Xamarin.Forms Review

A few months back in August I did a brief review of Xamarin in which I was pretty happy with the tool-kit and how it was helping the team at Fingertip Tech, INC
efficiently handle developing mobile apps for both iOS and Android. Now that we are about six months on and I’ve built a lot more expereince with the tooling I’d like to take a deeper look at Xamarin’s “write once run anywhere” offering Xamarin.Forms. 

I’ll be blunt — Forms is as immature as it is seductive. Don’t get me wrong, the things that Forms does support are great and work really well cross platform but the reality is that you can’t get very far without Xamarin.Forms Labs, an impressive open-source project that sadly suffers immaturity and having to keep up with Xamarin which has to keep up with iOS and Android. Additionally, if you really care about the user experience of your apps, then you will likely end up having to purchase some controls from Telerik or the like. To ble clear, I’m not just talking about complex charts or anything like that. To date, Forms doesn’t have an ImageButton class — you’ll need Labs for that.  

The work around for all this is writing custom renderers for each platform. The problem there is that basically defeats the purpose of using Forms, since you might as well use “classic” Xamarin at that point; the assumption being that you are using Forms to cut down on platform specific work. 

Having said all that, I was able (along with the awesome team at FTT) to ship projects using Forms but we ended up underwater financially on almost all of them, since we had to write “customer renders” for any non-trivial UIs. 

Forms is a great idea. Sadly, it’s the same great idea that Sun had for Java on the desktop in 1990’s. Xamarin could make Forms a great offering but would be wise to take the lessons of desktop Java and RealBasic to heart. 

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