Flutter vs React Native: Which One to Choose?
Building mobile apps has become increasingly important in today’s digital landscape. These apps provide businesses and organizations with a direct and convenient way to connect with their customers and users. To build an app, a developer typically needs to have knowledge of programming languages and frameworks. Moreover, they should have an understanding of user experience and design principles.
Additionally, it’s essential to keep in mind the different platforms (iOS and Android) when building an app. Usually, there are slight variations in design and functionality. In this article on “Flutter vs React Native,” let’s understand the differences between them so that you know which one to choose.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Introduction to Flutter – A Cross-Platform Mobile App Development Framework
- 2 Use cases of Flutter
- 3 Creating a Cross Platform App using Flutter
- 4 What is React Native and how it works? – A Beginner’s Guide
- 5 Use Cases of React Native
- 6 Creating a cross-platform app using React Native
- 7 Flutter vs React Native – Key Differences
- 8 Flutter vs React Native – Which one to choose?
- 9 Conclusion
- 10 Frequently Asked Questions
Introduction to Flutter – A Cross-Platform Mobile App Development Framework
Flutter is a free and open-source mobile app development framework developed by Google. It uses the Dart programming language and allows developers to create high-performance, visually attractive apps for iOS and Android using a single codebase.
Flutter has a rich set of customizable widgets, reactive programming model, and hot reload feature. Consequently, it is quickly becoming a popular choice among developers looking to build high-quality mobile apps.
Architecture of Flutter
Flutter uses a reactive programming model for building user interfaces. The core of Flutter’s architecture is the “widget tree”. It is a hierarchical tree of widgets that describes the user interface. The root of the widget tree is the “root widget”, which is typically a MaterialApp or CupertinoApp widget.
It organizes the widgets in the widget tree into two categories: stateful and stateless. Stateful widgets hold mutable states that can change during the lifetime of the widget. On the other hand, stateless widgets are immutable and do not hold any state.
When a widget’s state changes, it rebuilds the widget, and the framework compares the new widget tree with the previous one. Only the widgets that have changed are rebuilt, which improves performance.
Flutter uses a custom rendering engine that is built on top of the Skia graphics library. The rendering engine is responsible for rendering the widgets in the widget tree to the screen. It uses a “layout and paint” pipeline, where the layout phase calculates the position and size of the widgets, and the painting phase renders the widgets to the screen.
Flutter also has a built-in animation and gesture system, which allows for smooth and responsive animations and interactions. It achieves this through the use of “animation controllers” and “tweens” which are used to manage and control the animation.
In summary, the architecture of Flutter consists of a widget tree, stateful and stateless widgets, a custom rendering engine, and an animation and gesture system. All these components work together to provide an efficient and flexible way to build user interfaces for mobile and web applications.
Advantages of using Flutter
- Cross-platform development: It allows developers to build apps for both iOS and Android using the same codebase.
- Customizable Widgets: Flutter includes a rich set of customizable widgets that you can use to create the user interface of an app. These widgets are pre-designed elements that you can easily customize to create a unique look and feel for an app. This allows developers to quickly and easily build visually attractive and responsive apps without the need for extensive design work.
- Reactive Programming: It uses a reactive programming model. The framework automatically updates the app’s user interface when the underlying data changes. This results in a smooth and responsive app experience for users.
- Hot Reload: Flutter’s hot reload feature allows developers to make changes to the code and see the results immediately in the app. This significantly speeds up the development process, making it easier to fix bugs and add new features.
- Open-source: It has a large community of developers who continuously contribute to its development and provide support.
- Great for rapid prototyping and MVPs.
- You can use it to create web and desktop apps as well.
Disadvantages of Flutter
- Developed by Google, Dart is a less popular programming language than Java or Swift, which may make it harder to find developers with experience in it.
- It can have a steeper learning curve for developers who are not familiar with Dart or reactive programming.
- Some developers might find the framework’s widgets-based approach to be less flexible than native development.
- You may encounter some performance issues when building complex apps with large amounts of data.
- It’s still a relatively new technology. This means that there is not as much support for it in terms of third-party libraries and plugins as there is for more established frameworks.
Use cases of Flutter
Flutter is a versatile framework that you can use to build a wide variety of mobile, web, and desktop applications. Some popular use cases of Flutter include:
- E-commerce apps: Many e-commerce companies have turned to Flutter to create visually attractive and responsive apps that make it easy for users to browse and purchase products. Examples include Alibaba’s Xianyu app, which has over 50 million users, and the Hamilton app, which allows users to purchase tickets for the popular Broadway show.
- Gaming apps: Flutter’s ability to create high-performance apps makes it a popular choice for game developers. Examples include a sample mobile game “Flutter Chess” and “Hatchful” a logo maker app.
- Social media apps: With its customizable widgets and support for real-time updates, Flutter is well-suited for building social media apps. Examples include the “Fluttergram,” a sample Instagram clone built using Flutter, and the “Friendlychat” an open-source chat app built using Firebase and Flutter.
- Financial apps: Many financial companies have turned to Flutter to create mobile apps that provide users with easy access to their financial information. Examples include “Money Lover” which is a personal finance management app, and “Inbank” which is a mobile banking app.
- Educational apps: It has the ability to create visually engaging and interactive apps. Hence, Flutter is well-suited for building educational apps. Examples include the “Math Quiz” which is a math game app, and “Quizzler” which is a trivia game app.
- Healthcare apps: It also creates high-performance and responsive apps. Hence, it is well-suited for building healthcare apps. Examples include “My Body” which is a health tracker app.
Creating a Cross Platform App using Flutter
Creating a cross-platform app using Flutter involves the following steps:
- Install Flutter: The first step is to install the Flutter SDK on your computer. This can be done by following the instructions on the Flutter website.
- Create a new project: Open your terminal or command prompt and navigate to the directory where you want to create your project. Run the command flutter create <project_name> to create a new project. This will create a new directory with the same name as your project and generate a basic project structure.
- Design the layout: In the lib directory, you will find a file called main.dart. This file is the entry point for your app. You can design the layout of your app by modifying this file.
- Add the necessary dependencies: To add dependencies, open the pubspec.yaml file and add the dependencies under the dependencies section.
- Run the app: Once you have finished designing the layout and adding the necessary dependencies, run the command flutter run to build and run the app on an emulator or connected device.
The below code is an example of a simple Flutter application that creates a clicker counter. It demonstrates the basic structure of a Flutter app, including the use of the StatefulWidget and State classes to create a responsive user interface.
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the code:
- The first line imports the Material Design library, which provides a set of pre-designed widgets that follow Material Design guidelines.
- The main() function is the entry point of the app. It calls runApp() and passes in the root widget of the app, MyApp().
- MyApp extends the StatelessWidget class and overrides the build method. This method returns a MaterialApp widget, which is the root of the app. It configures the overall visual theme of the app.
- MyHomePage extends the StatefulWidget class, which allows for the app’s state to change over time. The createState method returns an instance of the _MyHomePageState class.
- The _MyHomePageState class has a private field, _counter, which starts at 0 and is incremented each time you call the _incrementCounter() method.
- The build method returns a Scaffold widget, which is a basic layout structure that provides the app bar and a floating action button.
- The appBar property of the Scaffold widget is set to an instance of the AppBar class. The title property of the AppBar is set to the title property of the MyHomePage widget.
- The body property of the Scaffold is set to a Center widget, which aligns its child widget to the center of the screen. The child widget is a Column widget, which displays its children vertically.
- Inside the Column widget, there are two Text widgets. The first one displays the message “You have pushed the button this many times:”. The second one displays the value of _counter and has a font size of 25.
- The floatingActionButton property of the Scaffold widget is set to a FloatingActionButton widget. When the button is pressed, the _incrementCounter() method is called, which increments the value of _counter and rebuilds the widget tree.
What is React Native and how it works? – A Beginner’s Guide
Architecture of React Native
React Native uses a “bridge” to communicate with the native components of the mobile platform, allowing the app to access device features and capabilities such as the camera, GPS, and more.Its architecture is component-based, meaning it builds the user interface by composing small, reusable components. These components can hold their own state, handle their own logic, and can be easily reused throughout the app.
It also uses a “Flux” architecture, which is a pattern for managing the application state. This architecture uses a centralized store to hold the state of the app, and actions to change the state. The components in the app subscribe to the store and re-render when the state changes.
In summary, the architecture of React Native is based on a virtual DOM, a bridge for communicating with native components, a component-based structure, and a Flux-based pattern for managing the application state. All these components work together to provide an efficient and flexible way to build mobile applications.
Advantages of React Native
- Cross-platform Development: React Native allows developers to build apps for both iOS and Android using a single codebase, which can save a significant amount of time and effort.
- Performance: It uses a virtual DOM which allows for efficient updates to the user interface, resulting in a high-performance app.
- Reusable Code: Its component-based architecture allows for reusable code, which can speed up development and improve maintainability.
- Live Reload: React Native has a “live reload” feature that allows developers to see changes to the code in real-time without having to manually rebuild the app.
- Large Community: It has a large and active community of developers, which means there is a lot of support and resources available for learning and troubleshooting.
- Great for MVP: It is great for building Minimum Viable Product(MVP). This is so because you can build it quickly and with fewer resources.
- Easy to Iterate: React Native’s architecture allows for easy iteration and experimentation, making it a good choice for startups and small teams.
Disadvantages of React Native
- Limited Native Components: React Native has a limited set of pre-built native components, which means that some features may need to be built from scratch or using third-party libraries.
- Limited Support for Third-Party Libraries: It may not fully support some third-party libraries and APIs. This can limit the functionality of the app.
- Larger APK size: React Native apps tend to have larger APK sizes as compared to Native apps
- Limited Support for newer Platforms: It may not have support for the latest features of new platforms immediately.
- Dependency on React: React Native being a framework of React, it is dependent on React. It means that any update in React will affect React Native.
- Huge Learning Curve: It may have a steep learning curve for developers who are not familiar with React.
It is worth noting that you can easily mitigate some of these disadvantages by using third-party libraries and plugins. Also, you can make sure to properly test and optimize the app for performance.
Use Cases of React Native
- Social Media Apps: React Native is a popular choice for building social media apps as it allows for efficient updates to the user interface and real-time data handling. Examples of social media apps built with React Native include Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
- E-commerce Apps: It is well-suited for building e-commerce apps as it allows for building a high-performance, cross-platform app with a responsive UI. Examples of e-commerce apps built with React Native include Walmart and Wix.
- On-demand service apps: It is a great choice for building on-demand service apps as it allows for building a high-performance, cross-platform app with real-time data handling. Examples of on-demand service apps built with React Native include UberEats and TaskRabbit.
- Startups: React Native is a good choice for startups as it allows for easy iteration and experimentation, and can be built quickly and with fewer resources.
- Enterprise: React Native is a great choice for enterprise apps as it allows for building high-performance, cross-platform apps with a responsive UI. React Native also allows for easy integration with existing systems and data.
These are some of the most common use cases for React Native. However, you can use it for many other types of apps as well. It depends on the specific requirements and goals of the project.
Creating a cross-platform app using React Native
Creating a cross-platform app using React Native typically involves the following steps:
- Install React Native CLI: To get started, you’ll need to have Node.js and npm (or yarn) installed on your computer. Then, you can use npm (or yarn) to install the React Native CLI by running the command npm install -g react-native-cli (or yarn global add react-native-cli)
- Create a new project: Once the React Native CLI is installed, you can create a new project by running the command react-native init MyProjectName. This will create a new folder with the project name you specified, containing the basic file structure for a React Native app.
- Set up the development environment: Depending on the platform you’re targeting (iOS or Android), you’ll need to set up the development environment by installing Xcode (for iOS) or Android Studio (for Android) and the necessary tools and dependencies. Follow the instructions in the React Native documentation for setting up your development environment.
- Run the app: Once the code is written, you can run the app on a simulator or a real device. To run the app on an iOS simulator, run the command react-native run-ios in the project folder. To run the app on an Android emulator, run the command react-native run-android.
React Native Code Example
Here is an example of a simple counter application built with React Native that also includes styling:
This code defines a simple component that renders a number, which is the count, and two buttons, one for increment and the other for decrement. By default, the count is set to 0.
Here is a step-by-step walkthrough of the code:
- The code imports the necessary modules from the ‘react’ and ‘react-native’ libraries. We have used useState to create a state variable count and its corresponding setter function.
- We have defined the App component as a functional component and it returns a view. The view contains a text element that shows the current count and two button elements.
- The button elements are rendered with ‘Increment’ and ‘Decrement’ as their title respectively. When the ‘Increment’ button is pressed, the count is incremented by 1 by calling setCount(count + 1). Similarly, when the ‘Decrement’ button is pressed, the count is decremented by 1 by calling setCount(count – 1)
- The styles object is defined at the end of the code. This is used to style the different elements of the app.
- Finally, the App component is exported as the default export so that it can be rendered by the parent component.
It is worth noting that this is a basic example, and to make it more usable and better looking, you will have to add more functionalities and more styles per your requirement.
Flutter vs React Native – Key Differences
Both frameworks are based on the idea of “learn once, write anywhere,” meaning that developers can write code once and use it on both iOS and Android platforms. However, there are some key differences between the two frameworks that can affect the development process, performance, and overall app experience.
|Architecture||Flutter’s widgets are built with their own framework, which means that the framework controls both the look and feel of the app as well as the app’s behavior.||React Native uses native components, which means that the app’s look and feel are determined by the platform, but the app’s behavior is controlled by React Native.|
|Development Speed||Flutter’s “hot reload” feature allows developers to see changes in the code immediately, which can speed up the development process.||React Native also has a “hot reload” feature, but it is not as fast as Flutter’s.|
|Performance||Flutter’s performance is generally considered to be better than React Native’s because it uses a faster rendering engine.||React Native uses a bridge to communicate with native components, which can cause performance issues.|
|Community Support||Flutter is relatively new and has a smaller community compared to React Native.||React Native has a larger community and more available resources, including third-party libraries and tutorials.|
|Development Cost||Flutter development is cheaper than React Native because it is open-source and has a smaller community.||React Native development can be more expensive due to its larger community and more resources available.|
Flutter vs React Native – Which one to choose?
When it comes to choosing between Flutter and React Native, it ultimately depends on the specific needs of the project. Both frameworks have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice will depend on factors such as development speed, performance, and community support.
Flutter, for example, is known for its fast development speed thanks to its “hot reload” feature, as well as its better performance due to its faster rendering engine. However, it has a smaller community compared to React Native, which means that there may be fewer resources available for developers. React Native, on the other hand, has a larger community and more resources available. But its performance can be affected by the use of a bridge to communicate with native components.
In general, if you want faster development speed and better performance, Flutter might be a good choice. But if you want to stick with the native look and feel of the platform and have more resources available, React Native might be a better option.
Besides, whatever framework you choose, it’s evident to test your app before releasing it to end users. Here’s my recommendation: use Testsigma as a testing automation tool for both Flutter and React Native apps. Why? This allows developers to test the app across multiple devices and platforms with minimal setup.
Testsigma supports web and mobile app testing, and you can use it to perform functional performance, and security testing. You can create and execute tests across various platforms, and you can also use pre-built test cases and test scenarios to reduce the time and cost of testing.
You can start with a free trial for Testsigma.
Flutter and React Native are two popular open-source frameworks for developing cross-platform mobile apps. Both frameworks have their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each before making a decision.
While Flutter offers faster development and better performance, React Native has a larger community and more resources available. So, consider the requirements of your project and weigh them against the capabilities of these frameworks to make an informed choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Flutter replacing React Native?
Flutter and React Native are both popular frameworks for building cross-platform mobile apps, and both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. It is not accurate to say that Flutter is replacing React Native. This is so because both frameworks are being actively developed and have a strong following among developers.
Flutter has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its fast development speed and better performance. However, React Native has a larger community and more resources available. Many developers continue to use React Native for its stability, ease of use, and large number of libraries and tools available.
Which one has more scope Flutter or React Native?
When it comes to the future scope, both Flutter and React Native have a lot of potential for growth and development. Due to its fast development speed and better performance, you can expect Flutter to be used for more complex and demanding projects, such as gaming apps, apps with complex animations, and apps with unique UI requirements.
React Native also has a strong future ahead, as it has a large community and more resources available. It is known for its stability and ease of use, which makes it a great choice for building large-scale apps. Overall, the future of both frameworks looks promising, and they will likely continue to be popular choices for cross-platform mobile app development.
Is Flutter in demand?
Flutter is definitely in demand in the market. It is a relatively new framework and has been gaining popularity in recent years. Due to its fast development speed, better performance, and ability to create beautiful, high-performance apps, it is becoming popular among developers. Many companies are looking for developers with Flutter skills, and the demand for Flutter developers is growing rapidly. Additionally, with the increasing popularity of Flutter, you can expect it to grow even more in the future and continue to be in demand.