As most know, Xamarin is approaching its end of life on May 1, 2024. This critical milestone has prompted many developers and organizations to evaluate their options for upgrading from the cross-platform mobile app development framework to its successor, .NET MAUI (Multi-platform App UI), or taking this opportunity to explore alternative frameworks such as Flutter or React Native.
As leaders in the technology and application development space for over 15 years, we know these decisions should not be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider and each company will have different needs and thus will need different solutions.
Let’s investigate the options and the pros and cons associated with each.
What is .NET MAUI and How Does It Relate to Xamarin?
As Xamarin reaches its end of life, Microsoft has introduced .NET MAUI as a replacement. MAUI is an evolution of Xamarin.Forms, focusing on enhancing developer experience through quality, performance, design, and platform availability. It absorbs Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS into the .NET framework, aligning with Microsoft’s vision of running .NET on any platform. .NET 6 marks the beginning of this transition, taking over for Xamarin building Android, iOS, and cross-platform applications.
The introduction of .NET MAUI provides an opportunity for developers and organizations to reassess whether .NET remains the best fit for their mobile projects. With contenders like Flutter and React Native gaining popularity, it is essential to consider if migrating from Xamarin to .NET MAUI is the most suitable choice.
.NET MAUI aims to improve upon Xamarin.Forms by rewriting UI components for better performance and extensibility. The framework focuses on reducing app launch times and decoupling UI components from their platform counterparts. This allows developers to use the correct component for each platform without specifying it explicitly, resulting in a more seamless and efficient development process.
MAUI drastically improves the developer experience by introducing a unified project structure instead of separate projects per platform. Platform-specific code can now be added to a “Platforms” folder within the unified project. This change simplifies project organization and makes it easier to manage code across different platforms. Additionally, MAUI provides abstractions around commonly used platform features, such as permissions, communication, and device-specific features like geolocation and media pickers. These abstractions help reduce the amount of platform-specific code required, further streamlining the development process.
Hot reloading for XAML and C# is available in MAUI, allowing developers to see changes in the app’s UI in real-time. While some developers have reported inconsistent performance with hot reloading, it remains a valuable feature that can significantly speed up the development process. When bundled, the C# code is compiled into native code, with different compilation processes for Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows apps, ensuring optimal performance on each platform.
Microsoft supports .NET MAUI alongside the open-source community, indicating a strong commitment to improving the framework based on developer feedback. This collaboration ensures that .NET MAUI continues to evolve and adapt to the needs of developers and organizations.
Migration from Xamarin to .NET MAUI
Migrating from Xamarin to .NET MAUI involves several steps, including upgrading Xamarin.Android and Xamarin.iOS projects to the latest stable .NET release and updating Xamarin.Forms projects to .NET MAUI. Microsoft provides command-line tools and Visual Studio plugins to automate many code transformations during the migration process. These tools can save time and effort, making the migration process smoother and more manageable.
The most extensive part of the upgrade involves updating the UI, which may require namespace and API changes. Depending on the complexity of the existing UI and the use of third-party UI elements, this process can vary in difficulty. Microsoft has collaborated with major Xamarin UI component builders to ensure compatibility with MAUI, helping to streamline the migration process.
Disadvantages of .NET MAUI
While .NET MAUI offers several advantages as a cross-platform solution, it also comes with some disadvantages that developers and organizations should consider before adopting it for their projects.
One significant disadvantage of using .NET MAUI is its relatively new status in the market. As an evolution of Xamarin.Forms, MAUI may still have some growing pains and unresolved issues. Developers might encounter bugs or limitations that could impact their project’s development timeline and overall stability. Although Microsoft supports .NET MAUI, it might take time for the framework to mature and reach the same level of stability and reliability as more established alternatives like React Native or Flutter.
Finally, .NET MAUI’s performance, while improved compared to Xamarin.Forms, may not always match that of native development or other cross-platform solutions like Flutter. This could result in slightly slower app launch times or reduced responsiveness in certain scenarios, potentially impacting the user experience.
Alternatives to .NET MAUI
While .NET MAUI offers a natural progression for Xamarin developers, it is essential to consider alternative frameworks and assess their suitability for specific projects. If the UI will require extensive refactoring to upgrade to MAUI, an investment in native development or a cross platform framework with a larger community could make more sense. Below are some popular alternatives to .NET MAUI:
Native development offers numerous advantages, including optimal performance, seamless user experience, access to all device features, enhanced security, app store optimization, tighter system integration, and access to cutting-edge platform features. A natively developed application is our primary recommendation and should be the end goal. The native engineers at Bottle Rocket have the skills needed to bring a quality mobile experience to fruition in a timely manner.
Flutter is a cross-platform framework backed by Google that allows developers to write Dart code once and deploy it on multiple platforms. It offers fast development, customizable widgets, high performance, easy integration with other technologies, and a growing community. Flutter is an excellent choice for developers seeking a high-quality, efficient cross-platform framework without sacrificing performance or customizability.
One of the key differences between Flutter and other frameworks is its rendering engine, which enables Flutter’s UI to look consistent across all platforms. It also includes the option to display platform-specific components with some additional effort. The Flutter roadmap includes rendering engine upgrades to allow for smooth animations and promising experimentation into 3D graphics.
Overall, Flutter is a great option and our recommendation for developers who want to build high-quality cross-platform apps quickly and efficiently while maintaining a consistent user experience across different platforms.
React Native’s hot reloading feature allows developers to see changes in the app’s UI in real-time, making the development process faster and more efficient. It has a large and active community of developers, which means there are plenty of resources, libraries, and tools available to help with development. This is beneficial as developers are bound to run into issues around upgrades or other odd behaviors in React Native.
Are you prepared?
Developers must consider their options for upgrading or migrating to a new framework. .NET MAUI offers a natural progression for Xamarin developers, with improved performance, developer experience, and platform support. However, native development or alternatives like Flutter and React Native also provide compelling benefits for developers and the application.