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Native VS Flutter VS React Native – Which one Should you Choose?


Bhavik Limbani - May 2, 2019 - 0 comments

Home is where the heart is, but today, the phone is where the heart is! – Cabral

Today, having a responsive and reliable experience is the most basic expectations from a phone.

Nobody has time, both your customers and employees, for bad user experiences.

Only 75% of consumers would retry a mobile app once or twice if it failed to work the first time, only 16 percent would give it more than two attempts.

Poor mobile app experience leads to aversion towards the app and contains users from using the app again. Hence you get one chance to hit the spot.

So it’s an important decision to focus on the right platform before you jump into the development and start working on your app.

Do you want to entice your users by building an entirely native application that integrates into the platform of their choice (Android or iOS)?

Are you more interested in quickly developing a hybrid application which can be released across platforms?

Let’s break down both of these approaches.

What are native apps?

The native app is a smartphone application developed particularly for a single platform such as Android or iOS built in the coding language that is promoted by their makers. Think Objective-C or Swift for iOS vs. Java or Kotlin for Android.

The native mobile app is developed within a mature ecosystem following the technical and user experience guidelines of the operating system and is native to the user’s OS.

The in-app interaction has consistent look and feels with other native apps on the device. Thus the end-user will learn to navigate and use the mobile app more quickly.

The native applications have the significant advantage of being able to easily access and utilize the built-in capabilities of the user’s device.

Why go with native apps?

Native apps can provide optimized performance and take advantage of the latest technology compared to web apps or mobile cloud apps developed to be generic across multiple systems.

When not to go with native apps?

What are hybrid apps?

Hybrid mobile apps are developed for multiple platforms and behave like native apps. It’s a combination of a native app and a web app. These apps are developed using web coding languages like HTML, CSS, Dart and Javascript.

The Hybrid app development approach combines prebuilt native containers with on-the-fly web coding.

Why go with hybrid apps?

  • It can save some upfront costs.

  • It can be created using HTML/CSS/Dart/Javascript.

  • Slightly faster to develop because you have a single code base.

  • Only one app is developed for all platforms.

  • If you want to launch quickly just to test your app.

When not to go with hybrid apps?

  • Typically, the hybrid apps are slower than native apps.

  • The user-experience with of these apps can get clunky.

  • These apps are dependent on a third party platform called wrappers.

  • Less interactive than native apps

  • Less access to the native operating system sensors.

Hybrid app development frameworks

  • Ionic

  • React Native

  • Xamarin

  • Adobe PhoneGap

  • Flutter

  • Corona SDK

  • JQuery Mobile

  • Intel XDK

  • Native Scripts

  • Mobile Angular UI

Which one has better performance and User Experience – Native or Hybrid Apps?

Performance and user experience is a very important factor in the success of any application.

The psychology of a mobile user is straightforward: Users just want to keep using their phone in the way they believe all apps on their phone will operate from a navigational and interactive point of view.

And the application’s controls, interactions, visual cues, and gestures must be seamlessly integrated with your platform’s extensive style guide.

If your app’s user experience and performance are bad, the user will have some sort of a negative reaction to the app like from never using it again to giving a bad review and then jumping on to a competitor’s app.

Native Apps

The native apps are faster and more reliable, As users navigate a native mobile app, the contents, structure, and visual elements are already on their phone, available for instant loading, and thereby providing a seamless experience.

Hybrid Apps

On the other hand, a hybrid app has only a wrapper that is downloaded to the user’s phone (which may or may not contain all the navigational elements) with most of the data being loaded from the server.

Know First: React Native And Flutter?

React Native came to the scene in 2015. It is open-source, and it is originally created and mainly supported by Facebook. Thousands of apps were built using React Native, including Instagram, Skype, etc.

Chances are you haven’t heard a lot about Flutter yet. The reason is that Flutter is a relatively fresh tool that was released in 2017. This framework was developed and is supported by Google. It is open-source as well, and it supports creating apps for Android, iOS, and a relatively new OS, Google Fuchsia.

Flutter vs React Native

There are three obvious things Flutter and React Native have in common:

  • they are open source;
  • they are developed and supported by major IT corporations;
  • they are created for developing cross-platform mobile apps.

That’s all. There are a lot more things we need to compare to make conclusions. Let’s compare React Native vs Flutter to figure out what is the difference between Flutter and React Native.

Supported Native APIs

As for Flutter, it supports most hardware and sensor APIs except for Bluetooth and NFC. However, you should keep in mind that Flutter is quite young, and some APIs are in an early stage of development. This means that you could run into various issues when using them, and you may need to wait until some hardware gets fully supported. For instance, dynamic online maps support is still in development.

In case of React Native, you can count on most Android and iOS native APIs. Official native APIs include the ones for WiFi and location services; however, there are only unofficial (i.e. third-party) APIs for Bluetooth, biometrics, camera, sensors, NFC. The good news is that you can always find third-party APIs for this hardware. One significant drawback to React Native is lack of support for drawing customizable graphics.

Languages

You need to know Dart to use Flutter. Dart is more of a niche language, so it may be quite a challenge to find developers that are ready to start using Flutter right away. However, Dart learning curve is not steep, especially if you are an Android developer familiar with Java and/or Kotlin. Although, it would take iOS developers more time to get used to Dart.

If you use React Native, you will be writing the code with JavaScript which is one of the most popular and loved programming languages among developers. There are crowds of JavaScript developers out there in the labor market; however, finding a React Native could be tricky.

Performance

Performance is one of the most prominent advantages of Flutter that turned it into a hot topic. The thing is, Flutter apps function without a bridge to interact with native components. It addresses the components directly, thus saving time and increasing the app’s performance. This means complex apps built with Flutter are faster.

We can guarantee that the React Native vs Flutter performance comparison will surprise you. In the case of the apps built with React Native, their architecture consists of the JavaScript code and native components. If the app needs to use native components (e.g., location services or the camera), it uses the JavaScript bridge to convert JavaScript variables into native ones.

UI Development

Flutter has a completely different approach to building the UI – using customizable proprietary widgets:

  • Material Design (Android);
  • Cupertino (iOS);
  • widgets for texts, animations, etc. that can be used for any platform.

This approach allows creating fully customized UIs which gives developers more freedom to implement the best UI possible. Moreover, apart from better customization opportunities, this leads to better performance and portability. At the same time, such a UI will feel native and intuitive to users.

On the other hand, the Cupertino library may not be enough for creating a feels-like-native iOS interface as it lacks some essential UI components. As for per-platform UIs, this part of the job may be quite tedious as you need to detect what device is being used first and then build the needed layout.

One more important difference here. Creating the user interface with React Native means tapping into native components.

On the one hand, it allows creating apps that are indistinguishable from native ones. Besides, React Native allows creating different interfaces for different platforms. On the other hand, it comes at the cost of the app’s performance and portability. Besides, you sometimes have to look for third-party UI components libraries.

Testing

As for Flutter, the situation with testing is not that good either. While the unit testing tool that comes with Dart is excellent and smooth, integration tests are more complicated to perform. Yet, there is also a flutter_driver package for performance testing.

React Native developers have a huge variety of JavaScript tools for unit testing at their disposal. However, when you need to run UI or automation test, things get more complicated: you have tons of third-party tools that you need to choose from.

IDE & Community Support

Considering that React Native has been out there longer than Flutter, it is definitely the winner in this nomination. React Native is supported by almost every widely used IDE available out there. Flutter, on the other hand, is supported only by a handful of IDEs:

  • VS Code;
  • Android Studio;
  • IntelliJ IDEA.

One advantage that React Native certainly has over Flutter is its community. Let’s compare the GitHub stats:

  • Stars: 68,000+ (React Native) vs 36,000+ (Flutter);
  • Contributors: 1,700+ (React Native) vs 230+ (Flutter);
  • Commits: 14,300+ (React Native) vs 11,700+ (Flutter).

Conclusion

The war between native and hybrid apps is continuous.

Both have their pros and cons and so to get a final outcome is a difficult task.

Before you head for anything it is always advisable to take some time and think about what you prefer more.

According to one of the survey more than 80% mobile app users, have affirmed that they consider app performance as the primary standard for the app retention and the app engagement.

Hybrid apps do save some upfront costs but may give you a headache in the long run. While Native ones offer the best security, user experience and smooth access to all native APIs.

Your investment of money and time won’t go in vain with the native apps.

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