Cross-platform Explored: React Native vs Xamarin vs Flutter

UI/UX Design

App Development

React Native

A person looking at a laptop with a mobile screen, code editor in the background
A person looking at a laptop with a mobile screen, code editor in the background
A person looking at a laptop with a mobile screen, code editor in the background

In the fast-moving world of app development, certain programming frameworks are constantly vying for the top spot. For Android apps, this top spot is occupied by Android-exclusive Kotlin, while for iOS, it’s Swift. But what if you want to build an app that works on both systems?

Cross-platform performance is more important than ever, so developers must choose systems that allow them to build apps that function well on both Android and iOS.

React Native, Xamarin and Flutter are all languages that enable a developer to write one program and deploy it across multiple platforms - rather than develop unique versions for each platform. This increases the speed, efficiency and versatility of a project - but can also limit features and cause performance issues.

Why Use a Cross-Platform Framework?

The benefits of using a cross-platform framework are simple: you can learn the language once and use it for any platform - aka "learn once, use anywhere".

It also means a team doesn’t need to work in silos with specialists in specific platforms like an iOS team and an Android team. You can instead unify your software development projects and maximise efficiency. For a customer choosing an agency, this means you can benefit from the maximum amount of manpower and shared collaboration on your project - as more developers can contribute to your project and share knowledge to solve any issues.

Another benefit worth mentioning is the wider appeal of the product and subsequently, the increased user base. The more users your app has, the more data you can use to build better UX across your product journey.

By launching cross-platform, you’re catering to as many of your potential customers/users as possible.

Of course, there are downsides. Developers must be aware of issues that stem from cross-platform approaches. Many cross-platform frameworks have workarounds in place to deal with individual platform features that aren’t universal, which can lead to bugs and issues.

From a user’s perspective, a cross-platform app must be able to support the native features of particular systems, which requires a time investment from the development team. For example, if you created a tool that uses AR on iOS, you would need to develop a way to either mimic that functionality in Android’s version or display a flat image as a workaround.

When a new native feature is developed and released, such as Face ID, a framework needs to be updated by its own team or developers must add support themselves to allow access to that feature.

Ultimately though, the benefits of cross-platform approaches outweigh the downsides. But which is the best framework for a team to use?

The Benefits of React Native

For KOMODO, React Native offers our clients the best framework for cross-platform development - which is why our team supports it and uses it to develop our projects. React Native allows a developer to use existing Javascript and React knowledge to build mobile experiences.

Considering many developers already have JavaScript experience, React Native allows them to quickly begin building cross-platform apps rather than having to learn a new language.

React Native & cross-platform benefits

  • UI elements: React Native uses native UI components and has a library of UI elements available to use, which means it allows developers to integrate native app UI elements that make for a better experience for the end-user. React Native’s components also improve the developer experience and really speed up development time.

  • Access to native functions: React Native allows a developer to utilise cameras, accelerometers, GPS etc that are native to the system. This is, however, an advantage shared by other cross-platform frameworks.

  • Platform-specific code: With React Native, you can harness the advantages of specific platforms with platform-specific code (remember our 3D camera example above? React Native can help get around this by optimising apps with native code).

  • Hot reload: A developer can apply a change to your app without having to recompile it, which is essential when performing iterative development on an ongoing basis.

  • Time/skill investment: React Native is fairly simple for a React developer to learn, and many teams are familiar with JavaScript and React so can quickly upskill into a React Native project. For our customers, this means benefitting from a wider support network as all of our developers can pitch in to help.

  • Support: Because React Native is developed and supported by one of the biggest tech companies on the planet at Facebook, it is an authoritative framework that will be well-supported and help ensure your product is built to industry-leading standards.

Of course, other systems also have great advantages. So let’s dive a little deeper into other common systems to see the advantages and disadvantages of React Native.

The two most current debates are Xamarin Vs React Native and Flutter Vs React Native.

Xamarin Vs React Native

Xamarin is a framework that is beginning to show its age. Debuted in 2011, it is a complete development ecosystem utilising C#, .NET, and Microsoft Visual Studio. Xamarin is known for being able to replicate a near-native experience. It offers a library of templates, but also specific Android and iOS customisation where required.

Unfortunately, Xamarin’s main disadvantage is its large app size - which places more demands on a user’s phone storage. As a consequence, Xamarin takes a big hit on performance compared to React Native’s relatively lightweight build.

However, if you have an in-house team of .NET developers, Xamarin may be the right choice as it allows your team to handle the product internally.

React Native, in comparison to Xamarin, offers a more straightforward step into cross-platform development with its Javascript base. While both Xamarin and React Native offer plenty of community support and near-native performance, it’s the flexibility and continued support of React Native that makes it more agile for development teams.

Flutter Vs React Native

Flutter is quickly gaining popularity. It was released by Google in 2017 - making it two years younger than React Native. It is, like React Native, heavily supported and open-source. However, Flutter uses the Dart language - which uses lots of Javascript concepts, but still requires significant time investment from developers to learn. It is probably best described as a ‘portable UI toolkit’.

Flutter has some very promising features - such as its rich UI rendering components. However, the need for developers to invest time in learning Dart (even if this time is minimal) combined with the long history of React Native support, makes it a harder ‘sell’ for a development team looking to quickly launch cross-platform apps or features.

Flutter has entered the field in a strong position due to its built-in testing, community support and UI components - and as developers begin to learn Dart, it will only increase in its market share.

React Native, Flutter & Xamarin Compared to Other Frameworks, Libraries, and Tools Rated by professional developers in (Stack Overflow, 2020)

Why we use React Native (and you should, too!)

Our development team uses whatever tool is best suited to the project. Currently, we find that iterative development cycles that prioritise user experience, functionality and the ability to test changes are best suited to React Native.

The fact that our development teams use React for web-based projects makes React Native easy to adapt to. For our customers, React Native also means you have a product that is built with an extremely common framework that is very well supported and will continue to be thanks to Facebook’s support.

Using React Native also means if you choose to take your product elsewhere or in-house after project completion, it can be easily worked on by another development team since the framework is so popular and so well-supported.

It all boils down to a simple question: what’s the most cost-effective, lowest-risk way to develop an application that meets your cross-platform requirements?  Sometimes that’s React Native, but we’re flexible and can help you figure that out. To find out more about working with React Native, Get in touch.

Got an idea? Let us know.

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