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Flutter vs React Native

In the world of software development there’s no such thing as a tool to rule all OS devices. This becomes especially true when it comes to Cross-Platform app development. In an ideal world, developers only need to develop an app’s code once and deploy it so that every device can use it. Luckily for us, it seems that technology is getting closer to this holy grail of Cross-Platform app development thanks to some powerful and easy to use app development frameworks.

In recent years, two of the most popular mobile app frameworks, Flutter and React Native, have taken up this challenge when it comes to Cross-Platform mobile apps. The first is developed by Google and the latter by Facebook. Both aspire to become the de facto standard for developers who wish to build apps for various OS using the same code.

In this post, we compare the Flutter and React Native app development frameworks so that you can get a better understanding of their differences, how they impact mobile app development, and how to decide which one fits best your app’s requirements.

Cross-Platform Native Apps

Before we go into the details, it is important to first understand what a native app is. A native app is one that runs directly on a mobile device, that is, it mainly uses the device’s local resources as opposed to the cloud. How well a native app performs depends ultimately on the app as well as on a device’s capabilities. If an app isn’t properly built or a device lacks computing power, it will most likely perform poorly. The opposite of a native app is a web app, also known sometimes as a progressive web app (depending on how it is built); web apps run mostly on the server-side of the app.

Both are great alternatives depending on what you need. A web app can run on any device thanks to its web-like structure that can be easily read on any device in a browser-like manner. It can offer low computing power devices a boost because the data processing does not occur directly on the device but on the cloud. Cloud computing has made web apps popular in recent years.

Native apps generally require a bit more development work, particularly because they have to take into consideration the specific OS for which they are designed. This usually results in bugs and other minor issues, nothing that a good QA can’t solve, but it consumes time. As a result, their time to market can be longer than that of web apps, but the results achieved can be way better in terms of User Experience.

A native app can deliver outstanding features using a device’s native capabilities. In other words, a native app’s UI and its look and feel can usually go beyond that of a web app. Building a Cross-Platform native app is ideal in many cases, as this type of app works across different OS. This helps solve the issue of having different development teams, technical requirements, and other difficulties encountered during the stages of development.

In general, there’s no point in considering which is better between a native and a web app. Both meet different needs that are ultimately determined by factors such as the app’s industry, its audience, budget, time to market, and so on. If you are not sure which is best for you, it is best you consult an app development expert.

With this said, you can probably understand now why you might want your app to be developed natively across multiple OS. Now let’s examine the details of Flutter and React Native and how they can help you build a great native app across various software platforms like iOS and Android.

Flutter Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

Flutter is not a programming language. It is an open-source Software Development Kit (SDK) developed by Google that allows developers to write an app’s code with the use of integrated tools in a single software package. It can be used to develop apps for Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, and Google’s very own Fuchsia. In general, there seems to be a great variety of OS for which Flutter apps can be built. This is very useful for companies wishing to build a Cross-Platform app from scratch.

Flutter uses Dart as its programming language. This is an app development language for mobile, desktop, servers, and web. It is object-oriented, class-based, and can be compiled to a device’s native OS or to JavaScript, making it an ideal framework for various OS.

As Google has stated, Flutter focuses on creating beautiful apps, speed, productiveness, and being open. One of the characteristics we like the most about Flutter is its Hot Reload feature which allows developers to update an app’s code while visualizing its changes in real-time.

React Native Cross-Platform Mobile App Development

React Native is an open-source mobile app framework for Android, iOS, Windows, and web products. It is based on React, the also open-source JavaScript library designed for interfaces and maintained by Facebook and its community. React Native is completely based on JavaScript, making it very convenient for developers, as it is a popular programming language. This, together with the fact that it is a Cross-Platform development framework, makes it very attractive.

For many years Facebook opted for HTML as their choice, only to realize later that they should use a different approach. The result of this change in direction was the React Native framework. Thanks to its many third-party libraries available, developers can easily build apps without having to start from scratch. React Native has been a beneficial app development framework not only for Facebook but also for the developer community in general thanks to its open-source license.

Although beautiful apps can be built using React Native, it does not possess a feature like Flutter’s Hot Reload. Its code first needs to be saved in order to preview changes, making it kind of a burden to visualize an app’s UI in real-time.

Our Take on the Right Cross-Platform Framework for Mobile Apps

Should you choose Flutter or React Native for your Cross-Platform mobile app? After having discussed the pros and cons, we hope you now have a clear understanding of each Cross-Platform mobile app framework. The decision is not an easy one, but we do think there is a winner, at least for now.

In general, it seems that when it comes to choosing one of these alternatives there isn’t really much difference. Flutter and React Native can create great beautiful looking apps with powerful user interfaces and they both deliver a great app performance, but there are a couple of things that need to be considered. Also, take into account that specific aspects of your app and the industry you serve might affect your choice.

In terms of documentation, both have a good level of detail and resources, although React Native offers more alternatives. When it comes to libraries, React Native also offers more choices, especially third party libraries that are constantly updated. In terms of developers, there is a greater offer of React Native friendly developers thanks to its JavaScript foundations. The same occurs with their respective language learning curves; JavaScript is easy to learn. Flutter’s advantage seems to be its Hot Reload feature, something that is highly appreciated by developers.

In general, these differences and the apparent asymmetry can be explained due to Dart’s short life, its low popularity amongst the developer community, and Google’s weak promotion of it. On the contrary, JavaScript is a language with years of existence that is way more consolidated than Dart, and this has an impact on the benefits and popularity of React Native.

Lastly, React Native can be used for frontend and backend development, whilst Dart seems to be limited for the moment to the front end. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it does limit its scope.

So, in conclusion, at Koombea we consider that React Native is currently the way to go. This might change in the coming years as Dart and Flutter make their way through the market, but that is yet to be seen.

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