What’s great about React Native
React Native offers platform-specific UI, which means better user experiences and usability. It renders platform-specific elements of the UI on the basis of component state changes, and thanks to Hermes’ ahead-of-time compilation, this does not result in slower performance. On top of that, React Native apps have lower battery consumption. Lazy loading ensures speed at startup for a good first impression.
Flutter is quickly becoming the most popular cross-platform framework in the world. It’s fast, efficient, and fresh enough that it seems to have endless potential. One of Flutter’s most notable features is hot reload, which allows developers to observe the effect of the changes they make to the code in real time. As a result, Flutter offers fast feedback, encourages experimentation and speeds up testing. Next, thanks to the Dart programming language, Flutter offers performance on the level of a native app. There’s also the rich widget library and multi-platform support with a single codebase.
One of the things that make Flutter so widely applicable is its approach to building UIs. Because Flutter uses widgets that are independent of the UIs environment, the results look great on any device, even one that is older. If you know your user base is likely to use a huge variety of devices, Flutter is probably the right choice for you. The downside of this is that the experience isn’t as well assimilated into its environment as what React Native offers. So the flipside is this: if you are targeting a user group very accustomed to the iOS style of UIs, they might find a Flutter app confusing and out of place.
Swift is an open source programming language introduced by Apple in 2014. It rose up as a rival to Objective-C, and a viable alternative for building OSX and iOS applications. Swift puts emphasis on security, speed, and interactivity during development. Through features like closures, type inference and generics, the language is very developer-friendly. In fact, an average Swift app requires only half the code that would have been needed if it were written in Objective-C – and the app will be about 2.5 times faster.
Swift is an open-source cross-platform technology, which is why it has a spot on our list of React Native’s competition. Swift’s focus is the wide array of Apple products, from MacOS, through iPhones, to Apple Watches and Apple TV. However, it can be used for Linux and Windows apps.
Kotlin is a multiplatform programming language with a focus on mobile development. It allows developers to share the logic between their Android, iOS and desktop apps without sacrificing native UX. Kotlin is promoted as a simple, asynchronous technology that offers a modern approach and security. It’s often used for writing server-side apps thanks to its compatibility with JVM solutions.
Kotlin also boasts a robust, friendly community with many active contributors, which means a vast trove of resources, tutorials, guides, and solutions to common problems. It’s also a language with built-in safety measures that prevent typical mistakes that can happen during program execution. On top of all that, popularity is definitely not Kotlin’s problem. It’s currently being used by well-known brands such as Atlassian (all new code in the Trello app for Android), Gradle, Evernote and Coursera.
Ionic is a mature open-source framework introduced in 2013. It has been chosen for over five million projects. Through a library of native components, Ionic offers UI elements specific to each platform, similarly to React Native. Developers use it to create cross-platform apps by building web pages that are then run within a device’s browser instance called WebView. It’s an application component that renders web pages to display them as native apps. This means that a single codebase is enough to run the app on all desired platforms, including iOS, Android and Windows, making Ionic a very cost-effective solution.
This open-source app platform is supported by Microsoft. It was originally created for the purpose of building modern apps for Android, iOS and Windows. Xamarin’s main job is to handle communication between an application’s shared code and platform-specific code. It allows development teams to share about 90% of their code among the platforms, shortening development time and reducing costs. This means that the app’s business logic can be written in one language, but the experience on each platform will be near native.
Xamarin offers full hardware support (e.g. GPS, camera), is compatible with MVC and MVVM architectures, and simplifies the maintenance of cross-platform apps. However, it has a comparatively small community and isn’t the best technology for apps relying on complex UIs. Xamarin was adopted by Azure, Microsoft News and UPS, among other major companies.
Progressive Web Apps are, as the name suggests, web applications. What makes them unique is that they offer a native-like experience on mobile devices – without the development cost of building a native or cross-platform app. Some of the most notable features of PWA include:
- Custom splash screen on app startup,
- App icon on screen (without installation),
- Limited offline functionality,
- Reduced (or no) loading time for pages the user has previously visited,
- Push notifications.
As a result, Progressive Web Apps not only provide an experience that can rival native apps in some circumstances, it does so at a lower “cost” to the user. There’s no need to look for the app in the Play Store or App Store, there’s no installation. Usually, upon the user’s first visit on the web page, they get asked whether they want to add the app to their home screen.
The downside is that Progressive Web Apps have some limitations. They cannot easily (or at all) access certain device functionalities, such as GPS or the camera. Still, they are fast, lightweight, and cost effective.
Which technology is best for your project?
To find the best technological solution for a particular project, it’s important to consider all the crucial factors. Sometimes, budgeting considerations or deadlines will be the priority. In other cases, it may be efficient maintenance or truly exceptional UX. In the experience of United Ideas’ team, each client’s project should be analyzed separately, with business goals and market realities pointing towards the right course of action.
If you’re interested in building a cross-platform application, we’d be happy to advise you on your options regarding the available technologies. Let’s get in touch.