Native vs React Native – When to use which one?

Overview

Before developing any mobile application, do you ever feel confused about which approach to use for creating your project application? Native or React Native?

Don’t worry then. In this talk I’m gonna discuss this topic in detail and I’ll try my best to sort out all your confusion correctly.

Terminologies

In mobile app development there are three kinds of apps :

  1. Native Apps
  2. Web Apps
  3. Hybrid Apps

The native applications are the applications developed or focused to run on single platform or operating system like Android, iPhone or Windows. Android studio (uses Java or Kotlin for app development) and XCode (uses Swift or Objective-C for app development) are popular native app IDE for Android and iPhone respectively.

While web apps are the applications loading the web pages from the website hosted on a remote server. Laravel and Angular are some of the well-known frameworks to develop the web apps.

Hybrid apps are the apps developed to run on multiple platforms (like Android and iPhone OS) writing a single codebase. React Native (JavaScript framework introduced by Facebook to create mobile apps for Android and iOS) and Flutter (SDK introduced by Google to create mobile apps for Android and iOS) are some of the well-known frameworks to develop the hybrid apps.

In this talk, we’ll focus only the concepts related to Native vs React Native.

Application aspects

  1. Single Code Base
  2. Development Cost and Time
  3. Hot Reload
  4. Maintenance
  5. Performance
  6. UI/UX
  7. Security
  8. Adaptability
  9. Development Community
  10. API Accessibility
  11. Native Modules Support
  12. Lack of libraries
  13. Interaction with other apps
  14. Dependency on Platform Providers
  15. Application Scope

Prepare a cup of tea for yourself and be comfortable because this talk is gonna be tough debate between Native vs React Native.
We’ll discuss the Native vs React Native approach based on some key factors which plays an important role for any successful mobile application.

The below graph shows the dominating punches of React Native over Native approach. We’ll discuss all of them one by one. We’ll also conclude the dominating approach after every key points.

native-image1

Now, Let’s get started…

1. Single Code Base :

Native apps doesn’t support cross platform compatibility. But, with React Native we can build apps supported on both Android as well as iPhone platform at the same time which reduces a headache for developers to write code for a single application on both frameworks.

Dominating Approach : React Native

2. Development Cost and Time :

Native apps doesn’t support code portability or cross-platform support. So, it needs to be developed separately for Android as well as for iOS Platform, which needs extra efforts either it is in terms of manpower as well as planning and resources. So, organizations have to allocate separate developers and resources for Android and IOS frameworks
which ultimately results in greater development cost and time. The development time of React Native apps is 30-35% less than Native Apps.

Dominating Approach : React Native

3. Hot Reload :

In native frameworks, while testing apps or changing the bit of source code we have to build and run the whole project to check whether changes are reflected in app or not. This increases the development time for the application. But, React Native has a feature called Hot Reload which doesn’t need to rebuild the project every time instead it immediately deploys all the changes performed in code and can be viewed on a device.

Dominating Approach : React Native

4. Maintenance :

Maintenance in native framework app requires more attention as the bugs have to be solved on both the platforms. While in React Native bugs need to be resolved at one place and you’re done. But, if any issue is related to native modules in React Native then user have to solve it on both the native modules. Then, maintenance for Native and React Native takes equal time.

Dominating Approach : React Native

You may have found it favorable to pick up React Native approach on the basis of above discussion as there is no dominating key-factor from the native side.
But wait.. the master-strokes from Native side takes place from here and can be viewed in the below graph.

native-image2

Starting with the Performance,

5. Performance :

Performance is the key factor to measure the efficiency and flexibility of app created using Native vs React Native framework. The performance provided by the apps built in Native apps are always better than apps developed in React Native framework in terms of CPU, GPU and Memory usage. As we know, JavaScript (used for React Native) is fast but not suitable for heavy calculations compared to Java, Kotlin or Swift. JavaScript has only single dedicated device thread. So, it is difficult to manipulate asynchronous tasks in React Native compared to Native app development. If your app needs advanced features, complex manipulations, and hardware integrations then it is advisable to use Native framework. Because so many modules and functionalities are not supported by React Native. Even Facebook doesn’t use React Native for the whole app. They use
mixed approach of React Native and Native to build their apps.

Dominating Approach : Native

6. UI/UX :

To create a complex user interface like navigation patterns, custom views, app-specific components (like EditText in Android or TextField in IPhone), smoother transitions and animations are difficult to design using React Native as compared to Native App development. Also, the UX for Native frameworks are somewhat more flexible and responsive as each and every screen is designed separately for android as well as iPhone. It is difficult to match the UX expectations for both the platforms at the same time. Also, the size of application in React Native is bigger than Native framework.

Dominating Approach : Native

7. Security :

Native app framework uses Java or Kotlin for Android app development while Swift or Objective C for iOS app development. React Native uses JavaScript as the core development language. As we all know Javascript is not strongly typed language and is Object Based Language (the language which doesn’t support all the features of OOPs like Polymorphism and Inheritance), it has many flaws and breaches in its designing pattern and syntax compared to strongly typed languages. Hence, building apps using React Native framework may find it somewhat difficult to detect simple errors and break-points.

Dominating Approach : Native

8. Adaptability :

As a beginner in mobile development, you will think about which one is easily adaptable Native Framework or React Native Framework?

But, the answer is somewhat complicated. Because, React Native framework is easy to learn as it uses JavaScript (also some basic CSS and HTML skills) language to code which is very handy to learn. But, keep in mind that ease comes with a cost. Since JavaScript is weakly typed and interpreted language, it is more complicated to detect simple errors and to fix them at early stages of compiling. Java or Kotlin (used in Android Framework) and Swift or Objective-C (used in IPhone framework) are continued to get enhanced and aren’t actually flawed in terms of efficiency and scalability.
Most of the React Native apps need to use Native modules for specific functionality. So, to work with Native modules, developers must also have skill-set in Native framework languages. Ultimately, React Native app developers also need to learn Native framework languages.

Dominating Approach : Native

9. Development Community :

As we all know, Native framework languages are mature and have large development community over the internet. We can find most of the bugs and questions we need to know for our project development from different sites and topic forums. As React Native is growing and doesn’t have enough developer community to reach all over the world, sometimes, we have to figure out many complicated stuff ourselves for many project related functionalities which raises headache to manage things.

Dominating Approach : Native

10. API Accessibility :

All of the APIs offered by Native platforms can be accessible using Native framework. There is no extra bridge or connection layer to access required APIs for Native framework. On the other side, React Native can access most of the APIs provided by platform but, not all of them. So, if there is need to implement the APIs which are not accessible by React Native, then it is hard to solve this kind of situation. To overcome this, we have to add Native modules support. In short, Native apps are fully device integrated while React Native apps are partially device integrated.

Dominating Approach : Native

11. Native Modules Support :

The APIs we need to use in React Native which are not accessible then we have to add Native modules support. Native modules are the modules written in Native languages which we have to incorporate in React Native framework as part of it. This is a better solution to add support for unaccessible APIs in React Native. But, it requires developers to have knowledge of the native language, which is something that has been avoided by the developer while choosing the React Native. It also requires to code Native modules for both the languages separately.

Dominating Approach : Native

12. Lack of Third Party Libraries :

As we all know, that React Native is growing and has a minor development community and also lesser third party libraries, so, to use any third party library developed in a native platform, you have to associate the changes in Native modules separately. Also, you have to find that native library for both the platforms to add support.

Dominating Approach : Native

13. Interaction with Other Apps :

Native apps can easily connect and communicate with other native apps. They can easily pass data to other apps. Also, native apps can easily access camera, contacts, settings and many other apps. Whereas in React Native, interaction with other apps is very poor. Most of the time we need to use third party libraries and extensions to communicate with other apps. Also, retrieving results from other apps is very difficult.

Dominating Approach : Native

14. Dependency on Platform Providers :

Every new update released to the specific Native platform brings many evolutionary changes. So, whenever any platform-specific updates are released can be instantly received on Native frameworks. While React Native is developed by Facebook, so any latest platform-specific updates or changes released cannot be directly obtained for your React Native project. Either, you have to wait until Facebook releases new updates or you have to create custom bridges in your Native modules for custom project requirements.

Dominating Approach : Native

15. Application Scope :

If you’re targeting your application to provide frequent updates and deploy user friendly features in your app then it is better to select Native approach. Because, you can easily implement the required functionality and resolve bugs at any time in Native while, React Native app needs to deal with both the platforms at the same time. So, particular API that is not accessible by React Native or any third party library you want to add in your future updates or any other native issue comes up then it will be a total mess. But, if you’re not so concerned about future updates and bug resolving for your apps then you can pick React Native.

Dominating Approach : Native

So, these are the key factors to decide which app development approach to use based on our project requirements.

Yeah…sure!!! I’m too done with this unending debate.

native-image3

TL;DR

If your project development budget and time are too low and you don’t focus primarily on the performance then you can go for React Native framework.

If your project definition is not too complex and doesn’t require complex animations and hardware integrations then you can go for React Native framework.

If you’re a beginner in mobile app development then you must choose Native framework.

Also, if your developers are expert in Native Framework Languages then you must choose Native framework. Because the project delivered by developers will have high performance, high scalability, and better user experience.
If your app needs to use advanced topics like AR-VR, third party libraries, advanced APIs or internet of things, you should definitely pick the Native framework.

In most other cases, I think Native framework is the best choice for project development to deliver advanced functionality with higher efficiency.

Conclusion

I believe, both the approaches (Native vs React Native) have their specific concerns. In some cases, Native framework is best choice and in some cases, it is better to choose React Native framework (Hybrid Frameworks). It is recommended that the approach you consider for your project should be chosen based on key factors like, development time, performance, scalability, application scope etc.

Be productive and smart while choosing project development approach because, the choice is yours.

mm

Jay Mungara Android Developer

I’m an enthusiastic Android Developer at Yudiz Solutions Pvt. Ltd. - a leading Mobile App Development Company. I love exploring new programming things continuously to develop and enhance my coding skills.

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