The number of smartphone users continues to rise each year, so it’s no surprise that mobile application development is more popular than ever. Businesses with sizable budgets may have no problem hiring developers for both Android and IOS; however, not every company has that luxury, and maintaining multiple platform-dependent codebases isn’t a particularly efficient approach. That’s where cross-platform mobile frameworks come into play, allowing developers to manage a single codebase that works on both platforms. Although there are other frameworks available, React Native and Flutter are the biggest players in the cross-platform mobile development arena. Deciding which of these frameworks to use in your development projects can be difficult, but a side-by-side comparison can help make the choice clearer. Let’s take a closer look at both React Native and Flutter, and we’ll use several key criteria to determine which framework has the best long-term potential for mobile development.

Language

The beauty of a cross-platform development framework is the ability to develop for both Android and iOS using a single language. React Native relies on JavaScript to build apps, which makes it easy for companies to transition their development teams to work with React Native. It’s also a plus for web developers who can start using React Native without learning a new language. Flutter, on the other hand, uses a language called Dart. Although Dart isn’t widely used outside of the Flutter framework, it’s easy to learn and supports many of the familiar object-oriented concepts seen in other languages. Dart also is opinionated, meaning that it provides rules on how an app needs to be structured where React Native allows a developer to design the application how he or she chooses which is sometimes difficult for future developers maintaining the application.

Performance 

There hasn’t been much definitive testing to compare performance between apps developed on these two platforms, but developers agree that Flutter is likely to outperform React Native in most areas due to the way the framework Is designed. When you use Flutter, your Dart code is compiled directly to native machine code that can be executed by the CPU. React Native works differently, relying on JavaScript as a sort of “middle man” to connect with native components. Eliminating that JavaScript bridge results in a real performance boost for Flutter apps.

Developer Productivity 

When you choose a framework, you want to make sure you can build apps quickly and efficiently. React Native has the benefit of being able to use Hooks–special functions that allow you to “hook” into the React state and other features without creating a class. Using Hooks simplifies the React component lifecycle and results in less code. React Native also has a hot reload feature which saves developers a significant amount of time when they’re testing UI changes. Flutter may not have Hooks available for use, but it does have the hot reload feature, and most developers have found that getting started with the platform is a breeze.

UI Components

At first glance, React Native appears to be the winner in the area of UI components, with a vast number of UI components available for developers. However, this advantage is partly due to the fact that React Native has been around much longer than Flutter. It’s also worth noting that many of these UI components come from third-party libraries. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, there’s always the possibility of bugs or glitches when dealing with third-party components. Flutter, by comparison, may have a smaller number of components overall, but it comes with plenty of handy widgets that are already built into the framework–no need to rely on third-party libraries.

User Community

Community support is key when you’re working with a new technology and trying to solve problems with your code. React Native has been in existence for several years now, so it’s built up a sizable user community during that time. Flutter’s user community isn’t quite as large, but at the pace it’s growing, it’s due to catch up and possibly surpass React Native’s community in the not-too-distant future. With large global companies such as Tencent and Alibaba adopting Flutter for their mobile app development, you can be confident that the support community will continue to thrive.

The Verdict

Both Flutter and React Native have their own pros and cons, and your choice of framework might depend on whether you’re thinking in the moment or taking the long view. At the moment, React Native is the more mature product: There’s more documentation, libraries and components available, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s backed by Facebook. In addition, with the recent addition of hooks, React Native has gotten much less complex than it was in the past.  Flutter, however, may be a “younger” framework, but its long-term potential is unmatched. It’s backed by Google, it has better performance with complex apps and it compiles directly into native code. In fact, many industry insiders call Flutter the future of mobile development. In addition, Flutter apps are more uniform and easier to maintain making long term support much less complex.  

We don’t have a crystal ball to predict what lies ahead in the development scene–we’ll just have to wait and see how the future unfolds.  In either case, over the past few years, cross platform frameworks have become very stable and reliable. It no longer makes sense to use native language code to complete 99% of mobile applications.