The Resurgence of Mobile App Development
The statistics in favor of app development for eCommerce leave little doubt that apps have become the most rapidly growing mobile technology that consumers have embraced at all levels. Late August, 2015, studies have shown that mobile eCommerce purchases surpassed desktop. Even B2B customers use apps to compare product prices, features and important shipping options before placing orders, and social media's popularity with app users promises to deliver extraordinary exposure to ideal potential customers. Therefore, key decision-makers in major eCommerce companies have some important decisions to make: whether to develop a proprietary app, how to write and test it, which partner to use in the development and whether their current eCommerce platforms can handle any ancillary issues that arise when integrating one or more apps into regular business operations.
Cross-development tools have simplified writing apps for all devices and systems, which becomes increasingly important when customers, employees and tech support often bring their own devices to work. Xamarin offers some astonishing efficiencies for cross-development applications that appear and perform like native apps on Windows, Android and iOS devices, and with the acquisition of Xamarin by Microsoft in February of 2016, it has the resources to become a true mobile development standard. Regardless of the cross-development tools that programmers use, seamless integrations with their companies' systems are essential to get the most from code-sharing or building native apps for the major systems.
Keeping up with customer search trends requires mobile development -- and more specifically -- proprietary apps to increase loyalty. Mobile media time in the United States now surpasses time spent on fixed Internet locations by 51 percent to 41 percent. Google also identified how its customers researched companies across nine industries and found that regular searches were the starting point for most Internet shopping, but generic Internet searches were less common when customers had branded apps.
Other statistics show that mobile app spending is expected to reach $40.5 billion by the end of 2016. Customers are buying, researching and interacting with companies on branded apps, and they spend about 89 percent of their mobile Internet time using these apps. Gartner forecasts that mobile users will average using more than 100 apps and other services each day and buy more $77 billion in goods from their devices.
Benefits of Microsoft's Acquisition of Xamarin
Microsoft's acquisition of Xamarin illustrates the mobile marketing’s growing importance, which has clearly overtaken fixed Internet access in global markets. Xamarin can now deliver even better mobile apps across platforms by using Microsoft's Visual Studio and the .NET's productivity. Microsoft has struggled to keep pace with mobile development, and its acquisition of Xamarin ensures that developers can easily build cross-platform apps that include Android, Apple and Google mobile platforms. Xamarin already has made cross-platform app development and testing easier for developers, but with Microsoft's ownership, developers can expect increased Windows and Android mobile development and an easier porting process for all operating systems including Microsoft's competitors.
Benchmarks for Cross-Platform Development
Any cross-development platform requires writing code for an app and fine-tuning it for each operating system. Writing native code for Android, iOS and Windows requires a team of programmers who are fluent in Java, Objective-C and C#. Developers can save time and get their apps to market faster by using cross-development tools, but there are some necessary tradeoffs that include:
- Using a lowest common denominator approach that doesn’t take advantage of each device’s capabilities
- Longer times for updating apps
- Possible delays in loading run-times or libraries
- Larger abstraction layers
However, development tools like Xamarin, Titanium, PhoneGap and Cordova have simplified the process and enjoy growing rates of adoption by programmers. The following sections compare Xamarin's growing influence and its top competitors in the cross-platform development ecosphere:
Comparing Xamarin to Its Top Competitors
Xamarin enables developers to write their apps in C# and share and compile code for each supported platform. This is an ideal solution for eCommerce companies that want to speed development while getting native hardware acceleration and UI features. Although there might be a learning curve for programmers who are unfamiliar with C# and .NET, the resulting code performs like native apps across all platforms. The code -- between 60 and 100 percent -- can be reused for server and client systems. Paying for a business-level license involves a recurring charge that might discourage some decision-makers, but the company's long-term technical support and ability to test and upgrade apps on up to 2,000 devices make the recurring fee a bargain for most eCommerce companies.
Programmers can get reduced development costs by plugging into Xamarin Studio. Developers can choose from several options for developing cross-platform apps that include Xamarin.Forms, which allows up to 100 percent of app logic across platforms, and Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android for a more customized look and feel. Xamarin provides ongoing support for adding new features, and developers can choose from many free and paid components, third-party Web services and cross-platform libraries.
The advantages of using C# include writing flawless applications across platforms and preventing type errors that could affect app behavior. Developers don't need to use complicated headers and pointers. Other benefits of using Xamarin include:
- Free trails
- Qualifying apps for sale at Google Play, Android Apps and Apple App store
- Stronger development for typed and object-oriented development
- Drag-and-drop convenience for interface development
- Visual Studio integration that many experts consider to be the best IDE
- All-in-one installer
Comparing Xamarin to Titanium
- A look and feel that’s close to a native app
- Support for iOS and Android
- Free trials
- 100-percent code reuse if a native interface isn’t required
Xamarin and Phone Gap
How Xamarin Compares to Apache Cordova
The platform uses a common config.xml file that transmits information to a Web page widget. Developers can mix native applications with WebView, a special browser that accesses Web-level APIs. In many cases, developers can build simple apps entirely from WebView APIs. Apps can use WebView components within native applications. When compared with Xamarin, Cordova generates some challenges for developers and eCommerce companies that include:
- Limited API functionality
- Greater chances of bugs in complex UI and API syntheses
- Developer confusion when trying to use openframeworks
- Difficulties of making apps appear native
Xamarin offers more tools for custom app development, testing apps on more than 2,000 devices and collaborating with teams of application experts. Cordova works well for new app developers and companies with constraining budgets, but using open-source material for apps seldom creates the kind of useful app that eCommerce companies need to build customer loyalty and generate more sales.
Platform Integrations for Multiple Developers
Ensuring that any eCommerce operating system works well on all devices, screen sizes and operating systems requires an eCommerce platform that adapts well to apps and provides key benefits like better in-store integrations, inventory control, mobile alerts and more shipping options for multistage, global deliveries. Nothing frustrates customers more than getting different information on their mobile apps than what appears on eCommerce company websites. Integrations need to be seamless regardless of whether a company wants to offer its customers payment options like Apple Wallet, Samsung Pay or store credit. In wholesale buying decisions, owners need to manage inventory across many devices and iterations of its apps. Customers don't like logging into eCommerce websites from their apps just to retrieve shipping information, so for this and many other reasons, a company's eCommerce software needs to handle mobile marketing efficiently for cross-platform apps. Apps are becoming so critical for global eCommerce that it's worth the investment to replace platforms that can't handle the job.
How Clarity Supports App Development
Clarity can help your company with seamless website design, customized software and its team of engineers that helps you develop separate UIs using any app development companies, and these resources are especially compatible with Xamarin cross-development. Our team of techies understands the nuances of mobile development and can help your company regardless of which platform you choose to develop cross-platform apps. We can also help you develop your website and management functions in ways that easily mesh with customer apps to provide advanced notifications, shipping and inventory integrations and ensuring better website displays that work on each device without contradicting what appears on your website. Contact or call Clarity today for a consultation, free price quote or answers to your questions about developing customer apps.
•  eCommerceTimes.com: Microsoft Buys Xamarin to Boost Cross-Platform Development www.ecommercetimes.com
•  Smart Insights: Mobile marketing statistics 2016 www.smartinsights.com
•  Gartner.com: Gartner Says by 2017, Mobile Users Will Provide Personalized Data Streams to More Than 100 Apps and Services Every Day www.gartner.com