React Native vs native app development – this is probably the hottest debate when it comes to choosing the technical stack for your next mobile app. As a seasoned mobile app development company, Tapptitude has some experience dealing with this dilemma. So, we’re going to go over the differences between native and React Native app development, to help you make an informed decision that benefits your business. We’re also going to offer our pros and cons for each approach, so you can choose the right path for your next mobile app.
The dilemma: React Native vs native app development
We live in truly revolutionary times, as innovative concepts like smart assistants and self-driving cars become part of our daily lives. We’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to be just one click or touch away from any kind of information or service, whether it’s a retail service, food delivery, dating, or just reading. Smartphones have made all of these things possible, and we can’t imagine life without them at this point. Apparently, the average user spends 3.3 hours online per day on their mobile devices.
Most of our experiences with smartphones are mediated by mobile apps. For the average mobile user, an app is a tool that helps us achieve something useful, fun or exciting in our everyday lives, wherever we are. For those of us who are in the business of building mobile apps, things are slightly different. An app is to us both a technical product and a business asset, and when it comes to developing one, there are two fundamental approaches: native mobile development or cross-platform development like React Native.
What is the difference between native and React Native?
Native mobile development means using Swift (or Objective-C) for iOS apps, while for Android apps it implies using Kotlin or Java. This means developing an app to suit either one platform or the other, separately.
Cross-platform mobile development can be done by using a plethora of tools, but here we’ll just focus on one of the most praised approaches in the past years: React Native, a framework for building apps with React.
At Tapptitude, we live and breathe mobile, and we work on mobile products every day alongside our clients and partners. We know how important it is to choose the right implementation approach for your next mobile app, and we assist our clients in making this challenging decision. Based on the expertise we’ve gathered over the years, we’re going to present the main pros and cons of each development approach, so you can pick the best route for your business.
React Native Pros and Cons
We’ve reached out to our React Native developer Iuliu to find out which are the main pros and cons to choosing this cross-platform approach for mobile app development:
1. Use on multiple platforms
React Native enables using the same codebase (or as much as you need of it) between iOS and Android, so your app will work on both platforms.
2. Shorter development time
One major selling point of React Native is a shorter development time. It provides numerous ready-to-apply components that can accelerate the process, which is both time-saving and cost-effective for your business.
3. Hot reloading
Due to the way React uses the Virtual DOM, your app can keep running while implementing new versions and tweaking the UI. This not only saves time on the compilation, but also maintains the state of the app while developers are making changes.
4. Smaller teams
5. Fast applications
6. Simplified UI logic
In native development, it is necessary to create a sequence of actions in the application, whereas React Native employs declarative programming, in which such an order of implementing an action is obsolete. As a result, it is much easier to detect bugs on the paths a user can take, especially if using a state management system such as Redux.
1. Steep learning curve
Simple React already implies a relatively high level of complexity that takes time to learn and master. React Native requires additional effort and certain knowledge requirements regarding MacOS/iOS and native Android ecosystems.
2. Not as smooth a navigation
React Native still lacks a navigation system that provides users with a seamless UI and UX experience. There is no ideal solution to React Native for navigation between displays. On the upside, it is getting better, but as of right now, React Native is not quite there yet.
3. Lack of custom modules
Despite its maturity, React Native still lacks certain components. Chances are you won’t have a problem with that, as the majority of custom modules you need are available, well-documented, and working properly. However, it may happen that you will have to build your solution from scratch or try to hack the existing one, in which case a pure JS knowledge might not be enough.
Native Development Pros and Cons
As the name implies, a native mobile app is an application written in the specific programming language for the required smartphone. For instance, developers use Swift (or Objective-C) for iOS, and Kotlin or Java for Android. This means you have to develop your app separately for each platform.
There are quite a few advantages – and disadvantages – of native mobile apps vs React Native. Our expert developers Cătălin (Senior iOS Dev) and Laurențiu (Head of Android) will take us through the main pros and cons of native app development.
Native app development for iOS – PROS
1. Unbeatable performance
Native mobile development is unbeatable when it comes to performance. You have access to the latest technologies and features the moment they are released by Apple, and in some cases, you can even hack your way into unpublished functionality. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about creating additional performance-reducing bridges between React Native and the iOS SDK while coding.
2. A future-proof application
With native development for iOS, what you get is an entirely future-proof application. You will not be faced with a sudden drop in the development platform, as Apple will continue to support their SDK and their developers. This cannot be said for third-party solutions that might be suddenly dropped – see how Facebook shut down Parse.
3. Unlimited access
When developing a mobile app for iOS, you get direct access to all the device hardware that is publicly accessible. You’ll be able to access large amounts of free components that can ease the development process and provide your app with premium functionality (addressing all development layers of the app, from model all the way to UI/UX).
Native app development for iOS – CONS
1. Higher cost
Choosing to go with native development for your next product idea means you will need to develop a separate app for each platform, thus doubling your development time and increasing costs. Cross-platform solutions will not divide the development time by the number of platforms, so they’re more cost-effective.
2. Learning curve
Native app development for Android – PROS
1. Access to all native APIs
When it comes to native app development for your new mobile product, all the development features that were specifically designed for the platform can be used as soon as they are launched.
2. High performance
The best performance is achieved only in a native environment. Each extra layer or feature added in the mobile app development process just adds complexity and impacts the app’s speed and overall performance.
3. Access to the latest tools
When developing a mobile app for Android using native development, you gain access to all the latest tools available. What’s more, Android Studio is proactively working to support upcoming or unreleased Android features.
4. Security and stability
With native mobile app development, there’s no dependency on any third-party cross-platform solutions developer, so there’s no chance that support for your chosen platform is dropped. You’ll also get great community support and a myriad of tools that are constantly updated and maintained.
5. Elevated user experience
Many would argue that the user experience provided by native apps is unrivalled. Native development provides the tools necessary to achieve the best possible user experience, which helps build customer loyalty.
Native app development for Android – CONS
1. Higher cost
Unfortunately, as we’ve mentioned before, native app development will prove more costly compared to cross-platform solutions. You might have to rely on two developers to code your app for each platform, which means doubling your development time and rising costs.
2. Slower deployment time
When it comes to native app development for Android, the deployment time usually takes longer due to the recompilation of the entire application at each deployment on a device.
3. OEM interference
Due to the nature of Android, OEMs often interfere with the code that is deployed on their devices. Interacting with those pieces of native APIs that were impacted by these changes might have different outcomes than expected.
Conclusion – React Native vs native for your next app
After this debate, which approach do you think is the better choice, native mobile development or React Native? If you’re still unsure, don’t worry, you are not alone.
It’s basically impossible to pinpoint a winner. Both platforms are good and serve their purpose, although as we can see, native development tends to be more stable, more complex, and having a higher performance – but also a higher cost. React Native is cheaper and requires less development time since it uses the same codebase both for iOS and Android, but the navigation is less smooth and lacks certain modules.
Since the choice might be difficult, the answer to the dilemma can be narrowed down to this: pick a platform based on the app’s intended feature set and application scope. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? To make the right decision, you must first clarify your business goals and what you want to achieve through your application. If you need help with that, reach out to us and let’s talk about the best course of action for your next mobile product.