The growing demand for cross-platform applications is quite apparent. Considering the spectacular growing number of apps on both Android and iOS in the market, the dire need of cross platform applications is clearly understandable. The two of the most widely discussed cross platform applications today are – without a doubt – React Native and Flutter. Though Flutter is a recent addition, it has been increasingly gaining traction in becoming one of the most sought-after hybrid app development frameworks after React Native.
Consequently, this has lead to the inevitable question – Which is better, React Native or Flutter?
Since there are a lot of factors that go into play, there is no definitive answer, and the discussion of which is better remains a moot point.
Many developers and app owners find themselves in a spot when deciding one over the other. In an effort to weigh the pros and cons our experts have sunk their teeth into both these platforms to provide you a wider and deeper understanding of each platform.
By the end of this piece, you would gain the bare essentials of React Native & Flutter, and get a clear picture of which platform to use when.
Developed by Facebook
Release year, 2015
Developed by Google
Release year, 2017
Installation and Set up
Since flutter is a few years younger than Reactive Native, its developers seemed to have gained an advantage in offering a better take off. The installation and set up process is much more convenient in Flutter than in Reactive Native. Thanks to its useful system error inspection tool ‘Flutter Doctor’, which gives Flutter an upper hand in winning in this department.
Now, that just for the starter. Let’s move on to bigger aspects.
Open source platforms rely on good community support, resources, and package availability. In that respect, React Native takes the lead. If not all, React Native is supported by most of the editors and the number of available packages for React Native is over 5 times more than Flutter. Since React Native is there in the market for over three years now, which means it has better reach, and has a larger user base.
React Native uses components, but these are not your typical web components. Instead, it uses components provided by its own react native library for mobile app development.
Though React Native may not have access to a large number of widgets as Flutter does, but it has components that are quite adaptive, capable of detecting on the platform it being installed on (Android or iOS), and then render the most suitable components for that platform.
Expo CLI (formerly known as Create React Native App (CRNA))
The Expo CLI offers improved features and better development experience than the CRNA. It is an able tool that allows you to run your code on a mobile device by just scanning a QR code on the console, without having the need to write it up – making the kickstart process just as easy.
Since React Native does not have DOM, it uses a virtual DOM (VDOM) to interact with native UI elements.
Again, Flutter takes the lead in the documentation division. Though React Native documentation is decent – offering enough information on guides, topics and other relevant information – it gets cumbersome when searching for development kits. This could be attributed to React Native’s heavy dependence on external development kits.
React Native offers two main architectural patterns to build applications – Flux and Redux. Flux is created by Facebook (React’s own creators) while Redux is a worthy option contributed by it’s growing community. It is based on unidirectional data flow and the application’s state is stored in a place called ‘Store’. Then there is Context API, a new React feature designed to manage state.
API & UI Components
The reason why most prefer to use React Native is that it offers native UI components. They are also called Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) widgets, which are highly trusted and widely used. Depending on the platform it is being run (Android or iOS), React Native apps display UI elements the users are familiar with.
On the downside, React Native is said to rely heavily on third party libraries, thus becoming a bit tiring and time-consuming. Otherwise, React Native maintains a stronghold in the UI area. If you are all too specific in providing a true native look and feel to your app then React Native would be your best bet.
Flutter’s ecosystem is not as established as React Native’s and is yet to catch up with its counterpart. However, Flutter is gaining its momentum with its steadily growing fraternity. Currently, there are over 1450 packages available Flutter on its official site dartlang.org
And there are several Flutter-related events coming up, along with some good star rating in Github.
Flutter’s widgets are equivalent to React Native’s components. These are not native widgets per se, as it happens, Flutter just simulates them using Skia. There are two types of widgets – stateless widgets and stateful widgets. Flutter comes with large set of ready-to-use widgets, most of which uses material design concepts. On the downside, these widgets are not adaptive and platform-specific adaptation needs to be done manually.
The development process in Flutter is easy; all the developer has to do is to download Flutter, unzip, and start creating environments. In case you prefer not to use your phone, you might have to download Android Studio and set up an emulator. Flutter is supported by Android Studio, Visual Studio Code and IntelliJ Idea. The Rot Reload feature allows you to parallely rerun the application with changes while you develop it.
Flutter uses C/C++ library to give the application a better and richer native feel. Furthermore, Dart, the language used by Flutter, makes it easy for developers to reuse the existing code. When it comes to performance, going by the growing positive experiences of developers, Flutter has an upper hand.
The documentation in Flutter, when compared to React Native, is wholesome and pretty solid. It will not send you looking for third party support in most of the instances, and it is pretty vast and well-covered. The only glitch would be that it could prove to be a bit difficult for those with no programming language, however, that is a small snag compared to the satisfactory documentation it provides.
Flutter, as a relatively new outing, might have a bit of a challenge in convincing users about the significance of its architecture. But, developers are already taking note of its BloC architecture. BloC stands for Business Logic Component and it relies on RxDart (Reactive Dart) and Streams.
The debate of which architecture is best, React Native’s or Flutter’s, is a moot point. Flutter’s architecture – new and yet to be explored thoroughly – is believed to be decent enough to power-up cross-platform applications.
API and UI Components
Flutter is packed with device API access, UI rendering components, testing, navigation and a vast range of libraries – keeping everything you need under a single roof. However, the real disadvantage is that Flutter does not use Native UI components, thus putting developers into a discomfort zone of not being able to use well-recognized or widely used UI components. This is one of the main reasons why Flutter cannot deliver apps with true native look and feel.
Though Flutter offers some great looking UI components and plugins, it is not as rich as that of React Native’s, or even Xamarin’s for that matter.
Also, in Flutter if you render something on your phone (for ex. iPhone with OS 12), you will have to render it in exactly the same way, for not just on iOS but also on any Android phone.
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