Flutter vs React Native

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Blog post | Flutter vs React Native

The number of hours that people spend online today continues to grow every year. The shift from desktop computers to mobile phones and to a range of other devices calls for competitive apps as an average smartphone user spends about 90% of their smartphone time on apps. Thus using the best app development technology is inevitable for high-performing apps. We choose the two most popular techs, Flutter and React Native, to make a detailed study that will help you choose the best.

According to Statista, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is crossing 6.648 billion, which means 83.72% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. This number is further projected to increase to 7.3 billion in 2025. With that amount of potential customers to penetrate it’s crucial to provide an excellent user experience and functionality with your app which emphasises how critical it is to choose the best app development technology to take your idea across to the masses.

Considering the pros and cons of going native over cross-platform is a topic for another time. Long story short - you have an idea to make a great product; you need to capitalise on that ASAP, while managing many constraints like budget, number of developers available, their domain of expertise, etc.

Have a look at the following graph,

Market share of App Development technologies

Differences between Flutter and React Native

The decision to choose flutter over RN is not exactly black and white; actually, it's a murky shade of grey. Let us explore this more with the help of some factors.

1. UI Rendering

The UI is flexible thanks to its layered architecture, which makes it easy to render graphics quickly and customise widgets. Any object in Flutter is a widget, from a button to padding. Widgets can be combined to create layouts, and you can choose to use widgets on any level of customization – from existing building blocks to the lowest level when you create your own widgets. Flutter also uses the Skia graphics library which abstracts away platform-specific graphics API.

The fact that React Native uses native components under the hood should give you confidence that, after every OS UI update, your app components will be instantly upgraded, as well. That said – this can break the app’s UI but it happens very rarely. What’s worse, updates can become even more dangerous if they cause certain changes in the Native Components API.

2. Programming language

It supports both strong and weak typing styles making it easy to pick up for beginners. Dart is up to two times faster than JavaScript with both an ahead-of-time (AOT) and just-in-time (JIT) compiler. The Dart language isn’t limited to mobile development – it’s also used for building web apps, and by Google no less.

React Native is written in JavaScript using React, thus it’s a huge advantage for React native since JavaScript is one of the most popular programming languages in the world, and web developers will find it easier to pick up React Native. But since it is written in JavaScript the authors of the framework had to create communication mechanisms between the native world and Javascript.

3. Performance

Flutter does run faster than RN, but it does come with its own problems. It doesn’t have JavaScript bridges slowing it down, and that saves development time.

Flutter has also set its animation standard at 60 FPS – which gives proof of its quick-running performance. And the fact that it is compiled directly into the native ARM code for both Android and iOS surely doesn’t hurt Flutter performance and speed, either.

In React Native the JavaScript bridges to its back code and plug-and-play modules do slow it down. It would be better to list down the performance issues:

  • The more tabs, navigations, controls, animations, and third-party libraries your app has, the slower React Native becomes.
  • Has memory leak issues in android when you use ListView.

4. Developer Experience

As noted earlier, the developer learning curve to start coding in flutter is minimal primarily due to the fact that it uses dart, a modern object-oriented language whose style is familiar to most developers to pick up quickly. The flutter team also provides detailed and well-structured documentation.  

The official React Native release was more than 5 years ago, so the Facebook team has had plenty of time to stabilise the API, as well as focus on fixing issues and solving problems. React Native provides a flexbox-based cross-platform layout system to render platform-specific UI elements. This makes it much easier for developers who came from a web development background.

5. Code Maintainability

The Dart plugin provides an adept linter that urges the user to write code using the best practices. The introduction of null safety also helps reduce major bugs during compile time itself. The time taken for releasing quality updates and making immediate changes in the app can be performed better in Flutter.

Maintaining code with React Native is really tough as compared to Flutter. Most of the native components have a third-party library dependency so maintaining those outdated libraries is really a challenging task.

6. Hardware support

Flutter is not recommended for apps that require the use of hardware-specific use cases like bluetooth, NFC, wifi since the support for these is quite less. But, flutter's platform channels can put a single Dart interface on native code for mobile, web, desktop, or your embedded platform.

React Native also has limitations in the integration of hardware-specific uses.

It is much easier to use native app development compared to cross-platform solutions. One could argue that we could use native wrappers for APIs and components to build these utilities, but this takes up a lot more time and effort on the part of the developers, compared to using native components.

Flutter apps in production - Google Ads, BMW, Google pay, Alibaba Group, Tencent, Toyota, Dream11, Cryptograph,  eBay, Zerodha, The NewYork Times, Philips Hue, Supernova

React Native apps - Facebook, Flipkart, Discord, Shopify, Skype, Tesla, Pinterest, Uber Eats, Walmart, Coinbase, Bloomberg, Salesforce, Vogue

Why is KeyValue pro-flutter?

While KeyValue had and currently has projects in React Native, we believe flutter is the future.

  • Flutter apps are compiled faster while the transpilation process is not present. The same code is used to build for different mobile platforms and even the web.
  • Since RN is tightly coupled with Native SDKs it means that depending on 3rd party libraries is a given, which also involves resolving dependencies and forking different versions to make it compatible. It is much easier to use an external library in Flutter, or build it to our requirement simply by tweaking an existing widget/file.
  • Flutter made it easier to separate business and presentation logic, resulting in better code maintainability. State management is also easier in Flutter.
  • Flutter codebase is typically smaller compared to RN for the same functionality. At the same time, the compiled app size is also smaller in the case of flutter.
  • Since flutter requires minimal knowledge of CSS it is much easier to be adopted by native and novice developers alike.
  • Choosing between similar RN external libraries solely based on weekly downloads from npm seems limited when you compare it to having package properties like pub points, likes, and popularity in the flutter package repository - pub.dev.
  • React Native is bogged down by javascript’s quirks coupled with node modules. Also, Typescript is deemed necessary in order to avoid the type safety issues of javascript. Whereas in Flutter, it has its dependencies globally stored, with minimal indexing problems with Operating Systems.
  • Next, when we compared them based on the ease of creating complex user interfaces and animations it was found that flutter abstracted the difficulty in creating them by enabling the use of well-documented library components.
  • An additional observation was that RN projects often required frequent service of native developers since many components required bridging. Flutter almost always required lesser interaction with native code.
  • We also found that onboarding a new member to a flutter project was much easier than RN as there was an inherent structure to the code in Dart which could be easily understood when compared to the project-specific structure of javascript.
  • This advantage was also instrumental in fast prototyping and quick release of patches when time was of the essence. In contrast, Major UI changes in RN take more time as architectural changes are required.
  • The debugging experience is also far superior in Flutter as it provides better info, especially when inspecting UI and network intercept issues.

With all these considerations in mind, go get ‘em champ!

Making informed decisions has always helped us in building seamless products. In-depth research is our mantra for staying updated and being experts in the latest technologies. You can be a part of this adventure just by following us and contacting us to build your unique idea with these techs.