As a mobile app developer or entrepreneur, you may wonder if using one technology (or stack, sometimes) over another is appropriate. Unfortunately, this scenario happens when companies have to choose between using cross-platform React Native or going the native mobile app development route.
Whatever the case, it’s always best to begin by prioritizing the benefits of using that technology to develop your app. This guide will introduce you to React Native and native development, explore the strengths and weaknesses of each, and clarify where and why you may need either.
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Introducing React Native
Mobile applications have grown in importance over the last few years. But, the need to build these applications to simultaneously target multiple platforms has also increased. React Native is a successful solution developed to address this challenge.
Being yet another important contribution from Facebook (now Meta) to the software development industry, React Native offers an impressive toolbox of ready-to-use solutions for mobile app development. It appears that the need for the perfect cross-platform language has been responsible for its growth.
As an established “hybrid” framework for mobile app development, React Native is proven efficient at cross-platform duties, attractive, popular among devs, and saves time and money.
Perhaps the only other multi-platform app development framework to give React Native a good run for its money is Google’s Flutter. For the latter, the name behind the tech seems to say it all. But, React Native has achieved legacy code status in the numerous projects where it’s been used.
This extensive application of React Native makes it necessary to understand the philosophy behind the tech and why it continues to be the go-to framework for app development.
React Native takes a different approach to app development than hybrid frameworks such as Cordova, Ionic, and Phonegap. These rely on an accessory known as WebView to achieve cross-platform compatibility. In other words, they embed a web page within a native app and find ways to integrate with the underlying device.
But, WebViews performance issues (among others), especially as an app grows in complexity, are a real limitation for mobile app development.
Let’s illustrate this by asking React Native to send a message to the native realm. The message says, “render this widget.” When the native realm checks the message queue and receives this message, it acts promptly.
This communication method is asynchronous and disconnected, usually leading to performance issues. For example, when a user rapidly scrolls through a long list (such as their phone contact list or messages list), multiple scrolls and new UI updates are sent back and forth. Animations are also a sticky issue to deal with as regards performance.
Many of these performance problems are barely noticeable to the user, but they exist nonetheless. It’s the developer’s job to design their application in such a way that they can avoid these problems.
Introducing Native App Development
Native app development is developers’ default route when building mobile apps. For several reasons, it continues to be an important part of the ecosystem, even though the next big cross-platform solution launches while you’re reading this.
Despite its resilience, native app development is unsuitable for all digital projects. However, billions of devices worldwide have native apps running on them that need bugs fixed, versions improved, and new updates launched. In addition, any new native app built will require native support until its end. That’s why the native app development market keeps thriving.
React Native vs. Native Apps
React Native’s hybrid apps use a single code base to produce an application that runs on Android and iOS devices. It is a valuable property because, as a developer, you only have to write code once that can run on both platforms.
With less code to deal with, there’s less performance and logistics overhead to contend with compared with native apps. However, in the latter, you need at least two programming languages to write two separate applications targeting each of the platforms.
Native apps thrive in terms of performance since they are optimized to efficiently handle platform bottlenecks. On the other hand, hybrids are less nimble, even though they sometimes use the full spectrum of a device’s resources.
Benefits of Using React Native
Developing mobile apps with React Native is great if you want to build something that holds up well regardless of user device quirks. Here are a few more detailed reasons why you should consider it for your projects.
1. It is cross-platform by default
React Native runs on Android, iOS, Windows, macOS and the web. Therefore you can target these platforms using one code base written by your development team.
On the surface, the decision to go with React Native may not reveal it, but there’s a lot of sound economics to benefit you. Planning, development, testing, deployment, and associated logistics become much easier when you opt for React Native.
You’ll also enjoy lower cost and time to market relative to Native.
2. It offers native modules
It’s important to be proactive about app performance issues and platform specifics in app development. When you use React Native, you can leverage its native modules to supplement the React Native app.
This approach saves developers the headache of building workarounds to improve performance.
3. It offers hot reloading
Developers need to quickly see and test changes on the fly. React Native’s Hot and Live Reloading is everything and more that developers need for this purpose.
4. It offers the same experience on Android and iOS
The key benefits of creating an app using React Native are incomplete without mention of the User Experience and User Interfaces.
React Native renders app interfaces into fully native-looking components, mimicking the look and feel of Native Android or iOS apps.
5. It meets developers’ need for speed
Developers understand the importance of time. React Native exponentially increases developer productivity by speeding up development time on projects. There’s no point reinventing the wheel when you can have one codebase that targets multiple platforms in half the time (or less).
Benefits of Native App Development
Why would you opt for native app development of your solution? There are a few possible reasons to do so:
1. It offers impressive UI and UX possibilities
Regarding the User Experience (UX), apps for native technologies are superior. Keeping the UX design for each platform self-contained ensures that the app experience is as seamless as possible.
Native solutions afford multiple possibilities to the developer, letting them customize their UI and UX for the most natural experience for the end-user. For example, if your startup’s value proposition includes animations and neat transitions, you’ll want to satisfy customer demands for these in the best way possible. Native app development guarantees it.
2. It offers performance improvements
Native development edges cross-platform development by a good margin concerning performance. Programming for the native environment allows full utilization of the device and system’s capabilities.
Therefore, you can count on the highest computing power, frame rate, graphics support, speed, and more when doing native programming.
The data exchange between native applications is more seamless, with as few bottlenecks as possible. One good example is Apple’s HealthKit and the third-party applications using the data it gathers.
3. It offers a full OS platform and integration support
When you develop an app using native operating system technologies, you have automatic access to native OS features. These include SDKs, sensors, and dedicated hardware, without the need to hot-wire workarounds.
Therefore, if, for instance, your objective is to develop an application that heavily depends on OS, uses ARKit, and needs hardware access (camera, microphone, TouchID, and so forth), native solutions are preferable.
The owners of Android and iOS provide adequate support for their native apps. Therefore, for every new feature or hardware, accessing it in native OS is more convenient. It’s also faster relative to cross-platform solutions.
4. Superior control over code
Native app development involves writing code that’s closer to the metal. In addition, it enables developers to write low-level code, thus giving them finer control of the environment.
The code is also easier to analyze, troubleshoot, and debug since all of the code is derived from the same principles.
Developers are not responsible for compatibility issues outside their OS; even with varying versions, the core remains essentially the same.
Why is React Native a Better Option for Startups?
React Native is under active development and maintenance. It’s also quite popular and has a strong and supportive community. Your startup will easily find developers to fill any void since React Native is the choice framework of many software professionals. It’s one reason why React Native works better for startups.
As a startup, the ability to quickly prototype your ideas is a superpower. The same applies to quickly building an MVP or bringing a product to market. That’s a big strength of React Native. You’ll determine fairly quickly if it suits your development needs or whether you need native at all.
Without a limited financial runway at the onset, startups are better off going for a hybrid framework that supports a single robust code base and the development process. This has critical logistical implications as it keeps initial costs to a minimum.
React Native is an excellent choice for startups if their app doesn’t rely much on native APIs (Application Programmable Interfaces) and native functionality such as IoT (Internet of Things) and AR (Augmented Reality).
It’s necessary to know that how your app turns out is ultimately down to the skills of your developers. So ensure that you have a partner with excellent knowledge of React Native. It helps them understand its strengths and limitations relative to native mobile app development. It means they won’t be sitting idly on the sidelines when you need guidance or to make estimates.
It usually takes a few tries for most startups to understand the right target audience and market for the best ROI possible. Meta’s React Native offers them a lifeline instead of forcing them to choose between Android and iOS. They can now conveniently target both platforms for multiplied impact.
While React Native’s maintainers still have much smoothing to do on its edges, React Native remains a viable and capable choice for many B2B applications, form-featuring apps, internal process software, and applications with dynamically generated views.
Brands that are using React Native
React Native offers brands a path to sustainable revenue with its glowing qualities and functionality. A few of the world’s well-known apps run on RN, including:
1. Uber Eats
React Native proved to be a no-brainer option for food delivery app, Uber Eats. Since the team was well-versed in the React ecosystem, their already extensive infrastructure would also support the migration to React Native.
The financial news giant Bloomberg is one of those companies that ran along to take a chance on React Native. So its team switched to RN and hasn’t looked back since. The result? The company’s developers can now meet the needs of its consumer mobile app in a volatile market.
The company formerly known as Facebook hasn’t just built a tool for the masses. It’s built a product it trusts and prefers that other developers contribute to.
The company wanted to achieve web development with a single cross-platform team, rapid iteration, and streamlined user experience on mobile platforms. So it boldly took the initiative to bake all that into React Native.
Another popular app made with React Native. When they wanted to launch their app’s iOS version, they didn’t seem to resonate with those they found. It was important for Soundcloud to have its app on both platforms simultaneously.
They met this objective with React Native and found they did not need a specialized mobile app developer.
Everyone knows Walmart, and it’s been pretty clear over the last few years that they’re continuing to make a strong push to improve their online infrastructure. One of their significant initial challenges was to amplify the performance and buyer experience on both mobile apps. But, again, React Native came to the rescue.
They invested in RN application development, effectively reusing 96 percent of the code base on both apps. It enabled them to gain enough traction and competitive advantage in an increasingly saturated e-commerce market.
Wix allows users to create HTML5/mobile websites using drag-and-drop functions. The users don’t need coding knowledge to achieve beautiful websites.
The Wix team found React Native to fit hand-in-glove with their ideology. Properties such as speed, hot reload, web development agility, and native outcomes were attractive enough to sway them. As a result, the dev team reported a development acceleration of 300 percent on switching to RN.
A mobile application is an entrepreneurial endeavor with immense financial potential.
Technical details are not the only consideration in deciding on React Native vs. Native mobile app development. Considering the bigger picture and the implications of either decision could become the future basis for your startup strategy.
Native development has its perks that seem to trump using a framework layered onto the native realm. Firstly, the promise of superior performance using first-hand device tools will always be tempting to developers. But, this is necessary in a few use cases despite the cost.
Startups may struggle to cope with inefficiencies arising from duplication of work and logistics. However, that’s what makes abstracted alternatives such as React Native work so well.
React Native is one proven alternative that offers minimal developer effort, lower associated costs, and faster time to market. In addition, the code base is robust and has excellent performance compared with native app development.
Using React Native, you have an excellent option to determine if the technology fulfills your project’s long-term requirements. Otherwise, if all prefer an app that chugs along at full blast, it might be preferable to use Native app development.
Neither React Native nor Native app development is the ultimate solution. It’s important to consider all factors carefully before deciding which option to follow. As long as the limitations of that option will not impact your business goals, you’re probably good to go.