The ultimate Showdown: Flutter VS React-Native

The ultimate Showdown: Flutter VS React-Native

Which should you pick in 2023?


10 min read

Hello hello, hello everybody! Welcome to yet another insightful blog. Your dilemma and search for the best framework ends here! Today, we are gonna pit Flutter and React Native against each other and see which one of them is the right choice for you! Make sure you read the entire blog to get a comprehensive understanding so you can make the right decision. Let's get started!

What are these Frameworks?

Flutter and React Native are both frameworks that are popularly known for building cross-platform applications.

Why is this important? Traditionally, you need different languages and different codebases to build a single app for different platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows etc. You would need Swift for iOS, Kotlin for Android and so on. So, at an enterprise level, you need two teams to get the job done. Now, if you had to push a feature to the app that's on both iOS and Android, You need both teams to work on their codebases and push it.

This is where frameworks like Flutter and React Native come into play. These frameworks allow teams or a developer to build an application across multiple platforms from within a single codebase. You don't have to learn native languages for it too. But instead, you use Javascript for React-Native and Dart for Flutter. So, it makes it a lot easier. Sweet right?

A subconscious point that needs to be acknowledged is that you need to learn just one language now instead of 2 or more for building an app across multiple platforms. So, the learning effort is reduced.

Now, if both are doing a pretty good job, How do they differ and which one is the right fit for you? Let's find out👇🏻

What is Flutter?

Flutter is both an SDK (software development kit) and a framework for Dart( a programming language developed by Google). Flutter itself is also developed by the Google team.

The idea behind Flutter is that you write Dart code which can be compiled to native code that runs on the target device. You use Dart + the Flutter framework to build user interfaces composed of so-called widgets. Flutter ships with a bunch of pre-configured widgets (buttons, tabs etc) and you typically use these to then also build your own, more complex widgets.

What is React-Native?

React Native is a technology or framework developed by Facebook.

It uses JavaScript and the React library to allow you to build beautiful user interfaces composed of React components. A good understanding of Javascript and React is a must-have in my opinion.

Important: Unlike in "normal" React apps built for the browser, you'll NOT use HTML tags. Instead, you'll use a set of pre-built components which will be compiled to native code by the React Native toolchain.

You're still able to use packages like Redux and knowing JavaScript and React of course allows you to quickly get started with React Native, too.

Which is the best?

The comparison of these two frameworks is not sp indifferent from that of React vs Angular vs Vue, There are different factors and aspects that need to be considered, so Let's just get to it👇🏻

  1. Write Once, Use anywhere

What does this mean? As mentioned earlier, you can build apps for multiple platforms within a single codebase. But how much code you write can actually be re-used for those multiple platforms?

Let me elaborate, You can build for multiple platforms using a single codebase but you need either re-use the code or write a different piece of code for that, maybe because you want the component to look different on the other platforms🤷🏻‍♂️.

In this case, Flutter allows you to write more reusable code when compared to React Native. Both of them provide widgets or components that can be used cross-platform but the components provided by React Native are more basic and often need to be styled by you. Flutter supports widgets that can be more reusable and styled more effectively across platforms.

Even if you have to adjust some code to the underlying platform, the question is: How complex is that adjustment? Do you have to learn different language features for the different platforms and adjustments? In this case, It is honestly a tie between the two.

  1. Pre-styled Widget/Components Library

How easy is it to build beautiful UIs? Do you have to create and style a lot of components (UI elements) on your own or do you have a rich suite of pre-built ones? Are the components adapting to the underlying platform automatically?

In this case, Flutter is a better option than react native as Flutter has a more comprehensive set of pre-styled widgets for multiple platforms. They continue to push new widgets in iOS style too. So, the use and adjustments required per platform are way less as compared to React Native.

Do not get me wrong, React Native has a decent set of components pre-styled or provided to you but you need to style them by yourself.

You can also check out my article on Flutter widgets here.

  1. Community and Third-Party Support

In this case, React Native is superior to Flutter as it has very good community support and a lot of packages and third-party libraries already available and add any missing functionalities. Flutter on the other hand is prominently gaining growth and traction. The community is growing and constantly putting efforts to make it better.

But how popular are these frameworks? Flutter is backed by Google and React Native is backed by Facebook. Both are growing at a fast pace. While react native seems to be winning for now, there is a drawback I have observed, if you hop into React Native repo and watch the discussions, the developers are not loving it. There seem to be issues or flaws that are bothering but the community is trying to fix them.

  1. Performance

Performance is one of the most important factors to consider when building an app. Because let's face it, the user cannot be retained without good performance. And guess what? Both of them provide nearly identical performance. They are not lagging behind each other. The way the code is compiled, deployed and more, the performance of the application built across different applications is pretty much the same. Sure, if you nitpick 'ms' or across various platforms and heavy load test cases, you might find one performing a little better than the other.

When the performance is this identical, You will not be wrong or disappointed by picking either of them as they both provide really good performance.

  1. Documentation

Documentation is a developer's best friend. It allows us to learn, implement and debug too. Great documentation allows one to easily get started with the technology.

Flutter has amazing documentation, Really well organised and structured. It is one of the best documentation I have worked with. React Native has good documentation too but as I mentioned above, there are some flaws. But, React Native has been here for longer than Flutter. So the resources available to learn are relatively more.

  1. Accessing Native device features

The Flutter team put a lot of effort into providing official packages for some of the most common native device features you need access to. There also is a very vibrant ecosystem and hence you find a package for pretty much any native feature you might want to access. You can also write and connect real native code if you need to.

On the other hand, React Native, Being the most popular solution, you find a rich set of third-party packages as well as some built-in APIs for accessing native platform functionalities.

Both of them offer great support for accessing native device features or code, so you won't go wrong by picking either of them but I would choose Flutter simply because of the amazing community support it has.

  1. Industry or Real-world Usage

It is great that you want to use a certain framework but how does the industry feel about it? How companies are feeling about it? Which companies or sectors are using them? Is it growing?

On one hand, we have Flutter which is relatively new but already major apps like BMW app, GooglePay, and Alibaba are using it to build their apps. More and more companies are jumping onto Flutter now to build their solutions.

On the other hand, we have React Native which is also being massively adapted and companies like Facebook, Skype, Instagram, Tesla, Uber Eats etc are already using React Native to build their apps.

Both of these frameworks are in good demand and continue to grow and be adopted more.

  1. Development Speed

Both of them are known for fast development speed. But, flutter in particular is well-known for its fast development cycle because it uses a "hot reload" feature that allows developers to see changes in the app's code almost instantly. This means that developers can make changes and see the results in real time, which can significantly speed up the development process. Additionally, Flutter has a widget-based architecture that allows developers to easily create custom UI elements, which can further speed up development.

On the other side, React Native also has a fast development cycle, thanks to its "live reload" feature, which allows developers to see changes in the app's code almost instantly. While it may not be as fast as Flutter's "hot reload" feature, it still allows developers to make changes quickly and efficiently. Additionally, React Native has a large community of developers, which means that there are many third-party libraries and tools available that can help speed up development.

If I had to pick one, Flutter is superior to React Native in this case.

  1. App size

While this is a factor often overlooked, it is still a factor that needs to be factored into our decision.

In general, Flutter apps have a larger file size compared to React Native apps because Flutter uses its own rendering engine and widget library, which are bundled with the app. This can result in larger app sizes, especially for smaller apps that don't have a lot of features.

On the other hand, React Native apps have a smaller file size because the framework uses the native components of the platform, which are already installed on the user's device. This can result in smaller app sizes, especially for larger apps that have more features.

For most apps and better user experience, Smaller app size is the way to go, so React Native is a better choice there. But if you want an app that is heavy and needs a large space anyways, Either will do fine.

Which is the right choice for you?

Here's the thing about choosing the right framework. There are three ways this can be answered:

  • If you're a complete beginner who has no programming knowledge whatsoever and this is going to be your first time. Then I personally recommend you go with Flutter. Simply because of the fact that it has less learning effort, a lower curve and amazing community support that is super friendly.

  • If you're someone who wants to build applications that are super good and completely native with super custom looks, Amazing performance, UX and more. Then these frameworks are out of the equation. What you need to learn is Native app development languages as per your platform like Swift for iOS

My take: Why do you even wanna pick a framework? I swear you can literally close your eyes and pick one of these frameworks, learn and build amazing apps using either of them. As a good software engineer or developer, your job is to build solutions. You need to assess the requirements of your app or team and just pick a framework based on your app and requirements. You need to be agile and work with any framework and language.

Hypothetically speaking, there might be a groundbreaking framework released by Apple down the line, What will you do then? You need to be able to just pick that up too and use it if that serves as a good fit to your requirements.

While the frameworks vary, their ability to output an application that works well is relatively the same, Stop comparing and start learning, building and excelling.

Wonder how you can learn any tech stack or language the right way? I already wrote a blog about it that can you can check out here.

Closing remarks

Being a software engineer or developer is more than just code. Stay tuned for more!

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