Flutter vs Xamarin

According to Statista, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is 3.8 billion, and this means 48.37% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. Most of these smartphones run on three popular platforms: Android from Google, iOS from Apple, and Windows Mobile from Microsoft.

For a long time, mobile app developers have depended on tools tied to a single platform. The development of native applications is time-consuming and expensive because you need two separate teams, two codebases, and more maintenance efforts. Thereby, cross-platform mobile development applications are great alternatives as they reduce the life cycle of the application development, maintenance costs, and provide the code (97%) that can be shared across various platforms.

There are many cross-platform development tools out there today, but in this article, we'll focus on two frameworks: Flutter and Xamarin. We have prepared a comparison of the main characteristics of these tools along with their advantages and disadvantages. So, if you are wondering, “Which platform should I use?”, we’ve got you covered.

Flutter and Xamarin Overviews

Flutter and Xamarin are cross-platform frameworks for building mobile applications using a single code base. Let’s move on to a description of each platform.

Flutter

Flutter is one of the most popular open-source frameworks that offers one code base a developer can use to create Android or iOS mobile applications that give a native feel. Flutter utilizes Dart - an object-oriented language developed by Google. Mobile applications developed with Flutter are used by Google, Groupon, Alibaba Group, Tencent, Hamilton Musical.

This Google’s SDK comprises ready-made widgets, reusable UI elements (sliders, buttons, text elements) that can be personalized. However, if you need different styles for different operating systems, then some work needs to be done since there is no automatic adaptation. This is due to the fact that instead of native components, Flutter uses its own rendering engine. On top of that, this platform offers a Hot Reloading function, which means that developers can add a new code without rebuilding. Besides, with Flutter, you can release applications for different versions of Android and iOS.

Xamarin

Xamarin is an open-source framework based on Microsoft technology. Xamarin uses the language C#, allows sharing of up to 95% of code, and it is natively compiled, so it is a great option for creating high-performance apps that will be run on Android, iOS, and Windows. Such applications as The World Bank, Storyo, Olo have been built with Xamarian. Xamarin is free to use for teams of less than 5 people. For commercial use, developers must buy a license. Xamarin has two main tools: Xamarin.Android/iOS and Xamarin.Forms. Xamarin.Forms contains elements that are fully compatible with all platforms; this framework allows developers to create prototypes or applications as quickly as possible.

Xamarin alternatives are React Native, Ionic, Swift, Flutter.

A Head-to-Head Comparison of Flutter and Xamarin

  • Performance

Xamarin performance depends on the type of open source cross-platform framework used: Xamarin.Android, Xamarin.iOS, or Xamarin.Forms. Xamarin.Android/iOS offers good optimization thanks to native components, but Xamarin.Forms performance is decreased compared to Xamarin.Android/iOS. As for Flutter, it demonstrates high performance thanks to the modern Dart engine. Overall, in terms of performance, Flutter occupies the leading position.

  • Developer productivity

Xamarin provides mature development tools (e.g. Microsoft Visual Studio IDE) and it is easy to use. Unfortunately, Flutter doesn’t reach the Xamarin level. Developers should learn to adopt new Flutter concepts as the app complexity grows. Besides, Dart doesn’t have enough support in IDEs and text editors. So, if fast development is your priority, use Xamarin.

  • Community support

Though the Flutter community is growing fast (about 39% of software developers use it worldwide), it still lacks sufficient resources the developers can use. Xamarin has a huge community with enormous support because it is one of the oldest cross-platform mobile app development frameworks.

  • Popularity

According to the 2020 Stack Overflow survey, Node.js is the leader. Speaking of Xamarin, only 5.8 percent of customers used this tool compared to Flutter’s 7.2 percent.

stackoverflow-survey

Flutter vs Xamarin: Pros and Cons

Both Flutter and Xamarin have unbeatable advantages that make them perfect options for projects with different demands and goals. However, still they have some demerits that should be considered. Below we will dive into these technologies’ strong points and downsides.

Pros
Flutter
  • It supports fast error fixing thanks to the “Hot Reload” function. The Flutter reloads the changed code within a few seconds and a team can view the changes immediately without restarting the app.

  • Flutter’s layered architecture ensures full customization.

  • The application user interface and logic remain the same on any platform.

  • A variety of widgets are constantly updated, and they eliminate compatibility issues.

  • Offers proper documentation.
Xamarin
  • It has great performance that can be compared to a native app.

  • Xamarin is compatible with the MVC and MVVP architecture.

  • Developers receive robust support: good documentation that can be studied; Microsoft updates Xamarin regularly.

  • This open-source framework a type-safe programming language C#. Besides, as C# can be used with various .NET features.

  • It offers great code-sharing abilities (80-90% of the code can be shared across various platforms).

  • Provides Test Cloud services that allow conducting tests on over 2000 devices.

  • Xamarin.Forms features a cross-platform GUI library that can be used for developing Android or iOS-based mobile apps and delivers an amazing user experience.

  • Platform-specific APIs ensure great customization and native-feel functionality.
Cons
Flutter
  • The size of a Flutter App is large, therefore, it may cause overhead.

  • It is not supported by continuous integration.

  • The libraries are not yet fully built and lack stability.

  • This framework is changing rapidly, so code maintenance may be challenging in the long run.

  • Being a relatively new framework, it doesn’t offer robust guidelines.

  • The community support isn’t high, therefore, you can’t be 100% sure to get all the answers to Flutter-related questions.
Xamarin
  • The deployment time is long as the application size is large.

  • The tool for commercial software development (Visual Studio) is expensive.

  • It has certain limitations (limited generics for iOS, limited dynamic language support for Android).

  • The code written in Xamarin can be used only within .NET.

  • There can be some lags in API updates.

Conclusion

Each tool has its characteristics and before choosing the necessary framework, consider all the tasks, scalability of the project, and its final goals.

When to choose Flutter

If you know Dart, want to scale an app across various platforms, look for high performance and cost-effective solutions, then choose Flutter.

When to choose Xamarin

If you are using the C# programming language, want to get the maximum benefits of native tools, great performance, and a smooth user experience, then Xamarin is the way to go.

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Yevhen Piotrovskyi
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