It won’t be an overstatement to claim that the notorious iOS/Android divide is one of the top headaches for high-tech-driven businesses. When it comes to launching a mobile app, they always face a hard choice of an operating system and have to weigh the pros and cons of opting for either of the major two.
The advent of cross-platform products seemed to eliminate the necessity to waver between the existing alternatives. However, it has created another selection problem – that of a framework to be used in mobile app development. And here, there is also a choice between two tools that dominate the niche: React Native vs Flutter.
Google Flutter vs React Native: A Brief Overview
It was launched by Google in the same year as a UI tool for Android-powered devices, but only three years later evolved into the Flutter that we know today – a universal cross-platform app-building instrument. It allows to create solutions running not only on iOS and Android gadgets but effectively on any operating system, such as Windows or Linux.
In fact, the framework itself, with its huge collection of buttons, sliders, text inputs, and other widgets, is only a part of Flutter. Its other constituent is an SDK (Software Development Kit) that contains numerous tools for translating Flutter code into the native one.
In general, when we compare Flutter and React Native, we will see some common features.
First of all, both of them enable code reutilization. It means the code you write once will be used for multiple operating systems. Yet, Flutter has an edge in this aspect since its widget library is unattached to any platform (agnostic), so you can leverage its content across all systems. React Native needs third-party libraries to create apps for specific platforms.
Secondly, both frameworks have a hot reload feature which saves the current variant of the app obtained during the development process without reloading it. Thanks to it, app creators will never lose changes introduced in earlier phases. Naturally, it boosts development speed and promotes a more efficient collaboration between developers and designers.
The chief difference between Flutter and React Native is their operation mode. Unlike the latter, Flutter doesn’t compile into native apps directly but launches the app simultaneously with the engine. It results in the replacement of native elements by the Flutter SDK components and positively impacts the speed of apps built with Flutter.
This difference is vital but not the only one. To have a clearer understanding of which is better Flutter or React Native, let’s have a closer look at the characteristics of both frameworks.
Flutter vs React Native: A Head-to-Head Juxtaposition
Having produced dozens of apps across various industries, we at Requestum know what to pay attention to while choosing a framework for such a project.
Popularity and community
React Native has been present on the market a little bit longer than Flutter, which allowed it to grow a more numerous community base and obtain wider recognition among professional users. However, recently the tables have turned, and Flutter is employed on a greater scale, considerably outshining React Native in the authoritative Developer Survey by StackOverflow in the nomination of most loved/dreaded framework.
Such a surge in popularity spurs the rapid audience growth and expansion of community support Flutter users can count on.
Here, Flutter wins a point. Its documentation has a convenient format, straightforward style, and detailed content, which makes it an excellent reference source that is easy to read. React Native's documentation is more general (and rather disorganized) in nature since the framework relies on external development kits a lot.
Setup and configuration
The scarcity of React Native’s documentation plays against it. Developers who employ this framework are supposed to know how to set up and configure the tool by default, so the documentation skips the setup stage altogether.
Instead, Flutter takes care developers have a clear guidance while setting up IDE (integrated development environment) and are aware of the differences in the process for Android and iOS. Moreover, there is a command-line interface (CLI) that navigates users through the procedure end-to-end. Known as Flutter Doctor, it monitors what elements have been already installed and prompts the next configuration step to make.
It is simpler for React’s apps thanks to Node Package Manager the framework provides. Flutter apps require a more complicated installation procedure when the binary is added to the PATH and then downloaded from the source code.
React relies on components native for both iOS and Android through a special API it features. As a result, developers operate elements from external UI kits, identical across each platform and updated simultaneously with it. Yet, this asset is of doubtful value since it turns UI development into a complex and time-consuming endeavor requiring from UI/UX designers awareness of native interface components.
Flutter adopts a different approach grounded on the reactive programming paradigm. It boils down to providing a vast collection of visual, interactive, structural, and platform widgets which developers can utilize, modify and even enrich by creating new ones. Another perk of Flutter in this aspect is its pixel rendering capability which ensures the same UI of the app, no matter on what screen size it is viewed or how old the version of the operating system the device runs on.
Flutter vs React Native performance
Speed is one of the most crucial reasons why Flutter app development is gaining ever-increasing traction nowadays. How does the framework achieve it? The success recipe is the Skia C++ engine employed by Flutter. Since it contains everything it needs for an app’s operation, building bridges to the native components (like React does) is needless. The absence of this intermediary link explains Flutter apps' higher development speed and spectacular performance. It is the amazing 120 frames per second in Flutter-supporting devices and the solid 60 FPS for all others.
Moreover, when you scroll down during a Flutter app's functioning, it never cuts or hangs. This benefit is provided by the Skia Graphics Library, that redraws the interface each time the view is altered. Besides, during the development process, the tool leaves alone the data of the UI elements whose view remains unaffected. The outcome is a lightning-fast app in comparison to which React Native products are slow-plodding snails.
While manual testing for any app type is conducted on the same footing, the automated QA procedure is significantly different for Flutter and React Native apps, and Flutter has the upper hand here. The reason is the wide gamut of testing tools and features the Flutter SDK offers to perform comprehensive testing of the solution on all levels (widget, unit, and integration). Plus, you can always refer to Flutter's plentiful documentation to accompany the testing through every stage.
React Native is everything Flutter is not. It doesn’t officially support (to say nothing of providing) any testing tools, so QA engineers have to involve third-party software and rely on their savvy and instinct while conducting the checking.
The hot reload feature available in Flutter enables developers to iterate the code quickly, thus facilitating debugging. Moreover, Flutter offers an in-built debugging capability that allows for the swift identification and doctoring of inadequacies. It takes some time to get used to, but once it is done, the debugging proceeds like there's no tomorrow.
Despite the fact that React Native apps have more visible code, which improves their accessibility, debugging them is more difficult, what with the slow performance and the lack of some features on certain platforms.
Flutter or React Native: A Recap
Out of ten parameters along which we compared React Native and Flutter, the latter framework has the edge in six, trailing React only in app size, installation complexity, and spread of the basic programming language (in popularity and community, it is a tie). And the aspects where Flutter reigns supreme (UI, performance, setup, testing, and debugging) are mission-critical for the quality of the app, too.
Of course, it doesn't mean that React Native is a worthless technology doomed to extinction any time soon. Both frameworks are cutting-edge tools instrumental for building top-notch cross-platform apps. Yet, if you aim to quickly create a high-performance solution with a brand-first design, Flutter is your natural choice.
Anyway, to pick the most suitable tool for any particular mobile app project, you should consult vetted professionals in the niche. The specialists of Requestum have sufficient skills and experience to recommend the proper framework and build a cross-platform app of any complexity that will please you with seamless operation, exquisite UI design, and an affordable price tag.
Planning to launch a mobile app, companies want to maximize their customer reach. Cross-platform products are second-to-none solutions in this respect since they can be run on devices powered by any operating system. To build such an app, you should employ special frameworks, among which Flutter and React Native are the most widely used. Both tools are state-of-the-art products possessing unquestionable fortes, yet Flutter has the upper hand in the majority of pivotal aspects. That said, the ultimate choice of a framework for a specific project should be entrusted to a seasoned IT vendor competent in this field of expertise.