React Native vs Native? Which is better for your startup

Hello. If you’re reading this then there’s a good chance that you’re about to make a decision on whether to use native or React Native development for your mobile application. For the sake of full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of React Native and what it can do. I’ve written a plethora of articles discussing why it’s generally a good pick, especially for startups and ideas that are not creating an  ‘out-of-this-world’ product that will require deep integration with specific devices and operational systems or is extremely resource-heavy, i.e., VR/AR/3D etc.

If your idea falls within the latter category then you’re most likely better off going with  native coding and developing separate native applications for iOS and Android.

But if that’s not the case then it becomes interesting. And to make that ‘interesting’ more understandable to non-technical business founders let’s dive deeper and compare both options.

What is native?

Native development usually refers to the development of separate applications for each platform using their native technologies, like Objective-C and Swift for Apple’s iOS, and Java and Kotlin for Google’s Android.

Applications built natively are going to work only on the operational systems they were developed for and therefore each time you want to target both iOS and Android users you’ll have to develop the same application twice.

What is React Native?

React Native is a JavaScript-based technology developed and maintained by Facebook that allows the building of cross-platform mobile applications using React that have a shared codebase between both major platforms i.e. iOS and Android.

If you have had previous experience with technologies like Phonegap or Cordova, which essentially turned web pages into mobile applications, then you have had experience with a cross-platform technology but not the same kind as RN’s cross-platform, as React Native doesn’t use WebView. Instead, it uses JavaScript to render native components into a JavaScript application, successfully omitting all the drawbacks of simply loading a web page into a mobile app can bring.

React Native vs Native

In order to decide which approach is right for you, let’s look at the pros and cons of each. Hopefully this should be enough to help you decide but if you’re still not sure whether your specific solution is even doable with React Native then consider consulting a React Native dev team.

Native pros

Let’s begin with the pros of native development.

Ready to handle resource-intensive cases

Thanks to the full access to their respective devices, native applications are ready to utilize them on a larger scale when data-heavy functionalities like 3D, VR, AR, complicated animations and computations come into play.

native-augmented-reality

Instant access to new features

For example, when Apple releases the new version of their operating system with new functionalities then native developers will have instant access to those features (and won’t have to wait for them as they’re ready out-of-the-box.

Direct integration with a selected device

Because native languages are used in the development of operating systems of selected devices, it’s much easier to integrate with implemented software and hardware solutions. It gives developers easy access to devices, sensors, SDKs or various platform-specific functionalities that may not be used outside the native environment.

Native cons

But of course there are negatives in using Native as well

Higher costs of development

Naturally when you need to develop 2 separate applications with completely different technologies behind them, you need to hire twice as many experienced developers and that raises the overall development costs. (But development isn’t the only part of the process.

Higher costs of maintenance

After the app has been released you need to make sure that if there are any small changes that need to be made or bugs to be fixed then there’s someone to do that. The issue here is that you need 2 developers, 1 for each platform. That can rack up your monthly costs if the app is being constantly used and new bugs and issues keep appearing.

Longer time to market

This one is particularly important for those companies that need to release their app for multiple platforms simultaneously. It’s going to be slightly less of an issue if you have a big budget but for a startup working with limited resources then this could become a problem and you’ll be forced to prioritize one platform over another.

If you’ve done accurate market research and have data to back up your decision and know which platform is going to be more profitable to start with — good. But if you’re making a blind guess then you might blow your chances.

Could be overkill business-wise

As previously mentioned, native technologies are amazing for really complex applications but those are the minority among startups. So if you’re building an e-commerce mobile app like Walmart’s Grocery app for example then forming two separate teams for two platforms would plainly be a waste of money. If giants like Walmart are not doing it then I don’t think startups should.

walmart-react-native

React Native cons

Not suitable for resource-heavy applications

React Native is not made with resource-heavy applications in mind and when considering some of the limitations in the interaction with an internal device’s hardware it is no secret that the performance of complex mobile applications written in React Native would be inferior to the native ones.

Delayed access to new features

When companies like Apple and Google release updates for their operating systems with new features available to native developers, it takes some time for React Native maintainers to implement those new functionalities into their framework. So if your app is fully reliant on Apple and Google’s updates then RN might not be right for you.

React Native pros

Cross-platform solution with native-like user experience

What makes React Native such an amazing technology is that it allows the development of native-like user experiences on cross-platform mobile applications with similar performance and a platform-specific look and feel. What makes it even better is the fact that both iOS and Android apps can run on a shared codebase, sometimes with as much as 98% of the code shared.

foreca-react-native-app

Ready to integrate with native modules

Should you want to implement some platform-specific features into your app that are not supported by React Native then you can easily write a native module that covers that functionality and easily integrate it into your React Native-powered application. You can have the best of both worlds.

Over-the-Air (OTA) updates

React Native provides support for over-the-air updates, making it extremely easy to provide your users with a seamless experience when you introduce changes to the application they are using. OTA allows you to update your apps without the need to ask your users to do any manual download. The app will simply update in the background as it is launched.

Single technology stack for the entire team

By using JavaScript as your main technology you can have Node.js running the backend and React on the frontend This way the whole team is using the same language: JavaScript. This makes it easier to manage and add to or change your developers as you go. It also means that you’ll always have someone who will be able to help with the maintenance of your React Native applications.

And with no need to keep two separate teams for essentially identical applications you have more of your budget to work with.

Shorter time to market

Last but not least, React Native allows you to release your applications faster on both platforms and then update it just as fast, because once the update is written it will work on both platforms. But if you don’t believe me then you can check what the giants have to say about it.

Conclusion

Both React Native and native technologies have their pros and cons. While In some cases it would make no sense to go with React Native, in most it’s going to be the right choice. It’s up to you to decide which one is better for your startup but if you’re not a technical person and have no idea whether React Native is good for your particular needs then feel free to book a quick call with our technical advisor.