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React Native vs other cross-platform frameworks - which one to use in 2018

The growing demand for mobile applications requires cross-platform frameworks that allow developers to work more efficiently. Traditionally, a developer would have to come up with two different applications - one in Objective-C for iOS and the other in Java for Android.

Even though the traditional approach provides unparalleled code consistency, it is costly and usually very slow. Cross-platform frameworks, on the other hand, allow the developers to write a single piece of code that can be applied to multiple platforms.

React Native is among the most popular cross-platform frameworks for the options to write in Java languages, Swift, or Objective-C. This write-up will take a closer look at React Native and a few other cross-platform frameworks to help you select the best one.

What makes react Native Popular

To begin with, React Native is an open source framework that follows web development principles and applies them to mobile development. The framework uses React.JS and JavaScript to deliver close-to-native mobile development, as opposed to hybrid or HTML5 apps.

Let’s have a closer look at some of the benefits and downsides of React Native.

  • React Native benefits

As previously mentioned, React Native is an open source framework. It gives developers some extra flexibility in the sense that they can go back and inspect the code. This coding flexibility translates to more efficient debugging.

With React Native and some other open source frameworks, a developer can add new features and fix bugs on the fly. Besides the open source flexibility, this cross-platform framework can cut the coding time in half.

There is no need to use two different languages or develop two different applications. You write in one code for both Android and iOS. Consequently, there is only one app to test and update, an invaluable productivity booster.

In addition, React Native should provide an easier transition for web developers who are new to mobile app development. This cross-platform framework incorporates familiar JavaScript principles and concepts so there is no need to learn a new set of complex rules.

You can simply follow the basic JavaScript elements and gradually develop your skill from there. What’s more, mastering React Native should be easy because the framework is quite straightforward.

  • React Native downsides

This cross-platform framework has been available since 2015 but it hasn’t reached maturity yet. Compared to some other cross-platform frameworks, React Native has a somewhat limited community. This potential lack of support from other developers might cause time-consuming delays and drawbacks.

If you encounter an unexpected structural issue, resolving of it might be problematic since React Native has a set number of third-party libraries. And there is also the question of Android and iOS platform design.

Both platforms look different and follow specific guidelines that can affect the placement of graphical elements. If graphical elements appear misplaced on either mobile platform, you will have to write additional code that adheres to the design guidelines.

Besides, there is no support for all of the native APIs, though this problem can be solved with Native Modules. However, you need to know the language in question when using Native Modules, which in a way defies the purpose of React Native.

Other cross-platform frameworks

Cross-platform frameworks like Flutter, Xamarin, and Ionic have become reputable React Native rivals for various reasons to be outlined below.

  • Flutter

Flutter is one of the newest cross-platform frameworks. Flutter was released by Google in May 2017 and soon became a major competitor to React Native with a rapidly growing developer community.

Unlike React Native, Flutter adopts Dart programming language and has well-structured documentation. Its user interface utilizes proprietary widgets as opposed to native components. Customizing Flutter UI components might be easier but there is a lack of elements in the Cupertino library for iOS development.

However, in terms of app performance and configuration Flutter outperforms React Native. With Flutter, you don’t need to use JavaScript bridge to communicate with native components and it supports 60fps animations. Flutter is also easier to install and automatically checks for system problems.

At the moment, React Native still has a larger community, more supported IDEs, and greater industry adoption.

  • Xamarin

Xamarin was launched in 2011 and acquired by Microsoft in 2016. Since the acquisition, Xamarin has become one of the most popular frameworks that allow developers to share up to 90% of code across different platforms.

As opposed to React Native and Flutter, Xamarin is based on the .NET framework. It uses C# programing language which is mature and strong enough to prevent any unexpected situations. You can utilize .NET framework features like LINQ, Asynk, and Lambdas. In addition, Xamarin is compiled natively.

For these reasons, a lot of developers opt for Xamarin to engineer apps that look and feel native and perform accordingly. But the thing that makes Xamarin stand out compared to React Native is the use of the latest APIs.

This cross-platform framework can use all of the latest native APIs to exploit Xamarin platform capabilities like Android Multi-Window and iOS ARKit. This makes Xamarin apps stand up well against natively developed Android and iOS apps.

In terms of UI design, Xamarin gives you the option to create a layer of UI code for a specific platform. This means that the apps will look, feel, and perform natively on any given platform.

  • Ionic

Unlike all of the above cross-platform frameworks, Ionic uses Angular and HTML5 to develop hybrid apps. In many aspects this might not be an ideal solution for cross-platform development, but Ionic can still be used for simple or corporate apps.

The main Ionic drawback compared to React Native or Xamarin is that it’s nowhere near as native. This lack of native-like performance comes from the fact that the framework doesn’t use native components and renders mobile apps via web technologies.

But it’s not all bad news for Ionic. You can test Ionic apps very quickly and the framework comes with a lot of ready-made components that can speed up development.

Conclusion

The choice of a cross-platform framework boils down to your needs or the needs of your client. Ionic can be a quick and easy solution for less demanding apps. Flutter performs really well but it lacks the support and practicality of React Native and Xamarin.

Thus, it might be best to go with either Xamarin or React Native for their flexibility and better native-like integration.

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By interactivated • on September 27, 2018

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