React Native – the rising star of mobile app development frameworks. Cross-platform, attractive, popular, seemingly time and cost efficient. Some go as far as say it’s on it’s way to dethrone the native rulers of the world of appcraft.
To know which one to put your money on, we are going to need to line up our contenders, and take a good look at each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Betting blind might turn into a shot in the foot.
Considerable advantages here. First of all, he’s been around long enough to have seen all the wannabe competition born, shine like rising star and sooner or later fade or disappear. Native stays, it will be here even when the ultimate cross-platform hero takes over one day.
All the native apps running on billions of devices across the globe will need their updates, new versions, bug fixes and development. New native apps that are developed today will require native support throughout their lifetime. Native developers will always find work.
Crucial support from the platform providers, both Google and Apple, gives Native technology the advantage of being dependable. Being a mature, evolved technology puts it a few steps ahead of the cross-platform competitors.
Dedicated platform allows writing lower level code, giving better control over the environment. The written code is much easier to debug, analyse and troubleshoot. All this because Native is system specific and, say iOS developer doesn’t have to worry about compatibility with any other system than iOS.
Any arising issues are much easier to identify by dedicated Native developers as all they have to address is a single system – well known to them, not. Agreed – there are various versions of the system, types of devices, but at the core, they are all based on the same working principles.
Apps written in dedicated native technologies offer superior quality of User Experience. Separate UX design for each platform ensures that the “feel” of the app is natural to the environment it’s running on.
When talking performance, native (again) leads the race. Native programming allows utilising to the full the capabilities of both the device and the system it’s running. You get access to highest attainable framerate, speed, computing power, graphics support etc..
Big communities of developers around the world
Both iOS and Android native technologies are mature, sport huge developers communities and give access to vast knowledge base as well as wide palette of tools and solutions.
All the above make Native the preferred choice for large scale, big brand mobile services like Facebook, Snapchat, Banking apps. Fully dedicated solutions, due to high quality and superior performance are still the weapon of choice for demanding customers looking do develop their apps for B2C or C2C purposes.
So, if you’re looking to develop a Ferrari among apps, you are going to choose Native. No compromise on quality, no compromise on performance and definitely no compromise on the cost and development time.
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Dark side of native apps
Native is not the solution for the faint of wallet. Money is the #1 reason to think about alternatives. Developing 2 separate native apps for iOS and Android requires establishing two specialised teams of developers.
A project in native technologies is challenging to coordinate and manage. As most developers today work in one or another type of agile methodology, the client’s collaboration is required throughout the project. When dealing with essentially two development teams, getting your head around being a product owner can be tricky.
iOS and Android apps have at the core 2 completely different source codes, which means that not only initial mobile app development is more complex, but also the ensuing maintenance, updates and servicing of the software requires considerably more resources. Two separate technologies will influence all the stages of the app’s lifecycle.
Native is an easy choice if you’re developing an app with high performance and quality requirements. It’s the way to go if your budget can take it, and if you can spend a little extra time waiting for the project to be completed.
If you’re thinking savings and not stellar quality or performance, read on..
Exit Native. Enter React Native
The latest contestant in cross-platform technologies is no small-fry. Facebook-invented technology has been continuously growing, and over the last couple of years the community support and facebook’s commitment to their creation, has made it a significant competition for the native development.
Pros of React Native
React Native’s advantages stem mostly from the fact of it being a cross-platform technology. Meaning, the source code is processed and rendered into native Android and iOS components. Although this carries consequences in both quality and performance, it allows for the same source code to be used to make apps for both platforms. For developments where cost and time are priorities, React Native offers increasingly more attractive options.
When looking at a technical side, React Native development allows the use of one framework, one source code, to build apps for Android and iOS apps. Apps produced are real native software. Simply put, whether building an app for Android, iOS or both, this framework can be used to create the same source code, which is then rendered (translated) into corresponding native (iOS or Android) components.
The effects of developers work in React Native can be monitored in pretty much real time, without the need to compile the code. Hot Reloading allows to see the changes in code straight away, without building the app.
Currently, the cost of creating an app can be reduced by 25-30% when choosing React Native. The savings come from having just one development team in place of two. This means easier project management and more control over uniformity of the production.
It also means no difference in speed of works. Two teams – iOS and Android will never work at the same pace, while in React Native, the progress is always at the same rate for both platforms.
The main aspects of the produced apps – User Experience and User Interfaces are the real value for the end user. With React Native the app’s interfaces are rendered into fully native looking components, which makes the feel of the app identical to those made natively for either iOS or Android (example: https://facebook.github.io/react-native/docs/alert).
Although a relatively young technology – React Native’s palette of tools and ready made solutions is quite impressive. Facebook – the creator of the technology is also continuously contributing to its development. The tech’s popularity keeps growing and the growth is fuelled by interest from all directions. The community of developers is expanding rapidly, software houses create React Native teams, clients looking for savings are drawn to it.
Although not yet a all-round solution, React Native proves itself capable in a range of uses. It’s a good pick for B2B applications, software used for internal processes in companies, apps containing forms, or those with dynamically generated views.
Apps that need to be developed quickly and cost efficiently will also find React Native to be an attractive choice.
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React Native is not for everyone. Being a new technology carries with it certain deficiencies.
Cross-platform development means compromising on quality and performance. Native apps are able to utilise full capabilities of the dedicated systems and devices, while React Native apps are slower and struggle with high performance requirements. Not a preferable choice for apps that run heavy animations, definitely not games.
Young age makes it subject to ongoing changes and improvements, and any errors in React Native take time to address or require developers to come up with custom solutions or workarounds.
Sometimes, a component needs to be included that must be created in a native technology. Although native blocks can be incorporated into React Native code, they still need to be created by iOS or Android developers. This complicates the process a little as you need a native developer to join the team.
Non-native code can make it complicated to address some device-related app issues. Dedicated native software’s errors are easier to identify and fix, but with React Native apps the analysis and correction is more complex.
As the technology has not been around for long, a lot of components need to be built from scratch, and the choice of available, ready-made React Native frameworks is so far quite limited.
The bottom line
All in all React Native is a maturing and valuable alternative to native developments. Native still leads the race when the need is for top standards in quality and performance. The advantages of dedicated software are not questionable at present.
React Native and its growing popularity should not be underestimated though. For certain purposes, like B2B services it seems a better option. Better price and shorter development time add to its attractiveness.
While native is set to keep its prime position for a while longer, more and more aspects of React Native are painting a picture of an emerging underdog that may surprise in coming years with catching up with the leaders.
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