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React Native and Flutter are the most popular frameworks that developers use today to develop cross-platform mobile apps. However, some confusion persists among developers even now as to which framework to choose for any particular project. React Native was launched in 2015 by Facebook and Flutter in 2017 by Google.
Many factors come into play to help a developer which framework has to be chosen. One is the type of business for which the application is being built and what the different use cases are. Both the frameworks are popular but have their pros and cons.
Whereas similarities between the React Native and Flutter frameworks include single codebase for developing cross-platform apps, hot reloading, great UI and excellent tooling possibilities, there are many differences that exist too. We attempt to provide a detailed comparison between two considering a few criteria so that developers would be able to decide which one to pick.
The programming language
Flutter on the other hand has a layered architecture and any app built on this framework starts with platform-specific widgets followed by basic widgets that interact with the rendering layers and platform.
However, the same problem does not exist in the case of Flutter as there is no need for a bridge to communicate with the native language. A lot of capabilities are tucked into Flutter including other libraries like Cupertino and Material design. This is the reason why Flutter apps tend to be more stable and act predictably when compared to React Native Apps.
Installation and Configuration
React Native’s installation and configuration are simple. The framework’s CLI is installed globally via the command line prompt. However, Yarn and NodeJS are required to be installed prior to this action.
Flutter can be downloaded as the binary on a mobile platform. Next, it has to be added to the path variable via the command line prompt. The installation for Flutter is not as straightforward as it is for React Native.
Documentation and Tools
Flutter is supported by extensive documentation. The guides are laid out in a detailed fashion often accompanied by graphics and tutorials. Flutter Debugger and Inspector are two tools that are available for use by developers.
Because of the bridge, React Native has the capability to render native components this gives it the capability to mimic the look and feel of iOS and Android applications in the apps. It has many building blocks that can be easily used. This is a clear advantage. Among the disadvantages, however, the fact exists that it is tough to build complex UI using React Native. Also, the apps tend to behave unpredictably when installed on different platforms.
Flutter’s UI widgets are packed within with the resulting advantage that it is easy to create apps easily with the native look and feel. The presence of a huge library with widgets negates the need to search for other third-party libraries. Flutter apps behave in a more predictable fashion across different platforms.
Productivity During Development
Code reusability is a significant advantage when considering React Native. The libraries created by other developers for React native also come into good use. This availability of resources also speeds up project development and productivity is high. In this context, the ‘hot reload’ feature is very helpful for developers as it helps to view the changes the code would bring about without recompiling the code.
Flutter also has a ‘hot reload’ feature that allows the programmer to get feedback on what the app would look like. In Flutter, code can be compiled very fast.
Support from Developer Community
Being an open-source framework, React Native has a large community support base though it was launched in the year 2015. Flutter too has a steadily growing community of developers.
Only manual deployment is possible for Apple Store or Google Play delivery of your React Native app. The documentation available for this purpose is not very helpful either. Using a third-party solution such as Bitrise or Fastlane is required for this purpose.
Flutter has sufficient documentation that enables you to deploy either Android or iOS apps by simply using the command-line interface. However, for some advanced functions, third-party solutions are required.
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Flutter, on the other hand, has many testing features for apps at the unit, integration and widget levels. The documentation provides all details about the testing features that are available.
Observations – Flutter vs. React Native
It is easier for developers to start coding in React Native, whereas engineers who have knowledge of C# or Java would prefer Flutter.
With a large library of plugins and widgets, extensive documentation and starter toolkit, Flutter is quite easy even for a beginner. React Native is not so easy to develop from scratch.
If UI is of utmost priority for the app, developers can perhaps use Flutter. If the developer wants universal and complicated code for web, mobile or the desktop, React Native is the way to go.
Do not choose Flutter if your app needs to be smaller than 4 MB. Do not choose React Native if you need high efficiency for calculation tasks.
If your project is large, then choose React Native. For creating MVPs quickly and for UI-centered apps, Flutter should be the choice.
Some of the apps built with React native are Skype, Instagram and Facebook, among others.
Apps built using Flutter are Alibaba, Groupon, and Google ads, among others.
Similarities between React Native and Flutter
Both frameworks offer applications that can be developed for multiple platforms.
Each of these frameworks is supported by a tech giant.
There is updated documentation existing for both the frameworks supported by the communities.
The ‘hot reload’ feature is available in both frameworks.
In addition to offering faster development, which means projects can be delivered on time, both the frameworks allow for reduced project costs.
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Wrapping up, one has to consider many factors when it comes to choosing the framework for cross-platform applications. The budget at hand, the size of the application and platforms, are some of them. Choosing the framework will depend on the individual tasks.
It is important to discuss the application in detail with an experienced team of developers who are conversant in both the frameworks and have varied skillsets when considering cross-platform applications. When discussing the project with developers who have knowledge of only one framework, it may happen that the application will be built using the one they are familiar with.
Whereas more companies are being attracted to Flutter, the future is indeed promising. As far as React Native is concerned, Facebook is focusing on the re-architecture of the framework technology.
However, going by the current popularity levels and that Flutter is a tough competitor for React Native, both the frameworks are likely to stay on for a long time because of the community support, reliability of the frameworks, and promotion by the tech giants backing these frameworks.
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