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Pros and Cons of Using React Native for Mobile App Development

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React Native is a universal open source framework designed to develop applications on iOS and Android platforms. It is based on the popular React.JS library and uses Javascript language. Essentially, React Native operates with the help of API written in Javascript over native components. React Native, in its popularity, can be compared with Objective-C, Swift, and Java; the latter, being a "veteran" among app development tools, has a number of shortcomings, and React Native surpasses it in many ways. This article explores in detail the fundamentally important pros and cons of using React Native, which should be taken into account by any company that provides mobile app development services.

React Native Advantages for Developers

  • Ease of learning. React Native is an excellent tool for the improvement of Javascript skills. Conversely, programming in other popular frameworks, such as AngularJS and Xamarin, requires knowledge of the specifics of their inherent syntax, in addition to learning the basics of the programming language. Thus, using React Native allows you to save time significantly, as developers need to spend less efforts on both coding and the further development of the application.

  • Ability to develop cross-platform applications for iOS and Android. The main advantage of React Native is the ability to develop cross-platform applications. Though only recently this approach to creating applications was used rather rarely due to shortcomings related to user experience (most cross-platform frameworks do not allow creating a universal application whose graphical elements would be completely identical on both platforms), today cross-platform apps are implemented by many startups and business projects. Such solutions are an option for those customers who have a fairly limited budget, as well as those who need to work with a remote development team (in this case, the minimum possible manpower is required). Their main drawback - the annoying lags in animations - is eliminated in React Native. Even with a large number of calculations in the application, this framework is able to provide playback of animations in 60 frames per second.
  • Cross-platform development is an economically viable solution for popularizing mobile applications. Based on Statista’s forecast, sales of mobile devices based on Android and iOS platforms will continue growing in the next few years, which, in turn, will lead to an increase in the amount of potential users of your software.
  • Simplified user interface design. In the case of native app development, many programmers face a number of difficulties due to the need to create an orderly sequence of actions that describe the operation of the program. A similar style of software creation, called imperative, is inherent in many frequently used native development environments for Java, Objective-C or Swift (for example, Cocoa). In turn, React Native app development employs the declarative coding, making the order of action implementation unimportant.
  • Support for rapid development iterations. Developers working with React Native receive a huge advantage in the form of time saved by acceleration of debugging. In order to review the changes made to an app’s operation by code, alterations of no more than two seconds are needed. In this account, even the Xcode’s hot reload function essentially loses to React Native because there is no need to upload the updated application to an emulator or physical device each time.
  • Constant improvement. React Native is a relatively young framework that has incredibly great potential. Its constantly growing library allows it to interact fruitfully with native components, allowing cross-platform to gain an advantage, in comparison with native and hybrid developments.
  • No problems launching media in the browser. If we consider such a frequently used framework as Cordova, one would note one major drawback. Mobile applications for Android, created with Cordova, are launched via the WebView wrapper which has a number of flaws. Let us consider an exemplary case. When using WebView, the media player cannot be loaded in full-screen mode by default. Therefore, developers are forced to build a special container, which automatically stretches to the full screen. These issues are non-existent with React Native, as the framework offers two ways to dynamically scale media windows: by using the Dimensions API or by handling the onLayout event.
  • Reduction in labor resources. To make a mobile app with React Native, you do not need separate development teams for target platforms. Thanks to the React Native features including single programming language (Javascript) and the cross-platform approach, a compact team of up to 10 professionals can develop and maintain the code base, as well as release platform-specific app versions. In theory, with a certain level of Javascript knowledge even one programmer might build and support an app for iOS or Android, or both. This would allow you to hire a single remote team for your application. As our practice shows, the addition of cross-platform software can save up to 30% of the development timeframe, and, therefore, reduce the cost of the project as a whole.

Disadvantages of React Native for Developers

  • Novelty. React Native is a fairly young development environment, and library updates are released almost every month. On the one hand, users are getting more and more new tools to create mobile apps with React Native. On the other hand, developers need to carefully study the documentation that is attached to the updated version of this framework to make sure it is compatible with the previously created APIs.

  • Possible difficulties in renewing licenses when obtaining patents for derived software. When installing React Native, each user is required to accept the Facebook license rules. Policies state that, if you open a lawsuit regarding infringement of your software patents, you have to stop further usage of this development environment.
  • Lesser performance. It should be noted that applications created with React Native have somewhat lesser performance than native ones. Therefore, the usage of this framework can be problematic in the development of highly-loaded, large-scale projects.
  • The need to attract native developers. The implementation of some advanced activities, such as access to device sensors, camera or push-notifications, requires acute platform knowledge and, in some cases, this involves IT companies having to involve native developers. This way, separate custom modules are created in React Native for Android or when building an iOS app with React Native. This factor negatively affects the final price of the project, which does not play in favor of RN. One should note, however, that such plugins are created rarely and can always be reused.

Read also: Swift vs Objective-C: What to Choose in 2017

Summary

Having analyzed in detail all the advantages and disadvantages of React Native, one can come to the conclusion that the former significantly prevails over the latter. The majority of developers who consciously refused to work with this framework made these decisions because of alleged problems with Facebook licensing and the reluctance to regularly review the documentation that comes with new updates and components. The remaining problems are more related to the subtleties of developing cross-platform software and, consequently, they are not direct defects of the React Native environment itself. No matter which way you look at it, React Native, due to its simplicity, rapid development cycles and constant improvement, is - by far - one of the best tools for developing mobile applications for iOS and Android.

 
 
 
 
 
 
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