Are Xamarin Apps Native?

It’s not a secret that apps with poor performance make users frustrated. Did we mention that app stores downrank those apps too? Shipping a responsive and user-friendly application is not a reason for developers to celebrate… This is the minimum that users expect.

Design, usability, responsiveness, performance. These are the qualities that best define how an app should be, and whether users will continue using an app or not. This “ideal scenario” of how an app should be can only be achieved when the app is built to best match the characteristics of each operating system. Since native development is basically the process in which the app is built for a specific platform, people starting associating that with the “ideal scenario”.

In this article, we will discuss why this is a misconception. And why you can reach native performance with a cross-platform approach like Xamarin.

Firstly, let’s take a look at what exactly defines an app as native:

Source: White Paper: The anatomy of a native mobile app, by Xamarin

As you can see, for an app to be native, it needs to have a native UI, high-fidelity API Access and also Native Performance. The app not only needs to look good, but to perform (and give the user a natural feel).

How to achieve that with cross-platform app development? By this logic, it would be impossible to build a native app with tools that enable code sharing. Well, almost all tools.

Xamarin developers code in a single language, C# and share the code to build apps for different platforms. The difference between Xamarin and the other cross-platform tools is that it is natively compiled, which makes it the best choice for building responsive apps with a native look. However, as we discussed before, a native look is not all.

<h3Let’s take a look at how Xamarin offers a solution for having a native UI, API access and native performance.

– How Xamarin provides a native user Interface:

A framework displayed using the native controls of the operating system.

For example, when a Xamarin developer creates a “table view” in Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android, they use C# to create iOS UITableViews and Android ListViews. Xamarin developers have complete access to all properties of the iOS UITableView and Android ListView APIs. When the app is running live, the native iOS and Android APIs are actually rendering the tables. Xamarin apps look native because they are native

– How Xamarin enables high-fidelity API access:

Solution: A unique binding technology that allows C# to call the same APIs and use the same UI controls as apps built in platform-specific languages.

When developers have access to all device platform APIs even on the day they become available by the vendors, they have conditions to develop a truly native app.

Expert Tip – Michael Ridland, our director

Xamarin provides a thin layer over the native platforms API’s, the easiest way to understand this would be to compare some Xamarin code to native.

Let’s look at iOS for an example, to create some text on a app an iOS developer would us UILabel in swift code.

var label = UILabel(frame: CGRectMake(0, 0, 200, 21))

While in Xamarin the API access would be exactly the same but in c#.

var label = new UILabel(new CGRect(0, 0, 200, 21));

How Xamarin makes native performance possible

Solution: With Xamarin, apps leverage platform-specific hardware acceleration, and are compiled for native performance. This can’t be achieved with frameworks that interpret the code at runtime. It allows developers to access the native hardware-acceleration capabilities without any limitations.

Conclusion By guaranteeing a native UI, high-fidelity API access, and native performance—as Apple, Google and Microsoft do, it gives developers everything they need to deliver natives apps.

“Xamarin exceeds the individual capabilities of these platform-specific vendors by enabling the efficiency, and time-to-market advantages of code-sharing and re-use across device platforms. This unique approach puts Xamarin in a class by itself.”

Source: White Paper: The anatomy of a native mobile app, by Xamarin

Xamarin is a very flexible tool that allows you to build beautiful and responsive apps. In order to demonstrate that, we take on some extra projects once in a while just for fun. See for yourself the native UI, responsiveness and flexibility in this Facebook Clone that Michael did with Xamarin.Forms.

Without any custom renders, Michael used Xamarin.Forms’s Grid for the post-layout translations. If you want to read the full tutorial including the other features, just click here.

Keen to learn more about how Xamarin can help you build beautiful, responsive and user-friendly app? Get in touch.

If you’re interested in developing a successful App then get in touch, we’d love to chat.