of college developers have to choose between one and make sure that they are going in the right direction.

The two heavyweights of cross-platform development, Xamarin and React Native, provide the functionality of “Write once and Deploy anywhere.” Having said that, there are some specific differences between them in terms of market share, code compilation, SDK environment, etc. Even though the choice between the two is easy, it still depends on your understanding of the underlying tenets of these cross-development platforms.

What Is React Native?

Based on JavaScript and JSX, React Native is an open-source framework created and launched by Facebook in 2015. The purpose is to build native applications for both iOS and Android.

JSX represents the amalgamation of XML-Esque Markup and is used in the React Native framework. React renders to the native platform used on the device used for running the application.

This gives the application the same performance as the applications built using a native app development framework like Java for Android or Objective-C for iOS. React Native mobile app development also allows creating platform-specific versions of components that can be shared across different platforms because they have a single code base.

As of 2020, 42% of the developers are using React Native to build applications that can be used on 99% of the mobile devices across the globe. Mobile applications like Facebook, Walmart, Bloomberg, and Instagram are made with React Native.

Advantages of Working With React Native

  • Extended Community Support: React Native was created by the developer community and supported by them with the same passion. There has been an upheaval in React Native mobile app development because of this amazing community support. The community shares its considerable amount of knowledge and everyone has free access to plenty of free components that can be used in mobile app development.
  • Live and Hot Reloading: React Native mobile app development becomes better with live and hot reloading. Both of these capabilities complement each other, but they also have a fundamental difference. Live reloading gives the framework the ability to compile and read the changes made by the developer in real-time. While furnishing a new file to the simulator, the entire file is read from the beginning updating the changes.

Hot Module Replacement in React Native is different from live reloading. The purpose of hot reloading is to validate the changes in the application without actually reloading it. The difference between the two lies in the area of reloading, while live reloading refreshes the entire app, hot reloading only updates the changed component.

  • Code Reusability: In a scenario where 90% of the code can be reused to build iOS and Android applications, React Native is the go-to choice for developers for cost-savings. With minor changes required to bring nativity and minor changes required to build performant applications, working with React Native also saves a lot of time.
  • Third-Party Plugins Support: With this JavaScript-powered framework, the React Native application development services providers can render the application for third-party support. Because React Native does not have all the components in the same framework, it leverages the native and JavaScript modules to enhance the application functionalities. Features like Maps, Two-factor Authentication, etc can be connected to the app via third-party modules.
  • Provides Optimal Performance: An application’s performance and ability to provide a better customer experience directly depend on the frameworks used to build it. Because React Native leverages native modules and components to help developers build a functional application, it allows generating codes to native APIs with no interference. This, in turn, helps make performance-centric applications at lower costs and in record time.

What is Xamarin?

Xamarin predates React Native, but it has not shown a similar growth as the latter. Created by Microsoft, Xamarin’s share among the development community is only 14%. This has come down from 26% in 2019. Similar to React Native, Xamarin is also an open-source platform best for .NET developers.

Xamarin’s major function is to maintain communication between the shared code and platform code. Its ability to extend the capabilities of the .NET developer platform with platform-independent tools and libraries is what makes Xamarin a specific framework for building applications.

Moreover, Xamarin can harness the full spectrum of functions provided by the underlying platform. This implies that when the application runs on Android, it will utilize the platform-specific functions to provide the expected user experience. The same applies to an application running on iOS devices. Its ability to leverage the underlying platform’s hardware acceleration abilities further stems from Xamarin’s ability to deliver the desired performance.

Advantages of Working With Xamarin

  • One Technology Stack: Xamarin is an ecosystem of built-in technologies, allowing developers to build applications for every platform in one go. Working with the C# language running on the .NET framework, developers can reuse 96% of this code. Three technologies, including C#, .NET, and Visual Studio, are required to build applications for all the platforms.
  • Shared Code: Applications made by Xamarin are meant to run on different platforms, but they have a common code base. Besides this, they share the same business logic, database access, and network communication. The only changes required by the developer are with reference to the user interface. This is imperative to make sure that each platform gets its native feel and look.
  • Native Performance: Xamarin is known in the development world to provide a highly native but simple application performance. Compared to other cross-platform development tools, Xamarin boasts an unmatched performance. Compared to native application development and rendering, the image loading speed with a native platform is only 14% faster than Xamarin.
  • Xamarin Forms to Provide Smooth User Experience: Xamarin allows creating an amazing user experience via Xamarin.Forms. It is a library of standard interface components and elements that have a 100% reusable code. Developers looking to customize the elements from here can use the in-built Xamarin.iOS or Xamarin. Android to make the desired changes.
  • An Increasing Number of Libraries: Developers who have been working with Xamarin in the past can relate to this point better. Xamarin did not have a wide range of libraries available for the developers, even for the most common components. But the development team at Microsoft paid heed to this requirement and built ready-to-use components of the common scenarios and use cases. Things like 2FA are now available in the library and can be inserted into the code base directly.

These were the major benefits and an overview of Xamarin and React Native. It is evident that React Native has a larger developer-base than Xamarin. But how do these two technologies fare when compared with similar functionalities?

React Native Vs Xamarin: What Should a Developer Choose?

Understanding the difference between Xamarin vs React native is vital for every developer wanting to get into development.

Compilation

A cross-platform development ability, Just-in-time (JIT) lets developers compile the bytecode or source code in runtime. Where Android permits JIT, iOS does not allow JIT to restrict any sort of cross-platform app development framework to harness it for application development.

React Native: Since JIT is not permissible on iOS, any changes in the source code require the developers to fall back to Android code and make changes there, then running it for the iOS application.

Xamarin: Xamarin’s team has gone one step further to bypass this problem and computed Ahead-of-time (AOT) for code compilation. The task of the AOT compiler is to analyze the bytecode and compile it in machine language and execute the same for the chosen path. This reduces the startup time while increasing the app performance, at the cost of increasing the file size. However, to use it, the AOT needs to be configured as Xamarin is by default enabled with JIT.

Performance

Every application needs to boast exemplary performance, be it a react native mobile app development or one made with Xamarin. Performant applications get all the attention and a favorable user response.

React Native: There are three major players in React Native that contribute to the performance and application’s UI. There is a Native Thread, JavaScript Threat, and a mediator bridge that connects them. Native threads send a signal to the JavaScript thread via the bridge. However, the JavaScript thread can process a limited number of messages. Increase the number of messages and the application’s UI starts to lag.

There is a way to not let the limited capacity of the JavaScript thread impact the performance. This is done by using specific third-party libraries built for this purpose like Proguard to optimize the bytecodes with a better speed.

Xamarin: Comparing the Xamarin.Forms performance metrics to their native counterparts, it was found that Xamarin falls behind in terms of performance. This is relevant for even the most simple tasks like processing API requests, serialization, deserialization, image saving, loading, and so on. Surprisingly, a Xamarin app development company is ready to compromise on the performance if it is able to develop an application at lower costs and less time.

Within Xamarin.Forms, there is Xamarin. Android and Xamarin.iOS; both provide a native feel, look, and user experience by allowing the developers to customize the shared codebase. In some operations, the Xamarin. Android shows better performance than the native frameworks, but the same cannot be said for Xamarin.iOS.

In any case, Xamarin, with its innate abilities to boost performance and match the metrics of the native frameworks, makes it better.

Application Architecture

Application architecture implies the ability of the development frameworks to build sound programming patterns and structures. Because the underlying framework is stronger, faster, and better the developers can solve complex development problems with minimal friction.

React Native: There are four key components of React Native architecture: The React, JavaScript (JSC), The Bridge, and the Native Side. Developers with a habit of working with one-way data flow and the latest JavaScript updates can easily work with it. For iOS react native mobile app development, the JavaScript Core separates all the codes for runtime, and for Android, it bundles them within the application. Bundling the code together does result in better and native performance, but the same is done at the cost of performance issues or lags due to an increase in the app size.

Xamarin: Xamarin supports different architecture patterns. There is Model, View, View, Model (MVVM), Model, View, and Controller (MVC), Business Facade, Singleton, Provide, and Async. Out of these, the MVVM and MVC are most used by the development community. Developers who have an interest and can work with ASP.NET MVC, Web Forms, and other related Model and View tools will find working with Xamarin easier and more productive. Xamarin MVP is great for building native applications with the framework. However, to harness the best of Xamarin’s possibilities, developers working with MVVM patterns will be better off.

So, both frameworks are equally good in terms of application architecture.

Support and Assistance by the Community

Community support is essential for all beginner and veteran developers to ask, share, and learn.

React Native: React Native comes from the place which has transformed the meaning of networking and online community building. Facebook is a pioneer in building new communities and extending community support. Even though the React Native framework is fairly new, it has a substantial community at the developer’s disposal, helping them understand more about the possibilities of the framework. With more than 2200 professional developers and 19,800 live projects, anyone wanting to learn about React Native can do so with an extended amount of community support. There are dedicated Discord channels, forums, and official channels to help developers learn more about the framework every day.

Xamarin: Because Xamarin is older and has deep-set roots in the development community, it has around 1.4 million developers working in 120 countries. Like React Native, it is also an open-source network and has all sorts of contributors working together to help each other learn and grow. The difference between React Native and Xamarin’s community support is that the former is easier to reach. Official channels include Xamarin Blog and Xamarin Q&A. Other community support systems are Stack Overflow and Reddit.

Because the Xamarin community is larger and extended to a wide range of countries, the developers can have quick and easy access.

Ability To Provide User Experience

Satisfying the end-user is the ultimate objective of any developer. If the users like the app and resonate with it, a developer’s efforts bear fruit. Hence it is primary to provide a memorable and resonating user experience for every developer.

React Native: React Native has been slow in responding to the ever-changing requirements of the native elements in Android and iOS. React Native provides readymade UI kits, including React Virgin and Shoutem to help developers create truly native UI components. But these elements have been making it even more difficult to create a native user experience. Having said that, there are some inherent elements like pagination, snap carousels, modals, activity indicators among others that are helping developers improve the user experience across different platforms.

Xamarin: Xamarin allows customizing the application elements and components separately for Android and iOS. Moreover, it allows using the native APIs and SDKs to further enhance the user experience. Its ability to leverage the native UI and catalyze hardware acceleration (using the platform’s hardware) helps greatly with Xamarin mobile app development.

So, for a developer looking to provide a better user experience, Xamarin can work in their favor.

Conclusion

Throughout the comparison, it can be concluded that Xamarin outweighs React Native in various aspects. Still, the adoption rate of React Native is considerably more than Xamarin. Why is that?

A lot depends on the developer’s ability to work with the languages. As per the 2018 data, there are 10.7 million JavaScript developers in the world as compared to 6.2 million C# developers.

So, the big difference in their React Native and Xamarin’s adoption rate comes from this difference in the number of developers choosing either of these two languages. More number of developers are well-versed in JS and the same cannot be said for Xamarin.

Choosing between the two frameworks depends on whether you want to build apps with simple UI or build something that gives a native-like UI and can leverage the platform’s hardware to enhance performance. Choose Xamarin if your goal is the former and React Native is the latter is your objective.

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