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Jolt Awards: Mobile Development Tools

, March 04, 2014 The best tools for the nuts-and-bolts of building mobile apps.
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Jolt Award: Xamarin 2.0

Xamarin 2.0 makes it possible for C# developers to create mobile apps for both Android and iOS. The product offers its own IDE (Xamarin Studio), but the good news is that it also provides very stable and mature Visual Studio add-ins. These add-ins permit C# developers to use Visual Studio to develop, build, deploy, and debug apps for both Android and iOS. The one drawback to this hybrid model is that you need to have a networked Mac to provide the build and deployment services for iOS (therefore, you don't have everything you need to deploy to iOS devices in a Windows development environment). Xamarin Studio runs on a Mac and simplifies the path for iOS developers who have C# experience to target Android devices from a Mac.

If you want to develop an app that takes advantage of the specific features of the different mobile devices and their underlying platforms, you will have to learn the way the Android and iOS SDKs work. You will be able to develop simple apps without diving deep into the SDKs of your target platforms, but as your apps become more complex, you will definitely need to understand the different Android and iOS ways of doing things. Unluckily, in some advanced scenarios, you will need a basic understanding of Java (for Android) and Objective-C (for iOS) to generate your C# code with Xamarin because the SDKs don't provide some of the C# examples you might need.

However, Xamarin's many features make it easier for you to learn everything about a target platform. The code completion features work very well in both Xamarin Studio and Visual Studio. The plug-ins provide IntelliSense support for Visual Studio, so you can explore the APIs the same way you learn other .NET APIs when you work with this IDE. In addition, you can search for desired features in the Xamarin Component Store, where you can find third-party components that extend Xamarin features for the different target platforms.

You can easily reuse your existing C# codebase to target the most popular mobile platforms with Xamarin. And you can develop apps with very good run-time performance for these platforms without having to switch to Java for Android, Objective-C for iOS, or the combination of HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript. The newest Xamarin version demonstrates that it is possible to use C# to create responsive mobile apps that really feel like native apps.

Because of the elegance of this solution and its ability to work with familiar tools to target the principal mobile platforms, the Jolt judges award Xamarin 2.0 this year's Jolt Award for best mobile development tool.

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