What is React Native?

Mobile development frameworks are used for developing modern apps with rich features that also withstand pressure from a massive userbase.

The framework you choose will determine your app quality and user experience.  React Native is one of the leading frameworks for creating feature-rich mobile apps for iOS and Android platforms. 

This article gives a general overview of application frameworks, the pro and cons of using React Native, and a list of other options for developers. 

An Overview of Frameworks

Frameworks consist of tools, utilities, and libraries that help developers create apps faster and more efficiently. Developers have used frameworks to develop various apps for mobile devices, the web, and IoT devices. 

Why Are Frameworks Useful?

Frameworks help expedite app development by automating some aspects of the development assignment. Apart from speeding up app development, it also enhances the security, scalability, and stability of an app.

Developers using frameworks can also handle third-party integration without hassles. Since most app development frameworks are opensource, developers can take advantage of their features without limitations. 

Introducing React Native

React Native is a framework built on JavaScript that developers use to create Android and iOS apps. It uses elements from React and Facebook’s JavaScript Library for creating UI for mobile apps.

In essence, a web developer can leverage the power of React Native to develop apps that looks and functions like native apps. Another exciting feature of React Native is that it’s code to create both Android and iOS apps.

All you need is a decent command of JavaScript and JSX (an XML-Type Markup) to create an app in React Native. The platform has a bridge that handles API rendering in Java to develop Android codes and Swift for creating iOS codes.  

React Native’s ability to interact with native APIs allows it to access mobile device features such as location, camera, and many more. 

Presently, React Native only works for developing Android and iOS apps, but the framework may support other mobile operating systems in the future. Since React Native writes cross-platform codes predominantly, it expedites Android and iOS platforms’ development.

The adoption of this framework is massive; the React Native is used to develop most user-interfacing apps on Facebook and Coinbase.

The History of React Native

It would be recalled that the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg stated in 2012 that the company made a mistake by creating an HTML5-based app rather than a native app.  

The HTML version of Facebook app has many performance bottlenecks. That is why the company switched to native apps to offer better performance and user experience. 

Jordan Walke, a software engineer at Facebook, came up with an innovation that uses background JavaScript threads to create UI elements.  After that, Facebook organized an internal Hackathon to enhance the prototype for creating mobile apps. 

In 2015, Facebook released the first version of React JavaScript configuration. At that time, Facebook has started using the React Native framework to create the platform’s Group Apps and Ad Management App. 

Some Popular React Native Apps

Some popular apps created with React Native include:

  • Skype
  • Facebook
  • Uber Eats
  • Coinbase
  • Wix
  • SoundCloud
  • Airbnb
  • Instagram
  • Bloomberg
  • Walmart

See The Top 20 React Native Famous Apps for more about popular apps created with React Native, 

Is React Native the same as React?

Not at all. The two frameworks are different altogether. 

While React is a JavaScript-based app development framework, React Native is a cross-platform framework for developing native-like mobile apps. 

The React.js JavaScript library is central to React Native’s ability to create powerful UI layers.  The library has a short learning curve because the basic principles and syntaxes are similar to React.  

The main difference between React Native and React is code rendering. While React uses a Virtual DOM for rendering, React Native makes use of Native APIs.  React can be used with HTML for coding, but the developer needs to get acquainted with React Native syntax to use them efficiently. React Native also has an animation API for animating UI components. 

Summarily, React is an efficient framework for creating web app user interfaces, while React Native is designed for developing mobile apps that look and work like native ones. 

The Benefits of React Native

Below are the benefits of React Native.

  • Open-source, Free Platform with an Active Community

React Native is an opensource project that is enjoying the support of a massive community of developers worldwide.  The community members are allowed to make contributions towards the development of the framework.  

As a community-driven framework, members are open to providing help to other developers that need assistance. Community members share codes and experiences to help other React Native developers. As a result, developers favor this framework over others.

At the time of writing, the React Native community at GitHub (a platform where developers interact and share codes) has over 90k stars. The React Native GitHub community also encourages learning and innovation of the framework. It’s a place where developers can enhance their coding skills, get constructive feedback and reviews from other React Native developers. 

As a Facebook-derived framework, support is readily available for the framework users and the platform’s continued development. Facebook created a platform where developers can interact and share valuable information such as codes, best practices, and challenges.

  • Excellent Performance

React Native apps are known for their superior performance driven by the use of modules and native controls. It can connect to the native component of iOS and Android operating systems and generate native API codes.  

The use of threads for UI and native APIs enhances the performance of React Native apps. Although React Native can also use web view, it does undermine app’s performance.

Some developers claim that the performance of React Native apps is comparable to Native apps and sometimes better.

  • Cost-Efficient and Fast

With react Native, developers can write a single code and deploy it for creating apps on Android and iOS.  This feature allows developers to create apps faster and cost-efficiently because they don’t have to write different iOS and Android codes.  By using the native framework, the developer can reuse the same code for creating Android and iOS apps. 

The opensource library of React Native does have several ready-to-use components that can be deployed directly for creating app components.  All these features work together to expedite development speed and reduce the overall cost of developing apps in React Native.  

App development companies can also leverage the power of React Native to keep smaller teams.  With React Native, you do not need several highly skilled developers to get the job done. 

  • Live and Hot Reloading 

Hot and Live Reloading features of React Native are among the features that endeared it to developers.  Don’t get confused; hot and live reloading are not the same. See this article about the difference between hot and live reloading.

The hot reloading function is controlled by the Hot Module Replacement intermediator that keeps updated files in a specified location while an app is running. This feature allows the developer to modify an app’s source code without resorting to recompiling it again. 

As a result, the user can view the changes instantly on the app and code display sections after editing the code of an app. This feature also helps expedite application development assignments.

The Demerits of React Native

Almost every platform, including React Native has its drawbacks.  Here are some:

  • Debugging and Compatibility Challenges

As popular as React Native is, it is still in beta development at the time of writing. That is why you may experience issues with compatibility and immature debugging tools.  

Since troubleshooting can take an unnecessarily long time, React Native development may encounter bottlenecks along the way.

  • Security

Since React Native is a JavaScript framework, it inherits the inherent security flaws of JavaScript.  It would help if you were careful while using React Native to develop apps that carry sensitive information, such as banking apps. An exploit code can reveal sensitive personal information. So, it is not advisable to create financial apps with React Native framework

  • Missing Components

While React Native has many excellent features for app development, it still lacks some useful components while some are immature. Although React Native provides several custom modules along with the documentation for using them, they are not enough. Most time, developers need to create customized codes to develop similar functions found in native applications. 

  • The Service of Native Developer still required

While most React Native development assignments only need a good knowledge of JavaScript, iOS and Android native development experience is required to implement some native features in a React Native app.  

In such a scenario, a React Native developer without experience in native development will face challenges. When such a complicated native feature is required, it’s implementation can be challenging without the support of a native developer. 

  • Memory Management Challenges

React Native may not be the best choice for developing applications that require intensive processor and memory usage.  It does impede apps’ speed and performance and is not the best choice for managing float calculations. In essence, the memory management feature of React Native is less than stellar. 

  • User Interface Issues

When an app’s interface requires advanced gestures such as animated transitions and multiple interactions, React Native may not be the best option. Although there is a gesture responder system in React Native, its usage proves challenging for developers.  The disparity in the subsystem control for iOS and Android is the root cause of the problem. In this scenario, a unified API is inadequate. 

  • Slow Initialization

React Native’s initial runtime initialization takes a long time, even with high-end devices. This slowness is caused by the JavaScript thread that requires a longer time to initialization

Top Alternatives to React Native

Here are the top alternatives to React Native.

  • Unity
  • Cordova
  • Ionic
  • Xamarin
  • Flutter
  • Swift
  • Android

A Final Note

Data from the Statista website shows that React Native is the most adopted cross-platform development framework in the world today, with 42% market share. The main advantages include it’s native-like performance, JavaScript-based development, and strong community support.  

The drawbacks of the platform include the less-than-stellar memory management, the need for native developers, and flaws related to JavaScript. 

To know more about great companies using React Native, please read the article Top 10 Startups Using React Native.


What is React Native?

React Native is a framework built on JavaScript for creating Android, and iOS that looks and works like native apps. React Native codes are shareable. In essence, the came code can be deployed for building apps on Android and iOS platforms.  

Is React and React Native the same?

Although both React Native and React are JavaScript frameworks, they differ in many respects. For instance, React is a framework for creating web applications, while React Native works for cross-platform app development. 

What are RN Benefits?

– It’s a free framework, open-source, with the support of a massive community of developers. 
– It has a parallel/superior performance compared to native apps.
– It saves time, costs and the code is reusable.

What are the drawbacks of React Native?

– Memory management issues
– JavaScript-related security challenges
– Need for native developers.

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