Flutter vs Xamarin - Which is Better for Mobile Development?

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Flutter vs Xamarin - Which is Better for Mobile Development?

Swapnil Banga
Last updated on October 14, 2022

    There is no denying that the usage of mobile phones has resulted in the increasing development of mobile applications. As a result, many organizations strive to create cross-platform robust mobile applications. Mobile applications come in handy for accomplishing a variety of tasks, such as online shopping, transferring money, ordering food, booking a cab, and the list goes on.

    With the increasing popularity of mobile applications, developers have created various frameworks to facilitate the creation of mobile applications. Among all, Flutter and Xamarin are the leading frameworks for building cross-platform mobile applications.

    If you are perplexed in choosing between Flutter and Xamarin for mobile application development, this article is for you.

    Through this article, we shall make you acquainted with the major differences between Flutter and Xamarin. Also, we shall discuss the features, benefits, and drawbacks of Flutter and Xamarin to have a better understanding.

    So, let us begin our discussion!

    What is Flutter?

    Flutter is an open-source framework for developing mobile applications that can work on any platform and devices of any screen size using a single codebase. We can also refer to Flutter as a UI toolkit that lets developers build applications for Android, iOS, Google Fuchsia , Windows, macOS, Linux, and web, from a single codebase.

    This means that there is no need to write the source code separately for different platforms, which significantly saves time and effort. Besides mobile app development, you can also create desktop, web, and embedded applications using Flutter.

    Moreover, this framework comprises two parts, namely a software development kit (SKD) and a framework. SDK is a collection of tools that assists you in developing applications. More precisely, it includes tools that convert the source code into the native machine code. A framework, on the flip side, is a collection of reusable components to create your applications.

    Since Google has developed the Flutter framework, it uses the Dart programming language , which is developed by Google for the development of web and mobile applications.

    History

    In the 2015 Dart Developer Summit, Google unveiled the first version of Flutter as ‘Sky’. This version was capable of running only the Android platform. Later, in September 2018, at Google Developer Days, the company announced the last major release of Flutter, i.e., Flutter Release Preview 2, before Flutter 1.0. At the Flutter Live event in December 2018, the company released Flutter 1.0.

    In just a year, Google released Flutter 1.12 at the Flutter Interactive Event. Along with the release of Dart SDK version 2.8 in May 2020, the company released Fluter 1.17.0, which added support for the Meta API and improved the performance on iOS devices.

    Within a year, during an online Flutter Engage event, Google released Flutter 2, which was the major update to Flutter. This version added support for web-based applications with a CanvasKit renderer and desktop applications for Windows, macOS, and Linux platforms. In addition, Flutter 2 leveraged Dart 2.0.

    Further, in 2021, Google released Dart 2.14 and Flutter 2.5. This version supported Google’s Material Design and enhanced the Android’s full-screen mode. As of now, the current version of Flutter is 3.0.1, and that of Dart is 2.17.1.

    Features

    The following are some well-known features of Flutter:

    • Hot Reload: When you make changes to your source code, the hot reloading feature lets you immediately see how it appears in real-time on the test device. This enables developers to perfect each and every part of their applications and fix bugs quickly.
    • Cross-Platform Development: With Flutter, you just need to write one codebase and use it to create an application for various platforms and devices of any screen size.
    • Widget Library: This framework comes with rich widgets for creating an expressive UI. It allows developers to create custom and complex widgets that they can customize according to an application’s needs. In addition, Flutter also uses Material Design and the Cupertino pack, both consisting of a set of widgets that developers can use in their applications and provide an excellent user experience.
    • Pub: Pub is a package manager for Dart that contains reusable libraries and packages for Flutter and other Dart programs.
    • Support for Google’s Firebase: Since Flutter supports Google Firebase , developers use it for back-end development and to create scalable applications.

    Advantages

    The following are the remarkable benefits of using Flutter:

    • It is an open-source framework, and anyone can use it free of cost.
    • There is no need to test the two same apps on different platforms. Just testing a single codebase and the hot reloading feature is enough to detect bugs in your application.
    • Developers can create a feature-rich application for Android and iOS platforms with the help of hot reloading and a single codebase feature.
    • With Flutter, you can create expressive and appealing user interfaces with the help of the widgets of Material Design, Cupertino, and customized widgets.
    • It is very simple and easy to download and install flutter.

    Disadvantages

    Some significant downsides of using Flutter are as follows:

    • You need to learn a new programming language called Dart since Flutter uses this language for application development.
    • The applications you develop in Flutter are usually heavy.
    • Flutter does not support the creation of web applications.
    • You will have limited access to SDK libraries. Consequently, you do not get too many functionalities to build mobile applications.

    What is Xamarin?

    Xamarin is an open-source framework for creating modern mobile applications using the C# language and .NET framework. With this framework, developers can write native Android, iOS, and Windows applications and native user interfaces. Like Flutter, Xamarin also enables developers to write the codebase only once and use it for different platforms.

    If you have a basic understanding of .NET and experience working with Visual Studio, it is pretty easy to build applications in Xamarin. You do not need to learn any new programming language, like Flutter uses Dart, while working with Xamarin.

    History

    In 2011, the developers of Mono, which is an open-source .NET framework, created Xamarin. After a year, Xamarin released Xamarin.Mac, a plugin for an existing MonoDevelop IDE. This IDE enabled developers to build C#-based applications for the macOS platform.

    Later, the year 2013 witnessed the release of Xamarin 2.0, which included two major components: Xamarin Studio and the integration with Visual Studio. In 2016, Microsoft announced the acquisition of Xamarin. After the acquisition, the company made Xamarin SDK open-source and integrated Xamarin with Visual Studio, an open-source IDE for building applications for Windows, Android, and iOS.

    Features

    The salient features of Xamarin are as follows:

    • Native Multi-Platform Support: Xamarin enables developers to create applications that are native to Android, iOS, and Windows. They can access all the tools and APIs for creating applications for these three platforms.
    • Single Codebase: Like Flutter, Xamarin also lets developers create applications for different platforms with a single codebase with just minimal changes.
    • Library Support: With Xamarin, you can use a wide variety of C++, Objective-C, Java, and C libraries. Using libraries results in reduced development time.
    • Modern Language Constructs: Xamarin leverages C# , a modern programming language including major improvements over Java and Objective-C. These improvements include sophisticated generics, functional constructs, dynamic language features, and many more.
    • Basic Class Library (BCL): Xamarin uses .NET BCL, a huge collection of classes that enable serialization, networking support, etc.

    Advantages

    The following are some noteworthy advantages of using Xamarin:

    • It is an open-source framework, and hence, you can use it freely.
    • Applications developed in Xamarin provide native-like high performance.
    • The single codebase or shared codebase feature enables developers to save a lot of time and effort.
    • It comes with testing tools to test applications. The Test Cloud function allows you to test your applications across more than 2,000 devices.

    Disadvantages

    Here are the significant downsides of using Xamarin:

    • When there is an introduction of any new feature in Xamarin, it takes time to reflect, which can create an obstacle in the development process.
    • Applications developed in Xamarin are relatively larger than native applications.
    • It is not ideal when your application requirement is heavy graphics or complex animations.
    • The community of Xamarin is comparatively smaller than iOS and Android communities.
    • The code you develop in Xamarin work only with the .NET stack and not with any other development stack.

    Flutter vs Xamarin - A Head-to-Head Comparison

    The following table highlights the key differences between Flutter and Xamarin:

    Parameters

    Flutter

    Xamarin

    Definition

    It is an open-source framework that allows developers to build cross-platform applications for mobile, web, and desktop with a single codebase.

    It is an open-source framework that lets developers create cross-platform applications for Android, iOS, and Windows platforms.

    Developed By

    Google developed Flutter in 2018.

    The developers of Mono originally created Xamarin, which Microsoft acquired in 2016.

    Programming Language

    This framework uses the Dart programming language.

    This framework uses the C# programming language.

    Installation

    It is easy to download and install Flutter. You simply need to download the binary file of a specific platform from GitHub.

    Firstly, you need to install Visual Studio and then install Xamarin SDK into it. Also, there is no major documentation on the guide to installing Visual Studio with Xamarin Studio.

    Architecture

    The Flutter engine consists of everything you need for development since it works on the Dark framework. There is no need for any link to communicate with native modules.

    Xamarin uses the Mono execution environment for Android and iOS platforms. For iOS, this environment works with Objective-C runtime and Unix kernel, and for Android, it runs with Android Runtime on Linux or any other kernel.

    Hot Reloading

    Flutter provides the support for the hot reloading feature.

    This framework does not support the hot reloading feature.

    Community Support

    Since this framework is new in the market, it has limited community and resources.

    As Xamarin is based on C#, it has a huge community of developers that can help you in case of issues.

    Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

    Flutter allows you to work with various mobile app development IDEs , such as Android Studio, IntelliJ, etc.

    Xamarin uses Visual Studio to work.

    Windows Support

    Applications you develop using Flutter are not compatible with Windows mobiles.

    It lets you create cross-platform applications that work with Android, iOS, and Windows platforms.

    Graphics and Animation

    Flutter is ideal for creating applications that require high-quality graphics and heavy animations.

    With Xamarin, it is pretty challenging to create applications that have high graphics and animation requirements.

    Flutter vs Xamarin - Which is the Right Choice?

    Both Flutter and Xamarin are the leading and strong players in the mobile application development industry. Therefore, many developers and companies often get perplexed in choosing between Flutter and Xamarin.

    Both these frameworks allow developers to create cross-platform mobile applications that provide excellent user experience and high performance. Moreover, both these frameworks come with the testing feature to test the developed application.

    However, the ultimate choice between Flutter and Xamarin entirely depends on the project requirements and personal preferences. We recommend you go through the pros and cons of each framework and then choose according to your requirements.

    Conclusion

    Here, we have reached the end of our discussion between Flutter and Xamarin. Both these frameworks allow developers to build cross-platform mobile applications that provide a great user experience. While Flutter applications only support Android and iOS platforms, Xamarin applications support Android, iOS, and Windows platforms.

    We hope that you found this article helpful in deciding upon Flutter and Xamarin for mobile development. If you know any other differences between Flutter and Xamarin, do let us know via the comments section, and we will add them to our difference table.

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    FAQs


    Yes, Dart is easy to learn since its syntax is more similar to C# and Java.

    If you already know C# and have a basic understanding of Visual Studio, developing applications in Xamarin is easier. When it comes to Flutter, you need to learn the Dart language. However, when you learn it, you feel Flutter more comfortable.

    Yes, it is worth learning Xamarin for cross-platform mobile app development. It leverages C# and the .NET framework, which are trustworthy and demandable technologies.

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