React Native vs. Flutter: What Is The Most Popular Framework for Mobile Apps?

The cross-platform mobile development world is abundant in battle-ready frameworks. We begin the first part of our article on comparing the two most popular cross-platform frameworks.

React Native vs. Flutter: What Is The Most Popular Framework for Mobile Apps?

The cross-platform mobile development world is abundant in battle-ready frameworks. We begin the first part of our article on comparing the two most popular cross-platform frameworks.

React Native was released by tech mogul Facebook in 2015 and became a framework dominating the industry. It was built on top of JavaScript and helped to develop robust mobile apps.

Other players planned to overthrow React Native from its top positions in the cross-platform development Olympus. Among them, Google was overwhelmingly successful. The company presented an ambitious project called Flutter in 2017.

Since then, Flutter has helped numerous high-profile companies to achieve their business goals. The technology helped to build recognized apps like Google Ads, Tencent’s  AITeacher, Xianyu by Alibaba, Reflectly, Cryptograph, and many others.

Flutter development advantages make it stand out from other frameworks. It doesn’t employ Javascript, which turns out to be the reason why developers prefer it to other options. We’ll discuss how this can benefit the development process in more detail later.

Now, let’s stress the following: React Native is one of the top cross-platform frameworks out there. It occupies a strong position on the market but it is hardly the only option for mobile developers. If we look at the trends over time, we can see that the framework gradually loses in search volume to its close contender. Flutter shot up and still continues to boost curiosity. Experts, developers, and ordinary onlookers have started to raise their eyebrows and examine the pros and cons of the Flutter framework.

React Native and Flutter popularity dynamics
Source: Google trends

Where does this rivalry lead? Is Flutter set to beat React Native or further divide the market for cross-platform development?

Let's look at this interesting situation. According to one of the leading marketing agencies, the market for mobile development will grow strikingly to $139.1 billion in 2021. As for the volume of downloaded mobile applications, it is likely to skyrocket to $353 billion.

As the results of the study suggest, the mobile app market has become a gold mine with vast opportunities. The stakes are high; therefore, it is important to utilize the most effective development tools that can guarantee profit boost.

Let’s find out more details about RN and Flutter to understand their worth for mobile development.

We’ll start from developers who deal with both technologies every day.

First, we turn to StackOverflow. It recently conducted a survey to obtain data about developers’ preferred technologies and other aspects related to app development. The survey found that Flutter beats RN in loyalty (Most loved), but so far loses in demand (Wanted) aspects.

Most Loved, Dreaded, and Wanted Other Frameworks, Libraries, and Tools

StackOverflow survey about developers’ preferred technologies
Source: StackOverflow

We can also observe a significant change in attitudes on GitHub. The Flutter community reached a significant milestone - it has more stars than the React Native as of February 17, 2020.

We believe it serves as a wake-up call for Facebook’s popular framework. Is it time to hail to the brand new king of cross-platform mobile development?

To understand the full picture, let’s go to the basics and compare the two frameworks. We chose the following parameters:

  • User interface
  • Performance
  • Development time
  • Documentation
  • Community

User Interface

Both technologies behave differently when designing User Interface. React Native uses UI components and relies on the JSX, which helps to create simple and readable UIs. The framework also includes special UI libraries, such as styled-components.

Flutter creates a UI out of adaptable widgets from its catalog. They serve as building blocks that help to create a user experience and support Material Design and Cupertino (Apple’s) looks.  The UI part of your app will imitate the design of iOS or Android OS and provide a native look and feel. However, Flutter has unlimited possibilities for implementing UI animations, unlike React Native.

Performance

As Flutter programs are immediately compiled into native code, they work faster. Flutter applications do not need to use a bridge (a layer in the form of JavaScript code as in React Native) to interact with native components.

React Native can reach the same level of performance but it is necessary to spend extra time on optimizations.

Development time

Both the technologies are on the same level although you need to write fewer lines of code with React Native. However, with Flutter there are fewer problems in the course of development and the time is approximately the same.

Documentation

The documentation for both technologies is at an excellent level. However, since React Native is older, there is more documentation for that framework. This situation leaves a mark on the quality. Some developers point out that RN documentation can be chaotic and “littered”.

Community

More than 5 years on the market, RN has acquired a large community that keeps on growing. Flutter, in turn, is stepping on its competitor’s toes, and the community is catching up.

We put together a brief table dedicated to React Native and Flutter comparison. You can overview fast facts about the two frameworks.

Summing  Up

In this article, we focused on how Flutter and React Native contribute to the development of cross-platform apps. We also discussed why Flutter is gradually pushing React Native from the top position. From the comparison of the two frameworks, we can see that they have their unique features and strong sides

Among the most significant criteria for comparison are user interface, performance, development time, documentation, and community.  Taking into account the differences between RN and Flutter, you can now make informed decisions and justify each choice.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to cross-platform development. You should take into account the peculiarities of the project that is on your agenda. In the next article, we will shed light on the problem and describe which framework is best suitable for the particular project type. We will also share our predictions on how RN and Flutter will develop further.

Stay tuned with the updates in our blog!

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