Why use React native for mobile app development?


Are you still writing native iOS or Android code for creating mobile apps? It is high time to re-evaluate the approach to mobile app development and choose right set of tools and frameworks to get the job done for higher ROI and rapid development.

There are many platforms and tools available out there in the wild when it comes to mobile app development. Different alternatives to native code development have their own advantages. The most prominent factors in choosing a specific app development platform depends on the below key factors –

  • Skill set of the individual or development team
  • Unique requirements of the app
  • Targeted user segment
  • Long term strategic vision of the individual or an organization.

If you are making apps for one specific platform only, then going native (swift, objective c for iOS and java for android) is the preferred choice, simply because you get the best performance and the latest APIs and features to work with.

In case if you are developing a mobile app for multiple platforms – iOS, Android and Windows then apart from considering native development, cross platform app development should also be considered before taking a final decision on the technology to be used.

What is Hybrid platform app development?

We define hybrid as a web app, primarily built using HTML5 and JavaScript, that is then wrapped inside a thin native container that provides access to native platform features. Hybrid app development using plain JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS is one of the easiest. This approach uses unified JavaScript API, using which you can access device functions like Camera and accelerometer of almost all platforms including Android, iOS and Windows. Once your app is ready, you can compile your app which would wrap the JavaScript, CSS and HTML code into platform specific containers (webview). This container acts as a bridge between your application and hardware components via unified JavaScript API.

The biggest advantage you get here is the single code base to develop and maintain, and that too, without learning any new technology, if you are already a web developer.

However, the biggest disadvantage here is that the application runs in the webview, and not natively on the hardware. Due to this the application becomes less performant than the native Android or native iOS applications. But then, all apps are not required to be super performant, it is a tradeoff and decision that you need to make upfront depending on the complexity and interactivity needed for the app.

What is React Native?

React native is relatively new but an excellent option for rapid mobile applications development, and you can target both iOS and Android. React native is the open source framework from the house of Facebook and is used for developing native iOS and android apps.

Some example apps developed using React native are SoundCloud Pulse, Discovery VR, Facebook Ads Manager, Bit Wallet, Squad, Myntra and Running.

React, the framework was released back in 2013 by Facebook for web applications development, React native is the extension of React itself and uses the same development philosophy which is based on JavaScript.

Inorder to use React native, you need to understand JSX. JSX is the XML like syntax extension of ECMAScript. Once you get hands on with JSX, writing React native UI components becomes absolute easy. Ofcourse, additionally you also need to work with Xcode, iOS simulator and command line tools for building Android version of the app.

Why use React Native?

  • Excellent code re-use: You can expect, at a minimum, of roughly 75% code reuse between platforms. The philosophy is - “Learn once, write everywhere and achieve maximum code reusability”.
  • Native UI/UX: Yes, it’s really native and provides a superior user experience to hybrid. While you are coding in JavaScript, the screens translate to actual native views, and therefore are performant by default.
  • Support: A strong, vibrant community. There’s libraries for the majority of use cases you can think of.
  • Hot-Module-Replacement: The absolute killer feature of react-native. As long as you do not change a native dependency of your app, you don’t need to compile anything. The code is replaced, as soon as you save the source code. This decreased the feedback loop to a minimum and the learning curve raised exponential.
  • Code-Push: If you do not know code-push you’re missing an absolute must have tool for react-native. Code-push allows you to deploy your app to your clients within minutes and past the app stores. You can deploy much faster than ever and even to A/B test with ease, since you can control how multiple versions are spread to your clients.
  • Less compiler directives: You can call some iOS and Android specific methods to use features which are native. You do not need to embrace them with compiler directives. Best example is, that you set shadow properties for views on iOS and elevation for views on Android. You can put both on the same style sheet without notice. And, if you really need to, you can even drop native Java / Swift code into your app with ease.

Conclusion

There are different methodologies to app development and many platform choices, not one is the universal fit for all kind of app development needs.

Many developers just love Java and continue to do Android development in Java without thinking twice about other available options, same goes with developers working in Objective-C. Not to argue, Native app development gives the best performance and smooth user experience.

Web developers have turned into mobile developers without any difficulty with the advent of hybrid frameworks. All these frameworks deal mostly with JavaScript, CSS and HTML only, and support almost all mobile platforms.

React native brings the better of both the worlds i.e. Native development and hybrid frameworks. Web developers turned app developers get to develop apps in JavaScript and are yet compiling the code to native apps.

With React native, you get ease of development, better performance and great user experience in the end.

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