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What is React Native? – Intro To Top Mobile Framework

React Native: A powerful tool for mobile app development

What is React Native? This is a question asked by many developers and business owers. According to Statista, there are over 7 billion smartphone users in 2024. Meanwhile, the number of mobile internet users is reaching 5.4 billion. An average mobile user spends five and a half as much time on apps as on web.

These numbers are growing at a steady rate and there’s no sign that the tendency is about to reverse. This makes the mobile app market a highly competitive place.

Source: Statista

Companies constantly challenge themselves to deliver better mobile experiences to their users. Among many mobile app development frameworks React Native is one of the most popular choices.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore:

  • what is React Native
  • what famous companies are using it
  • when and why you should use it for your project
  • what are its alternatives
Chef master is making a React Native  app platform

What is React Native

React Native is a JavaScript framework allowing fast development of mobile apps running on both Android and iOS. It was created upon React.js – a component-based framework for building front-end web applications and user interfaces.

The work on the popular mobile app development framework started during an internal Facebook (Now Meta) hackathon in 2013. React Native was first released to a global audience at the React.js conference at the beginning of 2015.

In March of 2015, it became an open library on GitHub. Due to its ability to develop UIs and native apps quickly it took the mobile app world by a storm

React Native has proved very successful. The framework managed to beat the interest in classic native development and popularise the concept of cross-platform app development. 

What is cross-platform mobile development?

Cross-platform mobile development is cheaper and more convenient alternative to native development. It allows you to create a mobile app for iOS and Android with one codebase.

React Native is considered to be one of the best cross-platform mobile development options. It lets you cut the time and costs of development nearly in half by producing apps that can run both on Android and iOS.

React Native MVP

React Native is also a great idea for building the Minimum Valuable Product (MVP) mostly because of its super-fast and efficient development process, as well as serving both iOS and Android on one database.

It delivers native-like experiences and adapts to unique needs with native modules. JavaScript expertise translates well, making it ideal for launching your app and gathering user feedback fast.

As an experienced React Native app development company, we’ve worked on many MVPs.  For Payhip, a web-only platform, slow sales notifications and limited access to revenue data for sellers on their web platform were major hurdles to overcome.

Luckily, we provided them with a perfect solution – a mobile app MVP built with React Native and Expo.

PAYHIP CASE STUDY

Delivering a mobile app MVP built with React Native and Expo for an e-commerce platform

READ CASE STUDY
Payhip Case Study

Watch our step-by step video on how to create an MVP:

Learn more about how to build your MVP.

How React Native works?

Just as in React.js development, React Native applications are written with a combination of JavaScript and JSX, an XML markdown language for developing UIs which replace HTML and CSS. From JSX, the components are composed of native components. Dedicated to specific platforms, they can create a fast and natural experience for app users.

Then, it invokes the native rendering APIs in Java, for Android, and Objective-C for iOS. It also exposes JavaScript interfaces for platform APIs, which allows RN apps to access features like GPS location.

Still hesitating if you should use React Native?

Did you know React Native is used in some of your favourite apps? Let’s explore some examples of well-known companies that use this framework to create their mobile apps.

Instagram

Screenshots of Instagram React Native  app
Source: TheQuint.com

In 2016 Instagram dev team began exploring the possibilities of React Native development. First, they tested the waters with a simple view of Push Notifications. When the results met their expectations, the company continued developing other parts of the app with the framework

This allowed Instagram’s devs to deliver features to both Android and iOS versions of the app much, much faster. Now, from 85% to 99% of the code is shared between Android and iOS versions of the app.

Tesla

Screenshots of Tesla React Native app
Source: SimplyTechnologies.net

Tesla leverages React Native to power their apps for the self-driving cars and Powerwall. This ensures a seamless and consistent user experience across both Android and iOS devices, allowing Tesla owners to control their vehicles’ features – lights, locks, roof, charger, and more – from a single, familiar app.

Skype

Screenshots of Skype React Native app
Source: Tabletowo.pl

Before switching to React Native, Skype native apps suffered from several issues, such as losing the speed of the app while sharing GIFs and other media.

In 2017 the company started working on a brand new application, which would be written completely in React Native, allowing the team to include new features. 

Moreover, Microsoft decided to use React Native for the Windows desktop app, showing its possibilities go beyond mobile app development.

Pinterest

Screenshots of Pinterest React Native app
Source: Medium.com

Intrigued by React Native’s growth since 2015, a small Pinterest engineering team began exploring its potential last year to see if it could benefit their platform.

Internal testing kicked off with optimized prototypes focusing on a key onboarding screen – the Topic Picker – to assess React Native’s performance and iterate UI quickly.

The initial implementation on iOS took the Pinterest team a record-breaking time of 10 days.

Bloomberg

A screenshot of Bloomberg React Native app
Source: Wiredelta.com

The development team at Bloomberg decided to move their entire product to cross-platform development technology. Before, the devs used to build their apps with native technologies like Java.

Their brand new consumer mobile app for both iOS and Android offers users a smooth, interactive experience letting them easily access personalised content across Bloomberg’s Media.

Another thing they loved about React Native is its automated code refreshments which speed up the process of the new feature release. According to their website, Bloomberg’s development took only half the time they’d need to create the app thanks to React Native.

113 more examples of React Native Apps

And that’s not all of it. React Native is used by many Fortune 500 companies and startups. Some other names would be Walmart, Wix.com, Airbnb, Soundcloud Pulse, and many others.

If you’d like to learn more about the possibilities provided by React Native explore our list of over 113 real-world apps! This list includes downloadable apps built with React Native, including their ranking in the App Store.

Whether you’re a seasoned developer or just getting started, these examples can inspire you and provide valuable insights.

React Native pros and cons

Like any other framework, React Native has its pros and cons. Although the benefits radically outnumber the potential risks, let’s take a look at both.

React Native pros

FROM A BUSINESS OWNER PERSPECTIVE

Time & Cost-saving

  • Cross-platform mobile development
    React Native allows the use of the same code for developing both Android and iOS apps instead of native code for each.
    Since you only need to write the code once, there’s no need to hire a bunch of engineers specialising in different languages – all you need is a JavaScript developer familiar with native UI libraries, APIs, and hybrid mobile app development.
  • Cost-effective and time saving
    A single React Native team, reusable code, and a supported library mean saving time and money. It’s one of the biggest advantages of React Native for startups and young businesses who are careful about their budget.
    Learn more about how React Native can cust your development costs.
  • Live updates
    ReactNative solves the eternal iOS development problem – waiting for the App Store to approve any updates.
    As long as your app has access to the server to check for a new version, you can publish updates to your app whenever you want, like in a web application.
  • Extended code sharing
    With React Native you can share code not only between mobile platforms but also in a web browser. Just imagine, all of your channels are covered by one shared codebase. Isn’t it great?
    Expand your knowledge of the capabilities of React Native on web platforms by reading our guide React Native for Web.

UX & Performance

  • Great user experience
    A mobile application built with this framework results in a highly responsive User Interface, which guarantees a five-star user experience.
  • Great performance
    By using a single codebase that translates to both Android and iOS, React Native allows developers to build apps that work on both platforms while maintaining good performance.
    For example, the Xbox team switched from Electron to React Native UWP for their Xbox app beta for Windows 10, which resulted in a better native experience on Windows, decreased memory usage (by over 50%), increased performance, and a decrease in app installation size – from nearly 300MB to 60MB.
  • Stable future
    Meta (Facebook) is considered a stable enterprise and has stood by its framework, supporting and growing it.  React Native is open source, meaning any react native developer can help improve it.

FROM A DEVELOPER’S PERSPECTIVE:

  1. Pre-developed components
    React Native is widely supported by a great community, allowing you to find plenty of pre-made assets to utilise in your project, shortening the release times.
  2. Easy learning curve
    Many frameworks require you to learn a number of rules applicable only to that technology. React Native is easily readable, which is one of its greatest strengths.
  3. One ecosystem
    One of the advantages of cross-platform development is that a developer can build a versatile application with React Native without dealing with the ecosystem and language specifics of each OS.
  4. Third-party support
    React Native is an open-source project, so it comes with an open environment. You can integrate various third-party modules with ease.
  5. Great developer experience
    Real Native has a great development environment that will make building apps easy and enjoyable, from Chrome developer tools to flexbox, among many other facilitations.
An infographic with React Native pros and benefits

React Native cons

FROM A BUSINESS OWNER’S PERSPECTIVE:

  1. Increased app size
    While React Native offers faster development, its apps can be larger due to bundled JavaScript and external libraries for native features.
    This can affect downloads, but code optimization and selective libraries can alleviate size concerns.
  2. You may still need help from a native developer
    The implementation of some more advanced features typical for native apps may still require support from a dedicated Android and iOS developer. This may be an issue for teams with limited project budgets.

FROM A DEVELOPER’S PERSPECTIVE:

  1. Debugging
    As React Native brings another layer to your project, it can make debugging harder and more problematic.
  2. Configuration
    It’s possible that local library coordination inside a React Native app will require plenty of configurations, so consider allocating some extra time to account for that.
An infographic with React Native cons

Despite potential size considerations and occasional native development needs, React Native’s benefits like faster development and live updates make it a compelling choice.

When should you choose React Native for your app?

To make the most of your development process, choosing the optimal technology is crucial. Here’s where React Native shines:

  • When you want a stable and fast solution that performs just like a native app
  • If you want to build an app that will work on various operating systems but don’t want to support two or more separate development teams
  • When your app is all about the User Interface
  • When you are currently working on a web app, but consider creating a mobile app someday in the future

What is the future of React Native

With a thriving community of over 2,600 contributors, React Native’s development is constantly moving forward and the best is yet to come!

In recent months, the team has provided frequent updates, including the release of React Native 0.74 in April 2024. This release brought new, exciting features, which further improved the framework.

React Native 0.74

  • Yoga 3.0 Integration: This improved the layout engine for more predictable styling and includes new properties like position: static and align-content: space-evenly.
    It also enhanced the overall correctness of layouts and distributed Yoga’s JavaScript bindings as an ES Module, improving stability and integration with modern JavaScript projects.
  • Bridgeless New Architecture: Now set as the default when the New Architecture is enabled, this feature removes the need for the old bridge system that communicated between JavaScript and native modules.
    This boosts performance by eliminating the serialisation and deserialization process.
  • Batched onLayout Updates: By reducing the number of re-renders required during layout changes by batching updates, this change allows for smoother performance and less computational overhead during rendering.
  • Yarn 3 as Default Package Manager: For new projects, Yarn 3 replaces Yarn Classic, providing faster dependency management and optimising how dependencies are stored, which can speed up project setup and updates.
  • Android Minimum SDK Bump: The minimum required SDK for Android has been updated to version 23 (Android 6.0), which can help in optimising compatibility and performance, along with reducing the overall app size on user devices.
  • Removal of Deprecated PropTypes: To streamline the framework and reduce memory overhead, React Native 0.74 has removed all built-in PropTypes that have been deprecated since React 15.5. 
  • API Changes to PushNotificationIOS: As React Native prepares for the removal of this library in a future update, changes have been made to align with modern iOS notification frameworks and improve the handling and scheduling of notifications.

What are the React Native alternatives?

In this part of the guide, we will quickly present some of the most popular alternatives to React Native.

Flutter

Flutter is a mobile development framework created by Google. It uses Dart programming language that supports most of the object-oriented concepts.

While it doesn’t have a community or popularity the size of React Native’s, it can provide great performance. Moreover, it has excellent build automation tooling. Flutter allows easy and painless setup on CI/CD servers, thanks to its strong CLI tools.

+ Great developer tools
+ Easy to learn Dart language
– Small community

Learn more about React Native vs Flutter

Ionic

Ionic was created in 2013 as an open-source software development kit for hybrid mobile applications. Since then over 5 million apps were built using the framework.

It’s famous for providing platform-specific UI elements with its library of native components for Android and iOS. By using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Angular for app development it allows creating cross-platform mobile apps with a single codebase.

Ionic has a large community of active users who contribute to it on a regular basis.

+ Cordova native plugins
+ Active community
– Sometimes gets buggy

Learn more about React Native Vs Ionic And Cordova

NativeScript

NativeScript is an open-source framework for building native apps.

Known for its elasticity, Native Scrip givies you plenty of choice. You can code a NativeScript app in JavaScript, TypeScript, Angular or go for Vue.js. You can make use of any components, classes and functions of the framework of your choice. 

NativeScript has a vibrant community and frequent releases of new plugins that add new possibilities. What’s more, the NativeScript team released many great tools like NativeScript Playground, NativeScript Marketplace, and NativeScript Sidekick.

+ Works great with Vue.js
+ Also great with Angular
– Long startup times with Angular for Android

Learn more about React Native Vs Nativescript

Summing up

React Native streamlines mobile app development, allowing engineers to code once and deploy across iOS and Android. This means significant cost savings for businesses by reducing development time and resources needed for each platform. 

Additionally, React Native’s efficient code sharing fosters faster development cycles and easier maintenance, further lowering costs.

React Native has a rich library of pre-built components, which speeds up the development process and ensures consistency. This is an advantage for companies aiming to deliver high-quality mobile apps efficiently, and without sacrificing user experience.

Thanks to its open-source nature, the React Native community is robust, offering plenty of support for cross-platform application development. 

Popular companies like Instagram and Pinterest leverage React Native’s power to create a feature-rich mobile experiences. Consider it for your next versatile mobile app.

Still hesitating if you should use React Native?

Sources

Statista – Number of smartphone mobile network subscriptions worldwide from 2016 to 2023, with forecasts from 2023 to 2028

Statista – Number of internet and social media users worldwide as of April 2024

SmartInsights – 2024 Mobile marketing statistics compilation

Norbert Kamienski

Norbert is an Engineering Manager and React Native Expert at Pagepro, where his expertise and leadership have been pivotal for over eight years. Renowned for his professionalism and meticulous attention to detail, Norbert has a well-earned reputation for optimizing app performance to its peak. His technical insight and deep understanding of React Native have made him a trusted figure both within the team and among clients.

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  • Jessica Morris

    Posted on

    Very helpful article! To support the demand for React native app development, I would also like to share that according to the Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2021, React Native takes the 6th spot in the ranking with 14.51% of all respondents’ votes. Talking about only professional ones, here React Native places 5th with 16.48%. Constantly, Top React app development companies are rising rapidly with the increasing demand of cross-platform mobile apps.

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