React Native vs Flutter: Which framework is the best choice for cross-platform development in 2021?

Nimisha Kapadia November 2, 2021

React Native vs Flutter: Which framework is the best choice for cross-platform development in 2021?

Quick Summary: A comparison of the two most widely used cross platform frameworks to build both iOS and Android mobile applications: React Native vs Flutter. Know the difference between Flutter vs React Native in terms of architecture, performance, community support, learning curve, use cases and many other aspects.

Flutter and React Native are the two widely used frameworks for cross-platform app development for two years in a row, according to a Statista report. Their adoption rate is growing, and it will overtake the competition.

Both cross platform development frameworks help developers reduce the time to market (TTM) assisting them in delivering interactive business applications to clients, and hence improving productivity.

This article will help decision-makers choose the right tech stack for their project. Here we compare React Native and Flutter with each other so that you can understand the critical differences between them.

Before starting with a detailed comparison, let us first overview both the frameworks React Native and Flutter.
 

Table of Contents

  1. What is Flutter? – An overview
  2. What is React Native? – An overview
  3. Flutter vs React Native – Flutter and React Native pros and cons
  4. Performance comparison
  5. Application architecture
  6. Suitability for building complex apps
  7. Ease of Testing
  8. Community around Flutter and React Native
  9. Learning curve
  10. Code Maintainability
  11. User experience in Flutter vs React Native
  12. React Native vs Flutter – the Ultimate fact
  13. Conclusion

 

React Native vs Flutter – The full comparison

First off, let’s start with a basic introduction to React Native and Flutter.

What is React Native? – An overview

 

React Native Overview
React Native Overview

React Native is a popular open-source Facebook-led native UI development framework that runs on JavaScript. It was the peak of its popularity in 2018.

It primarily focuses on the native rendering of android and iOS compatible apps. The social media titan Facebook backed up the react native framework, with almost 50 dedicated skilled developers working on the framework at present.

React Native is a cross-platform framework written with the combination of XML -Esque markup and Javascript, also known as JSX.

It makes cross-platform app development reasonably simple because the codebase is basically written in JavaScript. This drops the barrier to entry for JavaScript developers as they don’t need to learn an entirely unknown language.

Here are some statistics for the market usage of React Native framework:

  • According to Statista, almost 42% of developers are reported to use React Native for cross-platform development in 2020.
  • According to StackOverflow, 11.5% of developers choose React Native for its native tools and libraries.
  • Almost 58.5% of the developer’s community prefers using RN as reported in the StackOverflow survey.

 

Use cases of React Native

  • Simple cross-platform app development
  • Quick prototype applications
  • Apps with easy UI
  • Apps which look almost native with responsive UX
  • Apps with reusable components
  • Apps that work with synchronous APIs

 

What are some popular apps created with React Native?

  • Facebook – Developed a supercharged, accessory mobile UI with easy navigation.
  • Walmart – Improved user expertise by building sleek in-app animations similar to native functionality.
  • Bloomberg – Efficient, simple-to-access, personalized content for end-users with automatic code refreshing options.
  • Instagram – enforced push notification within the style of WebView without making navigation infrastructure.
  • SoundCloud – For iOS and Android, it bridged the time gap between updates and patched versions simultaneously.
  • Wix – Achieved high speed and lightness within the development of configurable navigations and screen choices.

 

What is Flutter? – An overview

Flutter Overview
Flutter Overview

Flutter is a cross-platform, open-source framework that functions with a programming language called Dart, developed by Google in 2011.

Its first release was in May 2017 and was rarely used by developers, but it continues its speedy growth and becomes more and more popular in the developer community.

Flutter is generally referred to as an improved UI toolkit that programmers use to create cross-platform apps with a single codebase. It offers tools to build expressive and flexible user interfaces with native performance.

On comparing Flutter and React Native 2021 statistics, we find that Flutter has become a more popular framework among developers.

Here are some casual statistics for the market usage of Flutter:

  • Over 39% of the developers use Flutter to develop cross-platform mobile apps worldwide, according to Statista.
  • According to a StackOverflow report, almost 68.8% of the developer’s community loves Flutter.
  • 7.2% of the developer community likes to choose Flutter for its libraries and tools popularity reported by StackOverFlow.

 

What were widespread apps created with Flutter?

  • Alibaba – With high FPS and a single codebase, developed single-tap navigation expertise for all apps.
  • BMW – Developed superior UIs by using flutter_bloc for management.
  • Google Ads – Leveraged base AdMob plugins, Dart packages, and static utility categories of Flutter to form moveable user experience in android and iOS applications.
  • eBay – Leveraged complicated and customized edge-powered AI options by integrating Flutter and firebase to form autoML for eBay Motors.
  • Reflectly – Transferred from React Native to Flutter and designed quality data events with StreamBuilder widget to boost data synchronization
  • Tencent – designed a connected and shared device expertise between users with multi-platform support with less than five developers.

 

Flutter vs React Native: Advantages and disadvantages

 

Advantages of React Native

 

Advantages of React Native
Advantages of React Native

 

Pros of React Native

  • Native rendering (Platform-specific native components): Without HTML or CSS markup, it uses the host platform to render APIs natively.
  • On-par performance with natively-built apps: It renders the markup of an application to mimic reliable UI components and, so far, maintain high performance.
  • Reactive Components & Ecosystem: Third party UI libraries form a rich ecosystem. Moreover stateful components automatically re-render application appearance with each state change.
  • Debugging: It offers accessibility to intelligent debugging tools and error reporting.
  • Hot-reloading: Hot/Live reload allows developers to add new codes directly into a live application and see the changes without the project rebuild.

 

Cons of React Native

  • User Interface: specific native UI components might not be supported by Native rendering of APIs, making the user interface look a touch off.
  • Tools and Plugins: Third-party libraries that could be used for higher implementation may typically prove to be outdated.
  • Performance: multi-processing and  parallel threading is not supported, which leads to slow performance.
  • Debugging: Chrome debugger can be inconvenient to update and to examine codes and UI components accurately.

 

Advantages of Flutter

 

Advantages of Flutter
Advantages of Flutter

 

Pros of a flutter

  • Hot-reloading: Its stateful Hot Reloading feature updates logic instantly without changing the application state.
  • Rich widgets: It offers feature-rich widgets that follow the rules of Material style (Android) and Cupertino (iOS).
  • Seamless integration: There is no need to Re-write code because it easily integrates with Swift or Objective C for iOS apps and Java for android.
  • Quick shipping: It provides fast iteration cycles and reduces build time as testing requires just one codebase.
  • Codesharing: Codes are written and shared by developers across platforms easily and faster, providing exceptional for MVP development.

 

Cons of a flutter

  • User interface: Animation support and vector graphics have problems in rendering on time.
  • Operating platform: It currently does not allow creating apps for android auto, tvOS, CarPlay, or watchOS.
  • Updates: Cannot push patches and updates immediately into applications.
  • Tools and Plugins: Third party libraries and tools ecosystem is not as vast as React Native though impressive.

 

React Native vs. Flutter

 

ReactNative vs Flutter
ReactNative vs Flutter

 

Performance comparison

React Native Performance

React Native has slower performance in comparison to Flutter. It happens because of the JavaScript bridge used in communication between native modules of the application.

The number of frames reported in a simple React Native app for each interval is much higher than that developed using Flutter

In some cases, the app took more than 16 milliseconds to render the program forming the application stammer. Some third-party libraries like Proguard can be used to improve your application performance that further optimizes bytecodes.

Similarly, components like SLowdog help set performance timers, which may help track performance issues and resolve them.

Flutter Performance

Application developed using Flutter is a lot more performant in comparison to react Native. There is no need for any bridge for communication between the native modules of the app as a result of native components.

The performance check showed that the primary straightforward app continuously performed at 60 FPS, and therefore the rendering time taken for each frame doesn’t take quite 16 milliseconds. The number of frames that got dropped was a bit lower.

As stated, Flutter uses the SKia graphics library, which supports the UI to be redrawn anytime with every update within the application view. No doubt that Flutter will perform proficiently even at 60 FPS.

ReactNative and flutter- performance
ReactNative and flutter performance

Source:https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/146232/thesis.pdf?sequence=1
 

React Native and Flutter application architecture

What kind of architecture will React Native support?

Under the cover, React Native keeps a bridge between the Native thread and JavaScript thread. 

Depending on this functionality, the JavaScript code communicates with the platform and also the Native API. React Native uses JavaScriptCore to execute code in iOS. However, in android, it compiles the code Just-in-Time using the JIT compiler.

While this would probably improve the native functionality, it also increases the application size, leading to performance problems or device delay.

What kind of architecture will Flutter support?

Flutter’s architecture is layered. The hierarchy of a simple application designed on this framework begins with top-level root function or, in different words, platform-specific widgets.

It’s followed by basic widgets that interact with the platform and rendering layers. Basically, on the remote side the rendering layer exists, the animation gestures which will do transmission of API calls to the foundation of the application.

It’s also referred to as a scaffold run by a C/C++ engine and a platform-specific embedder. If you wish to separate the presentation layer from business logic, you’ll need to take into account implementing the Flutter bloc.

Architecture of Flutter makes it easier for senior as well as junior Flutter developers when it comes to building advanced applications with small and straightforward elements.
 

React Native vs Flutter – Suitability for building complex apps

Is React Native suitable for building complex apps?

Yes, we are able to leverage React Native to develop advanced native apps. Still, it’s essential to notice that this will be possible only if you comprise native app development in combination with React Native.

At that stage, your application has a lot of potential to be hybrid rather than cross-platform. The whole process of building complicated applications with React Native framework does not only contain JavaScript but it also includes the utilization of native development skills.

Is Flutter suitable for building complex apps?

Previously, Flutter was not suitable for handling very complicated apps. But, start-ups still have a chance to use Flutter as an excellent solution to develop minimal valuable projects (MVP).

It can be assumed to be a superb choice to build faster prototypes. The concept here is to create two completely different prototypes of iOS and Android with the Flutter framework and analyse the outcomes in the market.

After that, additional resources can be invested to create a comprehensive and user-centric plan.
 

Flutter vs React Native: Ease of Testing

How easier is the testing of a Flutter app?

Flutter offers in-depth support for automated testing since it functions with a dart. It offers several varieties of testing possibilities to test applications at the widget, unit, and integration level, and it also boasts thorough documentation related to it.

What’s more, Flutter provides robust documentation to make and unleash android and iOS apps on the Play Store and App Store respectively. Additionally, its deployment process is well documented.

How easier is the testing of a React Native app?

React Native claims of no approved support for UI level testing and Integration testing. Moreover, there are only a couple of unit-level testing frameworks offered to test RN apps.

Because of no official support, developers have to adopt third-party tools like Appium and detox and unearth bugs with their help. Moreover, third-party libraries used widely for build and release automation.

Compactly placed, the whole framework doesn’t provide any automated steps to deploy iOS apps to the App Store. As an alternative, React Native advises developers to define the manual process of deploying the application through Xcode.
 

Community around Flutter and React Native

How huge is the community around Flutter?

Since 2017, Flutter Launched, its community has gained a bit more traction than React Native.

However, the number of skilled contributors is 662+ only, which is way below React Native. Yet, the github repository has more than 132k stars. Some widespread platforms for connecting with the worldwide community of Flutter:

  • Slack
  • Discord
  • Gitter
  • Reddit
  • Flutterday
  • Stack Overflow

How huge is the community around React Native?

React Native was launched in 2015, the increasing number of contributors to the framework on GitHub is proof that its community has been growing fast.

Currently, there are over 2,207+ skilled developers who actively share their experiences. Even a novice will get help in developing React Native applications.

There are over 19.8k live projects for developers to look at to resolve existing problems.

A number of the common platforms wherever you’ll be able to notice alternative React Native developers, projects, conferences, and live events are:

  • Meet Up
  • Slack
  • Discord
  • Telegram
  • Reddit
  • Stack Overflow

 

Learning curve

How deep is Flutter’s learning curve for developers?

Flutter isn’t that tough to learn. Writing code with Dart can be a bit uncommon; however, developing with Flutter makes learning this framework easier.

All learners require a few basic abilities of native Android or iOS development. Additionally, developers have reported that documentation in Flutter could be a ton smoother than React Native.

How deep is the learning curve of React Native for developers?

Learning React Native is significantly straightforward for people who have designed applications using JavaScript.

But, web development is different from mobile app development, so mobile developers realize it is comparatively tough to learn and implement the framework.

Over time, React Native has free libraries, intensive documents, and tutorials that improve the learning curve over time.
 

Code Maintainability

How appropriate is it to maintain code in Flutter apps?

Maintaining a Flutter application is simple. The simplicity of code helps developers spot problems, supply external tools, and support third-party libraries. Moreover, the stateful Hot Reloading feature now resolves the issues at hand.

The time taken for releasing quality updates and implementing immediate changes within the application are thought-about to be better than the capability of React Native.

How appropriate is it to maintain code in React Native apps?

In React Native, upgrading and debugging the code may be a pain, perhaps. Once you split the code to suit your application, it interferes with the framework’s logic, reducing the development process.

Additionally, most of the native elements might need a third-party library dependency. Usually, these libraries are out-of-date and can’t be maintained properly because of the issues that run alongside it.

 

User experience – Flutter vs React Native

Flutter’s capability to provide the best user experience

Flutter proposes an expensive user experience with basic tools, elements, and even custom-built widgets. The generational garbage collection feature is also a part of Dart programming language that helps make UI frames for object code that may be provisional.

This feature of Dart allocates objects inside one pointer bump which circumvents UI clutter, junk, and shutter of animation lag during the development process.

React Native’s ability to give the most effective user experience

Android’s Material Design and style design in iOS are being updated day by day, and it’s relevant for React Native to stay up with the constant modifications.

And also, in addition to that, ready-made React Native UI tools such as Shoutem, React Virgin, and ANT design, make it even tougher to create reliable NATIVE designs across platforms.

However, valuable elements like ScrollView fastened header, Modal parts, Activity indicators, Snap carousels, and pagination components significantly improve the UX across multiple platforms.

 

React Native or Flutter framework: the ultimate fact

Flutter is superior in performance, engineering expense, app compatibility, and future market trends. Once it involves hiring software developers, however, React Native is superior.

The availability of qualified developers has a direct impact on time to market. It can be important for several businesses to select the right technology for application development.

 

A guide for the reader

React Native may be a suitable application with basic functionality and plenty of comparable entities, like social media, eCommerce, events, and loyalty programs. If you’re a well-established company with a large client base and a mobile app isn’t your main product, React Native may be a wise choice. As a result, it allows you to sell native-looking applications much faster.

Flutter is suitable for interesting new projects involving subtle computations and animations, as the functional aspect is more necessary than the aesthetics. It’s a sensible plan for early-stage software companies to construct a visually appealing proof-of-concept with the clean minimum of essential functionality on a shoestring budget, realize a product-market match, and then scale.

 

FAQs

Why should one use Flutter or React Native?

Flutter and React Native are both cross-platform app development solutions designed to contain today’s business’s necessities. Selecting any of it’ll guarantee:

  • Reusable code
  • Cost reduction
  • Faster deployment
  • Support to varied platforms

Is Flutter or React Native forward-looking?

Both cross-platform frameworks, React Native and Flutter, are the product of two technology titans, i.e., Google and Facebook. Furthermore, regular updates provided for each platform to adapt to changes make it future-oriented and are about to be the favorites among developers within the long-standing time.

Flutter or React Native, which one has better UI/UX?

The Flutter framework comprises of native UI elements, device access APIs, navigation, and testing, whereas React Native has a vast number of third-party libraries to access most native modules. Therefore, in Flutter vs React native war, for a better user interface, one must choose Flutter.
 

Conclusion

Both flutter and React native have their pros and cons. React Native is an excellent framework to develop native and cross-platform apps. Flutter is better at making multiple iterations and MVP applications.

A number of industry experts believe that Flutter is the way forward for both android and iOS mobile app development. We’ve created a checklist that ought to assist you in choosing that one of these technologies should it make to your tech stack.

 

Choose Flutter, if:

  • Your plan doesn’t need full native functionality. 
  • You have a limited budget and delivery timeline. 
  • If you want to start writing code faster and deploy the application into the market quickly.
  • You need to search for a reduction in development prices by writing one codebase with multi-platform support.
  • You are aiming at making applications that perform at speeds between sixty fps and 120 FPS.
  • You demand a customized UI with widgets and fewer testing.

 

Choose React Native, if:

  • You require to scale your existing apps with cross-platform modules. 
  • You have a requirement to develop lightweight native applications. 
  • You are looking for options to make shared APIs out of the box.
  • Your main objective is to create an application with an asynchronous build and a highly responsive UI. 
  • You have sufficient budget and time to invest in the project.

 

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