Will React Native take over native mobile app development?

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It was the second day of Facebook’s F8 conference in 2015 when the world obtained a great tool for building mobile products with JavaScript. At the lapse of over three years, React Native has caused a lot of stir in the industry. It has gained many supporters represented by big names like Bloomberg or Tesla, as well as lost one of its pioneers, Airbnb, which decided to jump off the bandwagon.

The latter event triggered a lot of talks about technology’s sunset. However, its future is far from being sticky. Moreover, there are many encouraging and even glittering predictions that the framework will keep on taking over the market of mobile products.

Is React Native a silver bullet?

Let’s be honest – it is not a single solution for cross-platform development. Nevertheless, the framework introduced new ideas and concepts to this niche. It rests on the React’ best working principles. Moreover, it leverages JS as a major building material. Here’s how it works:

  • The bulk of the app (up to 95%) is created with JS;
  • UI modules are made using platform-specific technology;
  • JS codebase is linked to UI modules via a specialized bridge.

The output is a mobile product which looks and feels like a native one. UI modules are available out-of-the-box in versatile libraries. It is also possible to write custom modules using – Swift or Objective-C for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android – the appropriate programming languages.

What are the pros of React Native?

In contrast to the native app development, Facebook’s technology provides a cheaper and more efficient way to come in the mobile ecosystem.

One app – numerous platforms

The native development foresees single-platform support. In other words, one app is meant for one mobile platform. In this case, companies that focus on a single platform risk to lose customers who use another OS. And the option of creating two or more separate products for each platform is costly.

In contrast, React Native lets you focus on one app instead of several ones to run on almost every mobile device. As for now, the framework supports Windows and Ubuntu Phone in addition to the undisputed market leaders – Android and iOS.

Time & cost

The biggest problem with creating mobile products that support multiple devices is high financial and time expenses. If the app is meant to run on more than one OS, a team of monopolar engineers won’t be enough to get the job done. Different platforms require specific domain knowledge. Therefore, recruitment costs go up.

There is no need to recruit different development teams when React Native is used. A good JS engineer with React expertise plus a designer can be a great squad for that purpose.

Time expenses may also increase when the code needs to be updated or ported from iOS to Android or vice versa. On the other hand, a single codebase, which is available with React Native, makes the workflow smoother and much faster. Any code update or revision won’t interrupt the pipeline.

Where native apps win

Though native development is not as cost-effective and time efficient as Facebook’s tool, native apps definitely overtake in the following:

1. Performance: The native app’s architecture does not require any junction of JavaScript code with UI modules hence the performance remains smooth and powerful.

2. UX: It is a real challenge to make a UX-wise app with React Native. There might be issues with design due to platform-specific design patterns or complex animations, which might not be supported by complementary animation APIs.

3. Access to the device’s functionalities: Some of the native features like webcam or battery info can be accessible but not all of them. To get access to particular sensors, there is a need to write a custom module using the platform-specific programming language.

Which approach is the best?

The truth is that the advanced technology is aggressively moving into top gear. Such famous brands as Instagram and Walmart have chosen React Native as a principal tech stack for their apps.

Many web development companies like Railsware include it in their tech stack arsenal. The growing demand for the technology is proven by versatile web resources that place it at the top of all kinds of relevant rankings. Cost-efficiency is the major trigger to persuade companies to shift from native to React Native.

Big budgets and a desire to provide the customers with a unique mobile experience are the major factors of opting for a platform-dependent approach.

There is no down-the-line winner. Both development approaches have their own quirks. However, React Native has big chances to get a large piece of the pie in the coming years.

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