React Native app development allows developers to save time and money when developing mobile apps for iOS and Android. React Native is a cross-platform framework. It was originally developed and released by the team at Facebook in 2015.
React Native is open-source and is still maintained by Facebook today, although there are a number of other contributors, including Microsoft, Callstack, Expo, and Software Mansion, to name a few.
Many developers choose native mobile app development because it allows them to create fine-tuned mobile apps and User Experiences that are built with a specific platform in mind.
It is no great secret that native apps deliver the best possible User Interface and User Experience. However, native mobile app development will require you to create two separate apps, one for iOS and another for Android. This makes native apps expensive to build.
Cross-platform development gives developers the ability to create one app and use the same code on both iOS and Android platforms. This helps mobile app development teams save time, and money, and get to market faster than native development.
React Native is quickly becoming a very popular mobile app development tool and one of the most popular cross-platform development frameworks.
Let’s explore React Native mobile app development in more detail. We’ll look at the reasons why React Native is a great choice for cross-platform mobile app development, and we’ll also take a look at some of the ways it comes up short in the mobile app development process.
Where React Native Excels
In many ways, React Native mobile app development excels due to:
- Native look and feel
- Pre-built components
- Modern architecture
- Declarative code
- Large libraries
- Open-source community support
Native Look and Feel
Despite the fact that React Native is a cross-platform framework, there are important differences between the iOS and Android platforms that need to be reflected in order to create mobile apps that look and feel like native apps.
React Native gives developers the ability to include platform-specific modules in their builds so they can deliver User Experiences that feel like native apps.
Probably the biggest reason React Native has gotten so popular over the years is that it gives developers the ability to use the same User Interface building blocks that are present in native iOS and Android apps.
This leads to higher mobile app performance levels and better User Experiences. These aspects of a mobile app do not go unnoticed by users and ensure higher User Retention.
All mobile apps have features and functions that have been created and used before. The bulk of your mobile app is likely not anything groundbreaking or has never been seen before.
There is no reason for your development team to reinvent the wheel. If there is a quick way to implement a solution, you should plug it in and continue working on new and novel features and functions.
This is a great advantage of React Native. React Native comes with a large open-source library of pre-built components that developers can access and plug into their own creations. This saves your React Native team time writing code for basic functions and features that have already been created and gives you the ability to focus on differentiating your cross-platform app and brand.
React Native follows a modern programming architecture called modular programming. Modular software development separates the functionality of the program into independent modules. The main advantages of modular architecture are that it makes updating individual features and functions simple, and it makes copying and reusing modules in other areas easier.
This makes a developer’s task easier when they need to add native code or platform-specific functions to one iteration of their React Native app. Plus, modular programming makes the entire development process more flexible and efficient since teams can work on individual, contained modules without needing to access the entire source code of the mobile app.
Besides utilizing a modern, modular architecture, React Native also uses declarative coding. This is a modern approach to writing code. Traditionally, developers need to write code that explains how to execute functions, features, etc. Declarative programming doesn’t tell a program how to but rather tells it what to do.
Declarative code is easier to write and understand. Plus, it offers developers far more flexibility when it comes to programming functions. When multiple developers need to work on a cross-platform app, easy-to-read declarative code like React Native makes collaboration and quick comprehension easier.
One of the biggest benefits app developers get out of React Native are the extensive libraries that aid in speeding up the development process and extending functionality. There are React Native libraries for just about every task you can imagine, from security testing and type checking to state management.
Open-Source Community Support
React Native benefits from the large support community that comes with popular open-source tools, and on top of that community support, React Native is still actively maintained and supported by one of the largest tech companies in the world, Facebook. If you come across issues or setbacks that you are having trouble with, there is a ton of documentation, information, and experts online who can help you with all things React Native.
One reason open-source technology is so popular in development, besides the fact that it is free to use, is that there is so much readily available support. You never know when issues will arise. Knowing that you have a large support community to rely on if you need it is a major advantage of React Native.
Where React Native Falls Short
React Native is a great tool for cross-platform mobile app development, but there are situations where React Native’s capabilities fall short. Developers may want to know about the areas where this framework lacks so they can make more informed decisions at the beginning of their development project. Here are the ways React Native falls short:
- Complex User Interfaces
- Needs additional native code
- Constant updates
Complex User Interfaces
This is the most common and important drawback to using React Native. This cross-platform mobile app development framework is really good at creating simple User Interfaces. However, if your app requires heavy graphics, complex animations, and screen transitions, React Native is not going to be a great choice.
In fact, if you’re creating a graphics-heavy application, such as a mobile game, your best bet is going to be native app development. Cross-platform frameworks are not adept at handling the level of complexity that comes with complex graphics and sophisticated User Interfaces.
Needs Additional Native Code
In the grand majority of cases, you won’t be able to write 100% of your code in React Native. In order to get that native look and feel, you will likely be required to add some native code to your application. This can be a problem if you’re not familiar with Swift or Kotlin. You’ll either need to hire a native app developer or try to write 100% of your code in React Native.
While this framework greatly reduces the amount of code you need to write that is specific to each platform, chances are you will likely still need to write some code specifically for iOS and Android.
Since React Native is still so new, relatively speaking, it is constantly going through updates. This can be a great asset, but it can also pose a problem for developers. If you don’t regularly update your app to keep up with the updates to React Native, your app could have issues down the road.
While it may seem like a simple enough issue to regularly update, major companies like Airbnb have experienced issues with their app due to the constant updates to React Native. We think that updates and innovations are great, but they can pose an issue for developers using React Native, so it is good to be aware of them.
Mobile app development is an important part of modern business. Choosing the right path of development can be challenging. Do you choose to spend more time and money and go with a native development strategy, or do you utilize the speed of cross-platform development and create an app that can be used on both platforms?
If you need help figuring out what steps you should take and what path will be most beneficial for your business and your goals, reach out to an app development partner. Gain valuable expert advice and opinions, and lean on the industry experience a development partner can bring to the table. There are a lot of good development choices out there, but which one works best for you?
by Mario Tatis
15+ years of technical experience helping over 500 clients build apps for iOS and Android with exceptional success.