In the era of portable devices, it is important for businesses to provide their customers or users with mobile software products. Mobile apps are more convenient and usable for tablets and smartphones than mobile-optimized websites. Their principal value is usability, which can be achieved by means of specialized tools and technologies including React Native.
Types of mobile app building approaches
Looking from a developer’s standpoint, there are several ways to build a mobile app.
- Native development is the most widespread one. It allows for creating platform-specific products characterized by powerful performance and high-level UX.
- Hybrid development is a popular approach for a business with a limited budget. It foresees multi-platform support and code shareability. In essence, a hybrid app is a web application covered in a specialized shell to make it look and feel like a native product.
- PWAs or progressive web apps are a new trend in the mobile ecosystem. These are websites enhanced by browser APIs that ensure a close-to-native UX and some native features available like push notifications, launch through a shortcut, access to device’s native modules like camera, geolocation, etc.
- Cross-platform development is characterized by the capability to create a single codebase to be shared across different platform-dependent app versions. The approach is powered up by versatile frameworks including Flutter, Xamarin, and React Native.
What is React Native?
This technology was introduced by Facebook three years ago and has already agitated the mobile market. It combines the best hallmarks of native and hybrid approaches being a sort of a sweet spot in between. In brief, the architecture principle of an app built with React Native looks as follows:
- User interface modules – React Native’s constituent parts that make the app look and feel native – are written in a platform-specific language such as Java for Android and Swift for iOS. An engineer can develop these modules or make use of ready-to-use components available open-source.
- Eventually, both constituent parts, JS code and UI modules, are linked via a so-called bridge to form the app.
Reasons to use
Let’s find out why someone would opt for the technology to build a mobile app.
That’s the principal advantage of React Native apps. They are much faster hence cheaper to create compared to native ones. Cost-efficiency is achieved due to low recruitment costs (one project team handles two app versions) and smooth workflow (thanks to the shareable codebase).
It is a perfect solution to cover the entire mobile market with only one app. There is no need to build separate products for iPhoners and Androiders. Both categories of users can enjoy a single cross-platform app.
Reasons to avoid
Unfortunately, Facebook failed to invent a silver bullet. Therefore, there are some drawbacks that may induce engineers to back off React Native.
Limited access to native modules
Unfortunately, the app won’t have full access to the device’s functionalities and modules like particular sensors. At the same time, camera, calendar, and some other much-used features are available.
Actually, this drawback depends. If we compare React Native to hybrids and PWAs, their performance will be much slower. However, React Native does lose out to native apps a bit.
Design & graphics
Complex and intricate graphics and animations are incompatible with the framework. There might be some design issues due to platform-specific design patterns that require additional coding efforts.
Yes or not?
Eventually, let’s answer the main question – is React Native the option or not? On the one hand, the framework seems a really startup-friendly solution – it does not require huge costs and out-of-the-ordinary engineering expertise. The outcome is a software product that is adapted to run on different platforms. On this scale, there are also Instagram, Tesla and other big names and web development companies like Railsware which said yes to React Native.
On the other hand, the framework limits access to device’s functionalities and does not guarantee the same performance as the native technologies would. There are also other disadvantages that forced Airbnb to wind down their collaboration with React Native.
The framework is a leader amid cross-platform solutions available on the market so far. It is a good starter for developing an MVP. However, the native approach should not be written-off in a long-term perspective.