In the profoundly globalized world of the early third millennium, universality reigns supreme. Companies go for manufacturing commodities that address the tastes of the largest target audience possible, trying to meet the needs of each potential client halfway. The same is true of the modern IT industry. Businesses aim to maximize their reach and put pressure on app developers to create products that can find their way to all consumers, no matter whether they utilize a desktop or a mobile gizmo to access them. And if it is the latter, such products should be available to both major factions of contemporary smartphone users – those preferring iOS-powered devices and those favoring Android-based gadgets. This article is a comparison of Flutter vs React Native.
The solution to the problem of healing the notorious operating system rift came with the advent of cross-platform software development. It enables the creation of apps that can run on any platform, providing a good UX for all users.
Modern IT tech stack offers a wide gamut of frameworks such as Cordova, Ionic, Xamarin, Unity, etc. Thus, it is pretty easy to choose between the available options. However, having rendered cross-platform development services for a decade, we’d like to focus on the Flutter vs React Native dilemma.
But even with only two alternatives, you should be aware of the difference between Flutter and React Native. This article will help you decide which is best – Flutter or React Native for the project you have in mind. So, let’s have a look at the Flutter vs React Native 2021 showdown.
React Native: A short description
React is a brainchild of Meta Platforms (formerly known as Facebook), which says a lot. Having such a parent spells high-quality implementation, constant support and maintenance from the creators, a sizable user community, and a bunch of blue-chip companies (including Microsoft, Tesla, Uber, and PayPal, not to mention Facebook’s own brands Instagram and WhatsApp) among its customers.
It was launched as a browser-oriented framework honed for web development but soon overhauled and augmented to be instrumental for mobile app building. First introduced in 2013 as an internal Facebook endeavor, React Native was officially released two years later as an open-source tool to become a resounding success within a short time.
React Native: Zooming in on advantages
What are the features that give this framework a considerable edge in the Flutter vs React Native juxtaposition?
Longer history behind
Being mature is a definite plus since the developing team had a long time to make the API more stable. As they are through the stage of growing pains, React Native creators can move on to improve their product and try to reduce the size of apps built with it (which is what they are busy with at the moment).
The previous strength translates into this one. Being around for what is as good as eons in the fast-paced IT world, React Native can be proud of a massive community of developers. They toil ceaselessly to share libraries, UI tools, and tutorials with their colleagues, immensely streamlining the process of learning and refining skills. Over time, React Native has become the core of the “React family” – a huge collection of related articles, materials, libraries (for instance, React Router, AWS Amplify, and Formik, to mention a few), and frameworks (such as Expo) that form a pool of knowledge and instruments which any developer in need of help or advice can draw upon.
The programming language utilized
The freedom of choice developers enjoys
Hot reload and fast refresh features
Both are tremendous development speed boosters since they allow the programmer to see the changes they introduce to the app on the hoof without having to reload it. Hot reload also saves the current state of the app in the process of development so that no changes are lost – a mission-critical perk for state-based frameworks.
The fast refresh function is a further augmentation of the much-praised hot reload, bringing live and hot reloading together. It lets minimize mistakes and typos, thus serving as a powerful development accelerator.
Utilizing one codebase for two platforms
If we compare Flutter and React Native, we will see that both platforms allow writing code once to fit both operating systems. However, React Native beats Flutter in this ability since it shares code with web apps and via creating abstraction elements. So, by choosing it, you will kill not two but three birds with one stone, in fact. Yet, React Native isn’t self-sufficient to support such endeavors. You will have to rely on third-party libraries (React Native for Web, ReactXp, React-Native-Windows, etc.) to accomplish the process.
Availability of Native components
The native feel of the app is what users crave. So developers try to cater to this universal desire of mobile device owners. However, React Native doesn’t refer to native apps in its name for naught since this framework features an API to seamlessly access native modules. As a result, all UI elements will be identical across each platform. And once the operating system is updated, their automatic update is performed.
By contrast, Flutter vs native development is a totally different story. That’s because Flutter replaces native components with widgets of its own.
Less complicated installation
Foolproof installation is a considerable asset of any app. If you build them with React Native, the installation procedure (whether local or global) is implemented via leveraging Node Package Manager (NPM). Once the developers discover where the binary is located, the installation becomes a cakewalk.
Flutter apps require more steps for installation since developers have to add the binary to the PATH and then download it from the source code – the algorithm that is alien to React Native.
Now let’s focus on Flutter.
Flutter: A short description
The roots of Flutter go back to 2015 when an open-source UI tool honed for Android-fueled gadgets named Sky was launched by Google, but its first beta and then regular stable version was released in 2018. The further story of Flutter is an object lesson in sustainable growth.
Being constantly improved and sophisticated both by its creators and the vibrant user community, Flutter has eventually evolved into a cross-platform app-building tool. Its ability to create products running on almost all available operating systems (Linux and Windows included) gives Flutter vs native app development a considerable edge. What does it include, and how does it work?
What we call Flutter is a unity of two constituents. The first is an SDK (Software Development Kit) containing many tools meant to translate its code into the native ones. The second is the framework proper, a widget repository comprising tons of sliders, buttons, text inputs, and other elements utilized in building an app that will best fit your needs.
What makes Flutter apps special is their unique operation pattern. Flutter doesn’t directly comply with native apps (which is the usual way of cross-platform tools). Instead, it launches the app as soon as the engine starts. As a result, Flutter SDK components replace native app elements with files generated in this process.
Flutter’s latest 2.5 version made public in September this year augments its Android capabilities (full-screen support, enforced text editing, a novel app template) as well as improves app performance on iOS-powered devices. So, it’s no wonder that in 2021 Flutter is displaying a robust popularity surge leaving even React Native behind.
Is Flutter better than React Native then? Let’s figure this out by going through the benefits of Flutter.
Flutter: Advantages scrutinized
Some assets of Flutter are on par with those React Native has, whereas others give Flutter an upper hand.
Hot reload function
This feature is present in React Native as well (see above). Although having some limitations, it is a second-to-none means of both enhancing the development speed and facilitating collaboration between developers and designers. Whenever you have new ideas or want to fix bugs, hot reload gives allows you to implement changes and see the results immediately.
Single codebase utilization
This is another characteristic of Flutter and React Native. The widget library of Flutter can be proud of is agnostic that is unattached to a specific platform so that you can employ them across all operating systems. Yet, web apps are still unattainable for Flutter – and the Google team is working on it currently.
If a device supports Flutter, apps built with this framework display a spectacular 120 frames per second (FPS) speed. If it doesn’t, the delivery rate is still pretty solid 60 FPS so that the app never hangs or cuts even when scrolling occurs. How is that possible?
The reason for it is quite simple: the Skia Graphics Library. It supplies a graphics processing unit that provides redrawing of the UI whenever the view is altered. Of course, it takes special care during the development not to interfere with the data of the elements whose view isn’t affected, but once you heed it, the result will astonish you.
Moreover, the Skia C++ engine utilized by Flutter doesn’t need to build bridges to the native app components because it contains everything it needs for the app’s operation. Naturally, the absence of the intermediary link used by React Native to communicate with native modules enhances the performance drastically.
Reduction of testing by half
It is true that manual testing should be performed on the same footing as with the native programming routine. However, the amount of automated QA tests can be cut in two – just because you must test one app running on two platforms instead of two. Of course, this is true of React Native, but Flutter has a significant edge over it. Why?
React Native doesn’t provide or even officially support any testing tools. Therefore, developers working with it have to rely on third-party instruments. By contrast, Flutter offers a broad scope of features for testing an app encompassing all its levels (widget, unit, and integration planes). Plus, Flutter furnishes abundant documentation on testing that you can refer to at any testing stage.
Component-rich design opportunities
Flutter doesn’t have access to native components, but this deficiency is more than offset by the voluminous collection of widgets. Such a wealth of options totally excludes the necessity to involve third-party libraries to build APIs or a UI you envisage, like it happens when you employ React Native. And if you aren’t pleased with the choice, you can tailor the existing widgets to your taste or even create anew the ones that will suit your project to a tee.
Another feature of Flutter that adds flexibility to the applications is its pixel rendering mechanism. The latter guarantees identical UI, no matter on what device with what screen size it is viewed by users. Moreover, it will look and feel the same even on older gadgets powered by the previous versions of operating systems.
Foolproof setup and simple coding procedure
When a programmer embarks on a project, they are to set the developer machine for work with the new framework. To do this, developers should take many configuration efforts, which developers should be well-versed in. If they are not, they should have access to the documentation that would brief them on the process.
Working with React Native presupposes that experts know how to do it. So, the documentation Facebook offers skips the setup stage, starting with the first move you have to make in the project development.
Flutter takes care that developers are kept in the know-how integrated development environment (IDE) setup is performed and how different it is for Android and iOS. To streamline the setup process, Flutter offers a specialized command-line interface (CLI) tool to lead developers through the entire procedure. This Flutter Doctor checks what has been installed and signals what next configuration step to take to proceed with the development.
When the configuration ordeal is over and you get down to coding hammer and tongs, you will see that it is a breeze. All you need for app development is at your fingertips. So, you have ready access to templates, styles, and data without the need to search for third-party libraries or tools.
How to make the right Flutter vs React Native choice?
If you expect to hear a piece of advice on this or that framework (Flutter vs React Native), we’ll disappoint you. Both toolsets are cutting-edge technologies that enjoy wide popularity and enable the creation of high-end cross-platform apps. So, instead of offering a one-size-fits-all judgment in the favor of either, we appeal to your common sense.
First of all, take a look at what you have or what you can get hold of. Can you enlist programmers that are familiar with Dart to embark on a Flutter journey? If not, think React Native.
Secondly, take a close look at the project you want to implement. Do you want it to have native components on the app’s UI? Then opt for React Native. Do you think of a brand-first design? Consider Flutter as a viable option.
Finally (and most importantly): before making the ultimate choice, discuss the project with seasoned IT specialists. They will definitely help you make a choice between Flutter vs React Native. The DICEUS team can offer valuable recommendations and develop a Flutter or React Native mobile app according to your requirements.