Last Updated on
May 25, 2024

React Native vs Native Development (And How to Save 90% of the Cost of Building an App)

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Key takeaways:
  • The choice between React Native vs native app development comes down to whether you prioritize workflow efficiency or performance.
  • React Native app development is cheaper, faster and leaves you with less overhead.
  • Native apps have higher performance and functionality, but come at a cost.
  • If you're converting a website to an app, MobiLoud is a better alternative than React Native or native development, saving you 90% of the initial cost and even more in terms of overhead.

One of the most important decisions when building a mobile app is choosing your technology stack. Picking the wrong programming language or framework for your app can set you back a massive amount of time and money, and cause serious headaches over the lifecycle of your app.

Earlier in the history of mobile apps, you had to use programming languages fully native to specific operating systems to build your apps. But in recent years, cross-platform frameworks like React Native have shaken up the mobile app landscape, providing a real alternative to native development.

In this article, we’ll compare React Native vs native mobile app development, and explain the benefits of each path, as well as giving our opinion on the best way to create a mobile app today.

Overview of React Native vs Native Development

React Native and native app development are two ways to create mobile apps that users can download and install from the app stores.

When we talk about native development languages, we’re talking about languages that are native to specific operating systems.

For iOS, that means Swift or Objective-C. For Android apps, that means Java or Kotlin.

Swift is the programming language of choice for iOS apps
Kotlin is the official development language for Android

The issue is that apps built using native app development languages can only run on the platform they are native to. So a Swift app can run on iOS, but not Android, while an app built with Java and Kotlin can run on Android, but not iOS.

To build native apps for both platforms, you’ll need two separate codebases.

Enter cross-platform frameworks like React Native.

React Native, built and maintained by Meta

React Native is a JavaScript framework for mobile apps. It’s an extension of the React framework, which is a component-based framework for building interactive web apps.

The React Native framework uses the same approach, and a similar syntax, to allow developers to build mobile apps using JavaScript.

On top of that, React Native (along with other cross-platform frameworks, like Flutter and Ionic) lets you use the same language/framework for both Android and iOS, making it more efficient if you plan to launch apps for both platforms.

React Native offers a lot of benefits over native app development, but there are upsides to building natively as well.

Read on and we’ll breakdown the selling points for each approach to building your app.

Benefits of React Native App Development

The benefits of React Native include:

  • A lower investment in cost and time.
  • Less complexity in your tech stack.
  • Lower learning curve/easier to find developers.
  • Simpler maintenance and less overhead.
  • Less work required if you want to reuse your web code.

Let’s dive deeper into the benefits now.

One Framework for iOS and Android

In most cases, when you’re building a mobile app, you plan to launch for both Android and iOS.

The biggest selling point of cross-platform frameworks like React Native is the ability to use a single framework/language to create apps for both platforms.

React Native’s tagline is “Learn once, write anywhere.” Though you may have to make some changes to your code for iOS and Android apps, you can do it all with the same framework.

That means more consistency between apps, the same development team can be responsible for both, and you can reuse a lot of the code you write, instead of building it in two completely separate languages.

Save Time and Money

The ability to reuse code and use just one framework lets you save a lot of time and money in building your mobile app.

With React Native, there’s less duplication of effort, since you can share components across both apps. That means less development time, and less development time means lower cost.

Add the fact that you can use one team to code both apps, and you’ll see even greater savings in cost and time.

With native development, you’ll need to manage the iOS and Android teams separately. That means repeating instructions, double the code review, and many small increases in time due to the coordination effort that add up over the course of your development timetable.

The React Native development process, using one team for both apps, is much more efficient and streamlined.

Overall, using React Native might not cut your development time and cost exactly in half, but close to it, which with the cost of mobile development could easily save you six figures for the first version of your app.

A More Accessible Mobile Framework

Android and iOS app development are very specialized areas. Your average web developer won’t be able to jump in and code native mobile apps.

You’ll need to cast a wide net for talent, and may end up paying a premium for a proficient and specialized mobile app developer.

React Native, on the other hand, at its core is just JavaScript (arguably the world’s most popular programming language, used by 63% of respondents in Stack Overflow’s developer survey - 10% more than HTML and CSS).

For developers with experience in JavaScript, React and JSX, learning React Native is a cinch.

Even for developers who haven’t used React before, but are proficient in JavaScript, the learning curve for React Native will be minimal.

That means two things.

  1. There’s a large pool of developers available to hire from.
  2. If you have web development experience, or you have web developers on staff, you might be able to code your apps without hiring anyone new.

This is just another element that contributes to React Native’s lower cost, time investment and complexity compared to native development.

A Better Development Experience with Hot Reloading

React Native supports hot reloading, which makes for a smoother experience when iterating and working on code.

Hot reloading means you can see code changes take effect in the UI in real time. If you change an element’s appearance or function, you’ll be able to preview your changes immediately, keeping your current state.

Without hot reload, you need to restart the app, refreshing the app’s state in the process. While it might not be a big difference if you’re making a small change, the difference becomes significant when you’re making constant iterations and experimenting with different styles, trying to get the look and feel of your app just right.

Hot reloading is certainly a quality of life improvement rather than a make or break feature, but it’s another thing that contributes to a better experience for developers.

Maintenance is Quicker and Easier

Maintaining React Native apps and making fixes is quicker and easier than with native apps (assuming you have different codebases for iOS and Android).

Hot reloading helps in this case, as does having one framework for each of your mobile apps. Whether you’re debugging, shipping new features or making routine updates and refactoring, there’s less duplication of effort because you don’t have to repeat the process in two different languages.

Lower Overhead Cost

A smoother maintenance workflow, plus the ability to use the same development team for both apps, means you’ll spend less on overhead and maintenance costs over the lifecycle of your app.

Over time, you’ll see these savings seriously add up. App maintenance costs can run into six figures yearly, and so by reducing the development hours spent maintaining your apps and  requiring fewer staff on payroll/retainer, you could save five figures each year.

Better for Converting & Reusing Web Components

Finally, React Native is likely to be a better option than native development if you’re converting a website into mobile apps, or you want to reuse some of your web code/functionality in the apps.

Since React Native is based on JavaScript, it could well be fairly straightforward to translate your web features to your mobile apps. 

React Native may not be the best option for this, however (as we’ll expand on soon). It will still take a lot of time, even for a straight conversion of React to React Native. But there’s definitely less rebuilding than if you were turning a web app into Swift/Java/Kotlin apps.

Learn More: React vs React Native - Differences and Use Cases

Downsides of React Native (Where Native Development is Better)

The benefits of React Native are impressive, but looking at the entire picture, there are some downsides to choosing React Native for your project (or simply areas where native development is superior).

In general, fully native apps are:

  • Superior performance.
  • Easier to integrate with device features.
  • Higher quality in terms of UX and UI.
  • Easier to build if you’re building for a single OS.

Let’s examine the benefits of native mobile development in more detail.


React Native forces you to make some sacrifices for the convenience of building for multiple platforms at once. One of those sacrifices is performance.

React Native relies on “bridges” to compile JavaScript into native components and allow JavaScript code to interact with and work on a mobile phone’s operating system.

This can result in periodic slowness or lag, and general performance issues, increasing depending on the size and scope of your app.

Native apps use native programming languages and native APIs, which allow them to run faster and smoother.

Access to Native Device Features

Native development also allows you fully integrate with the user’s device, and utilize the device’s hardware in building features for your app.

This includes the ability to tap into the camera, microphone, accelerometer, GPS, bluetooth, biometric scanners, etc.

React Native does provide native modules that allow some access to native APIs and native features, and the React Native community is constantly coming out with new third-party libraries that extend the potential of what you can do with React Native code.

However, access to native OS features will never be as comprehensive nor as straightforward as it is with native technologies and native applications.

Marginal UI and UX Gains

If you’re using React Native, over the course of developing your app, you may find a lot of small touches here and there where you can’t get either the user interface or the user experience quite like you want it.

It might be 95% perfect on Android and 95% perfect on iOS, but the sacrifices React Native has to make to work on Android and iOS devices prevent you from getting everything pixel-perfect.

This comes down to much of what we discussed in the previous sections; React Native's reliance on bridges and second-hand access to native APIs.

Native programming languages are focused specifically on building for a single operating system, and building for iPhone or Android devices, so it stands to reason that they’ll be tied more strictly to the UI standards of the platform, and allow you to get your app perfect (or closer to it than with React Native).

Building for a Single Platform

Native development is generally going to be easier if you’re only building for one platform/operating system.

Let’s say, for example, you’re building an app for internal use in your company, and your company devices are on Android. You don’t need an iPhone app, so many of the benefits of cross-platform are null and void.

Since you’re only building for Android, you’ll likely have a better experience developing your app with a language built specifically for the Android OS, as opposed to one that’s trying to spread itself over multiple bases.

Maybe you’ve decided that reaching iPhone users is enough, or perhaps you’re focused on markets like Africa, Asia or South America, where Android has >80% market share.

In any of these situations, the benefits of native app development become more significant in comparison to React Native’s.

Can You Develop High-Quality Apps with React Native?

The summary you might take away from the pros and cons listed above is that React Native is more convenient, cheaper and faster, but lacks performance and end product quality in comparison to native app development.

So you might be thinking, “I want my app to be the best it can be, am I limiting myself too much by going with React Native?”

While the consensus is that React Native is better for simpler apps, and there are some performance limitations compared to fully native development, that doesn’t mean you can’t make successful apps and draw millions of users with React Native.

Just look at their showcase page, and the huge names that use React Native, including:

  • Meta
  • Microsoft
  • Amazon 
  • Shopify
  • Discord
  • Bloomberg
  • Walmart
  • Tesla
  • The NFL
  • Playstation

Would these apps be better if they were built with fully native languages? Probably.

But the incredibly successful businesses behind these apps decided the small payoff in performance and functionality was worth it for the improvements to their workflow, greater efficiency and lower cost.

React Native vs Native: Which to Choose?

There’s no “one size fits all” answer here. There’s a time and a place and a situation for React Native, and so too for native development.

In general, we’d push you to choose React Native over fully native development. This is assuming you’re building a commercial application, with the intention of reaching as many users as possible, and thus launching on both Android and iOS platforms.

In this case, the time, money, effort and complexity you save with React Native is a big deal. You’ll find it’s not only simpler to launch React Native apps, but they're also much simpler to maintain.

The small tradeoff in performance and functionality is usually worth it.

You might opt for building a native mobile app though if your project relies on device features and a deep integration with the device’s OS, or if you’re dealing with a complex app where the performance difference will be more easily noticeable.

Ultimately it’s your call, depending on the size and scope of your project and the resources you have at your disposal.

How to Save >90% of the Cost of App Development

React Native is a great way to save time and money on both the launch and maintenance of your app.

But if you’re converting a website or web app into a mobile app, the project still won’t be cheap, and it’ll come with its share of headaches.

You can save a lot of this money, and virtually all the headaches, with MobiLoud.

MobiLoud is a tech-enabled service to turn websites into native mobile apps. We use your website’s code to create your apps, together with elements of native code to ship apps that feel native, but essentially still run from a single codebase for web, iOS and Android.

A selection of the successful, high-revenue native apps we've built with MobiLoud

You’ll save 5-6 figures on the initial cost, plus 5-6 figures each year on maintenance. There’s no need to hire or manage iOS and Android developers, no need to rebuild anything or learn a new language or framework. Our team does everything for you.

“If we had unlimited time and money, we would probably go for a custom native app, but that is half a million to a million a year to maintain.”

- David Cost, Rainbow Shops

The Rainbow Shops mobile app

How MobiLoud Works

If your website is already mobile-friendly, and your app is meant to reflect your web experience, rather than doing something drastically different, you’re much closer to launching your mobile app than you might expect.

All it takes is three easy steps:

  1. Get a free preview of your app - just enter your URL and your preview will be ready in less than a minute.
  2. Book a consultation with our team to discuss your project and next steps to turn your website into mobile apps.
  3. Hand it off to us. We’ll do all the work to build your app, test it, and even submit it to the app stores for publishing (we guarantee approval too).

You can be live in the app stores in less than a month, for minimal effort, and less than four figures invested upfront.

Compare that to React Native. Though you might be able to reuse some elements of your web code, you still need to comb through your code, compile these elements in React Native, and build your mobile apps’ UI from the ground up.

Any time you make changes, fixes, or ship new features, the process will be more drawn out, having to repeat steps and ensure consistency between multiple native platforms.

You may need to hire React Native developers, and you’ll need to keep developers on staff for updates and maintenance.

It’s all so much easier, cheaper and quicker with MobiLoud. You just maintain your website like you normally do, and your apps will update automatically, with no duplication of effort.

Ready? Get started with your free app preview now.

Picking the Right Way to Build Your Mobile App

It’s important to decide on the right tech stack for your app before you get started. Otherwise, you face a potential nightmare some way down the road, partway through development or perhaps even once a version of your app is live, if you decide you need to migrate to another framework.

We gave our opinion on React Native vs Native development (if you choose the cross-platform route, there’s also Flutter to consider - we compared these two frameworks here). It’s up to you to decide which fits best for you.

If you’re going from web app to mobile app, MobiLoud is a better option than React Native, Swift, Kotlin, Java or any other mobile framework.

You’ve already built a great mobile experience on your website, and MobiLoud allows you to skip months of rebuilding, hundreds of thousands of dollars in development costs, and daily headaches from trying to manage multiple platforms at once.

You get great Android and iOS apps in less than a month, for minimal expense, all while maintaining a single codebase.

Get started with your free app preview, or to learn more, get in touch with us and book a demo now.

Convert your website into a mobile app

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