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React Native: Building Native Mobile Apps with JavaScript

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With the two dominant mobile platforms accounting for over 99% of the market, businesses often need to make difficult decisions when building an app, such as iOS vs. Android first or native vs cross platform development. The latter often represents a far bigger issue for business owners, as they need to choose between native performance and a lower cost of development.

Cost-effective alternative to native app development

Unlike most of the hybrid and cross-platform tools, React Native offers a great alternative to native iOS and Android development.
It allows you to build native apps faster and at a significantly lower cost without compromising the quality of the end product.

In this article we will cover the pros and cons of React Native and share our thoughts on how it compares to other cross-platform tools and technologies, including React Native vs. Ionic, and React Native vs. Xamarin.

1. What’s so good about React Native? Benefits and pitfalls to consider

React Native is a JavaScript-based cross-platform mobile development framework built by Facebook.

Unlike hybrid development tools, the framework compiles JavaScript to a native code base, allowing for better app performance, UX, and functionality that is close to native.

The framework is based on React, a front-end JavaScript library. Being initially used as internal tools at Facebook, both tools are currently open source.

React Native is widely adopted by some major tech companies: React Native apps are built by Facebook itself, and also Airbnb, Walmart, Tesla, Baidu, and Bloomberg. Millions of people (and you are probably one among them) use RN-based apps every day – Instagram, Facebook and Facebook Ads, Delivery.com, Discord, UberEATS, Vogue, and numerous others.

Benefits of React Native

But what makes it so popular? The answer lies in the specifics of the technology. React Native possesses all of the benefits other cross-platform tools offer, such as

  • the ability to target multiple mobile platforms using native components,
  • reduced development time, and
  • a lower cost.

At the same time, the solution also provides the ability to create native applications thanks to the abstraction layer which bridges JavaScript code and native APIs. As a result, React Native offers a number of unique benefits for developers as well as for businesses of any scale.

Why React Native is a great mobile development solution for startups and midsize businesses

Faster than ever app development

  • A single codebase that covers both platforms is faster to build and much easier to maintain. With React Native, code sharing can reach 80-90% (depending on the amount of platform-specific code and native components you need to integrate). This can significantly speed up the development and reduce the cost of building and maintaining such products.
  • In terms of striking a balance between cost and quality, React Native has no equal counterpart
  • React Native relies on reusable components (mostly standard UI elements that are used repeatedly across the product) which allows for faster development and easier product scalability. Those advantages can be also enhanced when the agile methodology is applied.

A native-like app at a lower cost

  • React Native components compile directly to native, which administers an excellent performance and UX. In this way, the quality of your product will not be compromised.
  • The framework works well with native components along with other hybrid tools. This makes implementing, custom advanced features easier: If there is no corresponding solution in React, you can simply use native elements to augment your functionality. Thus, React Native can be a great solution for scaling your product without rewriting it. You can implement new features with React Native on top of your original tech stack.

Vibrant community: fast development problem solving and continuous improvement

  • Being based on JavaScript, one of the most popular programming languages, React Native has a large talent pool. In addition to this, the framework has a powerful community, which makes it easy to find answers to almost any question, which also greatly speeds up the development.
  • Backed by Facebook and actively developed by the open source community, the framework is constantly evolving. A new version of the framework is released monthly.

Some drawbacks

Regardless of how great it is, every technology has its weaknesses. React Native is no exception to this. The following pitfalls should be considered if you want to use the framework for your next project.

  • While there are many ready-made solutions for the most common problems with React Native, adapting some of them to the specific needs of a project may be hard. Thus, the failure to weigh all the pros and cons of using these solutions might cost you a lot of time and effort.
  • Being superior to hybrid solutions, React Native still uses an additional layer to bridge JavaScript and native code. Thus, there are still certain deviations in performance between the 100% native solutions and the React Native apps.
  • Worth your attention: John A. Calderaio conducted a comprehensive comparison between React Native vs. Swift to find out how the two perform in different scenarios. Being almost identical in terms of UI, React Native’s implementation beats Swift in GPU and in Memory use. More on this here.
  • When using React Native, we still need to consider the specifics of each target platform. Thus, something that works well for iOS can fail to perform as well with Android.

2. How does React Native compare to other cross-platform tools?

Thanks to its multiple benefits, React Native is the technology of choice for many startups and established companies. Yet, it’s not the only option for cross-platform mobile development. Among other popular tools are Ionic framework, PhoneGap/Cordova, and Xamarin. So, let’s take a closer look at how React Native compares to those tools.

React Native vs. Ionic (Cordova/Phonegap)

Ionic framework, as well as other similar hybrid tools including PhoneGap/Cordova and Titanium, relies on JavaScript, HTML, and CSS to build cross-platform apps. The main distinctive feature, while also being their major weakness, is the fact that all these tools basically wrap a web app in a native shell, rendering the UI in a webview. As a result, we get an overall poor performance and UX.

Using a similar stack as a foundation, React Native, however, takes quite a different approach. As described above, the framework compiles JavaScript to platform-specific code using native views instead of a webview. This results in a significantly better performance and user experience. Instead of creating native-like components we can simply use the available solutions or adapt them to your needs.

Xamarin vs. React Native

Unlike hybrid mobile development tools, React Native and Xamarin are very similar in terms of execution. Both solutions are compiled to native code for better performance. However, there are still some differences to be aware of.

Xamarin relies on C#/.Net stack for building iOS and Android apps. While these apps perform in a way that is close to native, in many cases you will need to compromise on the UI to make Xamarin a viable solution. With the use of a platform specific UI for each target OS, the amount of shared code reduces dramatically, so it makes no sense to use Xamarin at all.

React Native, in its turn, has a strong focus on UI (ReactJS has been initially developed as a library for building user interfaces). Thus, both the performance and interface of your React Native app will be indistinguishable from native mobile solutions.

Another benefit of React Native over Xamarin is that JavaScript has a larger and more active community as compared to the C# stack.

As for the React Native vs native app development debate, you can read some insights from the WalmartLabs team on why they decided to go with RN for their mobile projects.

3. Wrapping up

To sum it up, React Native is perfect for small and medium businesses. It provides a fast and affordable way to build native mobile apps using a single JavaScript codebase, without the need to compromise on the performance. Thus, you need to develop one app instead of two, which is a great way to save on costs.

The risks of bugs and errors is much smaller in comparison with other hybrid development tools, and the bug fixing process is much faster due to the strong community support.

However, we cannot firmly recommend React Native for complex large-scale projects that rely greatly on the performance of device hardware. . In this case native development is still better in terms of processing speed and scalability of the future product. As we mentioned earlier, React, Native allows for the creation of a native mobile app which will work well on both platforms, however, bear in mind that it is inferior to iOS/Android development due to the necessity of bridging and compiling these components into native.

Our company has several ongoing React Native projects of different levels of complexity and we would be happy to help you help you implement your app idea in a fast and cost-effective manner. If you want to see the benefits of cross-platform mobile development with React Native for yourself, contact us now and book a free consultation.

The post React Native: Building Native Mobile Apps with JavaScript appeared first on Eastern Peak.

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Valeriia Timokhina is a blog editor and IT manager at Eastern Peak, a top-ranked custom software development company.

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