Flutter and React Native are two of the most popular cross-platform development frameworks on the market. Both of these technologies enable you to develop applications for iOS and Android with a single codebase. However, they’re not entirely interchangeable.
Flutter allows developers to create Material Design-like applications with ease. React Native, on the other hand, has an active community of open source contributors, which means that it can be easily modified to meet almost any standard.
In this blog, we have compared both of these technologies based on popularity, performance, learning curve, community support, and developer mindshare to help you decide which one you can use for your next project.
But before digging into the comparison, let’s have a brief look at both these technologies:
About React Native
React Native has gained the attention of many developers for its ease of use with JS code. Facebook has developed the framework to solve cross-platform application development using React and introduced React Native in their first React.js conference in 2015.
React Native has been adopted by many companies as their preferred technology.
Flutter is an open-source mobile development kit that makes it easy for developers to build high-quality applications for Android and iOS. It has a library with widgets to create the user interface of the application independent of the platform on which it is supported.
Flutter has extended the reach of mobile app development by enabling developers to build apps on any platform without being restrained by mobile development limitations. The framework started as an internal project at Google back in 2015, with its first stable release in 2018.
Let's see what all apps are built using Flutter:
- Google Ads
- Philips Hue
React Native vs. Flutter – An overall comparison
Flutter, on the other hand, is Google's new mobile UI framework. Flutter uses Dart language to write code, compiled to native code for iOS and Android apps.
Both React Native and Flutter can be used to create applications with beautiful graphics and smooth animations.
In the React Native framework, UI elements look native to both iOS and Android platforms. These UI elements make it easier for developers to build apps because they only have to write them once. In addition, many of these components also render natively on each platform. The user experiences an interface that feels more natural and seamless while maintaining the capability to customize the app's look and feel.
Flutter is a toolkit for creating high-performance, high-fidelity mobile apps for iOS and Android. Flutter works with existing code, is used by developers and organizations worldwide, and is free and open source. The standard neutral style is what Flutter offers.
Flutter has its own widgets library, which includes Material Design Components and Cupertino.
The Material package contains widgets that look like they belong on Android devices. The Cupertino package contains widgets that look like they belong on iOS devices. By default, a Flutter application uses Material widgets. If you want to use Cupertino widgets, then import the Cupertino library and change your app's theme to CupertinoTheme.
Flutter and React Native have a very active community of developers. Both frameworks have extensive support and documentation and an active GitHub repository, which means they are constantly being maintained and updated.
With the Flutter community, we can even find exciting tools such as Flutter Inspector or Flutter WebView Plugin. In the case of React Native, Facebook has been investing heavily in this framework. Besides the fact that the development process is entirely open-source, Facebook has created various tools to make the developer's life easier.
Also, the more updates and versions come out, the more interest and appreciation the developer community shows. Let's see how both frameworks stack up when it comes to community engagement.
For React Native
The Facebook community is the most significant contributor to the React Native framework, followed by the community members themselves.
React Native has garnered over 1,162 contributors on GitHub since its launch in 2015. The number of commits (or changes) to the framework has increased over time. It increased from 1,183 commits in 2016 to 1,722 commits in 2017.
This increase indicates that more and more developers are interested in improving React Native.
Moreover, there are over 19.8k live projects where developers share their experiences to resolve existing issues. The official React Native website offers tutorials for beginners who want to get started quickly with developing applications for Android and iOS while also providing advanced users with the necessary documentation.
Also, there are a few other platforms where you can ask your question to the community, meet other React Native developers, and gain new contacts:
- Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/reactnative/
- Stack Overflow: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/react-native
- Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/topics/react-native/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/reactnativecommunity/
- Slack: https://slack.reactnative.community
The Flutter community is smaller than React Native. The main reason is that Flutter is relatively new and is not yet widely used in production apps. But it's not hard to see that its popularity is growing day by day. Flutter has excellent documentation with examples, articles, and tutorials that you can find online. It also has direct contact with its users through channels, such as Stack Overflow and Google Groups.
The community of Flutter is growing at a steady pace with around 662 contributors. The total count of projects being forked by the community is 13.7k, where anybody can seek help for development purposes.
Here are some platforms to connect with other developers in the Flutter community:
- GitHub: https://github.com/flutter
- Google Groups: https://groups.google.com/g/flutter-announce
- Stack Overflow: https://stackoverflow.com/tags/flutter
- Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/FlutterDev/
- Discord: https://discord.com/invite/N7Yshp4
- Slack: https://fluttercommunity.slack.com/
The learning curve of Flutter is steeper than React Native. However, you can learn both frameworks within a reasonable time frame. So, let’s discuss what would be required to learn React Native and Flutter.
However, React Native is relatively easy to learn for newbies. For starters, it offers a variety of resources, both online and offline. On the React website, users can find the documentation, guides, FAQs, and learning resources.
Flutter has a bit steeper learning curve than React native. You need to know some basic concepts of native Android or iOS development. Flutter requires you to have experience in Java or Kotlin for Android or Objective-C or Swift for iOS. It can be a challenge if you’re accustomed to using new languages without type casts and generics. However, once you’ve learned how to use it, it can speed up your development process.
Flutter provides great documentation of its APIs that you can refer to. Since the framework is still new, some information might not be updated yet.
The central aspect of choosing between React Native and Flutter is the team size. To set a realistic expectation on the cost, you need to consider the type of application you will develop.
Technically, React Native’s core library can be implemented by a single developer. This developer will have to build all native modules by himself, which is not an easy task. However, the required team size for React Native depends on the complexity of the mobile app you want to build. If you plan to create a simple mobile app, such as a mobile-only website, then one developer will be enough. However, if your project requires complex UI and animations, then you will need more skillful and experienced developers.
Team size is a very important factor for the flutter app development. The number of people in your team might depend on the requirements and type of app you need to develop.
Flutter makes it easy to use existing code that you might already have, or share code with other apps that you might already be building. You can even use Java or Kotlin if you prefer (though Dart is preferred).
When developing a cross-platform app, keep in mind that not all platforms behave identically. You will need to choose a library that supports the core element of the app consistent for each platform. We need the framework to have an API so that we can access the native modules.
The reason third-party modules are required is that React Native does not support all native functionalities. For instance, if you want to implement an Alert box, you need to import the UIAlertController module from Applenv SDK.
This makes the React Native framework somehow dependent on third-party libraries. There are lots of third-party libraries for React Native. You can use these libraries in your project to add native app features which are not available in React Native. Mostly, it is used to include maps, camera, sharing, and other native features.
Flutter offers rich GUI components called widgets. A widget can be anything from simple text fields, buttons, switches, sliders, etc., to complex layouts that include multiple pages with split views, navigation bars, tab bars, etc., that are present in modern mobile apps.
The Flutter toolkit is cross-platform and it has its own widgets, but it still needs third-party libraries to create applications. It also depends on the Android SDK and the iOS SDK for compilation and deployment. Developers can use any third-party library they want as long as it does not have any restrictions on open source licensing. Developers are also allowed to create their own libraries for Flutter app development.
Testing Framework and Support
React Native and Flutter have been used to develop many high-quality mobile applications. Of course, in any technology, a well-developed testing framework is essential.
Based on this, we can see that both React Native and Flutter have a relatively mature testing framework.
Flutter has developed a testing framework that helps ensure your application is high quality. It is based on the premise of these three pillars: unit tests, widget tests, and integration tests. As you build out your Flutter applications, you can combine all three types of tests to ensure that your application works perfectly.
One of the most important benefits of using Flutter and React Native to develop your mobile app is using a single programming language. This reduces the time required to hire developers and allows you to complete projects faster.
Flutter provides tools to create native mobile apps for both Android and iOS. Furthermore, it allows you to reuse code between the platforms because it supports code sharing using libraries written in Dart.
You can also choose between two different ways of creating layouts for Flutter apps. The first one is similar to CSS, while the second one is more like HTML. Both are very powerful and simple to use. By default, you should use widgets built by the Flutter team, but if needed, you can also create your own custom widgets or modify existing ones.
Tooling and DX
While using either Flutter or React Native for mobile app development, it is likely that your development team will also be responsible for the CI/CD pipeline used to release new versions of your app.
CI/CD support for Flutter and React Native is very similar at the moment. Both frameworks have good support for continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery (CD), and continuous deployment (CD). Both offer a first-class experience for building, testing, and deploying apps.
The React Native framework has existed for some time now and is pretty mature. However, it still lacks documentation around continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) solutions. Considering the maturity of the framework, we might expect to see more investment here.
Whereas Expo is a development environment and build tool for React Native. It lets you develop and run React Native apps on your computer just like you would do on any other web app.
Flutter's open-source project is complete, so the next step is to develop a rich ecosystem around it. The good news is that Flutter uses the same command-line interface as XCode, Android Studio, IntelliJ IDEA, and other fully-featured IDE's. This means Flutter can easily integrate with continuous integration/continuous deployment tools. Some CI/CD tools for Flutter include Bitrise and Codemagic. All of these tools are free to use, although they offer paid plans for more features.
Here is an example of a to-do list app built with React Native and Flutter.
React Native: https://github.com/velotiotech/react-native-todo-example
As you can see, both Flutter and React Native are excellent cross-platform app development tools that will be able to offer you high-quality apps for iOS and Android. The choice between React Native vs Flutter will depend on the complexity of the app that you are looking to create, your team size, and your needs for the app. Still, all in all, both of these frameworks are great options to consider to develop cross-platform native mobile applications.