Flutter or React Native: a comparative analysis

Flutter or React Native: a comparative analysis

You are about to build a mobile application, but still doubt which app framework you will be using. If that is so, read on!

With cross-platform apps rapidly taking over the market, a new wave of confrontation emerges between two giant mobile app development technologies. The straight reason for the latter is the cuts in time and finances compared to native technologies. Then a fundamental question arises; how to pick between these two, or based on what criteria should the advantage of one over the other be measured? A reasonable answer is defining which framework is suitable for your project. Thus, we have covered a set of questions that can help you end up with the most suitable option for your project.


Cross-platform Development

To choose a suitable framework for you, first, let’s define and understand what cross-platform development is and how it works. Concisely enough, cross-platform development is the process of building software apps adjustable to multiple digital platforms. The best part about cross-platform development is that it requires a single codebase only, sparing you resources for developing a native app or choosing between IOS or Android development.

Note: This article discusses alternative solutions for mobile native apps only. Thus, Flutter will be examined within the boundaries of mobile development only, despite the various features it offers, including web and desktop application design.


React Native Overview

React Native is a cross-platform mobile app framework designed and produced by Facebook. Initially, React Native appeared as a Facebook project for a hackathon back in 2013, but, with it gaining much popularity and advancement, in 2015, it was released as an open-source framework. React Native endows you with the privilege to build mobile software products using JavaScript. Its optimization for mobile devices allows your app to operate smoothly.


Flutter Overview

In 2017 Google released Flutter as a UI kit for cross-platform development composed of tools and a library. In contrast to React Native, the base programming language used for Flutter is Dart. Flutter is yet another open-source technology with its own widgets. It has proven to demonstrate a native-friendly performance. Not only does Flutter offer mobile development solutions but also desktop and web applications.






Earlier, we mentioned that one can't be advantageous over another without definite criteria for precise comparison. So features to consider while choosing the best fit for your app should include but are not limited to the following:


From a programming language standpoint


React Native is written in JavaScript, while Flutter relies on Dart. Considering that Dart is comparably a new language, React Native may take the lead due to its core language, JavaScript, being in use for a longer period, thus, proving to be a simpler technology. But the main difference between these two lies in their technical aspect. The matter is that JavaScript is considered a dynamic and flexible language. Enabling you to make changes to already inserted data and codes, the risk of errors in runtime applications increases, as opposed to Dart, which throws errors while building the app in case, preventing you from runtime troubles.


From performance standpoint


To measure which framework is more performant, let’s first see how it works. To adapt to the native environment, React Native has to use the so-called bridge to convert the original code to the native code. Flutter, on the other hand, solves everything on its own. Moreover, Flutter is compilable to native code, which results in faster and smoother performance. 


From a developer standpoint


Although React Native may leave many bugs in the live product, it still is more flexible for a developer to work: a developer is free to apply his solutions. On the other hand, Flutter libraries keep several functional solutions within bounds as it is yet to expand. React Native has the upper hand here due to its rich open-source library. As for the time spent on coding, both frameworks win as both offer hot reloading: the code is accessible to instant changes. Documentation also plays a significant role from a developer's perspective. In these terms, Flutter offers detailed and neat documentation, while React Native relies on more general materials.


From a maturity and community standpoint


Looking back at the facts, it is no secret that JavaScript showed up sooner. It has been used, tested, and improved for a relatively longer period. It has also given the developers more time to master the techniques. While Flutter is younger and still is to be explored in-depth by many, it still is not to be considered immature as, so far, it has proven its reasonability in the market.

Let’s first confirm that both frameworks are open-source. That provides unlimited resources for both framework users to master the techniques and contribute to their improvement.

Regarding community support, JavaScript is one of the widest-spread programming languages across the globe. And since the base of React Native is core JS and its React library, many prefer to get ahead with React Native. Flutter’s relative unpopularity is consequential to its core language, Dart being less used, unlike JS. However, this does not yet affect a rapidly growing community interest in Flutter.


From UI standpoint


As for simplicity, React Native offers a more simplified and responsive User Interface. First, both for iOS and Android, the UI will look the same. Moreover, the UI created in React Native will look no different than the native as React Native relies on Native components for the interface. There arises a slight risk of a broken UI with Native OS UI updates, so, with all React Native’s advantages in terms of UI, it is at risk of fragility. Flutter’s ready-made widgets turn out to be handy and well-tested, so no extra effort is required for custom widgets. In the meantime, Flutter recreates its own native components, thus proving to be of high reliability.


Is the final word up to my choice?


A nearly accurate answer will be a NO. Again, comparing both frameworks within the boundaries of their mobile functionalities only, the right framework is directly linked to the project you are to build. By now, we have covered the strengths and drawbacks of each framework based on specific criteria, including programming language, performance, developer’s comfort, maturity and community support, and UI. Choose the most optimal framework based on the mentioned criteria, which are to comply with and serve the needs of your project.


Final Thoughts


With all these said, bear in mind that not for all native apps will Flutter and React Native come to help. This, however, does not lessen the native-friendliness and native closeness of both frameworks. Coming to an objectively accurate conclusion on which framework to choose is puzzling, at least for the current times. So the wise decision should lie in pre-calculations of all possible benefits and risks, examining each segment separately, and paying regard to all the predefined product qualities and features.