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React Native vs. Native iOS and Android apps for founders — which one is best for your startup?

Sep 4 · 5 minutes read

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This article is meant to give you an overview of React Native vs. Native iOS and Android development, so as to see which one is the best for your project and what is the difference in development cost.

After reading the article, it should be more clear to you which one you should go for and why.

What are Native iOS and Android apps?

Native iOS and Android apps are apps developed using native iOS or Android development tools. For developing native iOS apps, Xcode is used, while the most popular for developing Android apps is Android Studio.

As you can already guess, if you want to build an app, with exactly the same functionality on both iOS and Android, you would basically have to develop 2 apps with 2 separate codebases.

So what is React Native then?

React Native comes with the mission of solving the ‘2 apps’ (iOS & Android) issue by having a single codebase as an input, and 2 apps as an output, both native: an iOS version and an Android version.

During the course of the past years, many have tried to solve this ‘problem’, but many have failed.

As you might already know, React Native is backed by Facebook.

We believe that React Native is a very strong option and it has reached such a mature state that it is safe to say that almost any app can be built in React Native (by ‘almost any’ we mean more than 90% of the apps).

What about the user, will he be able to tell the difference?

Unless the React Native app is poorly made, the user should not be able to tell the difference between an app built in React Native and an app built in native iOS and Android, since React Native is generating 2 separate apps.

We must point out that differences in the UI elements specific to iOS and Android guidelines should also be taken care of — React Native takes care of some of those automatically, but some might need to be adjusted by the developer manually.

An example would be: the tab bar on iOS is at the bottom while on Android it is at the top.

Pluses and Minuses

 

1. Development time

This depends on how many developers are involved in the project, but if you compare the time it takes to build an iOS app vs. the time it takes to build a React Native app, building an app using React Native can take more time than building a native iOS mobile application.

2. Development cost

This is the point where, as a founder, you might benefit from cost savings. Even though developing an app using React Native takes more time than a native app in the native development framework, you save a lot due to the fact that you don’t have to build the same app twice, once for iOS and once for Android.

To give you an overview of the cost savings, the costs of building your apps in React Native is about 70% of the cost of building them in both iOS and Android. Please note that this is true for most of the apps.

So for an app that costs $ 15,000 to build in both iOS and Android ($ 7,500 iOS, $ 7,500 Android), it would most likely cost ~ $ 10,000 to build in React Native.

If you’re not sure whether if this applies to your apps, please drop a line at [email protected] and we would be happy to offer our input.

3. Scalability

Not many startup founders are really bothered by this question in the very beginning, but it’s important to know how the app would handle more and more functionality over time, as your business grows.

All we can say here is that React Native won’t stand in the way of scalability, it’s a matter of the architecture of the project and the quality of the code, and yes, you can build scalable apps in React Native. And our examples below prove it.

4. Maintenance

The greatest thing about React Native is that bugs have to be fixed in one codebase only, which means that most of the time bug fixing is quicker, making your apps more bugfree, in theory, given the same allocated bug fixing time.

Who uses React Native and why?

Here’s a list of popular apps built in React Native, together with the reasons why they chose React Native over Native development:

1. Airbnb and React Native

Airbnb switched to React Native in 2016, here are the main reasons why:

  • It allows them to move faster as an organization.
  • To maintain the quality bar set by native.
  • To write product code once for mobile instead of twice.
  • To improve the developer experience.

2. Bloomberg and React Native

Here are some of the reasons why Bloomberg switched to React Native:

  • It automates code refreshes: “Once users open the app, they get the latest update and will always have the best experience,” says Gabriel Lew, a senior software engineer at Bloomberg.
  • The same code that is written once can be used at the same time in both iOS and Android apps to quickly release updates and experiment with A/B tests.

3. Facebook and React Native

Facebook is the creator of React Native. The Facebook app that we use every day is built in React Native.

4. Walmart and React Native

Here are some of the advantages that the development team at Walmart see from the switch to React Native:

  • 95% of the codebase shared between iOS and Android
  • No knowledge sharing required, as each feature is implemented by a single team
  • Developer experience is awesome. No need to restart packager to see simple changes
  • React Native is written in JavaScript. They can leverage programming skills/resources across the organization

Conclusion

If you only need an MVP on one platform (iOS or Android) then it’s probably better and quicker to do it the Native iOS or Android way. Why? Because it’s faster to develop, hence it will involve lower cost.

If you need to deliver on both iOS & Android and cut costs while building a scalable app, then you should consider React Native. Some of the key advantages being:

  • single codebase — implementation, testing and bug fixing only in one codebase
  • cost saving/less development time
  • the React community is growing

If you’re still not sure what to choose, we would be more than happy to offer you a free consultation session, where we walk through your requirements together and we find the best option for you!

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