What is React Native ?
React Native was first released by Facebook as an open-source project in 2015. In just a couple of years, it became one of the top solutions used for mobile development. React Native development is used to power some of the world’s leading mobile apps, including Instagram, Facebook, and Skype. We discuss these and other examples of React Native-powered apps further in this post.
There are several reasons behind React Native’s global success.
Firstly, by using React Native, companies can create code just once and use it to power both their iOS and Android apps. This translates to huge time and resource savings.
Thirdly, the framework empowered front end developers, who could previously only work with web-based technologies, to create robust, production-ready apps for mobile platforms.
Interestingly, as with many revolutionary inventions, React Native was developed as a response to...a big technological mistake.
How does React Native work?
What is cross-platform development?
Cross-platform development is the practice of building software that is compatible with more than one type of hardware platform. A cross-platform application can run on Microsoft Windows, Linux, and macOS, or just two of them. A good example of a cross-platform application is a web browser or Adobe Flash that performs the same, irrespective of the computer or mobile device you run it on.
You don’t have to decide which audience to target, i.e., iOS or Android users, as cross-platform software runs on both, which gives you access to a wider user base.
There are some navigation and design differences between iOS and Android, which – in cross-platform development – are dealt with by default, thanks to the shared codebase. This helps with creating a consistent app brand identity on both platforms with less effort than if built on native.
This is one of the greatest advantages of cross-platform development – you can build just one codebase for both Android and iOS at the same time. Native app development requires writing code separately and frequently needs two different software developers to perform the job – one for iOS and one for Android.
Since only one codebase is required to handle iOS and Android, and everything is in one place, product development is much quicker. Cross-platform applications are built as single projects, even though they support different devices, and a large amount of code can be reused between platforms.
Building cross-platform applications can be 30% cheaper than building native apps, all thanks to the ability to reuse code and faster development, which directly impacts the cost.
What you’ve read so far might lead you to think that cross-platform development is flawless – it’s not, it has some disadvantages. Let us get into them right now.
Requires more expertise to ensure high performance
It is a common myth that cross-platform apps perform worse than their native counterparts. For instance, both Flutter and React Native aim to run at 60 frames per second. In most cases, cross-platform applications can perform to the same standard as native apps provided that the developers have enough skill and expertise
Harder code design
Since cross-platform apps must be responsive to various devices and platforms, it makes coding more complex. This results in more work for developers who have to include exceptions for different devices and platforms to account for the differences – especially when it comes to more complex features.
Long feature release time
With every new feature release for Android or iOS, it takes a while to update both apps to support the new feature. Native apps are provided with the updates quicker.
While we’re on cross-platform development, it’s worth having a quick look at some of the cross-platform frameworks.
released in 2017 by Google, it can be used beyond cross-platform mobile development. Flutter is perfect for experimenting with new features and fixing small bugs thanks to its fast refresh feature. It lets developers instantly verify the changes made by the most current updates without the need to restart the app after editing the source code.
Benefits of React Native
We’ve discussed the products built using React Native, so let’s move onto the advantages of React Native development and why you should choose it as a solution to build your mobile app.
Code reusability – cross-platform development
Being able to reuse code is the biggest advantage of React Native, and it indicates that apps can run effectively on multiple platforms – which is something that CEOs and Product Owners truly appreciate. They can integrate 90% of the native framework for reusing the code for both operational systems.
Large developer community
If any developer experiences a problem while developing an app, then they can turn to the community for support (as of mid-2020, there are nearly 50,000 active contributors to the React Native tag in Stack Overflow).
There will always be someone who’ll be able to help them resolve their issues – this also has a positive impact on improving coding skills.
Another advantage of React Native development is greater cost efficiency. As mentioned earlier, this is because developers are able to use the same code to build applications for iOS and Android.
It means you don’t have to hire two separate iOS and Android dev teams to finalize your project; a small team is enough to build it. The cost of developing apps in React Native is much lower than apps built using languages that don’t allow for cross-platform development.
Fast refresh allows developers to run the app while updating it to new versions and modifying the UI. Changes are visible immediately, and the developer is spared from rebuilding the entire app.
This leads to two significant benefits: time savings – as programmers save time on compilation and increased productivity – since they don’t lose any state while incorporating changes into the app.
Considering the pace at which the framework took over the market and its simple approach to resolving development problems, the future of React Native for cross-platform apps looks bright. Even though it has a few disadvantages, which we’ll discuss in the next section, its speed and convenience of development compensate for them.
With all this in mind, let’s now take a look at why React Native potentially might not be a great fit for you.