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Flutter vs. React Native: A Developer’s Perspective

  • Rating — 5 (5 votes)
  • by Ksenija Kolomiiets
  • Updated on November 23, 2020
  • Read —
    10-11 minutes

Today, native mobile development is losing its popularity, as most customers want to create their applications as quickly as possible and immediately for iOS and Android. Because of these factors, the creation of cross-platform mobile applications is coming to the fore, where frameworks are used that can create their applications without using Swift for iOS or Java for Android.

The most popular cross-platform mobile app development frameworks today are React Native and Flutter. Both frameworks are useful, have particular merits, and, in principle, have a lot in common. For example, both tools provide the ability to create cross-platform applications using a single code base. You can also make changes during development, immediately see the result, and so on. But there are also differences.

This article will discuss the differences between React Native and Flutter and why it is worth developing your future application in Flutter. Although this is a relatively new framework, it has many advantages in both development and business processes.

Overall, you will get an idea of ​​why Flutter can be an excellent solution to some common problems in your business. Of course, consider the more familiar React Native for comparison.

About Flutter and React Native

Flutter vs. React Native

React Native

React Native is written entirely in JavaScript using React. This is a considerable advantage to React Native, as JavaScript has consistently been considered one of the most popular and used programming languages ​​globally. Finding JavaScript developers is easy enough.

Flutter vs React NativeFlutter

Flutter is a tool that was created by Google in the Dart language. By deciding to use it, you will receive a complete software development kit (SDK) that allows you to create functional cross-platform applications for mobile devices and web applications, and even desktop applications. This framework has a vast set of features that set it apart from others.

As you may have noticed, these tools do have a lot in common. Next, we will consider what their fundamental differences are.

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Main features and their differences

We will not delve into technologies’ essence but evaluate them from their application point in projects and their general capabilities. We analyzed the main features that are important during development. So:

Hot reload

Both frameworks support this feature, allowing developers to make changes to their code and immediately see how they will be applied (this is especially important when editing the user interface). When working with Flutter, the application reloads with the previous state and page, showing the user/developer the same content. React Native in its queue supports only standard hot reloading. State tracking makes Flutter more user-friendly for mobile developers.

Besides, Flutter has a wide range of pre-built widgets that are very easy to customize, reducing development time. In addition to this, Flutter provides a broad set of Material and Cupertino widgets that perfectly mimic each design language’s behavior. This is how they work:

Flutter architecture

As a result, Flutter allows you to make the process less labor-intensive. All operations are smoother, which differs from React Native, where its components can behave differently on different platforms.

Assembly and Deploy

Both technologies take the same approach: they have their parts for Android and iOS, including cross-platform runtimes, be it JavaScript or Dart. This can be represented as follows:

Assembly and Deploy

Assembly

Both platforms use mobile operating system tools for building: Gradle and Xcode build for Android and iOS, respectively. The difference is only in the build speed, it may not seem important at the time of development, but when building CI and archiving an application in Xcode – the time is of the essence. From this point of view, Flutter is three times faster than React Native.

Dependency management

React Native uses NPM packages to include dependencies. Yarn can also be used to install and manage dependencies. Dependencies that require Kotlin / Java / Swift / Objective-C code are bundled using Gradle modules and CocoaPods packages. React Native includes an auto-linking feature that avoids manually modifying the Gradle and Podfile.

Flutter uses the Dart package manager. Packages are supplied as source code and are compiled with the main application. These packages may have their dependencies, but it may be necessary to add these dependencies to the Gradle and Podspec files. You can also use unpublished packages by pulling them out of a folder or git repository.

Publication

Based on what we described above, you need to transform or compile the standard code, including it in the final apk/ipa, and you’re done. This process can be represented as follows:

Publication

It’s worth noting that React Native supports Code Push technology, thanks to which you can send updates to your JS code without re-publishing the apk/ipa. Many consider this to be an unsafe option, and, for example, Google has removed this option from Flutter.

UI Component and Development API

If you’ve ever come across cross-platform frameworks, you might find out that they allow you to share your codebase between target platforms. But React Native only provides APIs for UI rendering and device access. React Native must rely on third-party libraries to access most of its native modules.

Flutter is tied to UI rendering components, device API access, navigation, testing, stateful management, and many libraries, eliminating third-party libraries’ needs.

We’ve provided an example below that shows what rendering UI looks like in React Native:

Basic set of UI elements on Mobile app

This rendering process makes it easy to create an application that looks native on any platform. But using platform-specific components for rendering raises the need for a property mapping layer for the platform widget and synchronization of the platform widget data. This is what requires each animation to be displayed in a platform-specific widget call. So do you understand how complicated this process is?

Flutter, in turn, does not require particular user interface components to render the user interface based on a specific platform. This framework only needs a canvas to draw. Below is an example:

The Flutter’s way of UI rendering

Using Flutter, there are no problems with the user interface’s consistency on different platforms, making it stand out from the background of other cross-platform frameworks.

As a result, sharing the user interface and business logic saves resources while not affecting the final product’s quality.

CI/CD support

React Native doesn’t have a CI / CD solution for shipping to the App Store or Google Play. There is only documentation for manual deployment for Google Play, but there is no detailed guide for deploying an application to the App Store. To automate delivery and deployment, you need Fastlane or Bitrise applications.

Flutter, on the other hand, has a clear and detailed guide to building and deploying iOS and Android apps. You can deploy your application only using the CLI (Command Line Interface). And if you need advanced automation (like automated screenshots), you can use third-party solutions.

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Why Flutter is the best choice among cross-platform technologies

To make the answer more accurate, we asked our Head of Flutter developers Andrew to discuss this framework’s advantages. Numerous businesses can benefit from cross-platform apps built-in Flutter. Google officially supports it, and this is your guarantee that the app code will not have to be rewritten. Many popular projects were built on Flutter, and they are already rocking the market! 

Alibaba Google Ads Groupon
700+ million MAU 10+ million MAU 50+ million MAU 2+ million MAU

Such projects can be one reason you start developing your solution in Flutter, but there are many more possibilities that this framework provides. 


Get solutions that look and work like they are built in Kotlin or Swift
Although Flutter is not a native framework, its high performance is equal to the performance of solutions developed in native languages. Its Flutter toolbox is a vast array of libraries, components, and widgets needed to recreate the native look and feel of iOS and Android. You cannot tell a Flutter application from a native one.
Speed up MVP development and release
Fewer members on the development team and a slight reduction in time make it possible to save money without losing quality. This approach enables companies to develop projects with more features at less cost. For some companies, this may be the only way to get the application to market. The lower price is also why mobile development with Flutter is well suited for MVP and PoC projects.
Implement popular third-party services
Incorporate all essential services like Google Maps or Google Cloud into your app easily since Google fully supports flutter.
Perform faster UI coding thanks to the widget-based nature of Flutter
With Flutter, you can build a mobile user interface of any complexity since the work frame has many libraries and useful tools, including Material Design and Cupertino widgets. And most importantly, you are creating two mobile apps using the same user interface design.
Use only one codebase to create apps for two different operating systems
You need fewer developers; accordingly, the cost of development is reduced since this one codebase is easier to maintain consistency functions in an application for different operating systems.

When and Why to choose Flutter? 

Flutter is the latest and the best trend in cross-platform app development. With Flutter, it is possible to compile an iOS and Android application from one single Dart codebase. The quality and performance of such cross-platform solutions are impressive. 

Business advantages 

  • A perfect tool for making an MVP
  • Lower development costs 
  • Lightning-fast app development
  • Performance of native apps with the cost of cross-platform development

Apps advantages 

  • Incredible performance
  • Same UI on any screen 
  • One codebase for iOS and Android
  • Stability of Flutter based app
  • Easy testing and addition of new functionality

React Native and Flutter have their pros and cons, but Flutter is ahead of its competition. We believe that Flutter framework is not the future of mobile development but web development as well. Google is developing this framework soon to develop Linux, Windows, and Mac OS applications. Let’s not rush things about this and enjoy creating mobile applications using Flutter.

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One of the advantages of this framework is that applications developed in native languages ​​and Flutter are almost identical, and it will be difficult for you to find differences. Thanks to the Skia rendering engine that supports iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Ubuntu, the application will look the same on all devices. Working directly from the GPU canvas, Flutter does not have an OEM widget and does not depend on native code, ensuring that the pixels are perfectly matched between the UI and the rendered one.
According to the fact that Flutter code can be compiled into Javascript. You can use the same code base for Android, iOS, and the application’s web version. We recommend using Flutter to develop web applications in the following cases: if you want to transform your mobile application into the web. It is handy since you have virtually 100% code sharing. If your solution has non-standard web interfaces. If there is a need to create extensive functionality for complex corporate solutions quickly. While Flutter provides many tools for building web applications, its web support is still in its infancy. This means that a web application built with Flutter may have stability issues.
Already today, we see how IoT is actively being introduced into our life and simplifies many processes. Therefore, we are considering the possibility of developing software using Flutter for the IoT. It is especially true when you need to create a prototype of an application quickly, time is essential in a highly competitive environment. Flutter has a wide range of tools to build MVP and PoC IoT applications rapidly. Due to this, you can soon bring a new solution to the market or qualitatively improve an existing platform. Typically, IoT applications contain a lot of data, which requires high performance. Flutter can provide this. Even a prototype needs to be fast and powerful enough to handle streaming data, load dynamic visualizations, and allow data manipulation. Google Fuchsia and Flutter OS developed with Dart. In the future, this combination can become the basis for creating genuinely cross-platform interfaces that work seamlessly on smartphones, desktops, and various IoT devices.
Ksenija Kolomiiets Expert & Evangelist in business optimization tools like fintech, logistics, on-demand services apps who will help you to understand the core ideas of the outlined themes by my articles. I also have great expertise in social media and education platforms so let me know "in comments" if you want me to describe a theme you're interested in.

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