Will Flutter Replace React Native? Flutter Vs React Native Comparison
by Ruslan Botnar
The “rate of infiltration” of smartphones into everyday life is growing worldwide. According to statistics from StatCounter, the share of desktop users dropped to 45.66%. The simplest explanation for this state of affairs is the change in our way of life. We spend more time on the Internet than ever before. Almost everyone has access to a smartphone or tablet.
Given that the average user spends almost 7 hours a day on the web, it's no surprise that more than half of this traffic comes from mobile devices. This, in turn, pushes the mobile app market to grow. The preference for mobile apps results in pretty impressive numbers. According to a Statista report last year, global mobile app revenues were $461 billion and paid downloads and in-app ads are projected to generate more than $935 billion by 2023.
Until recently, the development of mobile applications for a startup took a ton of time to write code. But today, we’ve got ourselves cross-platform development that uses reliable technologies like Flutter and React Native to make the whole process fast, efficient, and clear. According to Digital 2020 Reports by We Are Social Inc. and Hootsuite Inc., the number of Internet users worldwide increases by 9 people per second. This means that more than 800 thousand people join the global online community every day using mobile devices.
iOS and Android collectively take up more than 98% of the market. Reaching both user bases is possible but building two separate applications with Swift and Kotlin is costly and time-consuming. But you can avoid these obstacles by choosing cross-platform development and launching two apps with the same code base. Cross-platform mobile development has earned a reputation as one of the most popular areas of software development. The cross-platform approach is a popular alternative to native development. It allows you to create applications for different platforms with a single codebase, saving time, money, and unnecessary effort.
As long as there is demand, there will be supply. However, if developers want to stay on board and create modern, high-quality mobile apps that work equally well on both iOS and Android in no time, they need to find effective tools to do so. This is where cross-platform frameworks like Flutter and React Native come into play. There is only one question left: Will there be a winner in the great battle of Flutter vs. React Native?
The discussion about which solution is better, Flutter or React Native, has been trending for quite some time. I hate to disappoint you from the very beginning, but there is still no agreement on this topic. Both tools have their advantages and disadvantages, and each has its fan base. Just look at the Flutter vs. React Native market share stats: with 42% and 38% in 2021 respectively, the frameworks are clear leaders. Therefore, most likely, you will not find a definite choice – which framework is better. However, there is a good chance that you can pick your champion based on your business landscape and product parameters.
React Native vs. Flutter: The Dossier
What is Flutter?
Flutter is the name of the open-source, cross-platform SDK (software development kit) from Google. Despite being a relatively new framework (the world saw it in 2017), Flutter quickly gained popularity among developers. Since its release, Flutter has not stopped growing and improving, which is good news. This mobile development environment is powered by Dart, a programming language also created by Google. Therefore, C ++ and Java developers can easily work with this reactive framework. The tool is equipped with many useful widgets and has a single code base, which is suitable for developing applications for iOS and Android.
What is React Native?
React Native is another open-source framework that provides the ability to develop robust mobile apps simultaneously for different operating systems. Since React Native is owned by Facebook, most of the applications in the Facebook family, such as Instagram, Skype, and, in fact, Facebook itself, are built using this technology.
Off to the races! Comparing Differences between React Native and Flutter
Now that you had a closer look at both applicants, it's time to talk about each in more detail: highlight the similarities and differences, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each cross-platform framework. We've done in-depth research and compared Flutter and React Native in various ways to provide useful information to help you choose the best option for you.
Installation and settings: It would be untrue to say that the installation process for each framework is extremely simple. As far as React Native is concerned, you can install it with a one-line command in your npm package manager. Note that you will need to have Node.js and the npm manager installed in advance to do this. In addition to installing the framework itself, you will need tools such as the Android SDK and JDK.
When it comes to installing Flutter, things are a little more complicated, as you first have to download it from the official website to the directory you want and unpack the archive. After that, you will need to manually add the folder to PATH, which takes longer than a one-line command. Besides, you will need additional components, just like with the RN. Generally speaking, both platforms require almost the same level of effort to install and configure. However, if you already have Node.js and npm installed, setting up React Native is a little easier than Flutter.
User interface components: In terms of graphical components, Flutter is slightly ahead of React Native due to one aspect - it has a huge number of widgets with which you can play with the UI design settings as much as you want. The widgets called Material Design and Cupertino mimic the design of applications running on Android and iOS operating systems, respectively.
RN, in turn, uses native modules as well as numerous user interface elements from external libraries. As for the latter, this is both an advantage and a disadvantage, since without access to third-party libraries, React Native can offer fewer graphical components than Flutter.
Flutter vs. React Native Development Speed: Regarding frameworks in terms of development time, there is no doubt that React Native is the leader in the race as it offers greater efficiency and reliability. RN uses native components that are immediately ready to use, which means that the development process is simple and relatively fast. With this approach, a developer can reduce the time required to develop a full-fledged cross-platform application.
Flutter, in turn, uses its own set of widgets, which are also highly adaptable to different platforms. However, since this platform is relatively new to the world of mobile application development, some widgets require additional manipulations to customize everything the way you need it.
Both platforms boast a Hot Reload feature that allows the developer to restart the application according to changes made during development and speed up the entire process. In terms of Flutter vs. React Native code comparison, both platforms are great, but RN is ahead of Flutter. Although the latter promises usability and ease of use, the development time still needs to be shortened.
Flutter vs. React Native Performance: Although there are not so many examples of performance testing for applications developed on these two platforms, theoretically speaking, React Native lags behind Flutter a little. The reason for Flutter's success is the Dart programming language it uses. The point is that Flutter compiles all Dart code to native code, so it avoids the JS-bridge and as a result shows better performance. In other words, in the Flutter vs. React Native performance comparison, the former is a clear winner.
React Native, on the other hand, uses a JS-bridge to interpret and render graphical components, so a Java API or Objective-C is required to render a specific iOS or Android component. Because of this, the overall performance may be lower. However, when it comes to developing apps in the native environment, developers get remarkable performance from React Native projects with proper optimization.
Architecture: Since Flutter is a bit younger in the world of cross-platform application development, it is difficult for most developers to understand what architecture is best to implement in an application. Flutter currently offers several architectural patterns, each of which is highly reliable and usable. The most popular solution is BLoC (Business Logic Component). At the same time, if you find Flux or Redux more convenient, Flutter also allows you to use those architectures. When it comes to React Native architectural patterns, Flux and Redux are preferred by developers using this tool.
Documentation: For mobile developers, not only easy-to-use tooling is important, but also well-organized documentation. Comparing the two cross-platform solutions on this criterion, Flutter prevailed. The documentation that this framework offers is complete and very informative. Once you get used to Flutter, you will quickly find everything you need. React Native, on the other hand, also boasts many helpful tutorials. While RN's documentation needs to be tweaked and improved, its community is much larger, which means developers can find solutions to any problem much faster and easier. Summing up the documentation, it's safe to say that there are no winners or losers in this battle.
Community support and reliability: It goes without saying that for developers with little coding experience, support from communities that help solve problems and share knowledge about new technologies is essential. It is only natural that cross-platform technology that has been around for a longer period has a more extensive fan base and is more reliable. We're talking about React Native, of course. Since its release in 2015, the RN community has grown significantly and gained popularity among professional developers and newbies. As a younger representative, Flutter's popularity is just beginning to gain momentum; however, the framework already boasts a fairly large community that is ready to assist if necessary.
React vs. Flutter: Pros and Cons
In this section, we will take a closer look at the advantages of Flutter over React Native and the RN benefits that make it stand out. We have already learned that in the comparison of Flutter performance vs. React Native performance, Flutter is a winner, however, RN allows for faster coding speed. What are the other benefits of these platforms, and how would they affect your development process?
Pros of Flutter
Pros of React Native
Cons of Flutter
Cons of React Native
False arguments used when comparing RN vs. Flutter
“Flutter and Dart are Google developments. Fuchsia, the new OS from Google, is coming soon. RN will die slowly as a result, as Flutter will be much better optimized for Fuchsia.” – No one can predict the future; still, one thing is certain: some of the world's largest companies are now betting on React Native. For example, React Native is heavily used at Microsoft. We are talking about, say, CodePush and the React Native for Windows project, which allows you to develop native Windows applications using React.
React Native is also used by the company Discord, which develops the popular messenger. The company, in particular, publishes a lot of material about React Native. In Discord, an RN application, it was possible to achieve a performance level close to that of native applications. RN is also used in banking. Flutter is certainly great for many projects, and its use continues to expand. However, I think that both frameworks will compete for supremacy in Fuchsia OS.
Real arguments used when comparing Flutter and React Native
"Flutter has better performance than React Native." – I have nothing to say here. Now, because Flutter programs are compiled into native code, we can only agree with this statement. But the performance of RN projects, if optimized, turns out to be at a very pleasant level, while there are no problems with them.
"Flutter is easier to learn for those who used to develop native applications." – This, due to the typing and implementation logic, is also true. Flutter is closer to Android and iOS internals than RN. Most of the logic is taken from Java, and the main difference, for example, in Android development, is a greater bias towards a declarative approach to development. In Java, for example, they wrote classes and called functions, and using Flutter, they write widgets using something like properties that describe the expected state and appearance of the application.
"Flutter developer tools are very good, and React Native tools are of poor quality." –
In all fairness, there is a big chasm between Flutter and React Native in this area right now. The Flutter team has worked hard to integrate their development tools with VS Code and Android Studio. Many tools have been created for debugging and analyzing projects.
On the other hand, aside from the react-dev tools package and some small plugins, debugging an RN application relies mainly on the built-in capabilities of the respective platforms. Facebook, to make a difference, recently released the Flipper mobile debugger. But up till now, it is still considered to be an experimental project. In other words, when it comes to debugging Flutter and React Native projects, Flutter offers way more tools and resources.
“In comparing Flutter vs. React Native, speed plays an important role as RN noticeably accelerates the development processes.” -
As I mentioned, RN is faster than Flutter in coding speed because it is an established framework with a large variety of usable components. Flutter, on the other hand, offers widgets that are also great for development but lack usability. If you choose Flutter, you will have to spend more time customizing widgets to make them suitable for your project.
Choose between Flutter vs. React Native wisely
Choose your champion wisely and account for what your business needs and wants. Before making a decision, let's summarize everything we talked about. This will help those who are engaged in choosing a framework for their next mobile project to make the right choice. Let’s get one thing straight: there is no unambiguously correct or incorrect answer to the question of which framework to choose. The choice depends solely on the characteristics of the project, as well as the preferences and knowledge of the development team.
When Should I Choose Flutter and Dart?
In the current environment, we would recommend choosing Flutter to anyone for whom at least some of the following statements are true:
- You have done something outside of web development before, and you are not familiar with creating page layouts with CSS and something like styled components.
- You don't have a hard deadline for the project; the project, in terms of possibilities, has a certain level of flexibility. The point here is that, when creating a Flutter project, a programmer will not have access to the same large amount of developments that an RN developer has access to. Developing specific interfaces in Flutter can be more difficult than an RN.
- The application uses a simple navigation scheme. The fact is that Flutter's routing system is more complex than the famous react-navigation system.
- One of the most important requirements for your application is high performance.
- You are prepared for the fact that you will not be able to update your application "over the air", ready to rely on the update mechanisms offered by the app stores for the iOS and Android platforms. At least - you are prepared for the fact that this state of affairs will exist in the coming months, or, perhaps, in the next year.
- You are already a React, Vue, or Angular developer and are familiar with the architecture of component-based applications.
- You are moving into mobile development from web development, you are familiar with layouts generated by CSS, you have experience with libraries like styled-components.
- You want to rely on a vast ecosystem of assistive products that you can use in your applications; you are going to search for answers to your questions on resources like StackOverflow.
- You want to take advantage of the over-the-air software update capabilities of Microsoft CodePush and Expo.io, allowing you to quickly fix bugs in your applications.
- You want to use popular services that tend to always provide standard support for Node.js.
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Will Flutter replace React Native altogether? Probably nowhere in the near future. Both frameworks reduce time to market, provide industry-leading development speed, decrease development costs, and allow for creating native-like applications. At the end of the day, it comes down to your business needs and project requirements. If you are still in the dark about the perfect framework for your next project, contact our Flutter and React Native UX and UI specialists to learn more.
- Will Flutter replace React Native?
As both platforms have excellent credentials, it is not likely that Flutter will replace RN. React Native has a massive fan base and community support that will ensure it stays relevant and popular for a long time.
- Which is better, Flutter or React Native?
Both frameworks are great for cross-platform development and allow coders to create high-performance applications with a native-like design and feel. The choice mostly depends on the project and the business itself.
- Why prefer Flutter over React Native?
- Is Flutter faster than React Native?
When we talk about performance, Flutter wins as it uses Dart, a language that successfully avoids the JS-bridge. However, if we focus on development speed, React Native is faster as it uses components. Flutter is a newer technology that uses widgets, which is not a bad thing but requires a decent amount of customization.