Why Xamarin is Important for Mobile Development & Testing

With the explosion of mobile devices over the past decade, mobile application development and testing has become essential for companies and teams looking to stay competivie. The wide variety of platforms and operating systems in the market today has made this challening, as every device has it's own capabilities, screen size, and resolution configuration. Ensuring cross-platform functionality for teams is vital, as consumers want to access their information, game, or social app on the platform they choose, whether its an Android or Apple device.

Xamarin facilitates faster and easier cross-platform mobile app development by enabling teams to write their code in a single language which can then be leveraged across other platforms, including iOS, Windows, and Android apps. In this article, you will learn what Xamarin is, how it can help your mobile testing efforts, and what SmartBear tools support the platform.

The Challenges in Today's Mobile Testing Landscape

Smartphones have become a critical part of our day-to-day lives, business operations, and global economy—regardless of demographics, industry, or geography. We use apps to help us and outsource many of our decision-making tasks – whether it is using Waze to tell us which route to take or telling us what the weather is before we go outside.

Mobile applications are prevalent in almost every industry today, from gaming to athletics, hospitality and automotive, to the banking and financial sectors, where consumers and business alike entrust institutions with are most personal and confidential information. Mobile apps help us easily expand our businesses internationally, empower our employees with real-time information and also, receive information from end-users so we can provide best in class services. It’s engrained nature in our lives and businesses is the reason why mobile testing is even more critical – no matter what device an end user is using.

As consumer demands for mobile apps rise, so does the need for mobile development and testing. The vast array of mobile devices in the market today, their differing screen sizes, operating systems, and resolutions, has made multi-platform application development critical, but also particularly tricky for quality assurance (QA) teams.

Apps created and optimized for an iPhone may not work particularly well on an Android and vice versa. Any company or team looking to build their product and have it work across both operating systems will need to take a variety of steps to ensure their software works and functions as intended on every platform, each of which has its own specifications, platform-specific capabilities, and UX and hardware issues. This is where Xamarin comes in.

What is Xamarin?

Xamarin is a software development company that builds tools for teams looking to create cross-platform mobile applications. Xamarin enables developers to write code for native Android, iOS, and Windows applications from within Visual Studio or Xamarin Studio, as well as build mobile user interfaces (UI), all in a single language - C#. Xamarin also supports other tech products like wearable devices, including Android and Apple watches.

Xamarin offers a wide variety of products for mobile application development including:

  • Xamarin.Android
  • Xamarin.Mac
  • Xamarin.iOS
  • Xamarin.Forms
  • Xamarin Test Cloud
  • Visual Studio App Center
  • Xamarin Studio

Companies today need to increase test coverage for a number of mobile device configurations due to different platforms and resolutions. Different types of mobile applications have different development requirements and capabilities, which makes finding a mobile test automation solution that can test multiple platforms easily a challenge for software teams.

Xamarin alleviates many of these challenges. For example, teams don’t need to learn specific device languages like Swift to build mobile apps. C# is a modern and fairly universal language, meaning team members of all skill levels would ideally be able to contribute to app development or test creation.

Having one codebase also facilitates better cross-team collaboration and will cut down on the time spent on script maintenance. By having one codebase that works across multiple devices, teams can more easily share code across platforms, including Macs and Windows operating systems.

The Differences Between Xamarin.Forms vs. Xamarin.Native

Xamarin also enables development teams to create mobile user interfaces with a shared codebase with Xamarin.Forms, a new library released in 2015.

Xamarin.Forms is a cross-platform UI toolkit that allows developers to easily create native user interface layouts that can be shared across Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.

Xamarin.Forms offers mobile developers more than 40 cross-platform controls and layouts to build a single UI layer for iOS, Android, or Windows devices. The tool enables teams and the automated UI testing tools they use to test all their mobile devices and configurations in one test execution.

If you're new to the mobile testing world, testing on applications based on Xamarin.Forms will make the transition far easier. Here are five reasons why testing on Xamarin.Forms versus Xamarin.Native applications can benefit you and your team.

  1. Minimum Viable Products: If you need to build out a minimum viable product that demands launching on both iOS and Android devices, and you need to save as much development or testing cost as possible, using Xamarin.Forms is a great asset. Xamarin.Forms allows teams to quickly build out a basic application with tight budgets.
  2. Time for Testing Cycles: The efficiency gain of Xamarin can help get an app to market more quickly. Because you do not need to develop specifically to native UI frameworks, this will allow you to reuse your code across platforms and naturally, get your apps to market faster. Although, Xamarin.Native may execute faster than Xamarin.Forms, other factors such as being able to share the same test scripts and because code sharing is larger, time to delivery will inherently, be faster as well.
  3. Cross Platform Testing: One of the biggest, yet sometimes overlooked, benefits of using Xamarin for multi-platform apps is that, with a single code base, the process of testing, updating and maintaining those applications over time is simplified. This is especially true of Xamarin.Forms. When much of the UI is also shared, that means feature updates are easier to update and test.
  4. Testing Experience: Each mobile platform has their own way of developing a UI on their platform, requiring teams to build apps in completely different ways. Many advanced mobile testers are familiar with specific Android, iOS, or Windows frameworks; however, many testers today are more experienced in .NET. If your development or testing team has minimal mobile expertise, you do not have to learn all native UI frameworks with Xamarin.Forms to know what to test.
  5. Test Script Sharing: For when you you want to practice test reuse. Xamarin.Forms also allows you to practice best practices like code sharing and test reusability easily for UI testing needs. By reducing the possibility for duplicate code, mobile testing is simplified and easier to maintain, and therefore, debug and resolve issues.

Code sharing with Xamarin.Native is possible as well, leading testers to be able to share test scripts as well, but for UI testing, Xamarin.Forms adds more sharing than Xamarin.Native.

Testing with Xamarin and SmartBear Tools

SmartBear enables mobile testing and optimization through TestComplete Mobile for UI test automation, and CrossBrowserTesting, for live testing on over 1,500 real browsers, operating systems, and resolution configurations. TestComplete us a UI testing platform that allows teams to create, build and run tests for desktop, web, and mobile applications. The tool's mobile testing capabilities enable teams to run cross-platform tests on real devices, emulators, and virutual machines. TestComplete supports both Xamarin.Native as well as Xamarin.Forms, making the tool one of the only UI test automation platforms to do so.