React Native vs. Swift – Which One Should You Choose?

When it comes to mobile app development, developers are in a dilemma about selecting Swift or React Native for an application. Both of these technologies are relatively new. While Swift is Apple’s brand new programming language, React Native is a framework for JavaScript.

Below, you’ll find a detailed comparison between React Native and Swift, their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision. 

This article will follow the structure below:

  • Cross-Platform framework overview
  • Native app development overview
  • Advantages of cross-platform development
  • Advantages of native development
  • React Native Overview
    • Use cases
    • Advantages
    • Limitations
    • Famous apps
  • Swift Overview
    • Use cases
    • Advantages
    • Limitations
    • Famous apps
  • Swift vs. React Native | Comparison

Ready to know more?

What is a cross-platform mobile framework?

Cross-platform app development frameworks enable developers to build mobile applications for multiple operating systems. Put simply; these apps are compatible with both Android and iOS. It provides developers the ability to create apps with one-time coding and run it on all other platforms, allowing them to release a software/product much faster and better. Also, the developed product is safer.

You’ll find the critical advantages of cross-platform development below.

  • Reusable code

Cross-platform mobile app development empowers developers to make use of a single codebase for different operating systems and varied applications. The use of a single codebase is convenient in terms of revising and maintaining a codebase. 

  • Takes a shorter time to market

Hybrid mobile applications are ready-to-launch products and they have a faster time to market. By using this type of framework, app developers can launch applications quickly. 

  • Lower development costs

By utilizing a cross-platform framework, developers can significantly cut down on expenses. Since less time and effort is required to develop an application, it contributes toward considering reducing the costs of app development. 

  • Performance and experience are close to native apps

Functionality and backend features of hybrid apps are similar to each other. This enables developers to accelerate the development process and maintain the same user experience for the end-users. 

What is a native development? 

Native mobile app development is the creation of applications that run on particular mobile operating systems. They can be accessed by users from dedicated app stores (like Google Play or the App Store). If you envisage building an app for iOS, app developers will use programming languages Swift or Objective-C. On the contrary, building an app for Android calls for the programming languages Kotlin or Java.

Google, as well as, Apple have their own development tools, SDK, and interface elements that app developers can access. Companies are likely to invest in native mobile app development compared to other Web, Hybrid, and other types of apps. Since mobile software is becoming a necessity for most organizations, enterprises must be well-versed about the advantages and disadvantages of selecting an app development approach.

You’ll find the critical advantages of native app development below.

  • Faultless performance and fast operating speed

Native apps are built for a specific operating system, and therefore, they take full advantage of the device’s processing speed. The apps showcase an exemplary, error-free performance and run smoothly. 

  • Work offline

Native apps can function even if there’s no Internet connection. If there is any corresponding functionality required for the development of a native app, an Internet connection would be a necessity. 

  • Fantastic UI/UX design possibilities

Native apps offer great user experience and design possibilities. For instance, developers can make use of cutting-edge animation and UI/UX design. 

  • Easyto-understand navigation

The UI of native apps is comprehensible and allows end-users to quickly and easily understand in-app navigation. 

  • Ease of integration with the device’s hardware

Native apps can be easily integrated with the device’s hardware, such as touch screen, GPS, and camera. 

  • Hassle-free app launch

The OS guidelines are followed closely by native apps, making it easier to launch in the App Store.

  • Higher reliability and security

Applications that are developed natively follow all the OS guidelines and are checked and approved by the App Store. This makes native apps much more secure and reliable than other apps.

  • Quick implementation of high-end features

In native apps, sophisticated features like VR, AI, IoT, and AR can be integrated quickly and without any hassle. 

  • The latest tools and SDK are available for developers

Developers have access to regularly updated libraries and solutions that appropriately interact with a specific OS.

What is React Native?

React Native is a JavaScript library that is used to develop applications for iOS and Android systems natively.

React Native is a great tool for developing complex cross-platform applications. If your project is going to be large-scale and deeply rooted, consider use React Native. It has extensive documentation and stronger support. Also, select React Native if you are planning to reuse code for a desktop app and a web app. 

Mark Zuckerberg had commented in 2012 that the biggest mistake Facebook made as a company was betting too much on HTML5 instead of the native. He swore that Facebook is going to deliver a superior mobile experience soon. 

Inside the company, Jordan Walke discovered a way to use a JavaScript thread in the background to create user interface elements for iOS. To improve this prototype so that the technology can be used to develop native applications, Facebook decided to put together an internal Hackathon. 

After months of development, the first version of React was launched by Facebook in 2015. Christopher Chedeau, during a technical lecture, explained that Facebook was already using react Native in production.

React Native’s operating principles are practically identical to ReactJs, besides that RN does not manage the DOM over the Virtual DOM. It directly operates in a background process on the end device, which explains the JavaScript written by the developers.

Also, it interacts with the native device via serialization, batch bridge, and facilitates asynchronous communications. React Native does not use HTML. It rather uses pure JavaScript with JSX syntax.

Advantages of React Native 

  • Known for Flawless Performance

Without a doubt, React Native is an asset when it comes to enhancing the performances via native controls and modules. By getting connected to both the OS’ native components, the React Native produces a code to the native APIs upfront and freely. 

There is an improvement in performance because it utilizes a separate thread from the native APIs and UI. Other alternatives can also be used like, opting for the WebView, but this is going to reduce the level of performance. 

  • Modular Architecture

Modular Programming is useful in segregating the program functions into different interchangeable and free blocks, called modules. It is a software technique that helps make the development more versatile and better coordinate with each other to receive the updates.

React Native is highly benefited by getting this intuitive modular architecture as it assists React Native developers to upgrade the applications quickly and without any hassle. The modules can also be reused in the same way as the codes for mobile and web APIs.

  • Instantly View Changes

Hot reloading or live reloading is something offered by React Native, and this allows developers to instantly view the changes that they have made to the code. These changes can be viewed simultaneously in another live preview window. Thanks to the real-time feedback, developers get a massive advantage.

  • Quickly Publish Updates for Your Apps 

Publishing updates for apps used to take a long time as developers were required to again go through a build process separately with every app. That process has been streamlined with React Native. Along with both applications being updated at once, the entire process has become simpler and can be completed faster.

As you develop updates and improvements for your end-users, developers apply them via OTA (over the air) updates. These updates are implemented even when the app is being used by the users.

So, the next time when the user opens the app, the update is ready. It is no longer required to manually update the applications through the app stores and have them approved by Android or Apple. This saves a lot of time and streamlines the process. 

  • Amplifying an Existing App

Do you have an existing application that you want to augment cost-effectively? You can easily insert React Native UI components into your existing application without the need to rewrite the entire app. This can be a massive advantage, especially when you don’t want to rewrite the existing app fully but augment it.

To know more about React Native benefits, please read Top 10 React Native Advantages.

React Native Limitations

React Native, like any other technology, has its share of limitations. Facebook, along with the community of React Native, is addressing most of these issues. Still, there are a few limitations that you should be aware.

  • Not suited for heavy lifting

React Native is a better choice when an app doesn’t need a lot of heavy lifting. If your applications require a lot of heavy lifting, going for native development will be a better choice. 

  • It is an emerging platform with a lot of catching up to do

React Native is still in its young days, and a new version is released on a regular basis. These constant updates come with new ported native components, bug fixes, improved custom components, and performance improvements.

It cannot be called a disadvantage, but it is surely a limitation of React Native. If you want to maintain your application for the long-term, you might have to update the platform with every build, and hence, React Native might not be the best choice.

  • Loosely-typed language

React Native uses JavaScript code, CSS-like stylesheets, and HTML-like tags for layout. The advantage here is that developers get to enjoy the benefits offered by JavaScript, but there are also a few issues. Unlike Java and Swift, JavaScript doesn’t enforce any type of variables and parameters to functions. This means that a variable can be anything at a given time.

  • Dependency on native language

If developers don’t find some functionality in React Native, they end up writing native modules. These modules can be called a bridge between native code and React Native code. So, when developing an app, you’ll either have to learn native coding using the native language or take help from a native developer. 

  • Patent and license controversy

Patent and license controversy is an important issue that developers face with React Native. Along with a BSD-style license, the mobile application framework has Version 2, Additional Grant of Patent Rights from Facebook. Facebook updated the Patent and Open Source Licensing for React Native in 2017. According to this update, if you contest Facebook over a patent issue, the company can terminate your right to use Facebook’s open-source projects.

  • Lack of long-term commitment

When using React Native, developers are concerned regarding the lack of long-term commitment to projects. React Native, like CocoaPod, is not a plug-and-play solution. It is not just a library or SDK but a complete platform for software development. If Facebook ceases to maintain it, projects running on React Native will come to a standstill. Currently, there is no replacement to React Native.

To know more about React Native limitations, please read Top 10 React Native Disadvantages.

React Native Popular Applications

  • Facebook
  • Walmart
  • Bloomberg   

For a complete list, please read Top 10 React Native Popular Apps.

What is Swift?

Swift is a powerful programming language that is relatively easy to learn. It is an intuitive programming language for iOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS, and beyond. It is fun and interactive to write Swift code. The syntax is both expressive and concise. It also includes up-to-the-minute features that developers love. By design, Swift code is safe, and it also produces lightning-fast software. 

Swift Advantages

  • Quick development process

Swift is an expressive and clean language with simplified grammar and syntax. It is easier to write and read. Since it is concise, it requires less code than Objective-C to perform the same task. ARC (automatic reference counting) does all the managing and work tracking of the application’s memory usage. Therefore, developers don’t have to do it manually, and the time taken to build an iOS application with Swift is less.

  • Easily scalable

With Swift, you can develop a future-proof product and one that can be augmented with brand new features as and when needed. Typically, Swift apps are easier to scale. 

  • Enhanced performance and safety

Swift was designed to outperform Objective-C, and its focus is on speed and performance. A 40% increase in performance was claimed when it was initially released. Over the years, several tests and benchmarks have been conducted to prove that. Also, Swift code can be optimized for better performance.

  • Safety

Safety is another one of Swift’s strengths. Its error handling and strong typing system prevent errors and code crashes in production. It has a shorter feedback loop, and hence, developers can instantly notice the errors in the code and fix them.

  • Reduced memory footprint

When it launched, Swift introduced dynamic libraries to iOS. These libraries exist outside of the code and only uploaded when they’re needed. Dynamic libraries don’t need to have copies in all files of the program. 

  • Interoperability with Objective-C

Swift programming language is compatible with Objective-C, and within the same project, developers can use it interchangeably. This is particularly beneficial for large projects that are being updated or extended. While taking advantage of the Objective-C codebase, developers can add more features using Swift. This makes the porting process risk-free and easier.

  • Memory management is automatic

Swift makes use of ARC (automatic memory counting). It is a technology that is aimed at adding a garbage collector function. This was not introduced to iOS before. Go, C# and Java are some of the languages that use garbage collectors to remove class instances that aren’t used anymore.

Even though they reduce the memory footprint, they end up adding 20% to the CPU. iOS developers had to manage memory before ARC manually. Now, memory gets managed automatically, and the app’s performance increases without lagging the CPU or memory.

  • Learnability and a vibrant open-source community

Thanks to Apple’s corporate support, Swift has gained one of the most vibrant and active open-source communities. Although it is a young language, a lot of resources are available for developers.

  • Cross-device support and full stack potential

The initiative to put Swift in the cloud has been successful. Server-side Swift works perfectly with popular backend technologies. Using Swift on both the front and back end of your application allows for code reuse and sharing, reducing development efforts, and accelerating the development process.

Swift Limitations

  • Swift is still quite young

Swift is a programming language that is only six years old. It is practically an infant language when compared to Objective-C that was introduced in the 1980s. So, Swift might be limited as it is suffering from growing pains. App developers can benefit from more targeted native libraries, tools, and resources to quickly resolve certain problems.

Also, the community is not as strong and big as developers would want it to be. Although it is growing rapidly, the numbers still don’t compare to the other open-source communities. The number of Swift devs sharing their knowledge online is still lacking, and therefore, developers don’t know who to turn to when faced with real-life scenarios.

  • Compatibility issues

Backward compatibility issues is another one of Swift’s limitations. The language is evolving radically, but it is somewhat not stable. You should know that every new version of this programming language does not support the earlier versions.

It means that the projects that you’ve done in 1.0 or 2.0 versions of Swift cannot be further maintained and altered in Swift 3.0. However, the Swift 5.0 version has looked into these concerns and claims to have strong backward compatibility.

  • A shortfall of talent

The Swift community is growing rapidly. However, compared to other open-source languages, it is still much smaller. It may be an issue to find Swift developers.

Swift Popular Applications

  • Slack
  • LinkedIn
  • WhatsApp

React Native vs. Swift | Comparison

Despite being powered by one of the most well-known programming languages, React Native is not producing native apps. The language’s work is based on utilizing the libraries and internal APIs to make the application work. Therefore, it is about including a middle-man between the platform and the code.  

On the other hand, Swift produces native apps that might make use of all the possibilities of the platform. As aforementioned, Swift performs much better when dealing with computational-heavy tasks and graphic effects. So, if you want to juice-out the platform, the better choice would be Swift.

React NativeSwift
NativeNo. Libraries with internal APIs.Yes
Cross-PlatformYesNo
PopularityVery PopularNot so popular
Coding SpeedIt will take longer to code a single iOS app, but it will be faster to code both Android and iOS apps.Fastest way to programm iOS apps
Programming LanguageJavascriptSwift
Learning CurveEasyNot hard, but not easy
Development CostLowHigh
Engineers availableEasy to findHard to find
PerformanceClose to nativeBest
User InterfaceClose to nativeNative
StabilityLess stableMore stable
Popular Apps– Facebook
– Walmart
– Bloomberg   
– Slack
– LinkedIn
– WhatsApp

React Native, and Swift’s primary difference is that React Native is designed for cross-platform development, and Swift is designed for iOS apps. Let’s consider the following scenarios to compare the differences:

  • Scenario 1 – The application will only run on iOS;
  • Scenario 2 – The application will run on iOS and Android devices.

The choice for Scenario 1 is relatively easy, and you should go for Swift. It will provide you better performance, up-to-date technology, and a fully integrated experience between software and hardware. Please be aware finding Swift developers will be challenging. 

Deciding between React Native and Swift, considering that the application will run on Android and iOS operating systems is a much more complicated choice. You will need to consider several factors like the total development cost, performance, and that native developers are required even for React Native.

The tradeoff you will need to ask yourself is that a small decrease in performance and UX will be compensated for your particular project by reducing the general complexity of development and cost. If the answer is Yes, you should go for React Native. If your project is so particular and has specific features that only Swift can handle, then you should choose native development.

Generally speaking, I would say that React Native is a better decision for the following factors:

  • It’s easier to find Javascript developers vs. Swift ones;
  • You will be able share most of the code between iOS and Android;
  • Time to market will be faster;
  • The total development cost will be lower vs. programing in Swift and Java/Kotlin (Android Native);
  • React Native performance and UX are very close to native.

In particular if you are a Startup creating an MVP – Minimum Viable Product and want to launch on Google Play and App Store together, using React Native will make things easier for you.

Now, let’s explore each variable in a more granular way.

React Native vs. Swift | Popularity

According to StackOverflow Developer Survey, Javascript is the most popular programming language in the world. On the other hand, Swift is not even on the top 10 list, and it’s far below in popularity.

React Native vs. Swift | Development Cost

To determine the project development two main variables are important:

  • Developer salary
  • Total hours to code

According to PayScale, the average developer salary is $84,638 for Javascript and $104,123 for Swift.

Cost-wise, considering a single iOS project, Swift must be at least 23% more efficient in terms of coding speed vs. Javascript to deliver a similar software development cost.

The fundamental advantage of using a cross-platform mobile application development technology is the ability to utilize a single programming language to create Android and iOS. Considering a dual iOS/Android project, React Native is a no-brainer, and it will be much less expensive vs. Swift native development.

React Native vs. Swift | Code Speed

React NativeSwift
React Native, is a framework for JavaScript, which is a powerful, yet simple working horse of web applications. Also, the language can be learned easily and various support tools are available since the language was first introduced in 1995. 

When it comes to building Android apps, the game changes. It might even be a copy-paste process with React Native. If the application is developed using Swift, the process will have to be started from the beginning. 
When it comes to coding, Swift is fast. Since the language has taken off the legacy of the Objective-C programming language, it makes the process of coding easier and gets rid of drawbacks. It is the easiest way to build an iOS application. 

React Native vs. Swift | Programming Language

React NativeSwift
JavaScript is used by React Native to develop cross-platform apps. At present, in the web community, JavaScript is a highly popular language. This language is used commonly with React, as well as, other JavaScript frameworks that are popular.Swift is a multi-paradigm, general-purpose, compiled programming language developed by Apple Inc. and the open-source community. This language was released in 2014. It was developed as a replacement for Objective-C, which was the earlier programming language of Apple.

React Native vs. Swift | User Interface

React NativeSwift
The components of the applications appear similar to the native ones.

React Native uses native components under its hood and this fact should give developers the confidence that the application’s components will be upgraded instantly after any OS UI update. 

That said, this can also break the application’s UI, but this is an extremely rare phenomenon. If you want your application to look virtually identical across all platforms – and on older versions of an OS – you can consider making use of third-party libraries. This will allow you to utilize Material Design components and not the native ones. 
Being the iOS-native language developed by Apple to power applications, Swift has no problems when it comes to integrating into the design of the iOS and also leveraging the UX principles.

However, building an application using Swift is coding a native application from scratch. Therefore, all the elements have to be separately polished. 

React Native vs. Swift | Learning Curve

React NativeSwift
Comparatively, React Native is easier to learn since its programming language is JavaScript. JavaScript has been around for many years, and hence, most developers know this language. Swift is not challenging to learn. Apple designed it with education in mind. The company is well-known for creating beautiful designs, and this programming language is not an exception. Swift was designed by Apple’s engineers to be powerful enough for developers but also easy to learn.

React Native vs. Swift | Performance

Compared to the framework-based app, the Swift app will perform better in most cases.  

React NativeSwift
Dealing with graphical effects might be troublesome for the framework. To deal with this challenge, React Native allows developers to embed native code into the application. This delivers the code chimera by making use of various assets and tools to deal with varied tasks. Although it may consume higher CPU levels for some applications, generally speaking, Swift will deliver a better performance than React Native.

For a detailed comparison of React Native vs. Swift performance, please read the article Comparing the Performance between Native iOS (Swift) and React-Native.

Conclusion

Both React Native and Swift are powerful app development solutions. However, your choice depends on the type of app that you’re working on. 

React Native will be a better choice if you:

  • Need to develop an app for both iOS and Android platforms with limited resources and a small team;
  • Want your application to feel and look the same for both iOS and Android;
  • Need live reloading or hot reloading features and a faster app development time.

Swift will be a better choice if you:

  • Develop an iOS-only application;
  • Wish to maintain an app for a long time;
  • Develop a complicated application that utilizes a large part of platform-specific code;
  • Require an application to manage things like memory footprint.

So, take your project requirements under consideration before making your choice. 

FAQ

What is React Native?

Facebook’s cross-platform framework that delivers close to native experiences for iOS and Android apps.

What is Swift?

It’s Apple’s programming language for the iOS operating system.

What are the differences between React Native and Swift?

– Swift is the native programming language for iOS;
– React Native is a cross-platform framework that works for iOS and Android apps;
– React Native is the middle-man between the platform and the code. 
– React Native work is based on utilizing the libraries and internal APIs.
– Swift produces native apps that might make use of all the possibilities of the platform.
– Swift performs much better when dealing with computational-heavy tasks and graphic effects.

When to use React Native?

React Native will be a better choice if you:
– Need to develop an app for both iOS and Android platforms with limited resources and a small team;
– Want your application to feel and look the same for both iOS and Android;
– Need live reloading or hot reloading features and a faster app development time.

When to use Swift?

Swift will be a better choice if you:
– Develop an iOS-only application;
– Wish to maintain an app for a long time;
– Develop a complicated application that utilizes a large part of platform-specific code;
– Require an application to manage things like memory footprint.


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