New Developer Framework Support

By Greg Weinger, Engagement Product Line Manager

I'm excited to announce our official support for two new mobile app development frameworks: Unity and Xamarin. Combined with official support for PhoneGap/Cordova, we now support three of the top frameworks in market.

Urban Airship provides bindings or plugins for each of these frameworks, open source access to framework code, and full documentation:

Why Development Frameworks?
Frameworks can accelerate app development by reducing the amount of code necessary to build a mobile app. Code typically runs on multiple platforms (at least iOS and Android), saving the effort of building and maintaining separate native apps.

Not only do frameworks save the effort of building the same app in multiple languages, they take on the significant burden of bug fixing and keeping up with updates to mobile OS versions.

Further, mobile development is a complex and specialized skill, with its developers high in demand. By reducing complexity, frameworks reduce the overall skill level required to develop a mobile app, enabling companies to hire less expensive developers, (potentially) leading to significant cost savings over time.

Historically, the trade off with framework-based apps has been reduced flexibility: it’s easy to do the simple things, but hard or impossible to do anything more complex. Some companies ended up accepting less functionality than they desired, while others were forced into a costly rewrite of the app in native code on slipped deadlines.

Frameworks have also created waves of apps with a more homogenized look and feel, as companies relying on less-skilled developers get little more than what the framework can offer out of the box. They can expose the company to quirks of the framework, which are necessarily less well-tested than the operating system they sit on.

Newer Development Frameworks
This latest generation of mobile app frameworks have matured, and their increasing adoption and popularity results in a more thoroughly tested product. They are providing greater flexibility with better quality than in the past. Some frameworks, such as Xamarin, provide maximum flexibility by allowing developers direct access to native APIs, so that nothing is out of reach.

We see many customers successfully using development frameworks in a variety of ways. Some customers use frameworks for the first version of their app, gather feedback, and then go on to build subsequent generations of the app in native code. This allows them to iterate rapidly to the point where they feel they can commit to a certain direction.

Other customers have found that frameworks support their current app use cases well into the future.

Our Frameworks
We have chosen three leading frameworks, based on market developments and the demand we’ve seen from our customers and prospects. All of our frameworks provide support for iOS and Android only, sitting atop our mobile SDKs.

PhoneGap/Cordova

Per the website, “PhoneGap is an open source framework for quickly building cross-platform mobile apps using HTML5, Javascript and CSS.” PhoneGap is maintained and distributed as Apache Cordova, Apache’s open source project, making it probably the best-maintained app development framework on the market. This also means it is offered free of charge.

Urban Airship offers plugins for PhoneGap on both iOS and Android. For more details see PhoneGap/Cordova.

Xamarin

In contrast, Xamarin lets developers create native apps in C#. It provides an IDE for development and provides native performance, with direct, full access to native APIs. This gives developers the best of both worlds.

Read our documentation for Xamarin plugins. Our native bindings mean that you have full access to our entire SDK.

Unity

Last but not least, Unity is a platform for developing 2D and 3D games and interactive apps. It ships with its own editor, suited to the demands of visual programming.

Get started with Unity on Urban Airship.

Developer Frameworks are a great way to accelerate or reduce cost of your mobile development efforts. We’re excited to watch the market develop as these and other frameworks continue to mature.