Last Updated on
May 2, 2024

React Native vs Ionic: The Best Mobile App Framework in 2024

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Key takeaways:
  • React Native and Ionic are two of today's leading frameworks for mobile app development.
  • React Native is a more comprehensive mobile app framework, with a steeper learning curve but better performance and functionality.
  • Ionic is easier to use, better for simple projects, and efficient as it allows you to combine Web, Android and iOS into one codebase.
  • MobiLoud is a great alternative to both Ionic and React Native if you already have a website or web app you want to launch as mobile apps.

If you’re looking for an easier way to build mobile applications, hybrid or cross-platform frameworks like React Native and Ionic are two great options.

These tools cut down the time and cost to launch mobile apps, compared to fully native programming languages. Yet there are some key differences between the two, which you’ll need to be aware of before starting your project.

Read on for all you need to know about Ionic vs React Native, including their pros and cons, the ideal use case for each framework, and any alternatives you should consider.

Ionic vs React Native: Summing Up the Key Differences

Before we dive right into it, here’s the short version of the most notable differences between Ionic and React Native.

  • Ionic is a hybrid framework, while React Native is a cross-platform framework.
  • Ionic allows you to reuse code between web and mobile, while React Native apps are mobile-only.
  • Ionic apps are built on top of the web browser, while React Native is all native code.
  • React Native has the edge in performance (in most cases).
  • Ionic lets you build Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), React Native does not.
  • Ionic is easier to use, especially for web developers, while React Native has a steeper learning curve.
Hybrid vs Cross-Platform: it’s easy to confuse hybrid frameworks and cross-platform frameworks. In simplest terms, cross-platform apps are apps that can run on multiple operating systems (e.g. iOS and Android) with the same code. While hybrid is used to describe apps that utilize the same code for iOS and Android apps as well as a browser-based web app.

Which Framework is More Popular?

React Native is more popular overall than Ionic (though that may be due to a wider range of possible use cases for React Native).

A survey asking nearly 30,000 developers which cross-platform frameworks they are using found that React Native was the second most popular, with 32% of respondents saying they use React Native, compared to 11% for Ionic.

In Stack Overflow’s 2023 Developer Survey, React Native also scored higher than Ionic, with 8.43% of the study’s 67,231 respondents vs 2.9% for Ionic.

Among only professional developers (52,046 respondents), React Native scored 9.14% vs 3.33% for Ionic.

According to AppBrain’s data, React Native is featured in 6.08% of all apps, with more than 30,000 apps and more than 60 billion combined downloads.

The Ionic Framework is used in 3.49% of all apps, with over 20,000 apps and a combined 3 billion downloads.

On Github, activity for React Native is about double that of Ionic, with 115k stars vs 50k, 3.6k users watching the React Native repository vs 1.6k for Ionic and nearly twice the amount of forks as well.

Now that we’ve had a look at the key differences you need to be aware of, let’s dive deeper into each framework.

What is React Native?

“Learn once, write anywhere.”

React Native is a cross-platform framework, which lets developers build mobile apps for multiple platforms with the same programming language.

Usually, to create apps for both iPhone and Android, you would need two completely separate codebases in completely different programming languages (Swift or Objective-C for iOS, Java/Kotlin for Android).

React Native lets you use just one programming language and largely the same code to build apps for both platforms, significantly reducing the time, cost and complexity to launch (and maintain) apps for mobile devices.

React Native is free and open-source, created by Facebook to allow developers to use a React and JavaScript-based syntax to code mobile apps, and giving a standard of performance that’s close to that of fully native apps.

Learn More: React vs React Native

What Kind of Projects is React Native Used For?

React Native can be used for a wide range of mobile applications. With its near-native performance, React Native is just as good as native app development for most use cases.

The only situations where it wouldn’t be enough (and you’d need to go fully native) would be if you need full access to device features or specific native OS functionality that React Native doesn’t offer.

React Native can be used for simpler projects as well, but with its complexity and learning curve, it may be overkill for more basic apps.

In general, you’ll want to use React Native for mid-range to high-level apps, as long as you don’t require a lot of native device features.

React Native App Examples

There are many high-end apps using React Native, including apps from Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, Shopify and other massive companies.

Examples include:

Facebook:

Amazon Shopping:

Discord:

The NFL app:

Bloomberg:

In addition, AppBrain states that React Native is used in Netflix and Uber and many other top apps.

Pros and Cons of React Native for Mobile App Development

In general, the benefits of React Native include faster development (compared to native), high performance (compared to hybrid frameworks like Ionic), and a strong community of developers and libraries. 

On the downside, React Native comes with a somewhat steep learning curve, and may run into performance issues for complex use cases, or if developers aren’t careful.

Pros:

  • React Native apps perform and feel similar to fully native apps, while taking less work to ship Android and iOS versions.
  • Apps actually use native components, not webviews.
  • The syntax is easier to understand and learn for developers familiar with JavaScript and/or React (compared to native mobile languages).
  • React Native has a rich ecosystem of developers, documentation and libraries.
  • Maintenance is easier (than native), as there is less code to update each time you make changes.
  • It’s cheaper and faster to build apps in React Native than to build fully native apps.

Cons:

  • It has a larger learning curve than some alternatives (including Ionic).
  • It’s easy to end up with performance issues and memory leaks if code is not clean.
  • Debugging can be cumbersome.
  • There may be issues integrating with device features.
  • It requires a separate codebase for mobile and web.

Now that we know the basics about React Native, let’s move onto the Ionic framework.

What is Ionic?

“Write once, use everywhere.”

Ionic is a hybrid development framework, which allows developers to build apps that reuse code across web, Android and iOS platforms.

Its primary use is if you have a web app or website that you want to convert into a mobile app. Ionic is an open-source mobile UI toolkit that handles the UI of your mobile app, inheriting the functionality from your web code.

Mobile apps built with Ionic use webviews, which are like a working, embedded web browser within a native mobile wrapper.

This lets you create apps with traditional web technologies and frameworks, instead of having to learn a native programming language and write a whole new codebase from the ground up.

Ionic provides a serious reduction in time and effort to build apps for multiple platforms, especially for projects that already have something built out for the web.

What Kind of Projects is Ionic Used For?

Ionic is ideal for converting a website or app to mobile apps, without rebuilding from the ground up.

It allows you to retain most of the code that you’ve already written, and manage web, iOS and Android all from a single codebase.

It’s also a good fit for simple apps that don’t require much complex native functionality. Many will find it easier to write and manage code for the web, then extend it to mobile using Ionic, rather than learning a new programming language like React Native (which also requires you to manage a separate codebase if you want to have apps for web and mobile).

Ionic App Examples

Ionic is used by companies of varying sizes, from small businesses to large corporations like T-Mobile, Volkswagen, Disney and Southwest Airlines.

Sworkit is a great example of a smaller company using Ionic.

Sworkit developer Ryan Hanna used Ionic to create a mobile app while leaning on his background in web development, and claims it saved over over $200,000 in development costs compared to building natively.

Some other examples of Ionic apps include:

Sanvello:

Burger King’s app:

H&R Block:

Pros and Cons of Ionic for Mobile App Development

Ionic provides a fast, simple way to deploy apps for mobile devices, particularly when the app already has a version built for the web. It’s also much quicker and easier to maintain Ionic apps, as there’s just one codebase to manage for all three platforms.

With the added convenience comes some sacrifice in performance and functionality, however, including limited integration with native features.

Pros:

  • Ionic is easy to learn, with a much lower learning curve than React Native or native development frameworks.
  • It allows a large amount of code reuse, which speeds up development time and makes maintenance and updates much simpler.
  • Ionic allows web developers to easily ship mobile apps, using their web frameworks of choice (e.g. React, Angular, Vue).
  • Ionic has an active community, along with many 
  • Testing and debugging is easy, and can be done in the browser.
  • It’s easy to build your app as a PWA as well as mobile apps.

Cons:

  • Performance won’t match that of mobile-first frameworks like React Native.
  • It may be difficult to match your UI to the look and feel of the operating system, as UI components are standardized across both Android and iOS.
  • Native plugins are required for native functionality, and many native functions will not be possible to do with Ionic.

How About Ionic React?

Ionic has specialized versions for several popular JavaScript frameworks - Ionic Vue, Ionic Angular and Ionic React.

These versions are specially designed for converting web apps built in that specific framework (e.g. React web apps) into hybrid mobile apps.

Ultimately the pros and cons and key features of Ionic React are the same as those of the Ionic Framework in general. It’s just an extra advantage, if your app is built in React, to be able to translate your app to mobile without having to learn and use a new language.

Learn More: How to Convert a React Web App to a Mobile App

When to Use React Native and When to Use Ionic

So, putting the two frameworks head to head, which should you use to build your mobile app?

Both frameworks have their advantages and disadvantages, and it’s hard to say one is necessarily “better” than the other.

It’s largely situational. Depending on what you’re trying to do, and the resources and knowledge you’re working with, either Ionic or React Native could be a better fit for your project.

Use React Native if:

  • You’re building a project that’s mobile-first, and don’t need a web component.
  • You need your app to integrate with device features.
  • Your app is on the medium to high level in complexity.
  • You have the time/money/expertise to handle a complex development project.

Use Ionic if:

  • You’re converting a website to a mobile app.
  • Your app doesn’t have any complex requirements or need to integrate with device features.
  • You or your team has a web development background (especially if you have expertise in React, Vue or Angular).
  • You want your project to have a web component as well (such as a web version or PWA).
Learn More: Choosing Between Web, Hybrid and Native Apps

Alternative Hybrid and Cross-Platform Frameworks

Ionic and React Native are not the only ways to build hybrid apps or cross-platform mobile apps.

Other frameworks that you could consider include:

Native development is also an option (i.e. building native Android apps in Java/Kotlin and iOS apps in Swift/Objective-C). However, we don’t recommend this, unless you have really complex needs that only native development can serve. Today’s cross-platform frameworks are more than enough for 99% of projects, and come with a lot less baggage.

One more alternative to Ionic/React Native to consider is a managed service like MobiLoud.

MobiLoud works much the same way as Ionic, converting your website or web app into apps that work on iOS and Android, with all three platforms served from the same codebase.

But as a Done-For-You service, it’s much quicker, cheaper and easier both upfront and moving forward, and will suit you better if you don’t want to dedicate the time and energy to handling mobile app development in-house.

Examples of hybrid apps built with MobiLoud

How MobiLoud Beats Both Ionic and React Native

If you’re building a mobile app for your website or web app, MobiLoud is almost always a better option to Ionic or React Native.

It’s simpler, cheaper, faster, and the result will be nearly indistinguishable from what you’d get if you coded your mobile app yourself.

The only reason not to use MobiLoud is if you’re building a mobile app that doesn't need a web counterpart, or you need complex features that require native integration to achieve.

Let’s break down the advantages of using MobiLoud to build hybrid mobile apps:

No Coding Required

With MobiLoud you don’t need to learn a new language or framework. You don’t need to write any code at all. It’s perfect for non-technical teams or anyone who specializes in an area outside of mobile development.

All the Work is Done For You

Our team does the heavy lifting, all you need to do is let us know your vision for the app. You don’t need to take on any additional development load or bandwidth, you just sit back and wait to see your new app.

Platform Agnostic

MobiLoud works no matter what platform or framework you use for your website.

Whether you use a framework like React, Vue, Angular, Flask, Django, Ruby on Rails, Laravel, a CMS like WordPress or Shopify or a site builder or no-code app builder, all are compatible with MobiLoud.

You continue to use your preferred tech stack, without having to chop and change to fit your mobile app.

It’s Cheaper and Faster, With a Similar End Result

MobiLoud lets you go live in as little as two weeks, starting from just $350 per month.

Even with more efficient hybrid frameworks like Ionic, you’ll never be able to match this price and speed if you’re coding in-house or hiring a developer to build your app.

To your users, the app will look like a professional app that took months to build. Get the same great user experience, for much less investment.

Fully Synced, Low Overhead

MobiLoud apps are totally synchronized with your website or web app. You don’t need to worry about duplication of effort when you make changes to your site, or managing different platforms.

Even cross-platform app development, which is more efficient than fully native mobile apps, can come with ongoing maintenance costs of six figures per year. With MobiLoud, you cut out 90% or more of these costs.

App Store Submission Included

We also handle the app store submission process for you. This can be time-consuming and extremely draining if you don’t have any experience dealing with the app stores and their strict requirements.

We’ve done it before, through the course of building apps for more than 2,000 companies, and we know what it takes to get an app approved for submission, which is why we guarantee approval for your app or your money back.

Technical Maintenance Included

Our team also does the technical maintenance required for operating system updates or routine security updates. If you code an app yourself, you’ll need a mobile developer on staff to handle this.

By going with MobiLoud, you keep your focus on your website - we take care of your apps.

Ready to Build Your Mobile App?

If you’re ready to convert your website or web app into a mobile app, get in touch with us now and schedule a free demo.

We’ll give you a step-by-step look at how the process works, and even show you a working demo of your site as an app.

If you want an easier way to build an app than learning Ionic or React Native, give MobiLoud a try. There’s no risk - try it out and see how great your app can be with little to no effort.

Book a free demo now.

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