Technology

What are the best alternatives to React Native?

Marlena Walburg

The times when there was just design, and it described everything are gone. Not to make our lives When it appeared on the market, it almost immediately gained a crowd of fans and conquered the field of cross-platform application development. Today, React Native is practically an industry standard. However, it is not the only choice of technologies of this type available for application development. The reasons for opting for an alternative to React Native are many. Despite its maturity, React Native still lacks some components; it happens to have compatibility or debugging issues. In addition, it also has good competitors, and in many projects, such Flutter or Ionic may be a better choice. Explore the best React Native alternatives, understand their strengths and weaknesses. You may find that any of these technologies will be better for your business goals. Let’s dive in!

What is service design?

Let’s start with presenting React Native itself. It is an open-source framework that debuted in 2015. It was created and launched by Facebook, and its genesis was the company’s desire to build a universal application that will work on both iOS and Android. React Native uses JavaScript. It is based on a bridge concept, which is how to communicate between native and JS threads. Even though React Native already has a wide variety of iOS and Android elements and methods, a bridge is a kind of tool that exports what the framework doesn’t. The list of organizations using React Native is constantly growing, and the authors continue to develop and support it. React Native offers a Hot Reload feature that speeds up the development process and a vast collection of libraries and other ready-to-use components that drastically reduce time-to-market.

Moreover, React Native has very high reusability of code for both web and desktop application development. It is easy to learn because it is based on well-known and liked JavaScript. The way developers write applications using React Native is similar to building web pages with their base language and CSS support and UI tags that resemble HTML. RN boasts a large developer community and a broad knowledge base.

What’s React Native for?

It is used to develop applications for Android, iOS, web, Windows and some more platforms. React Native works exceptionally well for large, more complex projects. It enables you to create truly native applications with a great user experience. Developers can count on the support of other users and take advantage of the extensive documentation. Development of Android and iOS applications is done using a single code base, and the code of web and desktop applications can be reused later.

Alternatives to React Native

Bootstrap

Bootstrap is a framework developed by Twitter developers. Initially named Twitter Blueprint, Bootstrap was developed by Mark Otto and Jacob Thornton as a platform to encourage consistency between internal tools. It contains a set of valuable tools to facilitate creating the graphical interface of websites and web applications. It is based mainly on ready-made HTML and CSS solutions and also uses JavaScript. Bootstrap is triggered by downloading the appropriate CSS library and, optionally, JS.

Differences
First of all, Bootstrap is a frontend library for creating responsive web projects. React Native is a cross-platform framework that is more flexible and also allows developers to write native code in languages such as Java or Kotlin for Android and Objective-C or Swift for iOS. 

Pros

  • Saves time – Bootstrap has excellent documentation for each component; plus, it only requires basic HTML, CSS or JavaScript knowledge to get started, and you can start programming. It’s also effortless to use, meaning you won’t have to waste time just figuring out a solution.
  • Encourages consistency – Bootstrap is a framework designed with consistency in mind. The results of Bootstrap development always look the same on every platform and browser.
  • Responsiveness – creating mobile-friendly websites is Bootstrap’s speciality. The developer does not need to do anything else to achieve the required level of responsiveness, thanks to the responsive grid system included in Bootstrap. Mobile devices will continue to grow in popularity in the coming years, so responsiveness is critical for both the user and the business.

Cons

  • Demanding to learn it – on the one hand, Boostram is easy to learn because it is based on standard web technologies; on the other, it is demanding. You need to know all available CSS Bootstrap classes but also know how Bootstrap components access these classes. You will also need some time to experiment and get used to the mesh system.
  • Bootstrap apps can be heavy – the simplicity of building a responsive website using Bootstrap, unfortunately, goes hand in hand with the considerable weight of such a website. It results in slower page loading as well as problems with draining the user’s device battery. In addition, the files generated by Bootstrap can be huge, which can slow things down significantly.

Flutter

Flutter is the main competitor of React Native. It’s a UI software development toolkit based on the Dart object language. The framework comes with two sets of its own, fully customizable widgets that consider all the essential differences between platforms. So there is no need to look for additional libraries to build a friendly-looking interface with Flutter. The framework was introduced to the world in 2015 under the name “Sky”, but only in December 2018 was the first version recognized as stable. It is currently one of the most popular frameworks that allow developers to create applications with many ready-to-use components available quickly.

Differences 

React Native uses JavaScript. Flutter is based on Dart, a language created by Google. It also does not need a bridge for its modules. It has everything packed inside, including the already mentioned Cupertino and Material Design frameworks, and uses the highly efficient 2D rendering engine, Skia. Stability and predictability are the domain of the Flutter application. React Native mainly relies on the bridge to communicate with native components, which increases the risk of UI lag as the bridge affects rendering speed.

Additionally, some deep performance tests show that React Native is not recommended for CPU-intensive operations, while Flutter is ideal for such tasks from a CPU and memory perspective. Flutter has a richer set of components than React Native, eliminating the possibility of using other libraries. It provides everything you need to create a mobile application, features and API. Staying in the market longer gives React Native a community advantage. However, given Flutter’s rapidly growing popularity, there is not so much of a gulf in this regard between the two frameworks.

Pros

  • It allows for rapid development – thanks to the Hot Reload function, it is then displayed in Flutter after any modification to the code, and developers can easily observe their improvements in the code. However, it is worth remembering that this feature has limitations; such cases can be checked on their website. Flutter is distinguished by the ability to quickly create visually attractive applications with the performance we know from the world of native applications.
  • Fast UI coding – By adopting the Google Skia graphics engine that provides low-level rendering support and the widget pack included, the UI can be highly customisable. It may also be good news for designers that only one version of the UI design is needed. Regardless of the platform, Flutter applications will always look good, modern and consistent.
  • Access to native functions – Flutter has an extensive library of widgets that perfectly mimic the native ones. Some features of the application, like access to the camera, must also be implemented in native languages. Flutter uses a flexible system that allows you to call platform-specific APIs, available in Kotlin or Java for Android or in Swift or Objective-C for iOS, so you don’t have to sacrifice some features.

Cons

  • A relatively new framework – due to its short presence on the market, Flutter has not been widely used in too many applications, and you have to remember that there are still many unfinished areas. For this reason, the user community is smaller, and their support may be limited.
  • Flutter apps take up a lot of device memory – unfortunately, the file sizes of the Flutter app are pretty significant. It may slightly affect the limited number of features as developers try to reduce the size of the application as much as possible.

Ionic

Ionic is an open-source, complete SDK for building hybrid mobile applications. It was created in 2013 by Max Lynch, Adam Bradley and Ben Sperry of Drifty Co. The original version was made based on AngularJS and Apache Cordova. The latest version of Ionic has been rebuilt as a Web Components Kit, allowing the user to choose any UI framework such as Angular, Vue.js or React. It also allows the use of Ionic components without a user interface framework. It provides tools and services for creating hybrid mobile, desktop and progressive web applications based on modern technologies and web development practices, using web technologies such as CSS and HTML5.

Differences 

The main difference is that Ionic is primarily web-based; it implements native UI patterns for iOS and Android with web technology instead of direct access to platform interface controls. React Native, in turn, provides abstraction via React, which directly controls the platform’s UI controls. React Native uses a “learn once, write anywhere” approach and Ionic follows a “write once, run anywhere” approach. With React Native, developers learn the end-to-end framework and then build user interfaces specifically for iOS and specifically for Android. Ionic React apps run the same UI across all platforms, leveraging responsive web design, CSS, and platform discovery tools to allow developers to customise the app to specific platforms as they need.

Pros

  • Easy to learn – The Ionic is considered reasonably simple to understand. Frontend developers can quickly understand the basics or choose between the different web frameworks that Ionic supports. Ionic does not compile the entire application to the native language, but it is worth knowing about native programming.
  • A wide range of integration and plug-in options – Ionic offers excellent opportunities to extend its features even further. On the Ionic website, you can find the official list of integration technologies that provide, for example, accessible security and testing tools, payment systems and more. It also includes a range of plugins to help integrate with your device’s hardware.
  • Wide selection of UI elements – Ionic can speed up the UI creation process and maintain a native look and feel at no extra cost by offering a large selection of UI components.

Cons

  • Performance issues in native applications – Ionic is not suitable for large, heavy applications. In short, Ionic renders its graphic elements using a browser which takes a few steps to get the image started on the screen. The more we put in, the longer the charging time will be. In applications that use advanced functions (e.g. AR), there may already be a problem with its correct operation.
  • Requires a lot of plugins – when building an application in Ionic, you must use plugins to access native features. While the number of premade plugins is large and it is easy to find a package to implement the functionality you want, there are nevertheless cases where you cannot find a plug or module.

Expo

Expo is an open-source platform for building comprehensive native applications for Android, iOS and the web. It includes a universal runtime and libraries that let you build native applications using React and JavaScript. 

Differences
Expo expands the React Native capability to some extent. Thanks to additional libraries that are in Expo, you can implement some functionalities much faster. So, it shortens the amount of code. However, in standalone React Native, there are Android and iOS folders, where there are native projects in Java and Objective-C. The Expo hides these folders, and you can not change anything there. It means that if a library requires native code initialisation and there is no Expo version of it, we will not be able to use that library.

Pros

  • Instant publishing of updates – The Expo allows you to use Over The Air (OTA) updates. Since all the code you write with Expo is in JavaScript, you can send updates to your application wirelessly at any time. With Expo, you can quickly and easily publish your app updates via the app. There is no native code, so you don’t have to go to the app store to post every update.
  • Built-in access to native APIs – The Expo includes many native APIs outside the box for iOS and Android. They can quite easily add native functions to the application. When using Expo, you don’t have to worry about integrating these native features as they are available as part of the Expo package.

Cons

  • It adds another layer of abstraction – React Native has an abstraction layer and brings it all around native iOS and Android components. The expo adds another layer of abstinence, making some developers much more challenging to work with and take some control over the code.
  • Not all Android and iOS APIs are available yet –  According to the official Expo documentation, not all iOS and Android APIs are available. Hence, it is not possible yet to implement certain functions in applications developed using Expo.

NativeScript

NativeScript is another open-source platform for developing mobile applications for iOS and Android. It was invented and developed by Progress. NativeScript applications are built using JavaScript or any programming language that can be translated into JS, such as TypeScript. NativeScript supports Angular and Vue.js frameworks. Mobile applications built with NativeScript produce fully native applications that use the same APIs as developed in Xcode or Android Studio. In addition, developers can re-purpose third-party libraries in their mobile apps without the need for wrappers.

Differences
Main differences – NativeScript relies heavily on Angular or Vue.js. React Native relies heavily on JavaScript. NativeScript uses a single-threaded model because it provides fast access to the native APIs. In contrast, React Native uses a multi-threaded architecture, with JavaScript and the user interface running on separate threads.

Pros

  • Compatibility with various technologies – NativeScript uses Angular, TypeScript or JavaScript, which gives even greater possibilities of reusing components.
  • It is easy to extend its functions – the framework gives you full access to all kinds of iOS and Android APIs. It ensures availability and allows you to reuse free plugins, SDKs for Android, and CocoaPods.

Cons

  • Lots of unverified plugins – NativeScript, while it has many add-ons and plugins available, the total number of plugins verified is much smaller. Therefore, there is no guarantee as to the quality of the plugins used in this framework.
  • Requires knowledge of native technologies – Developers must be familiar with the native functionality and APIs of iOS and Android. Without it, they cannot access device features and any other platform-specific items.

So, is React Native still relevant in 2022?

While there are plenty of alternatives, React Native is definitely still an attractive option. It has extensive support from Facebook and is constantly being improved. It is worth considering for your project and comparing it with other frameworks. Perhaps for your app idea, it will best meet all your business needs and requirements.

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