React Native: Features, Limitations, Pros and Cons

React Native: Features, Limitations, Pros and Cons

React Native is a framework used for creating cross-platform mobile applications. It is one of the most popular and widely used cross-platform mobile application development framework. But what is a cross-platform mobile application? Today, Android and IOS are the two most widely used mobile platforms. The application building process is completely different on both platforms. IOS applications are built using Swift programming language while the android applications are generally built using java. A developer needs to be perfect in both languages as well as procedures. This is always a burden because the applications are ultimately going to be similar, just there are built on different platforms. So the concept of cross-platform mobile applications came out, a single application working on multiple platforms. Mobile applications built using React Native are cross-platform applications.

Mark Zukerberg realized that cross-platform mobile applications will play an important part in the future. He promised something new and better. Facebook launched React Native in 2015 and soon it became one hotshot technology in the mobile application development community. Though, there were already promising frameworks for building cross-platform mobile applications such as Ionic but React Native was different. It has a few similar features of Facebook’s javascript library React that influenced developers for choosing React Native over others. In this article, we will discuss React Native’s features, its comparison with other frameworks and limitations.

Features of React Native

Write Once and Use Everywhere

Write once use every one

By far the best feature and actual concept on what is based, code that is written in React Native work on almost every mobile platform. It includes IOS, Android, Windows, etc. We do not need to write code in Swift for IOS, java for android or C# for windows. The applications built using React native are native, that means, they work on multiple platforms

Programming Language

The programming language of a framework is one important part that influences the developers a lot. If a framework uses a programming language that is popular and widely used, it always influences the choice of a developer. React Native uses one such language, Javascript. No doubt, javascript is one of the most popular and widely used programming languages. It is one of the three core technologies of the World Wide Web(WWW), the other two being HTML and CSS. Any person with even a little experience in web development knows how to use javascript. Moreover, popular web frameworks are also built on javascript. It is also simple and easy to learn programming language.

UI Focussed

React Native is purely focussed on UI design. It is greatly responsive and its rendering abilities are by far the best.

Community

Talking about community, React Native’s community is one of the strongest in the cross-platform mobile application development world. React.js development was started in 2013 by Facebook and it was launched in 2015. Soon it was open-sourced and its popularity increased rapidly. Its popularity was pushed further by the developers contributing from all over the world leading to a strong community presence.

Tried and Trusted

The React Native is one the most trusted framework when it comes to cross-platform application development. Built by an IT giant like Facebook, it is tried enough to be trusted. Facebook uses React Native in all mobile applications. This is enough to trust React Native. Moreover, it used by many other companies such as Instagram Airbnb, Skype, Tesla, Walmart, and Discord.

Development Time

The development time in React Native is considerably short.

Support for Third-Party Libraries

The usage of third-party libraries is always a plus point. This gives the freedom of choice to the developers. This is good and bad at the same time.

NPM for Installation

The installation process is always a headache, especially for newbies. React Native uses Node Package Manager or NPM for installation and it is fairly easy to use it. People with non-javascript are experienced with NPM and also it not that difficult for newbies to learn NPM commands.

Mobile Environments Performance

Most of the native applications are CPU oriented while the applications built using React Native are GPU-oriented. This leads to better performance than CPU-oriented applications.

Live Reload

Now, this is what they call magic in mobile application development. The live reload feature provides two screens, one to modify the code and another to see the modification. Anyone who has experience in mobile application development knows how this feature can make a difference.

React Native vs Ionic vs Flutter

React Native vs Ionic vs Flutter

React Native is not only of its kind. There are many other similar frameworks, most popular of them, Flutter and Ionic. Flutter and Ionic are also used for building cross-platform mobile applications. While Ionic is a bit old now, Flutter is a hot technology that is giving competition to React Native. Let’s compare these three briefly to see where React Native stands.

Programming Language

As discussed earlier, one of the plus points of using React Native is the language it uses. Applications in React Native are built using javascript. Similarly, Ionic also uses Javascript along with HTML and CSS. But Flutter is a bit different. The programming language used in Flutter is Dart. Dart was introduced by Google in 2011 and is not as popular as Javascript, not even close.

So if we are considering the programming language, React Native has upper hand over Flutter. React Native also has a little upper hand over Ionic as it does not need HTML and CSS.

Community Support

All three of these frameworks are open-sourced, this means there is always external contribution, passing of knowledge and resolving issues effectively. While Ionic and React Native have strong communities, Flutter is still struggling. It is quite young and its popularity is increasing rapidly, but its community is yet to make a mark.

Founding Parties

The ability and power of the founding company always influence its product. React Native and Flutter were founded by two giants, Facebook and Google, respectively. On another hand, Ionic was developed by Drifty, a rather small company. Facebook is heavily involved in React Native even it is getting immense of external contribution. Flutter too is being promoted by Google on a great scale. This is where Ionic lacks because it’s founding company is not even close to the power of the other two.

Front-End Support

This is where Flutter is ahead. Flutter comes with great support to the user interface. There are attractive in-built widgets present in Flutter that are easy to use. React Native also has good options for an attractive user interface. It supports native components and declarative UI. Although Ionic also has a wide range of UI designs, it uses the typical approach of HTML and CSS.

Used by

The most commonly used mobile applications used in daily life with attractive user interfaces are built using React Native such as Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Walmart, and Tesla. No doubt, Facebook heavily uses React Native in its applications. Flutter is also used by famous companies such as Alibaba, Google ad, AppTree, Tencent, etc. On one hand, React Native and Flutter are used by famous companies, and on another, Ionic is not chosen by giants. Though companies such as MarketWatch, NHS, InstantPot, and Untapped.

React Native vs Flutter vs Ionic

React Native Example

React Native example

Let’s understand the working of React Native with a simple Hello World example.

Now, what’s happening here? People with React background may find this familiar. React Native also use JSX. JSX is a special syntax introduced in React. The code is compiled into javascript while runtime. Let’s understand this code step by step.

First of all, we used a few imports that we are going to use. React and Component is imported from React package while Text and View from react-native.

We created a class, HelloWorld that extends from Component. This is basically a component. We also exporting this class by using the export keyword.

Then comes the most important part of this code, the render function. The render function returns what we want to render on the screen. The view is something similar to div in HTML. It is a container and the most commonly used tag in React Native. Inside the view tag, we used a Text tag. The text tag is used to display text, similar to paragraph tags in HTML. This code will print hello world in every platform. We don’t need to write separate codes for IOS and Android.

So basically, a person from React and web background can easily learn how to code in React Native.

Limitations of React Native

Limitations of React Native

Besides some cool features, React Native also has few limitations. It solely depends upon the developer how to deal with React Native.

1. React Native’s architecture is poor as compared to Flutter’s. React Native is based on the Flux architecture that uses a bridge to communicate with native modules. This bridge is known as the Javascript bridge. Javascript code is compiled to the native code during runtime only. This degrades React Native’s performance as compared to Flutter’s Skia C++ engine that does not need any bridge because all native modules are included in it only.

2. React Native is purely used for rendering purposes. It heavily depends upon third-party libraries. This is good and bad at the same time. A developer has the freedom to choose the third-party libraries or it can also be a pain at the same time.

3. It does not have many testing options. There are few options for initial unit testing but when it comes to integration and UI level testing, there are no official tools for it. Well, there are always third-party tools such as Appium and Detox that could be used for testing.

4. The documentation of React Native is poorly maintained. There is not much explained in its documentation. Even installing and configuration setup is not explained properly. Plus, there is no official documentation for Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD).

5. It always easy to learn React Native for people from React and web background. But for freshers, React Native is quite complex and complicated.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that React Native is one of the best cross-platform mobile application frameworks. It is open-source and has a strong community. UI rendering in React native is excellent. There are few limitations of React Native but it solely depends upon the developer and his vision. A developer can use the third-party libraries option as an advantage or it can be a pain. Yes, its documentation is poor but there are many helpful resources available on the internet explaining almost every aspect of it. New frameworks like Flutter are giving serious competition to React Native but still, it has a strong presence in the cross-platform mobile application development world.

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