The Times


Benefits of React Native for Mobile App Development

In a sentence, React Native is a JavaScript framework that enables developers to build natively-rendered mobile applications for both iOS and Android platforms.

Let’s unpack a few of those terms.

JavaScript is one of the most widely used programming languages. It is commonly used to create dynamic, interactive effects within websites. HTML and CSS are often talked about alongside JavaScript. While HTML is responsible for the structure of a website and CSS informs stylistic elements, JavaScript turns a static page into an interactive one.

A framework is a platform that enables you to develop a software product — whether that’s a website or an application.

The term ‘natively-rendered mobile app’ refers to an application that has been built using a specific coding language for a specific platform. Using Objective C for iOS application development is an example of a native mobile app. The advantage of native apps is that they tend to run very quickly and provide a good user experience. The opposite of a native app is a hybrid app or a cross-platform app — one application that can be downloaded to iOS, Windows or Android platforms. Technically speaking, an app built using React Native is a hybrid app but it provides the experience of a native app.

React Native was developed and released by Facebook in 2015. Many of the world’s most popular apps use the framework, including Facebook, Skype, and Instagram.

Benefits of React Native

Despite being only seven year old, React Native has quickly risen to become a very popular framework amongst mobile app development teams. There are a number of reasons for this.

Audience: Many people don’t realise that Android occupies a far greater percentage of the smartphone market share than iOS. The Android operating system currently accounts for 71.59 percent of all smartphones while iOS comes in at 27.68 percent.

You can see that choosing to build an app for one platform over the other will reduce your potential audience by at least a quarter. Using React Native, you don’t have to pick between Android and iOS application development. You also don’t have to waste time researching your target audience and their smartphone habits.

Reusable code: Building a mobile application takes time and resources. If you choose to build separate native Android and iOS apps, you can expect to double that expense and manpower. The benefit of using React Native is the fact that you can build one codebase for both platforms, saving you considerably.

Future-proof: It’s often hard to predict trends in tech. While Android currently occupies the majority of the smartphone market share, who knows what the next decade could bring. By using the React Native framework to build your app, you’ll be safeguarding the software for many years into the future.

Hot reload: This benefit affects the development process itself rather than the end-product. The React Native framework has a ‘hot’ reloading feature that enables designers and developers to quickly visualise changes they have made to the software.

Community access: React Native is what’s known as ‘open-source software’ meaning it’s built and maintained by a community of developers. Anyway can join this community and contribute their thoughts and skills to the continually evolving product. As such, if your developers run into any difficulty building your app, it’s fairly simple for them to resolve a problem.

Potential disadvantages

Since we have covered the benefits of using React Native, it’s only fair that we briefly touch on the potential disadvantages of using this framework.

Whilst the vast majority of developers will find React Native to be an intuitive framework, some may prefer to use other platforms, for the following reasons:

Maturity: React Native has come a long way since its release in 2015. However, it is only seven years old and there are improvements that still need to be made.

Difficult to debug: Some developers have reported experiencing difficulties while attempting to debug applications built using React Native. While it’s certainly possible, expect it to take a little longer than it does for native applications.

Should I use React Native?

If you’re planning to build a mobile app, you might be wondering whether React Native is the right choice of framework for you.

As outlined, there are several advantages to using cross-platform technology. Ultimately, however, this question can only be answered by a mobile app development professional — someone who has first-hand understanding of what you are trying to achieve and how best to bring your application to life from a technical perspective. A developer may even recommend using another type of cross-platform framework, like Flutter.

If you want an innovative app that can be accessed by as diverse an audience as possible and is likely to remain accessible for many years to come, there’s no doubt that React Native may be the solution for you.

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