Product Design

March 14, 2019

/ business & Agile

React Native vs. Native. Which Mobile App Development Platform Should You Choose?

Patrycja Matuszak-Jastak

Until recently, companies that planned to conquer the mobile app market were forced to pitch their products to both Android and iOS. Since 2015, when Facebook released React Native, this is no longer the case. Now with the use of this cross-platform mobile framework, you can create iOS and Android apps simultaneously. What does the versatility of React Native mean for native app development? Let’s check out which technology is better to build a successful mobile application.

What is React Native?

From a business perspective, React Native is a cross-platform mobile development framework. It provides a fast and relatively cheap track to completion, ensures perfect UI/UX design, and performs well on both Android and iOS. 

Using React Native for mobile development there is no need to build two different applications. Instead of designing and developing a brand-new UI and UX for each platform, you are able to do it all with one tool.

Speaking the technical language, React Native is a JavaScript open-source framework based on JS and React, JS library for creating UI. It was designed by Facebook to give developers the opportunity to create full mobile apps for iOS and Android at the same time. 

How does it work? In a nutshell, a JavaScript codebase is compiled to a mobile app indistinguishable from an iOS app built using Objective-C/Swift or an Android app using Java/Kotlin. The code is shared across these two different code bases, but for the design elements, you use native components of each platform (hence the name React NATIVE).

What famous mobile apps were built with React Native?

As one of the most robust and reliable cross-platform development frameworks, React Native is picked by a significant number of the world’s top companies to develop their mobile applications. What are they? 

Facebook (which is not a surprise though), Instagram, Uber Eats, Pinterest, Salesforce, Wix, Bloomberg, KFC, Vogue, Wallmart, Discord to mention a few. Even Microsoft-owned Skype uses it instead of their own Xamarin, which clearly shows the undeniable power of React Native.

Top tech companies using React Native

Important notice: some of the above-mentioned applications other renowned technologies, not only React Native. Mixing them is a standard approach when it comes to mobile app development. 

We did the same when developing our React Native App development for a sports startup from New York City. Combining React Native with old, trusty JavaScript, Redux, WebSocket on the frontend, and Python and Django on the backend allowed us to fully adapt to our client needs and expectations.

What are the pros and cons of React Native? 

Now, when you are aware of what React Native is, take a look at its pros and cons to decide whether or not it should be considered over the native framework.

Below you will find major benefits coming from choosing React Native for your mobile application.

Pros from a business perspective

  • Saving time and money

Sure you know the saying “time is money”. With React Native you won’t need to develop two different applications, as you can use the same one code for both the iOS and Android platforms. This approach is more budget-friendly as you don’t need to hire separate iOS and Android developers or teams because with the use of one tool you can prepare a functional, awesome-looking mobile app for both platforms simultaneously. 

Wrapping up, by using React Native you can minimize development efforts by 30-50% without losing quality or productivity. You will build a fully-fledged app in almost a half time, saving hours of work not only on the development cycle but also on running tests.

  • Faster development 

React Native is easy to adopt, especially for frontend developers who cut their teeth on JavaScript and are eager to self-develop. As it is strongly based on rules used in JS, they will learn React Native in the blink of an eye. What’s more, React Native enables to share a big part of your codebase between Android and iOS platforms. Just look at Walmart, which reported 95% code reuse for its mobile app. It’s a huge time and cost saving. 

For less complex applications, which don’t need more native features, the use of React Native will shorten the development cycle.

  • Native-like performance

React Native apps render their UI using native APIs. As a result, their performance is in most cases on par with native iOS/Android apps. And sometimes 

 

React-Native, [...], comes in first place as the better performing platform

as John A. Calderaio proved in his insightful article comparing the performance between iOS and React Native. 

Note, that the framework uses the famous ReactJS UI library. It transfers virtual DOM, improved app performance, and more simple programming processes from ReactJS.

  • Native-like features

Planning to use in your application features like push notification, camera, social authentication or location? Reach out for Expo. It’s a free and open source toolchain built around React Native to help you build native iOS and Android projects using JavaScript and React. Expo is a complete workflow for creating next-generation mobile apps. The full list of native APIs supported by Expo may be found here

What’s more,  Expo provides you with remarkable improvement into the development process including instant updating (one ‘click’ and all Expo apps are updated in seconds) asset management (dynamic distribution of images, videos, fonts, etc. over the Internet) and many more. 

The Expo team not only is constantly improving its solution, adding more and more cutting-edge features to it but also has an ambitious plan for its further development. This sounds very promising both for businesses and developers.

  • Go-to for small dev teams 

Though it may sound a bit unbelievable but it’s true - with the use of React Native one developer can code for both iOS and Android platforms. This feature significantly reduces the team needed to create a mobile application. Also, there’s no need for such a developer to learn mobile programming languages for two platforms in a hurry, which also fits perfectly to a small team. 

  • Reliability

React Native is widely adopted both by developers and top companies, which makes it a very reliable mobile framework. There is no chance this technology will disappear in a couple of years as Facebook has far-reaching plans for its further development.

  • Lots of technical improvements

React Native is a famous open-source framework what makes adding extra features a piece of cake. It gives you the opportunity to remain flexible while coding.

Thanks to ‘live reload’ feature the process of making the changes to the code is very simple (the app is kept running, and new versions of files that you edit at runtime are updated).

Another big feature of React Native making the development process fast is ready-made components. Thanks to them there is no need to write a code from scratch.

Cons from a business perspective

  • APIs

Tough React Native goes perfectly with the vast majority of APIs, there are a few that need to be accessed and are not yet available. After all, you can cope with this functionality issue by implementing some native modules.

  • Native Code required

To implement more advanced native features, you will need an experienced Android/ iOS programmer to take care of it.

  • Design issues

Both iOS and Android development platforms follow their own particular design guidelines which, in some cases, might not be fully compatible with the React Native concepts. To ensure the flawless look of your application, in some cases you will need to write a few lines of separate code to adjust to the specific needs of each platform. 

  • Not so large community

React Native hit the market in 2015 when other mobile platforms have been in both clients and developers minds for several years. This means that the React Native community is smaller (so their support is) and there’s still a limited number of available third-party libraries.

What are the pros and cons of native app development? 

While speaking of mobile app platforms, we are taking into consideration the two main players, who completely dominate this market: iOS and Android. When it comes to native mobile app programming languages, developers can choose between Java or Kotlin for Android platform and Swift or Objective-C for iOS. Let’s have a closer look at their main benefits and drawbacks.

Pros from a business perspective

  • Supports all APIs

Will your product integrate with many diverse APIs? If so, pick the native app development. It doesn’t require any additional integration effort.  By choosing native development, you will avoid inserting a piece of Java or Swift code into the app, what you should do to bypass the React Native limitations regarding APIs. 

  • Good performance

Having a great performance stats, native development is a primary choice for building even the most complex mobile applications. Planning to implement IoT or AR/VR technologies into your product? That’s where native app development comes in.

  • Large community

It’s not an obvious advantage, but you will reveal the value of big community support when you will face some development or architecture difficulties. In such a case you will find probably all answers to your questions at hand due to a large number of available resources. What is more, there’s a large variety of third-party libraries you can choose from while developing a mobile app.

Cons from a business perspective

  • Time-consuming

The truth is that making a pixel-perfect, well-performing native app separately for Android and iOS takes a lot of time. Unfortunately, as the code for targeted platforms differs significantly, there is no way to share any line between them and thus speed up the whole process.

Note that your efforts do not end at the development stage. To make your product flawless, you need to thoroughly test it, which is also a time-consuming part of the project. 

  • Not so cheap

Mathematics does not lie. With React Native you don’t have to hire two separate teams to build apps for iOS and Android. React Native devs handle both versions. But if you insist on making a flawless, native product for both leading mobile platforms, you need to ask for help developers with expertise in either Android and iOS technologies. And that will cost you. 

Is React Native the Future of Mobile App Development?

Let’s focus on facts. React Native has been released in 2015 and since then it has gained recognition among developers and companies worldwide. The graph below presents the increasing trend for React Native. 

 

 

Trends Google 2015-2019

As React Native helps build fully-fledged products distinguished by high performance and tailored-to-the-platform UX, its future looks very bright. According to a Markets and Markets report, this framework is expected to grow significantly from $25.19 billion in 2015 to $80.45 billion in 2020. Expect a lot of React Native apps on the market.

However, React Native could never gain such popularity without strong community support. Again, the facts speak for themselves. The Github repository statistics clearly show that 1,900 contributors have committed 16,072 times in 72 branches so far.

Why should you choose React Native for mobile app development?

Picking the right technology for your project is a decision that will stay with you for years. It should be based on your business goals and overall vision of your mobile product. To make this decision a bit easier, we identified a few appropriate business cases in which React Native is a perfect suit. 

React Native is a go-to when:

  • you deal with tight deadlines and want to develop your  app quickly

With React Native, both the development time and time to market are significantly lessened.  No matter who you are - a startup trying to satisfy investors with a quick MVP or an enterprise searching for flexible solutions - React Native will definitely meet your business expectations. 

  • you want to build a mobile app at a reasonable price

Well, it’s pure logic - the less time you spend on development, the smaller the budget you can make do with. The truth is that a team of two React Native developers can make a release of the app in a comparable time frame then a pair of iOS or Android devs. This makes React Native a great choice for those who prefer working with small, agile teams or simply can’t afford a bigger team of developers. 

  • you plan to develop an app both the iOS and Android platform without sacrificing its quality, efficiency, and performance

Thanks to immense code reusability, React Native is a real-time- and money-saver. According to Shash, a programmer contributing to Hacker Noon, code reuse rates in top applications built with React Native are approximately 93% in Facebook, 85% in Skype and almost 86% in TaskRabbit. This helps you build an advanced mobile app for both targeted platforms in a shorter time frame than it takes if you go native. 

  • your app will be moderately complex

Reusable components which React Native is all about to make it a perfect suit for fairly complicated applications. Unless you insert into your project super advanced hi-tech technologies like IoT and AR/VR, it will perform just like the native apps do (or even better).

React Native uses JavaScript and JSX (JavaScript-XML) to create native apps for iOS and Android. Therefore by choosing React Native, you would only need a seasoned JavaScript developer for whom writing code for both (Android and iOS) platforms will be easy-breezy. 

  • you really want to go cross-platform

React Native is a ubiquitous mobile framework as with its use you can share the codebase not only for iOS, Android but also for the Web (with ReactXP and React Native for Web). Among top tech companies using React Native in production web apps, there are Twitter, Uber, The Times, Major League Soccer, Flipkart, DataCamp.

Which is the best platform for developing mobile apps? Final thoughts. 

In this article, we compared React Native and Native app development.  Both of these frameworks have their pros and cons - in general, native development is a good choice when only one platform is targeted, and full control is needed, while React Native works perfectly for most use cases unless they require specific platform features.

However, a vast majority of businesses can benefit from using the React Native as it shortens the development time even by 30-50%, significantly reducing the time needed for your app to hit the market. 

React Native is a framework for cross-platform mobile app development for iOS and Android. This tool saves time via decreasing development efforts and scaling a project team. That’s why it becomes the first choice for many top companies.

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