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React Native vs Hybrid for mobile apps : Which Is Really Better?

In the world of mobile app development, we’re always looking for shorter development cycles, quicker time to deployment, and better app performance. With two operating systems dominating the landscape, businesses creating mobile apps often face a compromise: apps that provide a better user experience, or apps that are faster to develop and run on more platforms and devices? Before diving in the React Native vs hybrid, let’s briefly remind ourselves what native and hybrid apps are.

  • Hybrid apps are essentially websites embedded in a mobile app through what we call a webview. They are developed using HTML5, CSS, and Javascript and execute the same code regardless of the platform in which they run. They can, with tools like PhoneGap and Cordova, use the native features of a device, like GPS or camera.
  • Native apps are developed in the language required by the platform it targets Objective-C or Swift for iOS, Java for Android etc. The code written is not shared across platforms and their behavior varies. They have direct access to all features offered by the platform without any restriction.

React Native vs Hybrid

React Native Hybrid
Write once, run everywhere The goal of RN is not to provide a way to write once and run everywhere. Rather, they want developers to use the components which best follow the native behaviors of the platform. A typical hybrid app will run the same code regardless of the platform, and that is what Hybrid is capable of doing. However, in order to feel more “native”, Ionic will adapt a few of its behaviors according to the platform.
The Language stack React Native is based on the Javascript framework React and, thus, uses Javascript code that resembles HTML but essentially isn’t—they call it JSX. With that, the display logic is blended in with the business logic. Hybrid is a framework based on Angular, a Javascript framework. It uses HTML templates for its views. It is in line with the Mode-View-Controller pattern as views and logic are clearly separated.
Testing during development With React Native you see the result of your modifications as you make them. No need to recompile, rebuild, etc.; the result is instant in an emulator or a real device. Pretty amazing! you can instantly preview your app in your browser and mobile devices. It instantly refreshes as you make changes to your application.
Plugins and Community A lot of plugins are already available on NPM for React Native. There’s even a plugin to use PhoneGap/Cordova plugins, which means that you instantly inherit the hundreds of mature plugins from the other community. PhoneGap and Cordova have been around for a while so there is a high chance that a plugin already exists to expose the native feature you need in your webview. They also have a marketplace where developers sell and offer Ionic plugins.
 Developer experience React Native renders native views, no Webview here. This means, all the browser compatibility issues go away. You can focus on more important things rather than wasting hours or days fixing bugs.  Building a hybrid app means, you automatically inherit all the issues that the web has. All those pesky bugs which only appear in one browser, all those different styles working differently across different browsers, believe me, it’s hard, really hard.
 User experience Since all views are Native, the performance will be much better, and you get the Native feel with super smooth animations, just how you want it to be. And since React Native is just a library bundled with your app A major problem with hybrid apps is performance. The web was originally built for web pages, not the complex apps we make today. On high-end phones, a hybrid app is probably going to run just fine, though not as smooth as you would want, but it’s OK. Things get worse with low-end phones, though, and there are tons of people with low-end phones.

 

Why do people even make Hybrid apps?

For most of the startups, the resources are limited and the time window is shorter. They want to reach more people in a shorter period of time, and without having to spend tons to get experienced Android/iOS developers (which tend to be very expensive), when they are just starting out.
Hybrid-Sign
A hybrid approach is tempting. By building a hybrid app, you’re able to reach more people, as you can have a web client, an Android client, and an iOS client, all with the same codebase, plus some code for Native integration. In addition to it, web apps have a much faster iteration cycle. And you don’t have to wait for weeks to get the update approved in the App store. But there are several problems with the hybrid approach. Both users as well as developers, suffer.

Not everything is perfect

React Native sounds too good to be true. There must be some tradeoffs, right?

Yeah, React Native is relatively new. Even though Facebook uses it in their production apps e.g. — Facebook Ads Manager, there are still lots of unresolved issues. Fortunately, React Native is Open Source. So, anyone can try to fix bugs and send pull requests. They are very open to contributions from the community, so we’re in luck.

  • Since many browser APIs are poly filled, they might be slightly inconsistent with the browser version. Many useful browser APIs might not be available at all. For example, Facebook doesn’t use WebSockets, so it’s a community responsibility to add WebSocket support.
  • As all network APIs are poly filled, the network traffic doesn’t appear in Chrome developer tools. So debugging network traffic can become a bit harder.
  • Some things might get confusing for newcomers. For example, the Navigator component which handles history and screen transitions is poorly documented. But once you get it, it’s super simple.
  • There is also an issue, where Animations drop frames if you’re not deferring the rendering until the animation is complete, as they run in the same thread as JavaScript. It’s pretty easy to fix, but might be confusing at first.
  • Keyboard handling is another issue which can be confusing. You need to listen to keyboard events and manually add a spacer below the input box if it is attached to the bottom.

Conclusion

I can’t tell you which is better because I firmly believe that it depends on many factors: you, your project, your user requirements, the acquired skills of your team, etc. They both do different things, and both do it well. It’s like comparing an Xbox and a Playstation, MacOS and Windows, a car and a motorcycle. Neither is better than the other.

However, I can tell you which one I prefer. It is React Native. I personally value the native rendering more than the rest. To me, apps need to be extremely fast and responsive, and in React Native, I have found a good compromise between writing pure native applications, or pure hybrid apps.

Now, my best advice to you is to try them out both, pick one, and make the best out of it!

References

For further reading

Is React Native a good choice for developing consumer or business mobile app?

Well ! As the ways of developing an app are changing these days, it provides useful and user-centric apps to businesses and organizations for improving their business presence through a mobile app. These all changes are possible due to the presence of various cutting-edge tools, platforms, and frameworks. These all things have brought ease and convenience for developers and designers to create incredibly potential mobile apps. The React Native is one of the new entrances in the mobile app development platform. It is a cross-platform app framework created by Facebook. It allows developers to use JavaScript in order to create mobile apps for both Android and iOS that look, feel, and are native.

React Native enables you to build world-class application experiences on native platforms using a consistent developer experience based on JavaScript and React. The focus of React Native is on developer efficiency across all the platforms you care about – learn once, write anywhere. So in few words, we can define ReactNative as:

  • It is a framework for mobile development
  • Responsible for building native mobile application
  • Provides basic set of components for mobile platforms
  • Uses ReactJs to build mobile app components

Benefits of React Native

There are many advantages for using React Native Framework but most effective are listed below

  • Code Reusability: Allow you to write some basic UI code that can be shared together with all the logic. Having the capacity to share the code is in good interest for many reasons like- better usage of human resources, less code to maintain, less possibility of bugs and much more.
  • Effective Developer Experience: With React Native it is not necessary to re-compile the entire rebuilt application every time you make a change, simply choose Cmd+R and refresh, like refreshing the browser to reflect the changes saving a lot of re-compilation time.
  • Declarative API: It allows you to consider only the current UI state without keeping track of the older ones.
  • Easy Reloading: It removes the need for recompilation of the application each time a change has been made. All that is required to see changes implemented in the code, is to refresh the app in the simulator, emulator, or device.
  • Cross Platform: It means that you need to write the code once and use it on multiple platforms like iOS, Android etc.
  • Open Source: It is open source and so, there is a big community of developers helping to implement more features, fix bugs, and help people.

Benefits of Native App

Native apps are smartphone applications written specifically for a particular device. iPhone apps are written in Obj-C or Swift while Android apps are written in Java.

  • Faster: Since native apps work with the device’s built-in features, they are easier to work with and also perform faster on the device.
  • Quality: While other methods can achieve greatness, native applications have the opportunity to be set apart. Greater chance your app will not get rejected due to poor user experience because the native app uses their native hardware’s feature to run the app.
  • Aspect Ratio: Apps developed for tablets can’t be used for phones and vice versa. Not just the aspect ratios are different, but dpi also vary from one device to another. All these differences can completely change how should an app look and workUsing Obj-C or Java gives you more control on the size, resolution and even orientation.
  • Native Look and Feel: We love being at home. Your application feels like it belongs to your device. Native apps feel and look like default apps, and users quickly get used to specific icons and button. Mobile apps that try to produce that old look again often appear worse because of unnatural valley effect.

Native or React Native?

Every framework has their pros and cons like – As React Native is new, it is not very perfect yet and it still has some bugs. There are still some features that are available in the native frameworks that have not been exposed to React Native.So, sometimes, developers can be stuck when diving deeper. On the other hand, Native is time-consuming and more costly due to high maintenance of multiple code bases. It may require more developers with experience in each framework to maintain.

In order to decide if you want to develop a native app or React Native app, you need to consider the following points:

  • your existing coding skills,
  • the purpose of your app,
  • the longevity of the project.
  • How important speed and performance would be, to you
  • If you would like your app to include any device-specific features
  • Your budget, vs. the estimated cost of developing your app

Conclusion

Though, React Native is following the write once and run anywhere, it would be proved to be a successful solution if you are building an app for any social group, eCommerce business etc. but, not any graphic specific app like- game because it can make your app slow and less responsive.

So, if you are new in the mobile development, I would recommend you to start with android native instead of React Native if you want to particularly develop android apps. As it will help you to understand the background knowledge of the Android which is required for any android app development otherwise you can be stuck in some problems which are related to the underlying platform. Especially, when your app targets many android API versions. I hope this article helped you in deciding which platform will suit you most for your app development. 🙂

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References

React Native

Facebook React

Further Reading