Flutter vs. React Native: what is better?

It is time to build an app as part of your business requirement. But the confusion happens when there are lots of options around. 

However, many companies are opting to build hybrid applications, especially startups. Cross-platform solutions are in demand because they can be easily released into the market, within a short time, using lesser resources. 

80% of the codebase will be shared in hybrid apps, so businesses looking to release their app in multiple platforms need to change only 20% of the codes before they are released into respective platforms. 

Companies often struggle to find the perfect framework to build their apps. 

In this article, we take two of the most popular frameworks, Flutter and React and analyse them, based on their popularity, advantages, usefulness, performance and other stats. 

Both React and Flutter are loved by developers. If you look at Stack Overflow stats, React is loved by 57.9% of the developers while 68.8% developers love Flutter. 

According to the latest reports, Flutter has more than 109K stars , while React has over 150K stars. 

With that in mind, let’s go deeper into the frameworks.

When was Flutter introduced?

Developed by Google, Flutter is a cross-platform UI framework that was released in May 2017. As the name suggests, Flutter helps you develop cross-platform apps using a single codebase. 

This eliminates the need for hiring an entire team of developers to ensure the application works in other platforms also. Or the company would have to hire a team of developers for web development using React, dedicated mobile developer, desktop app developer with experience in C# and Java respectively, and apps for iOS and Android using Swift and Kotlin perhaps. 

When was React Native introduced? 

React Native is a powerful framework built by Facebook. It runs on JavaScript, and a very powerful tool for cross-platform development. 

React Native actually started as an internal Facebook project, and in the 2015 React.js Conference, React Native 1 Preview release happened. In March 2015, F8 Conference, the official launch of React Native took place. 

This proves that React Native is two years older than Flutter, and hence has a huge community for IT support. 

Comparing the two titan’s features

1) Hot Reload/ Fast Refresh feature 

Flutter is often chosen by the developer for its more dynamic and faster app development feature, the Hot Reload feature. Make changes to codebases wherever you are, and see them reflected in the application immediately. 

It just takes milli-seconds for the changes to happen. This feature is a very impressive one in Flutter as it aids in a successful, on-the-go developer-designer collaboration, a highly effective one when you want to add features, try new ideas and fix bugs. 

React Native also has the Hot Reload feature, and it’s called the Fast refresh/Fast coding feature. Insert new codes into a running application, and see the changes immediately reflected onto it.  The React Native team has bettered the Fast Refresh feature and made it resilient to typos and mistakes. 

2) Just one codebase for two platforms

Another advantage with Flutter is that the developer just needs to write a single codebase for both platforms – iOS and Android. It is possible for the company to have the same app on both these platforms, has its own set of midgets and designs. 

React Native provides the exact same features, as it has a single codebase for both iOS and Android platforms. And there is an added advantage with Javascript allowing the developers to share codes with web apps when developing cross-platform applications. So you have React Native for Web to support Android, iOS and web apps; ReactXp to support Android, iOS, and web (developed by the Skype Team) and React-Native-Windows to support Ann Windows 10-based devices, including Xbox and Mixed reality devices. 

3) Programming languages

Flutter uses Dart, which is a fairly new programming language, and it has some impressive features and extensive support from Google. Dart, though founded in 2011, made a strong comeback in 2017, when Google gave it a stable release. It’s source code is similar to Javascript, but has a standalone Dart SDK, shipped with Dart VM and Pub, its own package manager. Dart has several other features that are almost similar to Javascript, and similarly it relies on objects and OOPs concepts. The syntax is also easy, so there is a short learning curve. 

React Native uses JavaScript, known for its speed, simplicity, rich interfaces, interoperability, extended functionality, versatility and a horde of other features.  

4) The Quality Assurance 

The Quality Assurance process on both platforms saves a lot of time because the same application is there on both. Flutter and React Native calls for 50% fewer automated tests, making it easier for the QA team. However, some companies insist on manual testing and the QA team will check both the apps on each platform.

5) Performance

As it is compiled to ARM or x86 native libraries, Flutter has the upper hand when it comes to performance. Flutter is really fast as the framework uses C++ engine and the Skia graphic library. Flutter’s major advantage with React Native is that it connects with native components and frameworks like Material Design and Cupertino. 

React Native is not compiled to native code, and comes with a JS layer, so its performance is slightly less impressive than Flutter’s. So there are two sides: Javascript and native languages send asynchronous JSON messages to each other. This results in a smooth animation, but when compared to Flutter, the UI performance may be hampered and there will be delays in rendering. 

6) Maturity of framework

Flutter is  fledgling technology, but has been improving steadily and with its massive popularity, has become impressively stable and mature. 

React Native official release was more than 6-7 years ago, so there was plenty of time for the Facebook team to stabilise the API and fix the issues, make improvements. Now the team is focussing on reducing app size. 

However, it is not possible to ignore the fact that companies that use React are far higher than those that use Flutter. Instagram, Wix, SoundCloud, Skype, Tesla, Bloomberg, Pinterest are some companies that use React.  Also, there is no denying the fact that React is a much more popular framework in terms of user interfaces and animations. The competition between the two could be fierce, but there is excellent IT support from the community, and from Facebook itself. 

What business owners can be on the lookout for?

If you are confused about which framework to choose for your cross-platform application, it would help to consult with the market leaders in the field. 

They would help go through your business goals and project requirements to decide which framework would be perfect for your project, the solution that can provide the fastest time to market. While choosing the best framework, it is also important to go over your priority options – design, performance, features. 

Interesting Links:

Flutter or React? Here a comparison
Looking at the advantages of Flutter and React Native

Pictures: Canva

The author: Sascha Thattil works at Software-Developer-India.com which is a part of the YUHIRO Group. YUHIRO is a German-Indian enterprise which provides programmers to IT companies, agencies and IT departments.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.