Ionic vs Cordova vs React Native

Mobile app development has evolved from an OS-specific app to a cross-platform approach as it creates new opportunities for rapid digital growth.

It also reduces the cost during the process of native development, promotes brand consistency across all customer touchpoints, and broadens the market reach.

In developing hybrid, cross-platform, progressive web and mobile apps, developers are often confused regarding which mobile framework to use.

Continue reading as we discuss the advantages of Ionic, Cordova, and React Native, the three most popular mobile app development frameworks.

Key Takeaways

  • Ionic is an open-source SDK for hybrid mobile apps
  • Cordova is a mobile app development framework
  • React Native is an open-source user interface software framework

What is Ionic?

Ionic is an open-source SDK for hybrid mobile, web, and desktop app development on open-web standards with one shared codebase. It is written in JavaScript and built on top of AngularJS and Apache Cordova.

Due to its hybrid application, Ionic revolves around HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and is mostly preferred by web app developers. The component library is one of its standout features that provides developers with most of the building blocks required to develop progressive web apps quickly.

Unlike a responsive framework, Ionic comes with UI elements and layouts that you would normally find with a native mobile SDK. With Ionic, you also get powerful ways to build mobile applications which is way better than the existing HTML5 development framework.

However, note that since Ionic is an HTML5 framework too, it requires a wrapper like Cordova to run as a native application.

Ionic Core Features

  • Cross-platform stability

Apps built on Ionic are written with a single base code and can be deployed across multiple platforms like iOS, Android, Desktop, and progressive web apps. The framework is built on reliable open-standard web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS using modern web APIs like Shadow DOM and Custom Elements.

  • Easy to use UI

The Ionic application contains pre-designed elements, fonts, interactive paradigms, and aesthetically appealing base themes. A simple to use UI allows developers to build clean, simple, and functional mobile and web applications effortlessly.

  • Framework compatibility

Older Ionic releases were tightly coupled to the Angular framework, but the recent releases have made the app platform a standalone web component library with seamless integrations for the latest JavaScript frameworks like Vue.js and React.js.

  • Angular support

After the recent update, the core components work as a standard web component library. However, the angular package is crucial for developers as it makes integrating with the Angular ecosystem easier. This package contains all the basic functionality and also integrates with the Angular core libraries.

Advantages of Ionic

  • Developer friendly

Because Ionic is based on standard web technologies like HTML and CSS, web developers can easily build cross-platform apps without developing a separate codebase for iOS, Android, and the web.

Since it operates through WebView, developers can use the desktop browser to prototype the app without having to deploy a dedicated device or emulator.

  • Comprehensive component library

Ionic essentially mimics the looks of a native app because of its comprehensive component and plugin library, including frontend building blocks, app icons, UI components, etc.

These elements can be used to construct a simple GUI or can be customized according to your requirements. The plugins allow API connectivity like Bluetooth and GPS, without building custom integrations for them.

This also enables rapid prototyping, as developers can quickly create an interactive app prototype and make changes quickly.

  • Front end agnostic

As stated earlier, the latest Ionic update allows the SDK to work with all JavaScript frameworks including Angular, Vue, and React. Moreover, developers can choose to work with no frameworks at all and code only using JavaScript.

This makes the Ionic platform much more usable among developers as users who are already on other frameworks for web development can seamlessly switch to Ionic for mobile app development.

What is Cordova?

Apache Cordova is a mobile app development framework from the house of Adobe to use standard web technologies like JavaScript, HTML5, and CSS3 for cross-platform app development while avoiding the native development language of the platform. The Cordova CLI runs on node.js and is available on Node Package Manager (npm).

Cordova works by wrapping your HTML or JavaScript app in a native container that can access the device functions of several platforms in one. These functionalities are exposed a unified JavaScript API, allowing users to write one base code for virtually every device available in the market and publish apps to multiple app stores. 

Apps running within wrappers like Cordova are targeted to each platform and rely on standard-compliant API bindings to access the plugins like data, network, sensors, etc., on the end user’s device.

Cordova is extensively used by mobile and web developers who want to extend an app packaged for distribution across multiple platforms in various app store portals.

It is also used by developers who are interested in developing a plug-in interface between native app and WebView components or mixing them to access device-level APIs.

Cordova Core Features

  • Single base code

Cordova framework is capable of supporting several platforms including Android, iOS, Windows, Firefox OS, Ubuntu, Web OS, Symbian, Blackberry, etc. Therefore, developers can build a single mobile app while targeting all devices and their app stores without writing separate codes or learning complicated languages for each platform. 

  • Cordova CLI

The Command Line Interface or CLI is a powerful tool that can be used to start applications, build processes for different platforms, install plugins, and a lot more things from one window, making the app development process much easier for developers. 

  • Core components

Cordova also provides several core components required by every mobile application as a base layer. It also provides APIs that will be used to implement native mobile functionality like Bluetooth and GPS to your JavaScript app.

Creating the foundation of your app using these elements allows you to spend more time implementing your own logic to the app and improve the user experience across platforms.

Advantages of Cordova

  • Build apps with advanced functionality

Apache Cordova allows developers to create powerful apps using the properties of the end user’s device as resources to fuel the app. So, you can build apps that can access native resources and sensors like the camera, compass, network, accelerometer, contacts, messages, GPS, storage, and notifications. It uses lesser and simpler code, which can be edited to improve quicker. 

  • Cost-effective app development

Cordova also facilitates cost-effective app development in the sense that developers have access to high-quality tools and features which will help reduce the time required to complete a project. An app built on Cordova can be deployed across multiple platforms without UI inconsistency.

Since developers also do not need to learn new and complex languages to build an app, you can save a lot of time and effort by using Cordova instead of building native apps using their specific coding languages.

  • Cordova Plugins

Plugins are arguably one of the strongest features of Cordova, presenting opportunities for developers to build apps with advanced functionality. The plug-in architecture allows developers to utilize native features, unlocking the full potential of the device and providing access to the cloud service.

There also exist several community add-ons and app templates that provide several libraries and frameworks to speed up the app development process. Developers can choose templates from several sources like Git repository, Node Package Manager, etc.

What is React Native?

React Native is an open-source cross-platform UI app development solution that allows developers to build apps natively on both Android and iOS. It is written in JavaScript, Java, C++, Objective-C, Objective-C++, and Python and coded in JavaScript using React framework with native platform capabilities.

Unlike Ionic and Cordova, React Native allows you to develop fully native applications that do not compromise the user experience. You get a collection of platform-agnostic components such as Image, Text, View, etc., mapped directly to the native UI building blocks of the platform.

React is highly community-driven and its members often speak at conferences to address new and exciting projects and exploring the platform beyond mobile OSes with repos like Windows, macOS, and Web. It regularly receives contributions from individuals and companies around the world.

React Native Core Features

  • Native cross-platform applications

React Native combines the best bits of native app development with one of the most popular JavaScript platforms for developers to create native cross-platform mobile applications. You can deploy React Native in your existing Android or iOS app or build a new one from scratch.

  • Fast refresh

React Native is also exceptionally beneficial for prototyping. The core technology used by the platform is WWW and it is highly likely that many developers are already familiar with the coding languages.

All primitives render to the native platform UI, making your app use the same API as other apps built on the platform. With JavaScript, you can see your adjustments as soon as you save any changes to the base code.

  • Easier deployment

React Native also allows you to create platform-specific versions of your components so a single codebase can be shared across multiple platforms.

Moreover, the components wrap existing native codes via JavaScript and React’s declarative UI paradigm. It speeds up the work for existing native developers while allowing native app development for new teams of developers.

Advantages of React Native

  • Easier onboarding with JavaScript

Developers working with React Native write the main part of the code in JavaScript, which is one of the most popular programming languages around the world.

This part of the code interacts with native elements of the mobile OSes, facilitating the easy development of cross-platform native applications. Since most developers will already be familiar with JavaScript, customers do not need to spend time searching for Java or Swift developers.

  • Automatic updates

React Native also supports third-party services like Microsoft CodePush for automatic updates OTA. The part of the application written in JavaScript is updated automatically and do not require standard manual installation procedure through the native app stores. Automatic OTA updates prevent the possibility of bugs and problems with the previous iterations.

  • Cost-effective native development

When compared to native development, cross-platform development is significantly cost-effective, and a project can be implemented much quicker.

Moreover, React Native is highly community-driven, meaning there are several plugins and templates available in the public domain that can be used in React.

Almost all of the code is reusable, which significantly decreases the time and costs involved in developing and implementing an app across multiple platforms.

  • Fast as native

Apps written on React use JavaScript interactions with the native OS environment. Since the UI feels and looks similar to native apps, the end-user will never be able to tell a native and React Native app apart.

Not only that, but these apps are also close to native apps in terms of behavior and performance as well, making them suitable for developers who want their apps to feel and perform like native apps without dealing with the complexity that comes with native app development.

Ionic vs Cordova vs React Native Comparison

IonicCordovaReact Native
DescriptionOpen-source SDK for hybrid mobile appMobile app development frameworkOpen-source user interface software framework
Websites embedded in a mobile app 
Websites embedded in a mobile app 
Javascript with native components
PlatfromsOS and Android, desktop browsers, and PWAiOS and Android, desktop browsers, and PWAAndroid and iOS
Date Launched201320092015
Popular AppsGE
Home Depot
Spark Chess
Fan React
Web PerformanceExcellentExcellentGood
Mobile PerformanceGoodGoodExcellent


React Native is becoming extremely popular among new app developers owing to its unique set of features facilitating truly native mobile app development.

However, Cordova and Ionic remain popular mobile app development platforms among seasoned developers and marketers who do not want to code native applications for each platform.

If you are unsure about which one will best match your requirements, consult one of the leading app hosting companies for more insights on this matter. 


What is Ionic?

Ionic is an open-source SDK for hybrid mobile app

What is Cordova?

Cordova is a mobile app development framework

What is React Native?

React Native is an open-source user interface software framework

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