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Flutter Vs React Native

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Flutter vs React Native

Date
25 Feb 2022

Author
Lucile Vacquie

Is it going to be Flutter or React Native? Do you know which one is worth your time, money and effort? In this article, we’ll look at Flutter vs. React Native and explore the key differences.

The phenomenon of mobile apps dramatically affected the world of development. There are  6.64 billion smartphone users worldwide. According to Statista, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is 6.648 billion, and this means 83.89% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. Therefore, the creation of mobile apps requires new solutions that are less time and effort consuming.

Cross-platform solutions are gaining popularity. Flutter and React Native are two leading market players. These juggernauts are backed by two of the largest tech companies in the world. Flutter was created by Google and React Native was created by Facebook.

Releasing an app on both App Store and Google Play is every business’s desire. But the trick is, before shipping a mobile application to the market, you must choose a technology stack.

Is it going to be Flutter or React Native? Do you know which one is worth your time, money and effort?

In this article, we’ll look at Flutter vs. React Native and explore the key differences.

Mobile App Developer Working On A Project

Here is what we’ll cover:

What Is Flutter?

Flutter Logo

Flutter is a cross-platform UI framework developed by Google. It was first released in May 2017 and since its official release in December 2018 it has steadily grown in popularity.

One of Flutter’s main selling points is that it enables you to create cross-platform applications using a single codebase. Traditionally, if a business wanted to create an application that is available on the web, mobile and desktop, it would have to use more than one tool to achieve that goal. For instance, you might have needed to hire a developer who specialises in web development, a further developer who has the skillset to build a desktop app and an additional developer to build an app for IOS and Android.

In this case you might have one developer using React to build the initial website, another using c# and Java to create the desktop app and another using Kotlin and Swift to build the Android and IOS apps respectively.

This method would require a whole team of developers, not to mention the boatload of meetings you would have to hold to ensure the design and branding is cohesive and consistent across all platforms. Additionally, you would need to factor in testing for each platform and address the respective bugs and idiosyncrasies.

With Flutter, companies can hire one developer to create apps for all platforms with just one codebase to manage. This would greatly reduce time and resources required to launch and maintain an app.

What Is React Native?

React Native Logo

React Native is a cross-platform framework created by Facebook. It makes it relatively simple to create cross-platform applications because the codebase is essentially written in JavaScript. This lowers the barrier to entry for JavaScript developers because they don’t need to learn a completely unfamiliar language.

Web development is no new kid on the block, it has been around for years. Most web developers have been using JavaScript for much of their careers. Mobile development, although a fairly new field, the ecosystem has matured substantially over recent years. If a developer were to already know JavaScript, the learning curve for mobile app development using React Native wouldn’t be as steep.

Nowadays, many businesses are using React Native for app development. Microsoft developed the Xbox Store App using React Native. Like Flutter, React Native makes it possible to create apps across various platforms using a singular codebase.

Key Differences Between Flutter & React Native

Flutter and React Native do share many similarities, however, they are also quite different in a handful of significant ways.

To begin with, Flutter uses the Dart programming language in its codebase whereas React Native uses JSX. JSX stands for JavaScript XML. Both languages are based on the c-style type syntax and follow object-orientated principles. This common ground means that Flutter and React Native are essentially alike in terms of design and code structure.

Dynamic vs Static Programming

There is a notable difference when it comes to the core programming language. JavaScript is dynamic in nature. This means you can change values of various data types, which makes it very versatile. Dart, on the other hand, is both dynamic and static. This allows it to have the best of both worlds.

A statically typed language is generally considered much safer since it forces you to declare and use the correct data type. The main advantage here is that all kinds of checking can be done by the compiler, and therefore a lot of trivial bugs are caught at a very early stage.

User Interface

Thanks to JavaScript bridge, React Native renders the native components for each platform. This feature allows for creating the look and feel of native Android and iOS applications. The prominent advantage is that React Native has lots of ready-made components to use as building blocks. 

Sadly, there are drawbacks as well. For instance, it’s hard to replicate complex UI in a React Native app. Also, the React Native components can behave differently on different platforms.

Flutter has UI widgets packaged within itself, which means creating native-like applications is easy. No need to search for third-party libraries – a large library of framework widgets is enough. Besides, Flutter apps are consistent across all platforms. 

Performance

Both Flutter and React Native are open-source and free to use. Both libraries are well maintained, as you would expect, being that they were created by tech giants Google and Facebook. It is possible to test apps created using both frameworks, either virtually using a built-in simulator on a computer for iOS or Android or natively, on a smartphone.

There is some debate as to whether Flutter and React Native are truly native. For them to be considered 100% native, they would need to be written in the language they were designed for. Swift for iOS and Kotlin/Java for Android.

The experience you get when using an app that was written in React Native and Flutter is, for the most part, a native experience. The Dart code, which Flutter uses, is compiled to C, which is about as close to native as you can expect. You can safely assume that would make for better performance.

The company that created Reflectly recently moved the app from React Native to Flutter and saw a significant increase in performance. This is one example of an improvement. However, it won’t be the same for every app; there are many factors to consider, such as the type of app, codebase, database, phone, operating system and so on.

Development Time

In a straight-up development speed contest, which is better Flutter or React Native? Flutter loses. The Dart language is not as widely used or understood by developers. Though most people love its hot reload feature, this framework lacks the support of many text editors and IDEs, which adds more time to the development process.

The difference between Flutter and React Native is JavaScript, pure, and simple. And clearly, JavaScript makes development easy and accessible for more web developers and web designers. Even better, developers are free to use any IDE or text editor of their choice. When it comes to development speed, there really is no comparison. React Native is clearly superior.

Developers’ Productivity

React Native has very high code reusability across platforms. Additionally, there are lots of libraries created by the devs community that can be used as building blocks to speed up development. On top of that, React Native has a hot reload feature that allows you to view changes in your app without recompiling it. 

Guess what? Flutter has a hot reload feature too, which means you can make any iterations quickly and receive feedback immediately. In addition, Flutter offers fast app compilation. 

Release

To compare Flutter to React Native on release protocols, Flutter wins every time. Why? Because Flutter has a seamless release process that will make it easy to get an app into the App Store or Google Play.

Flutter has official documentation for both fast Lane deployment and releasing to iOS Android. And recently Bitrise announced out-of-the-box CI support for Flutter. Better yet, Flutter apps can be deployed from the command line itself.

In React Native’ defence, its release process is a standard one. The only problem is, it’s entirely manual. Any automatic deployment that is done requires third-party tools. That makes the release process considerably more labour-intensive, and that slows down development speed.

In a React Native vs Flutter comparison on this point, the React Native framework has a long way to go to catch up.

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Flutter and React Native: In A Nutshell

FlutterReact Native
What Is It?A portable UI toolkit for building natively compiled app across mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase.A framework for building native applications using React
Date Of ReleaseMay 2017March 2015
Official ReleaseDecember 2018,Google I/OMarch 2015, F8 Conference
VendorGoogleFacebook
TypeSoftware Development KitSoftware Framework
LicensingFree & Open SourceFree & Open Source
Programming LanguageDartJavaScript
Popularity137,000 Stars on GitHub (Feb 2022)101,000 Stars on GitHub (Feb 2022)
Hot ReloadYesYes
Native PerformanceGreatGreat
UIFlutter apps look as good on the up-to-date operating systems as they do on older versions. Since they only have one codebase, the apps look and behave similarly across iOS and Android – but thanks to Material Design and Cupertino widgets, they can also imitate the platform design itself. How’s that possible? Flutter contains two sets of widgets which conform to specific design languages: Material Design widgets implement Google’s design language of the same name; Cupertino widgets imitate Apple’s iOS design. This means that your Flutter app will look and behave naturally on each platform, imitating their native components.   Application components look just like native ones (e.g. a button on an iOS device looks just like a native iOS button, and the same on Android). The fact React Native uses native components under the hood should give you confidence that, after any OS UI update, your app’s components will be instantly upgraded as well. That said, this can break the app’s UI, but it happens very rarely. If you want your app to look near-identical across platforms – as well as on older versions of an operating system (as Flutter achieves) – then consider using third-party libraries. They will enable you to use Material Design components, in place of native ones.  
Top Apps Made with This TechnologyGoogle Ads, Reflectly, Hamilton, Postmuse, Groupon, eBay Motors, My BMW, Capital OneInstagram, Facebook, Facebook Ads, Skype, Airbnb, Uber Eats, Tesla, Wix, Pinterest, Netflix
Competitive AdvantageGreat look and feel thanks to rich widgets. Rapidly growing community, and popularity. Excellent documentation with strong support from the Flutter team (which makes it easy to start developing with Flutter); Improving Flutter for Web, offering the potential for one codebase across mobile and web platforms Difficult to beat time-to-market length  Stability (5+ years on the market); Many successful, prominent market players using React Native. Mature, vast community. Easy-to-learn technology. Plenty of tutorials and libraries, which allow quick and easy development. Code can be easily reused for both web app and desktop app development.  

Buyers Guide

React Native is a good choice for projects with simple functionality and many similar entities, such as events, social media, eCommerce, and customer loyalty apps. If you are an established business with a decent number of customers and the mobile app is not a primary product, choose React Native, as it helps market natively looking apps significantly quicker.

Flutter is great in unusual new projects that involve decent calculations, complex animations, and when the functional side is more important than perfect design. It’s a good choice for early-stage tech start-ups to build an attractive proof-of-concept with minimum vital functions on a small budget, find a product-market fit, and then scale.

Final Verdict

Flutter vs React Native, or React Native vs Flutter, the bottom line is, there is no universal “better” framework. Each project is unique. The framework to choose will depend completely on the project’s parameters, and the business needs surrounding it.

Speaking only in the most general of terms, Flutter is better for bigger apps and apps that need native programming. Thinking about React Native pros and cons it should be admitted that it is great for apps that can benefit from its plug-and-play modules and large developer community.

There are some specific “fit” issues to consider, as well. For instance, if a project needs 3D, Flutter doesn’t support that. Similarly, Flutter should be avoided if the app design is platform-specific, requires multiple interactions with an OS, or requires little-known native libraries.

React Native also has its disadvantages. You should avoid this framework if your app needs to handle less common, or very specific tasks (like calculations) in the background. Also, avoid it if a project requires custom communication via Bluetooth, or the plan is to create an app for Android only.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when you make a comparison between Flutter and React Native. The team at Reach Studios would love to help you figure it all out. Contact us today and let’s have a chat!

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