Choosing the right framework for your future application determines its productivity and its set of features. It goes without saying that a poorly-designed app will overheat the user’s device, lag, and malfunction.

This is where the long-standing confrontation between native and cross-platform development originates from; and the confrontation between the two mainstream cross-platform development frameworks in particular: Flutter vs React Native.

Native and Cross-Platform App Development: Main differences

The following general differences will remain important when we proceed with the in-depth React Native vs Flutter comparison or any other development frameworks; they will help you decide for yourself if native development tools are worth a shot.

Aspect Native Cross-platform
Access to talent Native developers are niche-players, which is why they are harder to find and more expensive, but highly specialized since they focus on one platform. Since cross-platform professionals (e.g., a Flutter developer or a React Native developer) are widely popular now, as these tech stacks are in demand now.
Costs of deployment on multiple platforms Each successive platform will require a code porting process that is not always easily automated. In most cases, Native code is meant to be written from scratch for each platform. A cross-platform project is designed to compile on all target platforms, which respectively saves a lot of time and money to deploy on a new platform.
Project accomplishment time It usually takes less time to accomplish a project for a single platform than to write a rich cross-platform code. But when a project is ready to target a new platform, it willhave to be written anew. There is no need to support two or more codebases for different platforms, which increases overall speed-to-market. However, the bugs that arise due to platform differences may hinder the progress.
Challenges Design and functionality of an app is restricted by a target platform; at the same time, platform-inherent features are easy to implement. Some features that are not provided by a target platform must be implemented by hand.
Target audience coverage Low, depends on the platform High
Performance Native apps utilize the hardware they work on in the best possible way: they exert an optimal load on a user’s device and are easier to fix or improve. Some design elements may not render properly on all platforms; particular features may be unavailable, and performance in general may differ.

Top 5 frameworks for cross-platform application development

Top 5 frameworks

Evidently, cross-platform development allows us to reach a broader audience faster. The overall costs of production from start to finish and the on-going support will cost less and require less administrative effort. Two apps take more time to plan, develop, test, and deploy than a single cross-platform one: the total savings will fluctuate around a solid 20%.

Cross-platform code is reusable, meaning that it can not only be used across various platforms, but projects.

Besides, cross-platform development tools continuously evolve to be as effective as the native ones and to mimic their behavior. For example, React Native is a cross-platform tool that depends on native components and this fact is reflected in its name.

Although we cover primarily the clash of Flutter vs React Native, Cordova, Ionic, and Xamarin are the notable products that deserve a bit of attention, too. So here we go with the fifth most popular cross-platform development tool, Xamarin.Forms.

 

Xamarin

What is Xamarin? It is an extension of the .NET development platform, an open source, cross-platform tool for building iOS, Android, and Windows apps with .NET from a single shared codebase.

One can expect that Xamarin would be better tailored to the .NET ecosystem and Windows because it is being developed by Microsoft. So when it comes to the React Native vs Flutter vs Xamarin dilemma, choose the latter to stay within the boundaries of the Microsoft universe.

Pick either its custom markup language XAML or C# to build user interfaces: both enable the access to platform-specific features like the iOS safe area, Android elevation, or Windows ListView.

The fourth position goes to Ionic.

 

Ionic

What is Ionic? It’s an open source mobile UI toolkit for building cross-platform native and web app experiences, written in JS. React.JS, Vue.JS and Angular.JS apps may incorporate Ionic components to implement easily programmable, neat-looking adaptive interfaces. The apps that run on pure JS wouldn’t have problems using Ionic, too.

Every browser understands JS, HTML, and CSS, but how about accessing native device features, like camera, bluetooth, etc? Ionic can do that with more than 120 plugins paired with native SDKs.

So who’s going to win in the React Native vs Flutter vs Ionic battle? It really depends on the technological stack of your team: the latter blends especially well with JS-based frameworks. Although the popularity of Ionic gradually fades after the initial boom in 2017, its fans point out that it remains efficient and that Angular.JS professionals will find it particularly easy to onboard. And here is a notable showcase of what can be done with Ionic: Million Eyez.

Moving on to Cordova, the best cross-platform development tool number three.

 

Cordova

What is Cordova? Like any of the aforementioned products, it is an open-source cross-platform development tool, except that it’s the most controversial and the least popular one.

The thing is, Cordova is not self-sufficient to build an appealing interface. Cordova plugins back-up Ionic capabilities to work with hardware while Ionic elements give the apps a native look. So these two tools are codependent.

On top of that, Cordova uses browser-based WebView, which noticeably worsens performance on low- and mid-tier devices.

On the other hand, it is still actively being developed so the solutions to these known issues may appear in the future.

Now is the time to finally turn our attention to Flutter vs React Native! These are truly the leaders of the popularity ranks in both 2019 and 2020.

 

Flutter

What is Flutter? It is an interface building tool that uses the Dart programming language. In other words, it’s a Google UI framework.

Flutter targets desktop, mobile, and web platforms from a single codebase and features its own Dart native compiler to create hardware-optimized apps for ARM architecture.

 

React Native

What is React Native? It is a Facebook-led native UI development framework, based on React.JS. It’s open source and was at the peak of its popularity in 2018, React Native github repository was the top second judging by the number of community contributions.

Because React Native and Flutter are the top cross-platform mobile development frameworks that use platform agnostic native components, we will describe these two in more detail below.

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Flutter: Pros and Cons

Windows Mobile and Symbian left the market a long time ago, leaving iOS and Android as the only two mainstream platforms for mobile development.

Flutter UI development tools have been designed to target both of the platforms since its appearance in 2018, so now we have a polished framework with an impressive set of features and even more supported platforms.

 

What are the advantages of the Flutter framework?

Before pointing out the final verdict in the Flutter vs React Native comparison, let’s start with the Flutter review.

Flutter advantages
Although mobile devices dominate our everyday lives, it doesn’t seem like Flutter is going to settle for mobile only. Hoping to gain global recognition, the development team works hard to build a truly cross-platform framework and that covers:

 

 

The top 5 advantages of Flutter app development are as follows.

 

Faster development and deployment thanks to the built-in features, like “hot reload”. The latter compiles the code ahead of time and displays an app preview before the project is rebuilt after minor code changes. Faster development coupled with the tool’s crossplatform nature translates into high speed-to-market.

 

Quality documentation, which is indispensable for open-source projects. The official Flutter.dev itself is enough to start building projects without prior Flutter experience. Any time some information or tools is missing, the community itself closes the gap with custom articles and open git repositories for unique use-cases.

 

Feature-rich user interfaces that are fully customizable down to the last pixel. The layered architecture produces highly detailed UI components without sacrificing the speed of rendering. On top of that, every component can be animated.

 

Compatibility with older devices guarantees proper rendering and functionality on Android versions starting from 5.1.1 and iOS versions 8 and higher.

 

Flutter UI is separated from native UI: whenever native visual components lack features or fail to display completely, it ensures error-free performance and unified view on all supported platforms.

The best Flutter apps include Insight Timer, Stadia, Reflectly, and of course, some Google services, like Google Ads.

What are the disadvantages of Flutter?

The aforementioned powerful features of the framework listed above do not necessarily make it the winner of Flutter vs React Native contest. As you’ll see, it loses advantage in certain circumstances.

 

Framework age

Dart and Flutter are pretty young, so its users simply haven’t had the capability to come up with a vast variety of use cases: a team is in deep water when it comes to the development of highly complex or niche projects.

 

Dynamic evolution

It is not a definite downside of the framework,but rather a challenge. Frequent changes to the development environment mean that a product will behave differently after each major update: sometimes in unexpected or undesired ways.

 

Project size

Flutter’s stable separate UI comes at a price: project files occupy more space compared to those created with other tools. In this regard, e.g. the Dart vs Kotlin comparison would result in the victory of the latter.

React Native: Pros and Cons

Built atop of React, it can hardly be named a revolutionary software. Perhaps it’s for the best, because finding a JavaScript developer is a lot easier these days, considering the global programming language ratings.

Advantages of React Native

The following React Native review will help you determine whether it’s fit for a particular project.

 

What are the advantages of React Native framework?

The popularity of JavaScript gives numerous pleasant bonuses to React Native app development as a whole: faster hiring, faster product release, low project expenditures, easy maintenance, and more. The large open-source codebase allows one to choose one of the existing components to be reused in a project.

Making a contribution to React Native and diving into its code is not a problem: here is it’s github repository. More than 2,200 contributors have already helped to make it better.

The best React Native apps include Coinbase, Shopify, Tableau, and Facebook itself.

01

Platform-specific native components

React Native is different — in a good way — from the other JS-based frameworks; for example, comparing React Native vs Angular.JS you’ll notice that the former acknowledges the importance of importing platform-specific native components, while the latter ignores them and relies on Ionic/Cordova tools instead.
02

Web and ReactXP libraries

React Native for Web and ReactXP libraries are a handy addition to the framework if you consider launching a web-version of a given app.
03

Popularity

JavaScript is widely popular among developers: it is the third most popular language based on PYPL data. The talent pool is vast and readily available.
04

On-par performance with natively-built apps

It is a surprising yet true fact about React Native. In this particular test (which is a simple app), the benchmarks demonstrate how RN is sometimes slightly better than Swift for iOS!
05

Hot/Live reload

Hot/Live reload (basically identical to the Flutter’s corresponding feature) spares a lot of headache for developers, allowing them to see the changes without the project rebuild.
06

CodePush

An App Center cloud service that allows deploying mobile app updates directly to end users’ devices.

Making a contribution to React Native and diving into its code is not a problem: here is it’s github repository. More than 2,200 contributors have already helped to make it better.

The best React Native apps include Coinbase, Shopify, Tableau, and Facebook itself.

What are the disadvantages of React Native?

No tool is perfect in the domain of cross-platform development (not yet, at least), and the React Native limitations are evident.

 

Poor Documentation

Although the framework features a single, central base of knowledge (just like Flutter), even the proponents of React Native admit that the documentation could be better.

 

Lots of connectible native libraries…but

Some of them still may not be fit to implement the functionality of your project in full. Some readily available components will have to be tweaked and some will have to be discarded and written by your team from scratch.

 

Only partial independence from a native platform

Although cross-platform frameworks by and large are meant to be platform agnostic, it is impossible within the paradigm of React Native development. As React Native seeks to acknowledge the differences of platforms, your team might rely on the expertise of a native developer to implement the best practices.

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Flutter vs React Native: Which one to choose in 2021?

Obviously, both of the frameworks occupy the same niche in software development and share the same general features. Both are good to build a mobile cross-platform MVP with the possibility to later re-use the code and extend it with any of the free official or community-provided add-ons. Both reduce time-to-market and project expenditures when developing for multiple platforms.

How are they different though?

 

Flutter vs React Native platform support

Flutter’s tools target not only web and mobile, but desktop and embedded as well. It is useful when an app is designed to be comfortably accessible from literally any device: phone, tablet, laptop, or a vehicle infotainment system screen.

 

React Native vs Flutter performance

Flutter projects comply to native code, which results in overall better performance; here is a good benchmark on this. Nonetheless, it runs into performance issues when a particular graphics routine is not optimized from time to time.

 

Flutter vs React Native ease of use

Former JavaScript developers (web front-end or backend, for example) report that it is easier to learn React Native. No wonder! Flutter requires the knowledge of Dart.

 

Flutter vs React Native project size

React Native projects tend to be more lightweight. It may not look as much of an advantage nowadays, but think of miniature wearable devices: one still has to be mindful of free space usage.

 

Flutter vs React: Which one to choose for your app?

Both of the frameworks are relatively young and thus cannot be labeled mature and rock-stable at the moment. The unforeseen performance drops are possible at any time. Meanwhile, both are being actively improved by their lead developers and community.

So what are the specific cases when one framework should be preferred to the other?

Choose Flutter Choose React Native
The app will exert a heavy load on CPU/GPU The app will use the visual representations of UI native components exclusively
The UI will need a lot of detailed customization The development team of your choice is fluent in JS/React/React Native (which is more likely than Dart fluency)
There’s a chance the app will go beyond mobile, or the next app will benefit from the experience of the current team The app is relatively simplistic and meant to be lightweight
Fit for development on wearable and embedded devices, PCs, and vehicle infotainment systems The app is web-based and / or mobile (iOS & Android) only
Google Ads, Stadia, and Grab use Flutter Facebook services, Walmart, and Wix use React Native

So overall, in the Flutter vs React Native comparison, the former is the more advanced solution.

 

Flutter Developers vs React Native Developers rates comparison

The following table contains the Flutter vs React Native annual salary overview based on the latest data by Glassdoor, dou, and ziprecruiter:

Flutter React Native
US $112,000 $117,277
UK $91,000 $93,423
Ukraine $68,000 $70,576

The reason why the data provided by the two sources differs so much is the salary gap between various developer tiers. For instance, a Junior mobile developer in Ukraine earns about $ 36K per year depending on the company and project, while Senior developers settle below the 80K mark.

Far-east and South American countries have low software development costs in general; the only concern is their capability to actually deliver quality code in a certain niche. On the other hand, European, British, and North American developers seem largely overpriced.

Summing Up

Despite the fact that React developers are easier to come by, the mere fact that Flutter is backed up by Google makes it a serious React Native alternative to consider.

Google cross platform mobile development relies on Dart compiler, while React Native development relies on WebView and JavaScript layer that effectively decreases the speed of a React Native mobile app.

Flutter comes with its own rendering engine that enables the creation of genuinely unique designs at the expense of increased project weight. React Native is restricted to the use of native components that may need further customization by hand. A Flutter app can jump into the desktop environment immediately, while a React app must use a web interface as an intermediary for that situation.

By the way, cross-platform app development is what DOIT software specializes in. So, are you looking for experienced developers to help you launch a project from scratch or assist the main team with particular features? Get in touch, we’ll gladly do it for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the difference between Flutter and React Native?

The former is authored and being developed by Google with the Dart programming language. The latter is led by Facebook and runs on JavaScript. Both frameworks are open-source and accept community contributions.

Is Flutter faster than React Native?

Yes. Dart’s native compiler produces different binary code for every platform, while React Native JavaScript layer shows lower performance overall.

Is React Native overall better than Flutter?

Flutter is better in terms of performance, features, and portability. However, React popularity makes the latter a decent market rival because its developers are easier to find.

Will Flutter replace React Native?

Not likely, considering the quality and number of apps made with React Native. As for the future of Flutter, it will without a doubt thrive in the Google ecosystem, so neither of the frameworks will be left out in the Flutter vs React Native rivalry.

SERHII OSADCHUK
CTO @ DOIT Software
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