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Flutter vs React Native – What to Choose in 2020?

With each and every passing day, thousands of apps are added to the mobile application space. Lots and lots of reports from relevant sources how the app downloads increased by 9% in 2018, smartphone users spent USD 100 billion on apps the same year and many more similar facts. And, talking about cross-platform apps, their market already crossed the USD 7.5 billion mark in 2018. Wait! Why we are focusing so much on the 2018 statistics?

It is because it was in 2018 that Google launched Flutter, an open-source cross-platform development framework which in no time became a stiff competitor for the other existing and popular frameworks like React Native (launched in 2015 by Facebook). At the time of writing this post, Flutter has acquired 87,200 at Github as compared to 85,100 stars claimed by React Native.

The competition is indeed tough and it can be difficult to choose between React Native and Flutter app development. The most obvious way to make the choice is by comparing the two on the basis of the most relevant aspects. That’s what you are about to read.

Before that, Let’s Just Look at Their Similarities

Both are open-source platforms for cross-platform mobile app development and use common features like hot reload (better known as live reload among React Native Developers). What does that mean? Hot Reload allows the developers to instantly see the changes made in the code without requiring renewing the application. It allows faster coding and development and easy bugs-fixing.

Both React Native and Flutter support the concept of one codebase for multiple mobile platforms (Android and iOS) which means exactly similar apps available for the users of each of these platforms. This type of coding also reduces the amount of testing almost by half. It is because of the conveniences of writing fewer tests for different mobile platforms.

Talking about popularity, both frameworks empower many well-known apps. While Flutter app development is behind the success of Google Ads app, Hamilton Broadway Musical App and Xianyu by Alibaba, React Native has given the world the Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest apps among many others. Let’s start with the comparison now!

1. Ease of Learning
From the point of view of a developer, React Native is easier to learn and there is one valid reason behind it that it used JavaScript as the programming language. JavaScript has been around for years and most of the developers are familiar with it. Flutter uses Dart which is relatively newer and many extend the learning graph. However, it doesn’t mean that Dart makes Flutter a difficult framework. Rather it is one aspect of Google’s platform which makes it shine. You would soon learn how.

2. Community Support
When pursuing cross-platform development, the support from the global development community can be a boon for many developers. Considering that React Native was launched much earlier than Flutter, it can be expected to have a vast online community offering support. You can easily get solutions for the issues and difficulties while developing an app.

Having said that, Flutter, because of the rising star it is, has a continuously-growing community of developers and it can be expected to become huge in 2020. So, the lower maturity level in terms of community support should not be that big of a reason to not choose Flutter.

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3. Performance

Let’s revisit Flutter’s Dart. React Native uses JavaScript bridges or JavaScript layer to run the hybrid apps for different mobile platforms. This additional layer is what Flutter app development eliminates by allowing the developers to use and reuse the code which already exists without the need for JavaScript bridges. Flutter compiles to the native code, unlike React Native which refers to the JavaScript layer again and again for compiling. It is one of the few things that make Flutter superior to not just React Native but many other cross-platform application development frameworks.

4. Widgets vs. Third-party Libraries

One of the major contrasts between the two frameworks is the levels up to which they rely on third-party libraries. Google has developed Flutter to contain a number of fantastic widgets and libraries which allow the mobile app development teams to render identical user interfaces for both Android and iOS. React Native, on the other hand, requires the developers to repeatedly refer to the third-party libraries. Needless to say, the difference makes the development work faster for Flutter developers.

The difference also influences the way testing is done while developing apps using the two frameworks. The widget testing support in Flutter indeed makes the task easier and speedier for the developers, while the React Native developers again need to rely on the third-party tools for testing.

5. Documentation Support

Considering that Flutter has the backing of Google, one can expect its documentation support to be far more comprehensive. It really is! The content that Flutter offers is more informative and detailed and can be a great reference resource for the cross-platform development experts. Though React Native doesn’t lack far behind in terms of documentation support, it tends to keep the content more generalized and less to-the-point. Moreover, there is a kind of disorganization in the way the React Native guides are offered to the developers.

6. Few Other Points

Ease of Installation: React Native installation is possible using Node Package Manager which makes the process faster. The Flutter users, however, must perform some extra tasks to install the development kit.

Development Time: The time-to-market with Flutter app development due to the amazing support of widgets. However, you must hire dedicated developers who are experienced in Dart programming to enjoy this benefit. React Native also offers quick development, though the more reliance on native elements and JavaScript bridges may add to the overall time.

CI/CD Support: Flutter boasts of a command line interface (CLI) that allows setting up continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) easily and with fewer efforts. This is where Reach Native lacks behind as it offers no guidance on setting up CI and CD services. Flutter’s command line interface also allows automated app deployment, making it easier to release apps on the specific app stores of different mobile platforms. It is an important requirement in case of cross-platform development and Flutter fulfills it aptly.

7. What Should Be Your Choice?

In 2020, cross-platform apps are going to witness much more acceptance and you really need to be competitive in developing a quality app. Now, the question is which among the two frameworks, Flutter and React Native, would match your needs and desired results. For this, let’s compare them once again on the basis of the benefits that the cross-platform apps offer.

Code Reusability: With the support of widgets, code reusability is much more efficient and result-oriented in the case of Flutter app development.

UI Consistency: Flutter is more acceptable for rendering identical UI designs for the two popular mobile platforms – iOS and Android.

Shorter Time-to-Market: As mentioned earlier, Flutter promises shorter development time and thus is better than React Native in this regard.

Cost-Effectiveness: The development cost may be the same using any of these frameworks. However, it would depend on how experienced the development team is.

Extended Reach: Cross-platform apps always reach a wider audience as compared to the native apps. Again, it would depend on the out-of-box app design you offer.

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Discussion (1)

avneeshd profile image
Avneesh • Edited on

Loved the article, I'm an accomplished react native dev, are you'll looking to hire me as a remote dev? I'm based in Mumbai. Here's my Linkedin: thanks.