Businesses need a framework that will help in building native applications for iOS and Android, as well as for other platforms and operating systems. This kind of cross-platform approach is crucial for software designers — there are plenty of options for mobile users, and so app capability needs to reflect this.
This is where the Facebook-launched React Native plays an important role in the mobile development landscape. With Native development, teams can effectively build high-quality applications as part of their iOS and Android development strategy, achieving the cross-platform focus they need to move ahead of competitors.
But is the Native version of React really worth using? Is Native development the right choice for your teams and for your strategy? To help you decide, we’re going to explore what React Native is, as well as some of the pros and cons of the framework.
What Is React Native?
React Native is a relatively recent addition to the React family of frameworks. It was released by Facebook in 2015 — two years after the social media giant announced that it was working on a cross-platform mobile offering. Since 2015, React Native has been available to companies seeking to create highly capable applications for their audience.
This idea of “not reinventing the wheel” is at the core of what React Native is all about. The creators of React Native recognized that it is not cost-effective or efficient. With this in mind, React Native’s development is designed to support the use of interchangeable components across different app projects. This way, when developers built the ideal functional element for their app, they did not need to go back to the drawing board to recreate this on another app project — they could use the same structures on this new app design, too.
For businesses seeking to develop and deploy highly effective mobile native apps while also increasing the efficiency of their projects, React Native is intended to provide the solution.
What Is the Difference Between ReactJS and React Native?
Rendering in ReactJS and React Native
Rendering in ReactJS
React works with a virtual DOM (Document Object Model). This is the means by which the written code document is represented in the user’s browser or otherwise on the user’s device. While other frameworks and tools also use a DOM, React is a little different in that it utilizes a virtual DOM rather than a real DOM.
This means changes are made and stored via a memory function rather than being rendered directly. Users can write alterations to specific pieces of code and update these swiftly, as the virtual DOM does not need to update the entire code bundle to make these particular changes.
Rendering in React Native
React Native does not rely on this DOM — virtual or otherwise — but instead renders the code document with a built-in Application Programming Interface or API. The API governs the interactions between components that are built within the code’s tree structure. These connect securely and reliably via the API, allowing companies to reuse Native code as they build applications with maximum efficiency.
Platform Universality in ReactJS and React Native
Platform Universality in ReactJS
Developers can write and deploy their code on a cross-platform basis with no need for modification. Once the code is complete, the web app can be launched without delay.
Platform Universality in React Native
When developers use React Native, they enjoy a streamlined framework that they can use to craft industry-leading mobile app user interfaces for their customers and clients. While this is certainly an attractive attribute of the framework, it does mean that it is not as universally applicable as the React framework is.
As React Native includes a number of pre-built coding elements, some of these are specific to certain platforms. For example, some code may be designed as platform-specific, only for use on iOS-enabled devices. Meanwhile, others are platform-specific in a different way and are supported only by Android operating systems. Despite this, developers should find it relatively easy to translate code structures between different platforms, and much of the code developed in React Native is, in fact, ideal for cross-platform dev.
HTML Tags in ReactJS and React Native
HTML Tags in ReactJS
ReactJS does use HTML tags within its web coding framework. Developers utilize tags to demarcate components as well as written code within the HTML document.
HTML Tags in React Native
React Native is set up differently from React. Because React Native uses modules and components that can be crafted into a unified UI at the user’s end, there is no need for HTML tags, and these tags are not supported by the framework.
Navigation and Navigation Libraries in ReactJS and React Native
Navigation in ReactJS
Navigation in React Native
What Are the Advantages of React Native?
The team behind React Native wanted to create a more streamlined, mobile-native approach to app development and deployment. Rather than having to struggle with a framework that is not quite fit for purpose — such as one designed for web projects — professionals find that they are able to achieve a straightforward route to development success, eliminating many of the costly inefficiencies associated with the process.
These developers will also be able to build mobile UI components and then redeploy these on future designs, further reducing development costs.
Accelerated Time to Market
Another result of React Native’s more streamlined framework is faster development and an accelerated time to market during the app development process. Companies can easily become delayed and slowed down by the need to design and develop new components for each and every mobile application build. This can swiftly lead to problems — these elements need to be completed to a high standard, and this can be compromised if the work is rushed.
As development teams can simply reuse the same coding across different app build projects, both of these problems are eliminated. Once the development team has produced a UI component they are happy with, this can be deployed again and again, increasing efficiency, while API connections support interactivity between different blocks of coding.
Companies need to be agile and flexible when creating apps for mobile. They need to be able to make effective changes to the app’s structure and functionality without increasing the complexity of the project. React Native’s building block and component-based structure makes this possible, as native components can be modified in isolation and then deployed with immediate effect within the code bundle. Once confirmed, changes will be reflected in the Native UI at the user end.
This agility also extends to the functionality of the app itself. The framework is designed to achieve high levels of performance and responsiveness within apps, and a better user experience is the result.
Built with Mobile in Mind
One of the key benefits of using React Native within your development process is that the framework is designed exclusively with mobile operating systems and devices in mind. Modules and blocks are built with code that gets the very best out of these devices, leveraging the powerful features that have made smartphone devices so ubiquitous in the modern market.
A Positive Learning Curve
Developers can draw upon technologies and pre-built native components that help them achieve full functionality for their apps quickly and effectively. This process will allow them to grow their understanding of how React Native works, providing developers with the opportunity to hone their skills and achieve more with the framework.
A Growing Library
Although React Native was originally launched by Facebook, it has since been operated on an open-source basis, with features and add-ons developed by the broader community of users. These users utilize their own skills and tools to create updates for the framework. This means React Native is not a static digital technology but rather an evolving one, with updates and additions being made all the time.
This benefit has helped React Native apps keep pace and even stay ahead of the curve when it comes to changes in the mobile app market. Companies using React Native do not need to worry about being left behind, thanks to the growing library of community updates.
What Are the Disadvantages of React Native?
Just like with any other dev tech, there are pros and cons to using this framework. Take a look at some of the disadvantages.
Difficulty in Applying Learned Skills
As we have mentioned above, the learning curve for using React Native is not a particularly steep one, and developers should be able to leverage its capabilities relatively quickly. However, the initial frustration of having to re-learn key functions or replace already-learned skill sets may prove to be off-putting for some.
Framework Still in Development
React Native is not yet a complete framework. While it is certainly capable of achieving great things with the right development approach, there are still frequent updates, bug fixes, and performance enhancements that are designed to improve the function for developers.
This means developers may have to contend with frequent updates and will have to remain vigilant for when these new updates are released to avoid disruption to their work. These developers may also find that some components they want to utilize are not available, although the framework will support the coding of new functionality from scratch.
A Lack of Flexibility
Companies using React Native will find that they cannot create customized modules. Instead, they will need to work with the modules already available to them as part of the framework. This reduces the flexibility enjoyed by developers at lower levels of proficiency and experience.
There are ways around this, however. Developers can decide to create coding from scratch, or they can hack existing components to achieve the levels of customization they require. This necessitates a relatively high level of expertise in using the framework. Adopting this approach may also leave the developer with separate codebases for each platform they are working on, which adds to the complexity of using the framework to develop universal, platform-agnostic applications.
Potential Security Flaws
As the React Native framework is community-driven, much of the functionality is produced by third-party developers and made available via the library. While the structure of the framework and the APIs utilized by React Native do provide reliable levels of security, some mobile development professionals may feel uneasy about using community-developed coding.
Over time, increasing numbers of development teams deploy this coding within their mobile apps. This provides an element of trustworthiness for developers. The security flaws are only theoretical, but they do represent one downside to the community-driven aspect of React’s Native framework.
Examples of React Native in Action
Let’s look at some examples of apps developed with this framework.
- Facebook Ads Manager
- Uber Eats
- Many other leading apps in different industries
Is React Native Worth Using for Your App?
There are other options available to your business, such as Flutter, which was developed by Facebook’s rival Google. Flutter is certainly growing fast, and it is already being used by many different dev teams on jobs across a variety of fields. However, it is not as mature as React Native, and many businesses may still prefer to select the Facebook-launched option.
React Native is certainly worth your time, but is it the best option for your business? This depends on your own priorities and the dev style and background of your team. Take your time to check out the different features of React listed above, and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of this framework. This will give you a better idea of which option — React or Flutter — is best for you.
React Native Frequently Asked Questions
What is React Native, and why is it used?
What is the purpose of React Native?
The purpose of Facebook’s open-source React Native platform is to give developers a mobile-specific app development framework. Businesses are increasingly in need of apps that can leverage the power and potential of mobile devices, such as those supporting iOS or Android operating systems. Facebook developed the React Native framework to cater to this need and to provide a better user experience.
What is the difference between ReactJS and React Native?
What does “Native” mean in React Native?
The “Native” in Facebook’s React Native refers to the creation of native mobile apps. These are mobile apps that are specifically designed to be supported and operated by mobile OSs, such as iOS and Android, among others. Development teams use React Native to create apps that get the best out of these devices. They can reuse existing code to achieve faster development procedures.
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