Mobile app developers frequently face the conundrum of choosing one of many app development frameworks to kick-start their project. It is a monumental choice that dictates pretty much the entire development process of the application and establishes the app’s performance after it has been launched. Oftentimes, the decision bounces between two key options: React Native and Flutter.
Both open-source platforms, React Native and Flutter let developers create applications for Android and iOS with a single codebase. While household names such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Discord are built with React Native, Flutter has supported the development of Google Pay, Google Ads, Etsy, and Xianyu by Alibaba. It’s clear both software frameworks have changed the game in our smartphone era. But if both are good, how should you make the choice?
Evaluating the Technical and Practical Factors of React Native and Flutter
React Native and Flutter are fully capable of building functional and interactive applications that are at once attractive and immersive. This is unsurprising given the tech behemoths behind each technology, with Flutter presented by Google and React Native by Facebook. However, while what they offer may sound similar, the experience that each framework gives its users can be different from the other.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at how Flutter and React Native address developers’ needs differently.
On the other hand, Flutter uses a reactive programming language known as Dart. As one may expect, the learning curve for Flutter is steeper. However, this would prove to be both a boon and a bane, as Dart can fast-track development especially in terms of reading, changing, replacing and removing code.
Widgets and Third Party Libraries
Developers tap into third party libraries to access features and functionalities that are not immediately available on React Native. Rather than having to write components from scratch, React Native’s rich ecosystem of solutions allow developers to speed up their development process through Node Package Manager (NPM).
While this can save considerable time and effort, Flutter seems to have taken it a step further. Without depending heavily on third-party libraries, developers can access a wide collection of customisable widgets built into Flutter without outsourcing at all (unless they want to). Furthermore, this extends into the testing phase, wherein developers can experience faster and more fuss-free testing without the usage of third-party tools.
Bottomline: Developers are to weigh their options for the features and functionalities they seek in React Native and Flutter. Although Flutter streamlines development and testing phases, React Native lets developers utilise a valuable and wide range of third-party libraries that may not be available on Flutter.
User Interface (UI)
On the contrary, Flutter contains proprietary widgets that function like they are native components on a device. This maintains the look and feel of each application while ensuring that they conform to the operating system’s requirements. For instance, Material and Cupertino widgets target Android and iOS to get “pixel-perfect” consistency in various elements, interactions and the overall interface of the app.
Bottomline: React Native may require more manual fine-tuning, whereas Flutter has a more optimised approach towards consistency in UI design. Developers should choose the framework they are most comfortable with so they don’t restrict their vision.
Launched by Facebook in 2015 on GitHub, React Native has amassed a robust and thriving community of developers who actively contribute and offer valuable support. Over the years, React Native has also compiled a comprehensive list of avenues and resources where developers can seek assistance, encouraging an environment of collaboration and insight-sharing.
Meanwhile, Flutter, founded in 2018 and slightly late to the game, has been gaining momentum in mobile app development. Today it stands in close competition with React Native, having cultivated a strong and rapidly growing user community. Fuelled by the framework’s contrarian approach, the reach of Flutter is only expected to expand, especially as the industry evolves.
Bottomline: React Native has a more established community of developers and contributors, but Flutter’s will continue to grow.
Performance and Speed
Bottomline: Developers should evaluate the priorities for their app development project as each framework comes with trade-offs, such as slower speeds and responsiveness for React Native, and longer installation time for Flutter.
Naturally, developers may find it faster to work with React Native for their familiarity with the language and framework. It is also integrated with features that make testing and debugging faster and more efficient, such as React Native Debugger and Reactotron.
Besides using an ahead-of-time (AOT) compiler for improved app performance, Flutter also leverages a just-in-time (JIT) compiler for development. JIT-based cycles reflect the changes made to the application in real-time, enabling developers to view updates and optimise performance without reloading or restarting the app. However, Flutter may require the addition of platform-specific code files, which could take up additional time and effort.
Technical documentation, such as coding and testing documentation, for React Native has been said to be rather general. However, it does cover the essentials from setup, core and native components to integration and more, which can be accessible and useful to beginners. React Native’s community also provides additional resources, tutorials and guides to complement the official documentation, strengthening the foundations of new users.
Flutter boasts more streamlined tracking material, offering detailed information and clear reference points for developers to pinpoint issues and find solutions. This can be beneficial for experienced developers who do not have prior background or knowledge of Dart, but have to be brought up to speed for the project at hand.
Bottomline: React Native may be beginner-friendly, but Flutter can be attractive for its depth and clarity. Developers will have to assess how much documentation support they need with regards to the requirements of their project.
In summary, both React Native and Flutter are powerful, leading frameworks for building cross-platform mobile applications. They stand as formidable contenders with Flutter leading marginally at 12.64%, ahead of React Native at 12.57% according to a Stack Overflow Survey done in 2022.
On the other hand, Flutter makes a compelling option for developers willing to try something new. Its widget-based architecture eliminates painstaking processes to achieve consistency, and Dart, along with Flutter’s components and thorough documentation accelerate development from start to finish. Flutter’s commitment to pixel-perfect UI design and hot reload feature contribute to its appeal.
In the end, the choice between React Native and Flutter boils down to three factors: the requirements of the project, the expertise involved, and the working preferences of the developers. No matter if you pick React Native, Flutter, or something completely different, these cross-platform development frameworks have and will continue to facilitate the creation of powerful applications that empower and enrich our lives in the evolving technological landscape.