Technology

Is React Native good? Advantages and disadvantages

Marlena Walburg
Marlena Walburg

Ever since Facebook introduced to the world its mobile technology, React Native, its popularity seems to be consistently high. Its creation was initiated by an internal need of a company that used HTML5 for the mobile version of its app, which resulted in considerable instability and slow data retrieval. The promise to deliver a better mobile experience was not empty, and after months of working on the new technology, Facebook officially released the first version of React Native. With the current trend for creating cross-platform applications, there is no doubt that React Native is, next to Flutter, a top choice. The ability to create an application that can work on two independent platforms, Android and iOS, with only one code base turned out to be a revolutionary solution.

React Native is an open-source framework that uses JavaScript. It is based on the concept of a bridge, which is the way to communicate between native and JS threads. Even though React Native already has a wide selection of iOS and Android elements and methods, the bridge is the kind of tool that exports what the framework does not. It allows you to create truly native applications with a great user experience. So is it a good fit for your project and does it provide enough benefits?

React Native – Pros/cons from the developers perspective

Let’s start by addressing the issues important to developers. The efficiency of the entire application development process and the ultimate success of the project depend on how well one works with a given technology. What can the contractors of your application appreciate the most in React Native then?

Hot Reload and Fast Refresh 

React Native offers a Hot Reload feature that speeds up the development process by allowing you to immediately see the changes made on the application screen, without completely rebuilding the application. There is no need to constantly check the results of your actions, which greatly increases productivity and saves compilation time. Hot Reload has its own set of limitations, though. However, to enhance the developer experience using React Native, Facebook has introduced Fast Refresh.  When working on the app on a large scale, there could have been some issues with Hot Reload, like slow reloading of the app when code changes, import/export issues, and much more. Fast Refresh can preserve the state of functional elements and hooks during reloading. Generally, it is supposed to help avoid any problems that have occurred with Hot Reload, and it does a great job.

Code reuse and ready-to-use components

One of the biggest benefits of React Native is its reusability. Developers do not have to create a separate mobile application for each platform, but based on one created structure, they adapt it to the next platform. It may happen that some functions will have to be written from scratch, but in practice, you can reuse up to 90% of the code. As a result, developers usually save a lot of time and also reduce the cost of developing applications.

React Native also provides pre-developed, ready-to-use components available in the open-source library. This means that developers have at their disposal ready-made code fragments for various functions or operations in the application and they do not have to write everything from scratch. Facebook regularly introduces new updates where users can find new ready-made components for most of the solutions they need.

Large community

For React Native, being an open-source platform means free access to knowledge as well as influencing its development. If a developer encounters a problem, they can turn to the community for support, and there will always be someone who can help solve it. The web is also full of tutorials and libraries for use by any user hungry for new knowledge. It also has a positive effect on the learning curve of React Native, which is based on the popular and much-liked JavaScript.

React Native app development also has its darker side. This is largely due to the relatively short time that React Native has been present on the mobile technology market. In many cases, there is also a trade-off that may result in lower application performance.

Relatively complex UI

This framework only has UI rendering components and APIs for accessing device functions. In other cases, it must rely on third-party libraries. Unfortunately, React Native components may also behave differently on different platforms. The complex user interface can be difficult to recreate in React Native, and with each operating system update, application components may change.

Requires some experience

It may be a bit of an obvious thing, but it’s worth noting that React Native uses a lot of external libraries and has a more complex architecture. Using it, therefore, requires more attention, intuition and experience from programmers. Navigating the framework can be problematic for new developers, and for some users, the documentation is not well written. Fortunately, developers can count on the support of the community and expand their knowledge based on materials created by other fans of the framework.

Rely a lot on third-party libraries

Despite having a library of ready-made components, many of them require the installation of external libraries. React Native relies heavily on them. The framework may seem to be poor in components that seem to be a default to make an application. On the other hand, it is good that there is such a possibility to expand React Native’s possibilities with additional libraries. The thing is that they are not a flaw itself. It is about the time developers spend on the configuration of elements they could have within the framework.

React Native – Pros/cons from a business perspective

The business side of building a React Native application will focus heavily on the effects and benefits for the user and stakeholders.

Faster to develop

The obvious advantage of cross-platform frameworks, including React Native, is a shorter development time. React Native includes many ready-to-use components that can further speed up the process. The community around RN is growing steadily, and Facebook regularly releases new updates, so you’ll be able to find ready-made components for most of the solutions you need in the future. Developing software for more than one platform on one codebase brings significant savings.

Reasonable price

The cost of creating an application can be significantly lowered with React Native. They come directly from only one development team creating the application for both platforms, instead of two. A single team is easier to manage and track work progress and contributes to greater consistency between the Android and iOS versions of the app.

One development team 

Referring to the previous advantage, when choosing a cross-platform solution such as React Native, you only need one development team to implement the entire project. As we know, this has a positive effect on costs, but also communication. We also avoid the risk of non-coordination of separate teams of Android and iOS applications, as well as the lack of consistency of both versions. In most cases, the React Native team will be smaller, and therefore easier to manage.

Consistency across platforms

An important aspect from the business perspective is the consistency between the versions of the Android and iOS applications. React Native ensures that the user experience and user interface will be the same on every platform. Thanks to React Native, the application interfaces are rendered to fully native components, which makes the application operation identical to those created natively for both operating systems.

When considering the downsides from a business point of view, we can list a few possible risks. Not all of them will occur at once, and sometimes we can completely rule them out, e.g. by choosing a trusted team of experts who will implement our project.

Performance issues

The performance of the application created in React Native will still, unfortunately, be lower than that of the native application. The framework, despite all its advantages, is not able to use the full potential of a particular platform. However, this does not mean very bad performance, in many cases, there is no noticeable difference in the speed of such an application, compared to native ones. However, you have to keep this in mind when designing an extensive app, filled with animations or extensive functions.

Native developer required

Most often, React Native code includes components that need to be created in native technology. Such snippets still need to be created by iOS or Android developers. You have to bear in mind then that you will either need the developer expertise of a native technology or have one on your team. However, it is comforting that there is no shortage of specialists in more than technology, and there is a high probability that the React Native developer you choose will also have experience in purely native technologies.

Less mature than other mobile technologies

Compared to other technologies used to develop Android and iOS apps, React Native is still quite fresh and immature. It is still under development, which may harm applications. Slight chaos in the updates made can confuse developers who have to make many changes each time. However, this is an issue that they can deal with. Besides, Facebook tries to improve its processes and constantly supports React Native.

Is React Native the pick for your next app?

In most cases, the advantages of React Native outweigh its disadvantages. A large part of them can also be eliminated by working with an appropriate team. The wide possibilities of React Native, with the development of the app on several platforms simultaneously at the forefront, make the framework a very attractive, but also a sensible choice. Some apps have implemented the framework with worst results, but overall it was mostly a matter of bad development, lack of experience with RN. That is why we often indicate the huge importance of wise development team selection. 

Many well-known, influential brands invest in the development of this technology, including Microsoft and Airbnb. Considering their steps and a strong focus on React Native, the certainty that it is also worth using in your business increases. While the framework still has some issues, these are mainly related to the immaturity of the technology and are likely to become less of a burden in the future. There is also no sign that Facebook will not support the RN in the future, but even try to constantly improve the technology.

Summary

A well-used React Native can be the basis of many great applications. Just think about Facebook products, which are one of the very successful and are built on this framework. There are many examples of companies that have implemented or successfully migrated to RN, and they are the best proof that you should consider React Native for your application. It is a reasonable choice in terms of cost-quality ratio because it allows you to save money without losing good performance and user experience.

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