Why you should use React Native for your mobile app

React Native is a technology that enables the use of React and JavaScript for iOS and Android development
Image credit: Algolia

There’s been quite a buzz about React Native lately. The brainchild of both Facebook and the open source community, this mobile development framework has attracted many positive reviews. In particular, working with this framework made one iOS developer go as far as to claim he might never write an iOS app in Objective-C or Swift again.

Seems like a bold statement, doesn’t it?

What’s more, React Native is gaining traction among big market players. Netflix and Airbnb are already using it for their apps. Microsoft is bringing React Native to Windows and XBox, and Samsung will be making it a part of Tizen, its proprietary OS for smart devices. The examples of iOS and Android apps built with React Native include Facebook, Discovery VR, Baidu, and the SoundCloud Pulse.

With so many big names on the list, you might wonder if this framework will suit your next project. So what is it that React Native has to offer?

Speed Booster for Native App Development

In a nutshell, React Native is a JavaScript library for building mobile apps. It allows developers to write mobile applications in JavaScript instead of using platform-specific languages (Objective-C or Swift for iOS and Java for Android).

The advantages of this approach are obvious if you are working with a team of experienced Javascript developers — especially if they are comfortable with ReactJS. But there’s a lot more to React Native than enabling web developers to create native apps.

Development with React Native produces reusable code which saves you time and money. Having the same program components shared by different app versions means less time spent on development, testing, and debugging, as well as simpler and faster updates.

But how much code is reusable? According to DevBridge, iOS and Android versions of the same React-based mobile app can share about 80% of common code.

Native to the Bone

So far, you might’ve gotten an impression of reading about another “write once, run anywhere” solution, but this is absolutely not the case with React Native. And, actually, it is the good news.

If the phrases “JavaScript library for building mobile apps” and “write once, run anywhere” ring a bell, chances are you’re familiar with Cordova or frameworks like Ionic and Sencha Touch. While these frameworks are conceptually similar to React Native, there is a huge difference in the way they handle app architecture.

Cordova-based frameworks place HTML, CSS, and Javascript code inside of components called WebViews. What this approach brings you is, essentially, one code base running on Android, iOS, Windows, or other platforms. Mind that this code base is that of a Web app because it renders via HTML and CSS.

Now, Web apps can be great. However, they can’t quite match the look and feel of a native app — especially when it comes to subtle animations, scrolling acceleration, or similar things. Subtleties of this sort are exactly where React Native shines.

Instead of targeting HTML, the components of React work with native UI widgets. To do this, the framework uses views (<View>) that render into UIView on iOS or android.view on Android. If necessary, native components written in Java, Objective-C, or Swift can interact with React’s JavaScript via native modules.

With this approach, you need to develop different versions of the app for different platforms. However, both the performance and the look and feel of the end product are a lot closer to what you’d expect from a native application.

Reliable Ecosystem Backed by Facebook and ReactJS

The native nature of React makes it akin to Appcelerator Titanium and NativeScript. The latter are also JavaScript frameworks that prioritize platform-specific development over the “write once, run anywhere” paradigm. But how does React Native compare with these two? Specifically, what makes React a better option for the development of a new mobile app?

The answer is simple: Facebook.

As of July 2016, the business of Facebook was worth $363.8 billion. The financial success of this business largely stems from the company’s software development strategy. And React Native is an essential part of this strategy.

In 2013, Facebook proved itself fully capable of driving innovation in software development thanks to ReactJS. Being the 6th most-starred project on Github, ReactJS has amassed a vast community of developers. With the launch of React Native, these developers got an opportunity of building mobile apps with a technology stack they already know.

As a matter of fact, ReactJS and React Native are Facebook’s top-two open source projects as of March 2016. As a consequence, updates are often, and the community of developers is booming. What this means for someone who’s aiming to create a new mobile app, is that React-based projects get a steady supply of qualified workforce.

Wrap-Up: How React Native Can Benefit Your App

Summing it all up, there are multiple reasons for you to choose React Native over other mobile development platforms:

  • With React Native, you can optimize human resources by having the same specialists work on iOS and Android versions of your app.
  • With 80% of code shared by your iOS and Android app, you will greatly enhance the speed of production and updates.
  • React Native outperforms hybrid frameworks in terms of performance and the look and feel of the end product.
  • Thanks to a more direct integration with native components of an app, you can combine native code with React’s JavaScript. In fact, this is exactly what Facebook did with its own mobile app.
  • React Native benefits from a growing community of JavaScript and ReactJS developers. Aside from that, it’s ecosystem is supported and developed by Facebook.

If these points sound convincing enough, have a look the apps built with React Native. See how this framework performs for search engines, VR solutions, messaging services, and other applications. This way, you will know for sure if React Native fits your business idea of a new mobile app.