What is best for mobile cross-platform development between React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter?
What is the best, Flutter or React Native?
How to compare Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin in terms of feature-set and robustness?
These are some of the burning queries on the list of every app developer and business planning to build an app.
But why is cross-platform app development under the radar of every business nowadays? Is it because of its various benefits or is it just some FOMO? Let’s discuss it in detail.
Today, more than 6 billion smartphone users are spread across the globe, which is expected to cross 7 billion by 2021. Moreover, with mobile apps accounting for 57% of smartphone usage, it’s more imperative for businesses to have a mobile application.
With the number of smartphone users growing at 2.2% every year, delivering a speedy, relevant, and excellent customer experience through mobile applications is the need of the hour. But this need to build an application gives rise to the following questions:
- Which technology should businesses select while creating an app?
- Which platform to go for iOS or Android or both?
- Whether to choose a native app or hybrid app, or cross-platform app development?
- How much will it cost to build an app on different platforms?
In this blog, we will be discussing platforms to go ahead with while building a smartphone-optimized business application.
The Selection of Platform for Your Business Application
The platform makes a massive difference.
Functional requirements of the business dictate the demand for an application to be built on Android and iOS platforms. In that case, cross-platform mobile app development is a perfect choice, and businesses should go ahead with it as it allows the developer to run the same code on different platforms.
With hybrid app development, a business will be able to cut the cost of mobile app development by half, shortening the development cycle and sharing approximately 97% of the code across various benefits.
We have discussed various cross-platform frameworks and the benefits of choosing the cross-platform in detail in the blog: Where do Cross-Platform App Frameworks Stand in 2021?
Based on the various parameters, we will be discussing the most popular cross-platform frameworks–React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter–in this blog.
To choose a winner amongst the top cross-platform app frameworks, Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin, let’s first define the parameters we will compare these frameworks.
- Community Support
1. Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin: Popularity
Every six months, a new cross-platform app framework takes birth, disturbing popular frameworks’ position. However, the functions of React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin remain the same (interchanging amongst each other).
What is React Native
React Native is the most popular cross-platform app framework followed by a tough competition between Xamarin and Flutter, in which the latter wins by a small margin as per Google Trends.
Benefits of React Native
1. Driven by the Developer Community
React Native is a community-driven platform introduced by developers. It is a combination of superior mobile app development with an agile environment. The development community uses the framework to share portfolios and ideas globally. React Native allows developers to ask questions and discuss them with the community experts.
2. Code Reuse & Cost-effective
React Native enables the deployment of the same code on iOS and Android. It not only reduces the development time but is also cost-effective.
As per a recent study, it is possible to reuse about 90% of the code between iOS and Android. That means developers don’t have to write code for each platform. It saves on the development time, cost and speeds up the app launch.
3. Live Reload Capability
React Native is a predecessor to the React framework. It works on the ideas of React, enabling the creation of helpful mobile apps. It has a unique live reload feature, letting developers view recent changes made to the code in real-time.
For instance, if there are two windows on the screen – one displays the code, and the other shows a mobile screen where the changes are viewed in real-time.
4. Robust Performance
The React Native framework is well adept at all types of mobile devices. It leverages the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), unlike other native platforms, which are more CPU (Central Processing Unit) intensive. This contributes to its robust performance.
React Native can develop super-quick applications. The framework allows businesses to use native code in the app. This results in building some parts of the app with native code and remaining with React Native. The use of native code improves the app’s performance.
5. Modular and Intuitive Design
Its modular and intuitive architecture runs like the React framework. The interface allows developers to build on an existing project. This enables the development team to create updates and upgrades to web apps. Further, validators can understand the programming logic in less time and build practical testing situations. React Native offers creative and responsive designs, which reduces the loading time.
What is Xamarin
Xamarin is an open-source framework that came into the picture in 2011. Xamarin solves the problems of disconnected technology stacks in app development. A renowned Xamarin example includes The World Bank.
React Native Development was not the most loved choice since its inception. It had to sail through the gigantic waves to reach the top-most position. A considerable drift can be seen between November 2015 to September 2016: the year when Xamarin topped the popularity chart leaving behind all other cross-platform app frameworks.
But, Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey highlights that React Native is more “loved” than Xamarin, with 57.9 percent of developers showing interest in continuing to work with React Native, as opposed to 45.4 percent for Xamarin.
Benefits of Xamarin
1. One Technology Stack Code
Xamarin enables developers to reuse up to 96 percent of the source code as it uses C# + .Net framework in creating apps for iOS and Android platforms. They need not switch between development environments to build the apps in Visual Studio. Also, this framework is a built-in part of the IDE, without any extra cost.
2. Native-like UX
With Xamarin, developers can build an impeccable user experience via platform-specific UI elements. Developers can use Xamarin. Forms tool to build cross-platform apps for iOS, Android, or Windows. With this, the app UI components convert into platform-specific interface elements at runtime.
Utilizing Xamarin. Forms also speed up the app development process, which is a plus for prospective clients. Developers can further customize the app’s UI by leveraging Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android.
3. Offers Full Hardware Support
Xamarin offers native-like app features, such as providing solutions to hardware compatibility issues. This is possible through plugins, platform-specific APIs, and connecting with native libraries. It results in proper customization and native-like functionality, with less running costs.
After its acquisition, Xamarin’s licensing policies changed. Xamarin SDK became an open-source technology available to businesses under the MIT license as Visual Studio. By removing the license cost, the platform grew. With Microsoft leading it and supported by Red Hat, JetBrains, Unity, and the .NET Foundation, it earned a robust tech stack reputation.
5. Simplified Maintenance
Being a cross-platform app, Xamarin enables easy maintenance and updating. A business only has to deploy the updates to the source file, which applies to iOS and Android apps. It is important to note that this would apply only when apps use Xamarin. Forms, business logic, shared code, and updates for iOS and Android apps. It not only keeps the app current but also saves time and money.
What is Flutter
Although React Native became the most popular framework, another framework that looked in the eye of React Native is Flutter.
As of May 2021, Flutter is getting closer to overtaking React Native in terms of popularity and usage. Thus it can be inferred that although Flutter’s community is much smaller, it is expanding pretty fast and will probably continue to do so.
Flutter examples include Alibaba and Google ads.
Benefits of Flutter
1. Time-to-Market Speed
Flutter framework is known to be faster than the others, requiring almost half of the time as compared to an app developed in iOS and Android since it does not need a platform-specific code. With a declarative API for UI, Flutter also helps in boosting the performance.
2. Platform-Specific Logic
Flutter development ensures the availability of features through a Google-supported plugin, such as fetching GPS coordinates, Bluetooth communication, sensor data, working with credentials, etc. If the OS level feature is not yet available as a plugin, Flutter also establishes communication between Dart and platform native code through platform channels.
3. Simpler Development
Hot reload is one of this framework’s most appreciated features because developers can readily view the changes done on emulators, hardware, and simulators. There is no need to restart the app, and the code is reloaded even while the app runs. This factor helps in adding features, improving user experience as well as bug fixing.
4. Growing Global Community
Flutter has one of the fastest-growing communities in app development. The members hold discussions on new features as well bug fixes and other challenges. Users can find a quick resolution to their queries by posting their questions on the platform.
5. Widgets Catalogue
Flutter offers a wide variety of widgets that are also customizable and help in building a functionally significant application. The framework provides Material and Cupertino widgets that mimic the behavior of the design languages. This helps in speeding up the process of app development while skipping unnecessary steps.
Which is Best for the Business Application
Every business and its technical requirements are unique. Still, in general, this is how we’d put it:
- It can be complex to have everything which businesses want with Xamarin, but ultimately they’ll comprehend it. It fits well with most projects and is more profitable than the cross-platform approach, especially if the project is in the long run.
- React Native works excellent for projects with rich interactivity. But if full-fledged, performance-hungry features are required then it would be suggested to skip it in 2021.
- Flutter is a prudent choice for startups and tech enthusiasts. However, it’s also a great option if the existing tech stack cannot satisfy current development needs and startups are ready to invest in relocating the project to other technologies for enhanced scaling and faster growth.
2. Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin: Performance
One of the most important factors you should consider when choosing a cross-platform app development framework is app performance.
React Native Performance
The performance provided by React Native is almost similar to native applications because of its ability to render code elements specifically to the native APIs. React Native allows developers to use native modules written in native languages to write code for complicated operations.
Up to 80% of a codebase can be shared across platforms, depending on the app’s complexity.
Xamarin enables you to build and release apps fast. The latest update includes a new set of features like Shell, Hot Reload, Hot Restart and Visual to simplify and drastically reduce development time. The features include:
- A single place to describe the visual hierarchy of an application
- A common navigation user experience
- An integrated search handler
The apps built on the Xamarin platform match the standards of native app development, which can be inferred from the following graph:
However, Xamarin is not recommended for apps that demand heavy graphics because each platform has a different method for visually laying out screens. A UX/UI-rich application is advised to be implemented natively.
Flutter is one of the best cross-app platform frameworks when it comes to speedy app development. The platform enables the developer to use native code to have a native feel, thereby delivering an exceptional user experience.
Moreover, the ‘Hot reloading’ feature of Flutter allows developers to see changes made in code within seconds as when using native technologies. It is one of the preferred platforms when it comes to MVP Development.
Flutter comes along with several widgets like navigation, scrolling, and fonts, thereby saving a lot of app development time. However, since Flutter-enabled apps depend upon built-in widgets and not platform widgets, the size of the app is usually bigger: the smallest possible app made with Flutter can weigh no less than 4MB.
3. Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin: Architecture
The architecture of a framework plays a vital role in selecting a cross-platform development framework.
React Native Architecture
React Native’s app architecture is known as ‘Flux.’ Facebook uses Flux to build client-side web apps. Every framework generally follows the MVC (Model View Control) framework. The unidirectional data flow is the fundamental idea of Flux.
The modular and intuitive nature of the React Native framework allows developers to develop quickly on an already existing project. This enables the development team to create updates and upgrades to web apps rapidly.
Xamarin architecture comprises a visual design platform to build native apps. The iOS graphic design has been given through their IDE to help developers in opening X-Code. LINQ can be used with collections or create custom delegates and events that free developers from Objective-C and Java constraints.
Xamarin uses MVC and MVVM (Model–View–ViewModel) architecture, which accelerates an app with less diameter.
- MVVM model enables developing different processes with the same code base
- MVC model helps define the difference between presentation and application logic, thus, accelerating the app development process.
Flutter architecture supports the Reactive UI approach. RefluxJS and Facebook’s Flux inspired a Dart app architecture library with a unidirectional data flow. Flutter-flux implements a unidirectional data flow pattern that involves Actions, Stores, and StoreWatchers.
However, as discussed, Flutter’s app size is the largest amongst the three frameworks; thus, developers get frustrated sometimes when the file size of the hello world app reaches 6.7 MB. Flutter’s core engine consumes up to 2.7 MB of the space + the code space, thereby making it a bit larger in diameter.
Even after minimizing the app to 4.7 MB, it remains more significant than many other cross-app development frameworks.
4. Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin: User Interface
React Native and Flutter build apps that look and feel native but in diverse ways. React Native uses native elements from ios and Android, whereas Flutter apps are built with so-called widgets.
These are the high-fidelity replicas of all the UI components from Android or iOS.
What makes flutter apps look and feel native on all platforms- The Cupertino design specifications on iOS and The Material Design guidelines on Android.
The framework allows code reusability from 50-90% besides providing fantastic user interfaces. It utilizes Dart for high-quality application development.
Flutter’s user interface is specialized in building beautiful, natively compiled applications for mobile, web, and desktop from a single codebase. Anyone can customize the existing devices on their own and deliver a delightful customer experience to their customers.
React Native Components
React Native works on the original native components provided by Android and IOS. They can be directly used in the JS code and customize their appearance with CSS-like style sheets.
- React Native provides a High-quality user interface and Native UI implementation where apps look like Native apps.
- React Native provides specific code components with native APIs and React.js’ benefits, including creating a more high-performing UI.
Xamarin User Interface
Xamarin empowers to create flawless experiences utilizing platform-centric UI elements.
And building cross-platform apps for iOS, Android, or Windows using Xamarin.forms tool that converts app UI components into the platform-centric interface elements at runtime is also possible.
With the increase of xamarin.forms, it also improves app development speed, which is an excellent option for business-oriented projects.
The extra abstraction might decline the performance due to add-ons. However, for custom app UI and higher performance, one can continue using Xamarin.iOS, and Xamarin.Android separately for getting excellent results.
5. Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin: Community Support
Building a solid user community and providing direct support and direct communication with customers is crucial for pointing out the errors in the framework and providing support for the same.
React Native Community Support
React Native was born due to the developer community looking for an alternative to mobile, which would be a combination of superior mobile app development and a powerful and agile Native React environment.
React Native offers strong community support. GitHub has 90.5k stars and 3,000+ contributors who are dealing with React Native to enhance it. This framework has a large community of developers across the globe and they can assist in answering the queries on QA sites and forums like Stack Overflow.
Xamarin Community Support
Xamarin has minor community support available amongst the three frameworks because this platform isn’t free, and the user is required to purchase this cross-app platform.
Hence, for Xamarin, there is minimal community support available. Forums and help support are not instantly available for Xamarin users on the Internet. Therefore, it is no surprise that, according to Github, the number of repository, users, and contributors are nowhere near the React Native framework.
Flutter Community Support
Flutter is known for its good community support. On GitHub, 82.4k stars (very close to React Native) and 502 contributors improve the framework. They work in different areas of Flutter to provide the best development experience. Flutter developers are even active on QA sites as well as forums.
Google announced Flutter in February 2018 at Mobile World Congress and released its first version on December 5th, 2018, thereby investing heavily in it. Therefore it is expected to grow into a robust ecosystem in the future.
6. Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin: Code Reusability
Both React Native and Flutter support reusable code. That is what makes them cross-platform frameworks. However, reasonably, not all codes can just be taken from one platform to another. Thus, parts of the code can be reused, and other components need to be overwritten and customized to suit the platform.
React Native Code Reusability
With React Native, developers can write the code once and ship anywhere, embracing platform differences. Unfortunately, this also means they have to continuously find out which platform they’re running and load a different component or set of features depending on the platform they’re running.
A few primary components can be reused across the platforms, while the rest must be written separately for each forum.
React Native allows ‘write the code once and dump it anywhere. Nevertheless, a considerable part of the codebase can still be reused.
Flutter Code Reusability
Using Flutter allows developers to overwrite code sections that need to be tweaked to suit the platform. This makes the code reuse more effective and suitable, and Flutter becomes extremely conductive to code reuse, making it a faster and more efficient framework.
Moreover, code sharing is possible between iOS and Android only.
Xamarin Code Reusability
Xamarin takes pride in allowing developers to reuse up to 96 percent of their C# code by leveraging the language.
Xamarin also offers form components, due to which it’s better for code reuse than either React Native or Flutter, which shares an average of 60–90 percent of codes.
Xamarin, with 96% of the codebase being made reusable, significantly when leveraging the Xamarin Forms, Components, and C# programming, made our recommendation at the top of the list.
Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin are three frameworks, equally good at developing successful mobile apps. However, it’s tough to say which one is better. All that is required is to think about which framework would be the right fit for the business. Some prefer coding to React Native, while others like Flutter and a few consider Xamarin.
Best Apps Begin with the Right Framework
Talk to our experts for advice on the right cross-platform framework