Mobile app development tools: A buyer's guide
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
Xamarin Platform from Xamarin is a mobile app development platform used for the creation of native and cross-platform apps for Android, iOS and Windows devices. It is offered by Xamarin as a tool for app development and, when combined with additional Xamarin tools, for meeting application lifecycle management needs.
Xamarin Platform is available as an on-premises product designed for use on Apple and Microsoft Windows operating systems. It is suited for use by individual developers or by organizations with large development teams.
Cross-platform development in the platform is enabled by Xamarin Studio, the company's proprietary development environment. Xamarin Studio lets developers build applications using the C# development language. With C# developers can use a single codebase to create applications that execute across multiple device platforms. And because C# is similar to Java -- a widely used development language -- developers are likely to have a strong understanding of how to build applications with it, which allows organizations with development teams to leverage existing staff and avoid costs associated with training existing assets or hiring new ones. Xamarin notes that, in addition to Java, virtually anything developers can do using Objective-C and Swift can be done using C#.
Using a single codebase for cross-platform app development helps developers cut down on build and implementation timelines, and lets them focus their efforts on building the best application possible without worrying about replicating the application multiple times. And to help ensure that the single codebase is performing as intended, Xamarin Studio features a debugging tool that can be used in a simulator mode or live on device.
Xamarin Platform also gives developers dozens of up-to-date APIs to ensure that cross-platform apps built with the platform execute with native appearance and functionality on their intended device. Leveraging these device APIs lets developers build their apps without worrying about whether or not the apps' custom features and appearance will translate across different mobile operating systems.
The platform further supports cross-platform app development with its integrated Xamarin.Forms tool. Xamarin.Forms is a cross-platform toolkit that lets developers create native user interface layouts with C# or XAML that can be used across Android, iOS, and Windows mobile phones. It also features more than 40 pre-designed controls and layouts for developers to use.
In addition to its Studio development environment for cross-platform app development, Xamarin Platform provides developers with native mobile app development tools. Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS let developers create native Android and iOS applications using C#. Both Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS feature automatic binding generators that allow developers to use previously written code and frameworks, which are then translated by each tool and made into a C#-based application. Xamarin also notes that .Android brings all of Google's APIs to C#, while .iOS brings full functionality of Apple's software development kit.
Xamarin Platform integrates with other proprietary Xamarin and third-party app development tools. Chief among these is the platform's deep integration with Microsoft Visual Studio, which developers can use directly within Xamarin Platform. This gives developers another development environment at their disposal. It also integrates with offerings from more than 250 technical product providers, including the likes of Amazon, IBM, Oracle, SAP and Salesforce. In addition, it provides developers with access to more than 100 easily integrated extensions and customizations through the Xamarin Component Store.
The platform integrates with Xamarin Test Cloud as well, the company's app automation and testing software. Test Cloud lets developers test the performance and functionality of their developed apps on more than 1,800 devices, and gives users the option to test based on conditions such as operating system, device manufacturer, form factor and more.
Three subscription plans are available for the platform, ranging from basic to enhanced offering: indie ($25 per month, paid monthly or annually), business ($999 per year, paid annually), and enterprise ($1,899 per year, paid annually). Pricing of each plan is per developer, per device platform. You can find a breakdown of each plan's offerings in Xamarin's comparison chart. All subscriptions come with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Email support service is included with all business and enterprise plans. The enterprise plan also includes a one-hour technical session with a Xamarin engineer, as well as a personal account manager. Free community support forums are available to all users and can be found on Xamarin's website.
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