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React Native vs Flutter: A Comparison

React Native vs Flutter: A Comparison

Currently, the two most popular frameworks for building cross-platform mobile apps are React Native and Flutter. These titans are supported by Facebook and Google, two of the largest tech businesses in the world.

Presently, there are more than 6.0 billion mobile users worldwide, and 42% of developers will pick Flutter over React when creating apps, according to Statista. Cordova, the third most popular framework, is only selected by 16% of users. Flutter has been used by more than 2 million developers, and 500,000 of them do so each month. Although the numbers are incredibly impressive, many of them depend on how popular mobile apps are with users.

What Is React Native?

The Facebook-developed mobile programming framework React Native was made public in 2015. Using React Native, developers can create a multi-platform application that works on desktops, mobiles, and the web. React Native lowers the entry level threshold for JavaScript developers by making it comparatively easy to create cross-platform applications with a codebase written in JavaScript.

What Is Flutter?

The Flutter cross-platform user interface framework was developed by Google. Since its original release in May 2017, Flutter's popularity has continuously increased. With Flutter, businesses just need to maintain one codebase when developing apps for many platforms. As a result, the amount of time and resources involved in developing and maintaining the software is greatly decreased.

The Differences Between React Native and Flutter

React Native and Flutter share many similarities, but they are also quite different in a handful of key ways.

Programming Language

React Native uses JavaScript as its programming language, which means it transforms JavaScript components into native components. This makes it easy for web developers to adapt quickly to React Native for mobile app development.

Flutter uses a language called Dart, which is older and not widely used. Dart has an object-oriented class-based system.

Documentation

Both Flutter and React Native have high quality documentation materials. This makes the development of apps simple for programmers.

React Native's documentation is less well-organized because it also includes community-developed dependent libraries.

Flutter has documentation that is well produced, organized, and comprehensive. In contrast, React Native's documentation requires some explanation.

Project Size

Applications built using React Native have a JavaScript runtime environment. Although they often have larger build sizes, Hermes and ProGuard can be enabled in React Native to decrease their size. However, Flutter apps typically have bigger file sizes. Flutter apps' increased build sizes tend to occupy more space.

Comparison: React Native Vs. Flutter

Next, we’ll compare React Native with Flutter, explore what makes each framework so special, and discover why they’re so highly sought after. The comparison will be based on the following:

  • Performance
  • Libraries and Packages
  • Community
  • File Structure

Performance

It's difficult to say whether a Flutter or React Native app performs better. There are numerous aspects to take into account, like the type of app, codebase, animations, transitions, app size, layout, data passing, the end user's phone, and more. Therefore, it won't be the same for every app. Both frameworks use hot reloading, which speeds up development by allowing you to see changes immediately.

In contrast, the Dart code used by Flutter is directly translated into C, which is as close to native as you can get. No bridges are necessary for Flutter code to communicate with native code. It’s safe to believe that this would result in improved performance, giving Flutter an edge over React Native. However, recently, JavaScript bridges (which communicate with the native code and bridge them, slowing app performance) were replaced with JavaScript Interface in React Native's new architecture to address the performance issue (JSI). Without utilizing bridges, JSI enables developers to call the native module directly.

With the help of their developer and user communities, Flutter and React Native are both continually enhancing their performance. As far as overall performance though, Flutter actually narrowly prevails right now.

Community

Both the Flutter and React Native communities are thriving, with numerous conferences, hackathons, and events taking place every year.

It’s impossible to overstate the breadth of the community and available communication avenues where you can interact with professionals and get help with your development-related questions.

Here is a comparison of each tool's most popular communication routes in more detail:

As the table above shows, the Flutter community has expanded more than the React Native community. This is significant since it indicates that more problems are being actively fixed by Flutter developers. By looking at closed GitHub issues, you can get a sense of the speed and attentiveness with which unresolved issues reported by developers are being handled.

Statistical Comparison

N/B: Data/Information shown below is from Statista, Stack Overflow Survey, and Google Trends.

According to Statista's most recent study, Flutter will be the top cross-platform mobile development framework in 2021. React Native falls short of Flutter by 4% (42% versus 38% for Flutter). However, it's accurate to say that both technologies are being used almost equally. Hopefully, their statistics for 2022 will be out soon.

Cross-platform mobile frameworks employed by developers worldwide in 2019, 2020, and 2021. Source: Statista

We know that, as of 2021, Flutter was leading the race for, “cross-platform mobile framework used by developers” on Statista. In addition, the recently conducted Stack Overflow Survey is more current and includes both frameworks, and it includes 2022 statistics as well.

According to the results of the Stack Overflow Survey, in terms of usage and popularity, Flutter was on the verge of surpassing React Native as of 2021. With 0.96%, React Native was taking precedence over Flutter during the year 2021:

Currently, in 2022, Flutter has overthrown React Native in the popularity contest. This survey shows that Flutter technology has now taken the lead.

In the Stack Overflow Survey 2022, Flutter beat React Native in the category "Most Popular Technology - Other Frameworks."

A close race between the two is evident from data shown in Google Trends. In April 2020, Flutter overtook React Native for the first time in over two years, and it has maintained that position through 2022.

  • Worldwide React Native (blue) and Flutter (red) quality trend (2019–2022). Source: Google Trends.

File Structure

The code structure in this part should look extremely familiar if you’ve used React for the web. Similar to how React projects are set up, React Native projects follow the same architecture:

The widget-based architecture of Flutter is highly distinctive when compared to conventional programming paradigms. Once you understand how it operates, it becomes automatic.

When to Apply Each Framework

React Native and Flutter are both efficient for fast styling and easy mobile app development. However, it’s best to know when to use the different frameworks in developing a project.

Use React Native When:

  • You want to transition back and forth from a web application to a mobile application and have a single tech stack.
  • You have a JavaScript team that is knowledgeable about your current assets and utilizes the plug-ins, modules, and widgets from the npm repository.
  • You need to locate a team of React Native engineers quickly (unlike Flutter developers, who are currently harder to find).

Use Flutter When:

  • Financial resources are limited (no need to have multiple teams for native Android and iOS development).
  • You have a tight deadline and must quickly deliver a product.
  • You want pixel-perfect designs and other elements that make a superb UI.
  • A cross-platform experience (mobile, desktop, etc.) is required.

Conclusion

There is no clear winner in this contest; both Flutter and React Native have advantages and disadvantages, and the best option relies on your development background as well as the objectives and specifications of your project. It makes sense to write mobile apps in React Native if you’re already familiar with JavaScript. However, you might want to think about giving Flutter a shot if you're hoping for improved performance, stability, and a more harmonious environment amongst ecosystems.

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