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 the cross-platform app development under the radar of every business nowadays? Is it because of its various benefits or it’s just some FOMO? Let’s discuss it in detail.
Related Article: Where Do Cross-Platform App Frameworks Stand in 2020?
Today, there are more than 6 billion smartphone users spread across the globe, which are expected to cross 7 billion by 2021. Moreover, the importance of having an application for your business is imperative because of the fact that the mobile app accounts for 57% of smartphone usage.
With the number of smartphone users growing at 2.2% every year, delivering a speedy, relevant, and great 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 to select while building 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 your business application.
The Selection of Platform for Your Business Application
The platform makes a massive difference.
Suppose your business and functional requirements demand an application to build on Android and iOS platforms. In that case, cross-platform mobile app development is a perfect choice you should go ahead with as it allows the developer to run the same code on different platforms.
With hybrid app development, you will be able to cut the cost of mobile app development by half, along with 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 2020?
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 based on which we will compare these frameworks.
- Community Support
1. Flutter vs React Native vs Xamarin: Popularity
Every 6 months, a new cross-platform app framework takes birth, thereby disturbing the position of popular frameworks. However, the positions of React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin still 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 little margin as per the 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 used the framework to share portfolios and ideas globally. React Native allows developers to ask questions and discuss it with the community experts.
2. Code reuse & cost-effective
React Native enables you to use the same deployment code on iOS and Android. It not only reduces the development time but is also cost-effective.
As per a recent study, you can 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 useful mobile apps. It has a unique live reload feature, which allows you to view recent changes made to the code in real-time.
For instance, if there are two windows on your screen – one displays the code, and the other shows a mobile screen where you can use the code, you can view the changes you have applied in the first window 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 you to use native code in your app. This results in building some parts of your app with native code and remaining with React Native. The use of native code improves the app’s performance.
5. Modular and intuitive design
It’s 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 useful testing situations. React Native offers creative and responsive designs, which reduces the loading time.
What is Xamarin
Xamarin, 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 huge 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.
In mid-2017, you could observe a neck-to-neck competition amongst React Native and Xamarin developers. And finally, in 2018, React Native pushed back Xamarin to obtain the top seat amongst the cross-platform app frameworks.
Benefits of Xamarin
1. One technology stack code
Xamarin enables you to reuse up to 96 percent of the source code as it uses C# + .Net framework in creating apps for iOS and Android platforms. You 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, you can build an impeccable user experience via platform-specific UI elements. You 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. You can 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 useful customization and native-like functionality, with less running costs.
After its acquisition, Xamarin’s licensing policies changed. Xamarin SDK became an open-source technology that is available to businesses under the MIT license, as a part of Visual Studio. By removing the license cost, the platform grew. With Microsoft leading it and it is supported by Red Hat, JetBrains, Unity, and the .NET Foundation, it earned the reputation of a robust tech stack.
5. Simplified maintenance
Being a cross-platform app, Xamarin enables easy maintenance and updating. All you have to do is deploy the updates to the source file, which applies to both iOS and Android apps. You need 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 your 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.
Maintained by Google, Flutter has left behind React Native in the Developer Survey Results, 2019, thereby becoming the 3rd most loved framework (Flutter 75.4% and React Native 62.5%). 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
Through a Google supported plugin, Flutter development ensures the availability of features, such as fetching GPS coordinates, Bluetooth communication, sensors 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 you 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 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 great application. The framework offers Material and Cupertino widgets that mimic the behavior of the design languages. This helps in speeding up the process of app development while skipping the unnecessary steps.
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.
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. To write code for complicated operations, React Native allows developers to make use of native modules written in native languages.
Up to 80% of a codebase can be shared across platforms, depending on the complexity of the app.
Xamarin enables you to build and release apps fast. The latest update–Xamarin 4–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 so that the app can have the native feel, thereby delivering 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 a number of widgets like navigation, scrolling, as well as fonts, thereby saving a lot of app development time. However, since Flutter-enabled apps are dependent upon built-in widgets and not platform widgets, therefore 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 an important role in selecting a cross-platform development framework.
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 easily on an already existing project. This enables the development team to create updates and upgrades to web apps easily.
Xamarin architecture comprises of a visual design platform to build native apps. The iOS visual 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 View Model) architecture which accelerates the process of 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. A Dart app architecture library with unidirectional data flow is roused by RefluxJS and Facebook’s Flux. 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 the 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: Community Support
Building a strong user community as well as providing direct brace and direct communication with customers is crucial for pointing out the errors in the framework and providing support for the same.
React Native was born as a result of 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 a strong community support. On GitHub, it 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 you in answering your queries on QA sites, and forums like Stack Overflow.
Xamarin has the least community support available amongst the three frameworks. Maybe because this platform isn’t free, and the user is required to purchase this cross-app platform.
Hence, for Xamarin, there is very limited 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 to the React Native framework.
Flutter is known for its good community support. On GitHub, 82.4k stars (very close to React Native) and 502 contributors make the framework better. They work in different areas of Flutter to provide you the best development experience. Flutter developers are even active on QA sites as well as forums.
Google announced Flutter recently in February 2018 at Mobile World Congress and released its first version on December 5th, 2018, thereby investing heavily in it, and therefore it is expected to grow into a robust ecosystem in the future.
Flutter, React Native, and Xamarin are three frameworks, equally good at developing successful mobile apps. However, it’s really hard to say which one is better. All you need is to think which framework would be the right fit for your business. Some prefer coding to React Native while others like Flutter and a few consider Xamarin.