Last Updated on
April 25, 2024

React Native vs Flutter for App Development in 2024?

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Key takeaways:
  • React Native and Flutter are two of the best cross-platform frameworks for app development, backed by Meta and Google respectively.
  • Flutter offers more out of the box than React Native, but utilizes the Dart programming language, which many will be less familiar with than JavaScript.
  • React Native has a wider ecosystem, but more developers seem to prefer using Flutter.
  • If you already have a working website or web app, consider a hybrid development service like MobiLoud instead of rebuilding your app in React Native or Flutter.

Cross-platform frameworks are emerging as the best way to build mobile apps today, and React Native and Flutter are the two most popular ways to build cross-platform apps.

These two frameworks share a lot of similar qualities, but also have some important differences you’ll need to be aware of if you’re planning on choosing one to build your app.

In this article, we’ll give you a crash course on React Native vs Flutter, how they compare, and which framework is more popular with today’s mobile app developers, before sharing whether there are any other options you should consider if you’re planning to build a cross-platform or hybrid app.

Flutter vs React Native: Key Points

Let’s start with a quick summary of the key points you need to know when comparing Flutter vs React Native:

  • Both are cross-platform development frameworks, which allow you to create apps for Android and iOS with a single codebase.
  • Both are free, open-source frameworks.
  • React Native is built and maintained by Meta (aka Facebook), and based on the JavaScript programming language.
  • Flutter is built and maintained by Google, and based on the Dart programming language.
  • Both Flutter and React Native come with a hot reload feature, which makes it easy to iterate on code and see the results in real time.
  • Each framework is used in a number of high-profile apps, including Meta’s and Google’s suite of mobile apps.
  • React Native is older and boasts a more extensive community, though Flutter is catching up in that regard.

Flutter and React Native: Two of Today’s Most Popular Cross-Platform Frameworks

React Native and Flutter are, by most estimations, the two most popular ways to build cross-platform apps today.

What are cross-platform apps, or cross-platform frameworks?

They are an alternative to building platform-specific apps using native code.

Generally, iOS apps (apps for iPhone/iPad) are built in Swift, or Objective-C. Android apps are built in Java or Kotlin.

This means, if you want to launch apps for both platforms, you’re going to need two completely separate codebases, as you can’t reuse code between each programming language.

This makes it much more expensive and time-consuming to launch apps that are available to all mobile users, and also means it takes twice the work to update and maintain your apps.

Cross-platform app development, with frameworks like Flutter and React Native, makes it easier. These frameworks let you write code that can be deployed on multiple operating systems. You can write once and build apps for both iOS and Android platforms. You’re also left with just one codebase to maintain, which cuts overhead in half compared to native app development.

More and more, developers are starting to prefer cross-platform frameworks to fully native apps. Unless your app relies heavily on native device features, you can achieve great results for less effort and expense by going cross-platform.

Alternative cross-platform frameworks include Ionic, Xamarin and NativeScript, along with no-code tools that let you deploy one app across multiple environments, but React Native and Flutter are the two with the highest profile (likely due to the big names behind each of them).

Learn more here about tools and frameworks for developing cross-platform apps.

Now let’s give you a rundown on both Flutter and React Native, before diving into an in-depth comparison between the two.

Beginner’s Guide to React Native

So what is React Native?

React Native is a framework that allows developers to build mobile applications using JavaScript and React. 

It lets developers create cross-platform apps that work on both iOS and Android devices, sharing a significant portion of the codebase between the two platforms. 

React Native’s tagline is “learn once, write anywhere”. It speeds up development time and streamlines the process of app development by allowing developers to use one development framework for multiple platforms.

The syntax of React Native is very similar to React.js, the original web-based JavaScript framework. The difference is that it uses native iOS and Android components, instead of outputting HTML and CSS code, as you would if you build for the web.

This means you can’t simply deploy a React web app as a native app using React Native, but developers with experience in React will be able to easily learn React Native and use this to build native apps.

React Native App Examples

React Native was created by Meta (formerly Facebook), with the intention of being used in their ecosystem of apps, including Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.

Alongside Meta apps, React Native is used by more of the biggest names in tech:

  • Microsoft (used in the MS Office, Outlook, Teams, Skype and Xbox Game Pass mobile apps).
  • Amazon (Amazon Shopping, Alexa and Amazon Photos apps, as well as supporting Kindle devices and the Amazon Appstore).
  • Shopify (the Shopify mobile app, as well as the customer-facing Shop app).

Other high-profile React Native app examples include:

  • Coinbase
  • Discord
  • Wix
  • Pinterest
  • NerdWallet
  • Walmart
  • Tesla
  • Bloomberg
A few examples of notable apps built with React Native

Learn more about React Native examples on their showcase page.

Beginner’s Guide to Flutter

Flutter could be seen as Google’s answer to React Native.

Flutter is Google’s UI toolkit for building beautiful, natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase.

It empowers developers to create stunning user interfaces using a single language, Dart, while achieving cross-platform compatibility. With Flutter, you can build apps that look and feel great on iOS, Android, and the web, all while maintaining a consistent experience across different devices.

Flutter is made up of pre-built and customizable widgets. The framework comes with many built-in widgets for things like layout, animations, UI elements and more.

These elements can be deployed on multiple operating systems, again massively reducing the time it takes to build and launch mobile apps, as well as the time and effort required to maintain and update apps on multiple platforms.

Flutter can even be used to build apps and user interfaces for other types of devices with screens, such as smart appliances; hence their tagline, “Build for any screen”.

Flutter App Examples

Flutter, too, is currently being used in some of the world’s biggest apps.

As expected, it’s used heavily in Google’s apps, including the Google Pay App.

It’s also being used by companies such as:

  • Tencent
  • BMW
  • Toyota
  • eBay
  • Alibaba

A few other Flutter app examples include:

SoVegan

->

Caribou Coffee

->

QuintoAndar

Learn more on the Flutter showcase page.

Key Differences Between React Native and Flutter

We’ve given you the one-minute pitch on both React Native and Flutter, and perhaps you now understand a little about each framework. 

There’s a lot of overlap between the two frameworks from what we’ve discussed so far. So let’s take a deeper look at the differences between React Native vs Flutter, to help you understand the pros and cons of one and the other.

JavaScript vs Dart

One of the most notable differences is that React Native is built on the JavaScript programming language, while Flutter is built on Dart.

JavaScript is one of the most well-known and widely used programming languages in web development, used in millions of web apps and websites, with React and React Native among many other frameworks built on top of it.

Dart, on the other hand, is a newer programming language, which was created by Google in 2011. Dart has a lot of similarities with JavaScript, but less widely used and perhaps more challenging for beginners to learn.

Meta vs Google

Another difference is that React Native is built and maintained by Meta, while Flutter is built and maintained by Google. Whether this has any practical difference for you depends on your views on each company. Both frameworks are still open-source, with active communities and in-depth documentation, so it’s not like you’re going to be interacting directly with the frameworks’ creators.

Third-Party Libraries vs Built-in Widgets

A more practical difference is in the way you compile your app’s user interface with Flutter vs React Native.

In Flutter, there are built-in widgets for just about everything, from the layout of your UI to components like nav bars and buttons.

These widgets are customizable, but essentially work out of the box, working the same on multiple platforms.

React Native uses third-party libraries, which allow developers to add native components to their apps. This means there’s less you can do out of the box, and library quality and availability can be inconsistent. 

But on the plus side, it gives the ability to build apps with a more native feel, as there are more components that are specifically designed for certain platforms. There’s also more flexibility possible with React Native, though the tradeoff is that it may take longer to set up.

Platforms

React Native primarily supports building for iOS and Android apps.

It can be used in Windows and MacOS apps, as well as for smart TVs, and the code used for React Native apps can have a lot of crossover with the code used to build React web apps. But it’s still primarily used for mobile apps.

Flutter is easy to use for a wider range of platforms, including building web apps. So if you wanted to build apps that were accessible across web, iOS and Android, you could do so using only Flutter.

If you were to use React Native, you’d need a separate codebase in React for your web app.

That said, Flutter may not be ideal for web apps, as it’s hard to build SEO-optimized web apps in Flutter, and its performance in building for the web can be spotty. 

Ecosystem

Having been in existence for longer, React Native has a deeper community and a wider ecosystem.

There’s a wider availability of resources and community-built features for React Native. There’s also more apps that use React Native, and a greater demand for developers with React Native expertise.

Both frameworks have good documentation to follow, though React Native documentation is spottier, due to the number of third-party libraries you're working with.

Flutter, in comparison, has more structured and organized documentation, which makes it a bit easier to get up and running.

Learning Curve

React Native is generally perceived as having a shorter learning curve, as it’s based on a more popular programming language (JavaScript), with a more familiar syntax.

Generally speaking, if you’re proficient in JavaScript, it should be relatively easy to pick up React Native. And if you have experience with React.js, the learning curve is even smaller.

Flutter is based on a lesser-known programming language, Dart, so it’s not as easy for most web developers to pick up.

However, the greater built-in capabilities of Flutter may make it easier to pick up for people who have no prior experience in JavaScript or Dart. 

Time to Market

The development process is typically faster with Flutter, again due to the built-in capabilities it provides via widgets.

Not taking into account any time it takes to get your head around Dart, you should be able to go to market with a functional app quicker with Flutter. 

The only thing that may hold you back is if you run into problems, or need to do something outside of the core capabilities of the framework.

In this case, React Native may prove faster, as there is more community support and a wider range of third-party resources available.

Performance

Whether Flutter or React Native offers a higher level of performance is up in the air.

Flutter apps tend to be faster than React Native apps, though it’s not a huge difference.

This is due to React Native using a JavaScript bridge to communicate with native modules, while Flutter’s components are native by nature.

However, React Native gives a greater ability to build apps that require deeper OS interactions or native features. 

As Flutter components are shared across platforms, there may be some elements that don’t feel fully native on one platform or the other. React Native gives greater potential to optimize feel and performance for specific operating systems (though not as much as building fully native apps).

Which Framework is More Popular?

React Native and Flutter are largely considered to be the two most popular cross-platform development frameworks.

In a 2022 study asking nearly 30,000 developers around the world which cross-platform frameworks they use, 46% responded with Flutter, compared to 32% for React Native.

It’s interesting to note that both frameworks trended in different directions. The study polled developers each year from 2019 through to 2022, with Flutter’s share increasing from 30% to 46%, while React Native decreased from 42% to 32%.

Stack Overflow’s 2023 developer survey also includes numbers on the popularity of React Native vs Flutter.

67,000 respondents were asked which frameworks and libraries they used, and 9.12% responded with Flutter, versus 8.43% for React Native.

Flutter is more popular on Github, with 162k stars, versus 116k stars for React Native.

These figures indicate that Flutter is, overall, slightly more popular than React Native. However, there are a lot more React Native job opportunities than there are for Flutter.

At the time of writing, a LinkedIn job search for US postings found 1,068 Flutter jobs, versus 6,413 postings for React Native developers.

A search on Indeed found 1,990 US React Native jobs, versus 388 for Flutter.

> Takeaways: more developers seem to prefer Flutter, but there are more job opportunities for React Native, likely due to the larger number of projects built using React Native, as it has been around longer.

Why Developers Choose React Native

To get a better idea of why some developers prefer React Native over Flutter, here are some responses to this exact question on the React Native subreddit:

  • “RN uses JSX syntax for building UI. Flutter uses these nested functions (?) which looks very ugly - with these ),),),), in the end of widgets. Functional components and hooks are a good way to go instead of Flutter classes as well.”
  • “RN uses real UI elements, not something drawn on canvas. The app behavior is truly native with React Native.”
  • “You can build desktop apps (Microsoft even uses RN in Windows in one of the screen in Settings) and web (react-native-web + familiarity with React.js) - it's supported better than in Flutter (IMHO here)”
  • “Dart is unpleasant.”
  • “Jobs, career, more mature libraries, web support, less code for same result. Definitely more elegant.”
  • “Meta has spent decades on the react and native framework and has a lot of stakes in the success of the product. Microsoft has began showing support and is currently in alpha of their own component library Basically, I trust meta and their support of the product due to how heavily invested they are into it.”
  • “UI Flexibility - RN is designed as a mobile platform, so it uses the time battled tested native components that deliver years of bug solving and accessibility that is just thrown away with flutter.”
  • “Prominent companies like Shopify, Wix, Discord, Microsoft are choosing React Native, indicating their expertise and preference for RN over Flutter.”
  • “Easier to Learn - I don't think there is something easier than JavaScript/TypeScript.”

Overall, the most common responses mention preference for JavaScript over Dart, more job opportunities, more native UI components and the high-profile apps and companies that use React Native.

Why Developers Choose Flutter

Looking at the same question - why developers feel Flutter is better than React Native (and Xamarin, another popular cross-platform framework) - users on the Flutter subreddit said:

  • “The dev experience is easier because dart is a better language than javascript. It is type / null safe by default and supports many modern features like extensions.”
  • “Widgets make sense and have a defined lifecycle. React hooks and components are more confusing than Flutter state and widgets. Flutter is closer to traditional mobile dev here.”
  • “Flutter is a full render system with a UI library that works nicely. React Native is missing many things a dev needs (like sheets, alerts etc). This makes Flutter apps usually easier to build something higher quality.”
  • “Flutter apps compile to more than just ios / android. Web, macos, etc are all supported and usually just a few clicks away. Flutter web is not as nice as a nextjs/react app, but there is still a good use case.”
  • “Flutter apps are much smaller than React Native. A Flutter app is usually just a touch bigger in package size than a traditional mobile app. React Native apps are usually quite large.”
  • “Flutter feels polished, while react native is scrappy. Google maintains dart, pubdev and flutter, while Facebook maintains React Native, but not javascript and npm.”
  • “React was originally conceived for the web, for instance, it has bad roots. Flutter is half a decade new and it was originally thought for mobile.”
  • “In one word - off the shelf widgets. I just don't see the set of widgets in RN as in Flutter. Also, animation is probably easier.”

These responses generally prefer the built-in widgets Flutter comes with, the mobile app development experience, and in some cases a preference for Dart over JavaScript.

React Native vs Flutter: Which to Choose?

If you ask real developers, you’ll get a lot of different responses for whether they prefer React Native vs Flutter. As you can see above, different people will make the argument for different sides.

There’s no clear answer we can give you as to which framework is the best. It largely depends on which one you have a better experience with.

If you’re used to JavaScript and/or React, React Native will likely feel better to work with. React Native is also a good fit for projects with a high need for native functionality and flexibility.

Flutter is better if you want a more structured approach, with more functionality available out of the box. It might also be a better fit if you don’t have any prior experience with JavaScript. As you’ll be learning a new language anyway, you may find it easier to pick up Dart and Flutter than JavaScript and React Native.

React Native & Flutter vs MobiLoud

While React Native and Flutter are two of the best and most popular frameworks for building cross-platform apps, they are not necessarily the best options if you have an existing web app or website, and want to rebuild or extend it to mobile apps.

You’ve already done the work to build it for the web, and rebuilding it as an app means duplicating all that effort, as well as adding multiple codebases to manage once your app launches.

For this, there’s our platform, MobiLoud.

MobiLoud is part software, part service. Our platform, built and perfected over more than 10 years of building apps, is designed to convert any website into high-quality, native-feeling mobile apps for iOS and Android.

Examples of a few apps built with MobiLoud

You manage everything from one codebase - your existing web code. The apps are synced with your website, meaning any changes or updates you make only need to be made once, and go live on your website, iPhone app and Android app automatically.

Our team handles the conversion process, as well as technical maintenance for your mobile apps (which are built using Kotlin and Swift, native coding languages for Android and iOS.

Launch Cross-Platform Apps with No Coding in Just Two Weeks

React Native and Flutter are great, but they take a lot of work and specialized skills. MobiLoud is a much simpler, much quicker, much cheaper way to get basically the same end result.

With over 2,000 apps under our belt, we know what it takes to build apps that look and feel like custom native apps, which would otherwise cost six figures at a bare minimum.

As long as your website or web app is mobile-friendly, turning it into mobile apps is a cinch. Just use our free preview tool to get an idea of what your site can look like as an app.

As part of our process, we’ll put some minor but meaningful touches to your app to give it a seamless native experience, and once finished, we’ll handle the app store publishing process for you.

Get a preview of your app now or get in touch with us to schedule a free demo, and learn how MobiLoud is a more efficient way to build apps than React Native, Flutter or any other cross-platform framework.

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