For the last decade, the mobile industry has undergone tremendous growth, especially regarding application development. There were more than 2 billion smartphone users in the world, and the number is going to increase over 5 billion by the end of 2022. Apple and Google have provided tools and technologies to develop an app. IoS developers can build apps using Xcode and Swift, whereas Android developers can use Android Studio and Kotlin/JAVA. As a result, this requires engineers to learn two completely different technologies. So, companies have started to use cross-platform solutions using single language. Before Flutter landed in the cross-platform development field, two frameworks are popular in the market: React Native and Xamarin. Let’s see the Flutter vs Xamarin.
Flutter vs Xamarin
Flutter is a Google’s project. It was heavily promoting since 2019. Flutter helps developers to build cross-platform apps faster using single programming language.
It has been found since 2011 and is now a part of Microsoft community. But flutter has started seeing a huge change since 2017. Xamarin was the first cross-platform mobile app development framework where companies can make both android and ios apps. Later in 2016, Microsoft acquired Xamarin and it so it becomes a part of Microsoft Visual studio.
2. Programming Language-
Xamarin uses C# language to build cross-platform apps. C# has been widely used in the Microsoft community since many years, so it is a very popular language. To build .NET frameworks and for web development C# is useful. So the transition from web development to cross-platform mobile development is easy for developers with Xamarin. It is popular with its cool features like portability, metaprogramming and functional programming.
3. Technical Architecture-
Flutter uses dart framework. It has many inbuilt components so is bigger in size and doesn’t require the bridge to communicate with native modules. Dart has many frameworks, such as Material Design and Cupercino. These frameworks are packed inside and it provides all the required technologies needed to develop mobile apps. This Dart framework uses Skia C++ engine, that has all protocols, compositions and channels. Simply, Flutter has everything required to develop an app in the Flutter engine.
Xamarin uses the Mono execution environment for both iOS and Android platform. For iOS, Mono execution environment runs with Objective-C and Unix kernel. While for Android, it runs along with Android Runtime on Linux or other kernel. Microsoft documentation includes detailed explanation of ios and Android architecture used with xamarin. Xamarin also has Swift runtime support.
Analysis- Xamarin architecture looks solid, but it doesn’t have great support for the Kotlin or the Swift run time which are official runtimes for developing Android and ios apps. Hence Flutters wins the architecture battle.
The installation method should be easy.
Flutter can be installed by just downloading the binary for a specific platform from GitHub. For macOS, we have to download the flutter.zip file and add it as a PATH variable. Flutter should improve the installation method by supporting package managers, so that users wouldn’t need to perform these extra steps during installation.
Xamarin — Visual Studio (Xamarin SDK)-
It is generally used with the Visual Studio IDE, Xamarin SDK for iOS. MacOS can be installed into Visual Studio afterwords. The step-by-step installation guide for installing Visual Studio with Xamarin SDK can be found at microsoft’s documentation. There is hardly any documentation or resources about installing or using Xamarin without Visual Studio.
Xamarin installation is completely dependent on the Visual Studio IDE, while Flutter installation can be done via command line. installing Flutter is much more easier and lightweight and Flutter can be installed without any dependency on IDE.
5. Learning Curve-
Flutter has detailed information on IDE setup and platform setup for both iOS and Android. You can read all the required setup details on Flutter install for macOS at flutter’s documentation. Flutter has a CLI tool called flutter doctor which can guide developers through the setup. It checks which tools are installed on the local machine and which tools need to be configured. Once all the setup is done, we can create and run a new Flutter app from CLI easily.
Xamarin configuration is heavily dependent on Visual Studio and the Xamarin SDK, so the developers who are already familiar with the VS Code can get up and running very quickly. However, Xamarin requires separate configurations for ios and Android. The Xamarin guides ios and Android. This explains the onboarding process for new developers, but Xamarin is heavily dependent on Visual Studio. A developer who is not from Microsoft ecosystem requires long learning curve.
6. UI component and development API-
This framework is packed with UI rendering components, device API access, navigation, testing, stateful management and loads of libraries. This eliminates the need to use third-party libraries. If you get the Flutter framework, it means you will have everything needed for developing mobile apps. Flutter also has widgets for Material Design and Cupertino that allow developers to easily render the UI on both iOS and Android platform.
Xamarin is the oldest cross-platform SDK so it has solid documentation of its development API. It supports various platforms, like iOS, Android, Forms, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, etc, which have lots of UI components and modules for developers to build on. Xamarin also has documentation for developing individual components, like layout, buttons, pop ups, databases, etc.
7. Developer productivity-
As the complexity of apps grows, developers need to learn and adopt new Flutter concepts. Dart is uncommon programming language so there is a lack of support for it.
This framework has many modules and great development API. It is relies upon Visual Studio IDE. Developers from Non-Microsoft community need large learning curve for the concepts of VS Code.When compared to editors, IDEs are heavy-weight and building and compiling things takes time. As xamarin uses AOT compilation for ios and JIT/AOT for android, so changing UI may require some time.
8. Community Support-
Flutter gained a lot of attention when Google promoted it in the Google I/O conference in 2017. The Flutter community is growing rapidly. Meetups and conferences are taking place online. In short, the Flutter community is growing rapidly; yet, there are still not enough resources for developers to solve common issues.
Xamarin has a huge community all over the world. There are community forums to discuss problems, issues and proposals. There are some conferences as well for Xamarin-related talks, like Xamarin Developer Summit. Being the oldest cross-platform mobile app development framework, the Xamarin community has more involvement from developers.
Xamarin and Flutter are frameworks in the cross-platform mobile development market. Both of these will enable to produce native-like mobile apps from the same codebase. Here, we have compared both technologies based on different criteria from a developer’s perspective. It is true that Flutter has entered the industry very strongly.
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