Which is better – iOS or React Native for Mobile App Development?
React Native vs. iOS is an ongoing debate. Supporters of both have good reasons for their preference; reasons which are justified, proven and apt for mobile app development.
Let us attempt to take a fair look at the advantages of both and try to conclude this debate!
But before that, we need to understand React Native better. We all know that Native refers to operating system frameworks like iOS, Android etc.
So what is React Native?
Simply speaking, it is a framework which enables cross-platform or multi-platform mobile app development in a smooth, easy and cost-effective manner. Created by Facebook, this framework does away with the need for developing different apps for different platforms like iOS or Android etc. Hence, you have one codebase, yet the app works beautifully for both without compromising on either the UI or the UX.
So how does this framework benefit the developer? Important benefits are:
- Single code base: As mentioned earlier, writing a single codebase allows the app to run beautifully across different platforms.
- Low development time: Writing one code requires less time than writing multiple codes.
- Open-source: There are several benefits attached to this like code inspection, compatibility with other platforms etc.
- Hot reloading: This is the best advantage. It enables developers to view the changes they make during app development in real-time on their respective screens.
However, there are certain disadvantages associated with using the React Native framework for app development like:
- Lacking in native elements: This framework is incompatible with the native elements that come along with the device like the voice-recorder, the camera etc.
- Third-party library: Unavailability of third-party libraries increases the app development time and effort.
- Incompatible with Native APIs: Despite the introduction of major updates in its recent versions, it still lacks compatibility with the APIs.
Native mobile app development—pros and cons
For developers using the native framework for mobile app development, advantages associated with the same are:
- API access: The native app development environment can integrate all APIs and their in-built functions.
- Third-party libraries: Community wise it is widely supported and hence has access to numerous third-party libraries.
- Robust language: Native mobile app development is stable and hidden errors present in the programming code can be easily detected.
But the native framework does not support cross-platform app development. Thus for different operating systems, different app codes need to be developed. This results in increased investment with regards to the:
- Time taken for app development,
- Finances concerned and
- Associated mobile app development efforts.
With clients looking at quicker TAT and better ROI, this can be the cause of a major hindrance in mobile app development.
iOS vs. React Native—a brief comparison
Without getting too involved in the technical jargon, let us attempt to see if we can find a solution to the debate. Some KPIs to be considered involve:
- UI/UX: Statistically, iOS has very high UI/UX standards that it adheres to. Technically reaching them can be a bit difficult using react native app development. For instance, certain complex user interfaces like navigation patterns, animations, custom views, seamless transition etc., can pose quite a challenge. Each screen is individually designed in native mobile app development.
Consequently, the user experience from the concerned user interface is superlative. The native app development framework also has access to all APIs like camera, GPS, Touch ID etc.
It would be prudent to mention here that while the React Native framework enables functionality code reuse and allows developers to write separate platform-specific codes, in terms of UI/UX, nothing beats a native framework.
- Codebase: In React Native a single JS codebase is sufficient for multiple platforms. This means that a single code base once developed can be easily used for iOS and Android. But these platforms have separate design guidelines. Hence for projects wherein, these guidelines have to be specifically met, the purpose of react native app development gets defeated.For iOS, things are even more complicated. The frequent up-dation, up-gradation and deprecation of technology by Apple make it difficult for React Native app developers to keep a track. Thus where the codebase is concerned, the applicability of the development framework depends on the utility of the app. For catering to a single platform, a native app development framework is enough but for cross-platform performance, using a React Native app development ensures quicker development and easier maintenance processes.
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Native apps are developed using Java, Kotlin or Swift. These programming languages are better equipped to handle complex calculations, advanced features and incorporate advanced hardware. Thus app developers using the native framework can create diverse mobile apps successfully.
JS is, however, much easier to learn than Java, Kotlin and Swift. But JS also comes riddled with loopholes and flaws making react native app development slightly difficult. On the other hand, developers take time to get comfortable with Java, Kotlin and Swift.
- Long term scope: For apps wanting to provide users with regular updates, native app development framework scores well. They can implement functionalities and launch updates as well as resolve errors without affecting the usability of the app. For the React Native, updates are not a priority.
- Native app interactivity: It is easy for a native app to interact with and access the data of other native apps. React Native uses third-party libraries to interact with and access data of other native apps. This lowers data access levels and output of the app also gets affected.
- Native module support: Even though React Native easily handles cross-platform cases, it is still unable to completely cover native mobile ground without getting linked to native modules. This linkage can only be done by following specific instructions. Effectively, developers have to go deep into native IDEs to enable these modules.
While an experienced developer who has previously worked in native app development finds it easy to link the libraries, a purely React Native app developer will do the same after hitting many dead-ends. The use of cloud services further complicates the linkage of the native modules with the React Native framework.
Developers looking to release a React Native app, especially in the iOS platform face many problems if they are not experienced enough. iOS publishing with react native app development can seem like an overwhelming proposition since React Native developers have to use XCode to configure such data as certificates and provisioning profiles.
- App security: The use of several third-party libraries, presence of flaws resulting in app code error etc., make React Native less secure than the native mobile app development framework.
- App maintenance: For apps developed using the native framework, maintenance is time-consuming and tedious. Bugs and errors need to be resolved individually at all the platforms where the mobile app has been launched. In the React Native environment, errors and bugs can be resolved in one single platform. Thus where app maintenance is concerned, React Native is better placed.
Let us come back to the original question; which is better, native or React Native? The answer is still not simple. It can, however, be said that:
- Using iOS or native mobile app development works well when:
- Developing a complex messenger app, utility app etc.,
- Planning to launch an update,
- Focusing on UI/UX,
- Creating individual platform apps,
- Building a mobile app based on IoT etc.
- React native app development should only be used when:
- Building simple, uniform apps, social media apps, e-commerce apps etc,
- Launching an app across many platforms,
- Budget for app development is quite low,
- Development time provided is very less,
- Using Facebook ads in the developed apps etc.
Taking the above points into consideration, it can be concluded that the effectiveness of React Native mobile app development increases when used by developers experienced in the native app development framework. React Native app framework is also a great option for start-ups.
The strength of the React Native framework lies in its development. Being in the developmental stage keeps the scope of improvement open. Thus its full potential is yet to be unleashed. Its evolution is far from complete. While it cannot fully replace the native app development framework today, tomorrow holds many promises for react native app development.