App Technology Basics: Flutter vs React Native

You want to develop a mobile app? That’s great, but getting started and understanding the technologies involved can be daunting.

Deciding what language to develop your app in is a vital early-stage step in the process of getting an idea turned into a fully operating product. Getting this right here could save you time and money down the line.

The Background

You’ll almost certainly want your app to be used on both Android and iOS devices. The issue with this is that the operating systems have different ‘native’ tools for developers. iOS uses Swift, and Android developers will use Java to get the job done. 

This means that the workload is essentially doubled. You need developers that are familiar with both code bases, and it could take double the time and budget to get your app made.

The benefit of developing apps natively is that they are fully optimized for performance on that platform. They’ll run faster and smoother than on any other code base.  Obviously though, for a budget or time conscious project this is inefficient. The good news is that there are some solutions for this.

The Solution

Cross-platform app development technologies could be what you need. Flutter, maintained by Google, and Facebook’s React Native are the two big ones.

They allow you to develop the app in a single ‘language’ which gets compiled down into native code for both iOS and Android. This saves you from the hassle of developing in two languages. 

Consider React Native as the big brother of the two. It’s been around for longer, and it has a large community behind it. Flutter is the up-and-comer. Google released it in 2017 and it has gained a lot of traction since.

So let’s compare the two.

 

The big plus for React Native is its popularity. React Native development is very similar to React development, so developers who know React can easily learn React Native. React Native also uses JavaScript as their cross-platform coding language. Since JavaScript is used by most web developers, the transition to using React Native for app development is relatively simple and has resulted in a huge influx of JavaScript app developers, making them easy to find and cost-effective if you need to fix bugs, update your app or make changes down the line. You won’t struggle to find a React Native developer to do this for you at a comparatively reasonable price. 

Since Flutter is more recently released, developers that can handle Dart (Flutter’s coding language) are slightly harder to find, and likely more expensive. This will change as Flutter is continuously gaining in popularity, but for the moment, if price and ease are your two main considerations – React Native should be your go-to.

Flutter has its advantages too though. Flutter’s architecture is more robust, with many native components making up their framework. When compared to React Native, it requires less ‘bridges’ to communicate with native modules. Therefore it runs faster, and has a higher overall performance than React Native. If optimum performance is your only goal, Flutter has the edge. Flutter allows you to control every pixel of your development, making for a faster app, where React Native can be restricted to something of a template. 

Apps created using Flutter will look exactly the same on both iOS and Android, but those created on React Native will look slightly different. Using buttons as an example, apps created through React Native will have buttons that look like native buttons on iOS and Android respectively, whereas the look and feel of Flutter-made apps can deviate from this and create uniform buttons on both platforms. There is no real winner or loser here though, it’s more a case of preference.

Flutter is currently only available for mobile apps, but it’s a longer term plan for Flutter to use its code base for Web Apps too. Currently React Native developers are able to use the relatively similar React for Web Apps.

The Conclusion

There are pros and cons with both languages, and developers will have different problems no matter which tool you decide to use for your project. Thankfully, though there are always workarounds and both solutions will create something very close to the app you imagine. What do we recommend? At the moment we generally recommend React Native for our projects. The efficiency, cost saving and ease of finding developers for fixes and updates down the line at the moment just outweigh the higher performance and flexibility of the Flutter platform. Stay tuned though, Flutter is fast catching up on its big brother.   Speak to a member of the team at Elko. As experts, we’d be happy to advise on what platform is best for your particular project. Even better, the unique Elkos’s app builder can take your app idea from concept to deliver in as little as two weeks – at a fraction of the cost.

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