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Native vs React Native for mobile development from a programmers perspective

Posted by: Ashley Zimmerman | On: 14th Feb, 2019 | mobile development

Real Native or React Native for mobile development?

When you are developing a mobile app for iOS and Android platforms, there two options: Use real native development or use a hybrid framework. Historically, real native applications were seen as higher quality but more effort. In the past, hybrid frameworks like ionic, phone gap and all provided low quality for the apps. React native from Facebook is a game changer and offers a high quality of the apps. They are close to real native apps.

If you’re looking at developing a new app, you’ll need to know a little bit more about these options to make your decision. To understand the benefits of Native and React Native, we’ll have to talk about some other options and go in a bit of chaotic order.

Web Development

The original coding framework was “Web,” and it’s still behind most websites that are designed for use on full-sized computers and laptops and will work with any make and model. Content created with web works well on these platforms, but it is easy to recognize from a mobile device because it is not optimized for mobile use.

While essential functions of one of these tools will work on a mobile device, problems like awkward zoom are a dead give away. The content seems too big for your screen, and when you zoom out, the content is too small to engage.

Perhaps the most significant limitation of Web-based applications on mobile devices is that they can’t interact with most of your phone’s hardware. While they may work with things like your location, they won’t work with tools like recorders, cameras, &c.

Native Development

When mobile devices came along, differences in hardware and software platforms meant that coding needed to be more specific. For applications to be optimized for mobile viewing as well as to work with the mobile device’s hardware, they need to be programmed in one cohesive language.

Apps programmed in this way are called Native Apps. The massive benefit of Native apps over Web apps is that Native apps are optimized for mobile display and that they can communicate with a phone’s hardware. The biggest downside of Native apps is that they aren’t as versatile as Web apps. Native development is the reason that an app can allow a user to post a photo tagged with their location onto the internet from a mobile device. It is also the reason why apps for Android devices don’t work on iOS devices. They’re also more work, and they mean that developers who want to make an app for iOS and Android need to design two apps.

Hybrid Development

The alternative to this problem is hybrid development. This technique uses parts of Web development and parts of Native development. The result is an easy and inexpensive app that works on different devices but generally isn’t impressive and doesn’t offer a lot of hardware compatibility.

React Native

React Native is a reasonably new development platform, developed by Facebook. React Native uses a tool called React that essentially translates the coding language so that developers can use one language to code for web, Android, and iOS devices. Rather than creating one line of code, it creates lines of code for both Java (used by Android) and Objective C (used by iOS). This means that developers can do the general coding once and then if something doesn’t work for a platform it’s easy to change the single line in the single language that is problematic. That’s opposed to compromising on functionality like with Hybrid development or developing twice as is the case with Native development.

The only downside to React Native is that the developer needs to know JavaScript. Any coding language would work in web and with Native if the coder knew Java or Objective C they could create at least one of the apps. Because React creates the code in both Objective C and Java from the JavaScript code, developers only need to know one language, but that language has to be JavaScript.

That’s the only real downside to React Native. There are even conversations in tech circles that React Native might soon replace all other coding frameworks because of its low cost, high performance, and unmatched versatility. If that happens, it also means that any coding language other than JavaScript would be useless – other than the bits and pieces of Java and Objective C required for the occasional patch.

It might be a little too early for talk like that to be taken too seriously. Just in case though, any young readers might want to consider learning JavaScript sooner than later.

Native Vs. React Native

Now that all of that is out of the way, which is better, Native or React Native?

To be clear, React Native doesn’t work better than Native – it works as well as native on more devices with the occasional extra step. If for whatever reason, you only want to make an app for either Android or iOS, you wouldn’t be better served by React Native than by Native.

If, however, you’re developing an app that you would like to work for both Android and iOS devices, React Native is a faster, easier, and cheaper way to get it done.

Is React Native Right for You?

That still doesn’t mean that Native and React Native are the only ways to go. Apps made with React Native have a lot more functionality than Hybrid apps, but that only matters if you need that functionality. If your requirement is minor, it might be easier for you to find a programmer who knows one of the Hybrid development frameworks than  React Native developer. It would mean that your app might not be able to use features like a camera, but if you need the app for registration or sales, it might be easy to get by without those extra tools.

For more industrious organizations, learning JavaScript or finding a coder who already knows it and can work with React Native is going to be the fastest and cheapest way of creating the best app that will run on the best devices.

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