Technology

Flutter vs. React Native: Which is a better choice for app development

Marlena Walburg
Marlena Walburg
Flutter vs React Native - Which is better choice for app development

Cross-platform mobile apps are now the thing. More and more businesses want to have their mobile app to stay competitive in the marketplace and keep up with the trend. If you also think about developing your project, you probably realize that it often comes down to making the best possible choices at the beginning. After all, we want our product to be something special. You have already made the first one – you go for cross-platform development as it’s faster and more affordable. And although each element of this jigsaw puzzle is important, deciding what technology stack to bet on may be tricky and requires more thoughtful consideration.

From the all available options here, let’s focus on the currently leading frameworks – Flutter and React Native. Two solutions from strong market players, equally popular with big global brands on their list. Both provide the benefits of cross-platform software development without losing the advantages of the native approach.

Which one will fit your project better then? We’ll help you find the answer, but let’s get to know them a little bit more first.

What’s Flutter and React Native

As technology continues to move forward, the approaches to application development are changing too. A few years back, building a cross-platform app was considered to be less performance-driven and time-consuming than native development. Now, these times are gone. Launching React Native by Facebook was a game-changer here, as well as introducing Google’s solution, Flutter. Both of them allow building attractive cross-platform apps by using a single programming language. You can develop mobile apps much cheaper and faster with nearly the same look and feel as the native ones, hence so many people are tempted with this affordable option. 

What is Flutter?

Flutter is a UI software development toolkit based on Dart, an object-oriented language. The framework contains two sets of its own, fully-customizable widgets which incorporate all critical platform differences, so there’s no need to search for any additional libraries to build a good looking interface.

Flutter’s history started at the 2015 Dart developer summit when it was introduced to the world by the name of “Sky”, however, it was not until December 2018 that the first version deemed stable was released. Despite its relatively short presence, it is currently one of the most popular frameworks that allow developers to build apps quickly with a lot of ready-to-use components available.

Advantages of using Flutter

  • Flutter is open source and free – this means not only money savings, but also accessibility and easy onboarding thanks to a fast-growing community providing support on popular platforms. The development of this technology is very dynamic, and what’s relevant, it takes into account the notes from the users who have a strong influence on it.
  • Fast app development – thanks to the Hot Reload function, as soon as any code modification is made, it’s then displayed in Flutter and developers can easily observe their improvements in the code. It also improves work of front-end developers and UI designers – they can make changes to the app’s appearance and see them immediately. It is worth remembering, however, that this function has limitations, you can check these cases on their website. Nevertheless, what distinguishes Flutter is the ability to quickly create visually attractive applications with the performance we know from the world of native ones.
  • Access to native features – Flutter has a rich library of widgets that perfectly mimic native ones. Some of the app functions, ex. access to the camera, have to be implemented in native languages too. Flutter uses a flexible system that allows calling platform-specific APIs whether available in Kotlin or Java code on Android, or Swift or Objective-C code on iOS, so you don’t have to sacrifice certain features.
  • Quick UI coding – due to the use of Google’s Skia graphics engine, that provides low-level rendering support and the package of its widgets included, UI can be highly customizable. For designers, it may also be good news that there is only one version of the UI design needed. No matter the operating system, Flutter apps will always look good, modern and consistent. 

Disadvantages

  • A bigger footprint for on-device storage – unfortunately, Flutter apps’ file sizes are quite big. This may slightly affect a limited number of functions as developers try to reduce the size of the app as much as possible.
  • A relatively new framework – due to its short presence in the market, Flutter has not been extensively used in too many applications and you have to bear in mind that there are still many unfinished areas. For this reason, the user community is smaller and their support may be limited. Fortunately, the crowd is getting bigger and bigger.

When to Choose Flutter

With its fast-growing community of developers, well-described documentation and the ease of learning it, Flutter is a great solution for startups and small businesses. It’s perfect if you need a quick app development tool with an immediate preview of the changes made directly on the application, so go for it when you want to build an MVP in a short time.

Flutter will ensure you with a universal, fast performing application even on older versions of iOS or Android.

Popular apps built with Flutter

Flutter is a relatively new framework, nevertheless, there are many applications built on it:

  • Google Ads
  • eBay
  • Alibaba
  • Groupon
  • Philips Hue

What is React Native?

React Native is an open-source framework created and launched by Facebook in 2015. Its genesis was the company’s desire to build a universal application that will work on both iOS and Android. In a short time, the list of organizations using React Native has grown strikingly, and it continues to do so.

React Native uses JavaScript. It relies on the bridge concept, which is a way of communication between native and JS threads. Despite React Native already having a wide selection of elements and methods of iOS and Android, the bridge is a kind of tool that exports what the framework doesn’t have within itself. 

Let’s not forget about the fact that over the years Facebook has also taken care of the stability of the API, which is also important when choosing a framework.

Advantages of using React native

  • Shorter development cycles and code reuse same as Flutter, React Native offers a Hot Reload feature which speeds up the development process, and a huge collection of libraries and other ready to use components that drastically shorten the time to market. Moreover, React Native has very high code reusability for both web app and desktop app development.
  • Simple to learn as mentioned above, React Native uses a widely popular and loved JavaScript that makes assembling or training a React Native development team a bit easier. The way developers write applications using React Native is similar to building web pages with their primary language and CSS support along with UI tags that look a lot like HTML.
  • The fast growth of the React Native community – being already a quite long-existing tool, React Native boasts a large community of developers. There are also countless available tutorials or libraries at their fingertips, giving incredible support and making it much pleasant to implement among tech teams.

Disadvantages of React Native   

  • Not seamless navigation – React Native uses many external libraries and has more complex architecture. Using it requires more attention and developers’ experience. Navigating the framework can be problematic for new to programming users, moreover, those peculiarities are not very well described in the documentation.
  • A relatively complex UI – the framework has just UI rendering components and APIs for accessing the device features and for the rest, it needs to rely on third-party libraries. Sadly, React Native components can behave differently on various platforms. Such a complex UI can be hard to replicate in a React Native app and after every update of the operating system, app components may change in view.

When to Choose React Native

For large, more complex projects, React Native will be just right. Developers can count on the other users’ support and take advantage of extensive documentation. The development of applications for Android and iOS is done using one codebase, and the code of web and desktop applications can be reused later. React Native enables creating truly native apps and doesn’t impact the user experience.

However, bear in mind the project’s longevity. Facebook has withdrawn its services and tools at times, and it may have no reason to continue supporting React Native in the future as it’s not officially supported by either Apple or Google.

Popular apps built with React Native

On the list of applications using React Native, apart from Facebook’s products, of course, we will also find others, well-known brands:

  • Instagram
  • Messenger
  • Uber
  • Tesla
  • Pinterest
  • Walmart

Flutter vs. React Native Comparison

Knowing the majority of features of both frameworks, as well as the pros and cons of these solutions, let’s move on to the direct Flutter vs React Native comparison in a few of the most valid categories.

Programming language

Have you ever wondered what languages are android apps are written in?

React Native uses JavaScript. The use of one of the most popular programming languages among developers makes React Native easy to adapt and eventually very popular. 

Flutter programming language is, on the other hand, Dart, made by Google. As it resembles other popular object-oriented languages ​, it doesn’t take much work to learn, especially if the developer has previously worked with for example C++ or Java.

Performance

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to performance.

React Native depends mainly on a bridge to communicate with native components, which increases the risk of UI lagging as the bridge visibly affects rendering speed. Also, the fact that the smartphones’ CPUs and memory are optimized for native components, it may result in less efficient use of the device’s resources. However, it provides code reuse across platforms and offers many libraries that can be used as building blocks to speed up your coding. React Native supports the Hot Reload feature too, which allows you to preview changes in the application without recompiling it. 

Flutter is based on a high-performance language compiled to native, ARM and x86 libraries. It doesn’t need a bridge for its modules either. It has everything packed inside, including the already mentioned frameworks Cupertino and Material Design and uses a highly effective 2D rendering engine, Skia. Stability and predictability are the domain of the Flutter applications.

Additionally, some of the deep performance tests show that React Native is not recommended for highly CPU-intensive operations, while Flutter is perfectly suited for such tasks from a CPU and memory perspective.

UI Components and API’s

React Native uses the ReactJS library with UI elements and native UI controllers. It has lots of ready-made modules to use as building blocks. However, React Native only supports out of the box core components and unfortunately has to rely on third-party libraries. Using them may require additional effort and time from the developers.

Flutter has a richer set of components, which eliminates the possibility of using other libraries. It provides everything you need to create a mobile application, components and APIs. This framework has also widgets for Material Design and Cupertino which allow developers to render the UI on both the iOS and Android with ease. App views can be fully assembled from pre-made elements which are customizable and cross-platform consistent.

Community

Being in the market longer gives the React Native a community advantage. It is much larger, and therefore also the amount of support that developers can receive from each other is bigger. A huge knowledge base, including tutorials or discussion on solved problems on social channels, makes it very handy to work with.

Given the rapidly growing popularity of Flutter, it is not such a big gap between these two frameworks. Flutter is starting to catch on – the community is constantly expanding, and so new sources to learn from appearing. 

Which One Is Better For App Development?

Even though some experts predict that Flutter is the future of mobile app development, in the Flutter vs. React Native duel, there is no clear winner. The decision which one to choose will depend on the features of the project and on the aspects that play the greatest role in it. Is it performance, development speed, or the possibility to use the app on every platform? After thinking about it deeper and bearing in mind all the above-mentioned aspects, you will be able to decide what is the best solution for you.

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