Cross-Platform App Development for your Business: React Native vs. Flutter vs. Xamarin
Whether you own a small business or work as a member of a Fortune 500 company, your organization can benefit from launching a custom mobile application. Depending on your goals, a mobile app can increase brand recognition, attract new customers, increase loyalty among existing customers or deliver better service. Each of these benefits can grow your revenue and make your company more profitable.
React Native, Flutter and Xamarin are all helpful for creating custom apps that will target both iOS and Android devices simultaneously, so we put together this guide to help you understand what each one does. Keep reading to learn more about these valuable programming tools.
Cross-Platform vs. Native Apps
If you want to launch an app, you need to think about whether you want to create a cross-platform app or a native app. Cross-platform apps are designed to work on iOS, Android, and the web, while native apps are developed for specific platforms or devices. Many companies use the cross-platform approach because it reduces development time and cost. If your app requires GPS/mapping, an external hardware connection, or if it’s heavy on animation, then native development will be a better choice.
What Is It?
Image credit: React Native
What Can It Do?
One of the reasons why so many companies rely on React Native is because it largely eliminates the need to write two sets of code—one for iOS and one for Android. With React Native, you write just one set of code for both platforms, saving a significant amount of time. There are some exceptions to this, like if your app requires in-app purchases.
Advantages of React Native
React Native has many advantages as a programming tool. React Native is very good for quick prototyping of the screens to check on the UI and navigation. React Native saves time during development by hot reloading of the code changes. Hot reloading allows you to see the changes that you have made in the code without reloading your entire app. Whenever you make any changes, all you need to do is save your code. As soon as you save your code, React Native tracks which files have changed since your last saved, and only reload those files for you. It makes the entire process very fast and efficient.
Video credit: Programming with Mosh
Another advantage of React Native is that it creates a better user experience. With React Native, it’s possible to create highly responsive user interfaces, eliminating slow load times that can frustrate your users. React Native also has access to the native UI elements of each mobile platform, creating a seamless experience. This is because it doesn’t use CSS and HTML markup to render views.
From a developer’s perspective, React Native is easy to use, as it comes with a variety of debugging tools. It also offers in-depth error reporting, making it easier to identify and fix errors before they frustrate users and cause you to lose the trust of your customer base. React Native also gives developers the flexibility to use their preferred text editor.
Disadvantages of React Native
Although React Native has many advantages, there are also some drawbacks to using it for native app development. For example, React Native requires some complex configuration to ensure you can take full advantage of the target platform’s UI elements. Despite its ability to create a seamless user experience, apps created with React Native don’t work 100% as well as truly native apps. Since React Native has only been around since 2015, you may also find yourself having to build custom modules instead of using modules that are already available, increasing the amount of time it takes to complete your development project.
React Native Use Cases
Several of the world’s top companies use React Native to create interactive user experiences. Meta uses React Native to give Facebook and Facebook Ads Manager a consistent experience across all devices, including desktop, iPhones, iPads, and Android-based phones. Shopify improved its UI by combining React Native with Skia, an open-source graphics library compatible with Windows, iOS, and Android devices. Wix even uses React Native to enhance its website builder, making it easier for customers to create their own websites with templates and other tools.
What Is It?
Flutter makes it possible to create a variety of apps using a single codebase, taking the guesswork out of releasing apps on multiple platforms. Developed by Google, the open-source framework comes with everything developers need to finish projects quickly without sacrificing quality.
Image credit: Flutter
What Can It Do?
Flutter comes with various developer tools, making it easy to build and test native apps. Flutter3 was recently introduced by Google in 2022, which has the long-awaited Linux Desktop support. Flutter 3 is the next big step in Flutter’s journey to enable multi-platform application development across what is now six platforms: iOS, Android, Web, Windows, macOS and Linux.
Advantages of Flutter
A significant advantage of Flutter is that you can use the same UI across multiple target platforms. React Native uses a separate renderer for each platform, increasing complexity. Flutter eliminates this problem by combining UI logic with the needs of the business, delivering a consistent experience without making things more complex. Flutter bypasses the system UI widget libraries in favor of its own widget set. This set is rendered to the screen by the Skia graphics engine, which is embedded within Flutter. As a result, users are less likely to encounter errors that make your app more difficult to use.
Flutter also helps developers save time, allowing them to deliver completed apps much faster than with older tools. One way Flutter reduces development times is by providing access to customizable widgets. Instead of creating all code from scratch, a developer can use these widgets to create new features, speeding up development schedules. Flutter also has a hot reload feature, allowing developers to see their changes almost instantaneously instead of waiting for their code to recompile.
Disadvantages of Flutter
One of the most significant drawbacks of Flutter is that it produces large apps. If you’re developing an app for users who are concerned about taking up too much space on their devices, this may limit the number of people who download the app. Additionally, it’s more challenging to import other frameworks into Flutter, which may limit the tool’s ability to meet your needs. Finally, Flutter is only five years old, so its developer community is rather small. If you need a lot of support, you may be better off choosing another tool. However if you’re hiring an experienced Flutter developer this won’t be an issue.
Flutter uses Dart language for development so if you choose to have your own internal development team you would need to hire Dart developers separate from your back-end server team which you may develop in Node JS, Golang, or Rust.
Flutter Use Cases
Google used Flutter to revamp Google Pay, a global payment system that makes it easier for businesses of all sizes to accept credit cards and other payment methods. Initially, the iOS and Android versions of Google Pay were built on nearly 2 million lines of code. Google developers felt this amount of code was rather cumbersome, especially since the company planned on expanding Google Pay into more countries, all with different regulations regarding secure transactions.
If they continued creating code for both iOS and Android, Google Pay developers would have had to do twice the work every time the company expanded into a new market. They decided to migrate to Flutter to streamline the development process, resulting in a 35% reduction in lines of code and a 70% reduction in engineering effort.
Image credit: My BMW App
BMW also migrated to Flutter when its developers realized that the company wasn’t delivering a consistent experience to all users of the BMW and MINI connected apps. Developers at BMW also have to contend with a significant amount of complexity, as the company operates in multiple countries, all of which have different rules for the automobile industry. BMW developers used Flutter to create a universal experience, increasing brand loyalty and making it easier for the company to comply with local rules and regulations.
What Is It?
Like Flutter, Xamarin is an open-source platform used to build applications for mobile devices and the web. Based on the popular .NET framework, Xamarin operates like React Native and Flutter, allowing developers to use much of the same code on multiple platforms. This makes it easier to develop native-looking applications without creating two sets of code. Xamarin also works with Visual Studio and C+, making it a flexible option for developers.
Image credit: Microsoft
What Can It Do?
Xamarin operates in a managed environment, making it much easier to create native-looking apps. It uses XAML as a data binding language, delivering a consistent experience across multiple platforms and eliminating the need to learn Java, Swift, Objective-C, or another programming language. Xamarin also provides native API access and a native UI interface, eliminating performance issues that can cause frustration for the user or damage your company’s brand.
Advantages of Xamarin
One of the main advantages of Xamarin is its compatibility with C#, a versatile programming language that makes it possible to develop solutions to your most challenging business problems. And you can use C# to develop your server as well using .Net Core. Since it uses the .NET framework, Xamarin also comes with support from Microsoft, home of some of the best developers in the world. Xamarin was developed in 2011, so it has large community of developers who are willing to share their expertise.
Disadvantages of Xamarin
Some users have dozens of apps on their devices, making file size an important consideration. Like Flutter, Xamarin produces large apps, which may reduce the size of your potential user base. Another disadvantage is that Xamarin isn’t quite as mobile-friendly as React Native or Flutter. Finally, Xamarin may not be the best choice if you need to develop an application with a complex user interface. User Interface development takes more time than other cross platform frameworks like Flutter and React Native.
Image credit: FollowMyHealth App
Xamarin Use Cases
AllScripts, a healthcare IT company, uses Xamarin to reduce the time it takes to develop and update its apps. Because health care is such a fast-paced industry, it’s essential for AllScripts to keep development time to a minimum. After migrating to Xamarin, the company’s developers created a foundation of code designed to work on multiple platforms. Then they used Xamarin.Forms to deliver a native-looking experience, increasing the firm’s competitive advantage and building loyalty among its customer base.
Hire A Developer
React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin are all useful for developing apps, but each one has a steep learning curve. Instead of struggling to learn a new tool, consider hiring a team of professional developers to save time. Zco Corporation has more than 250 programmers, project managers, and design professionals on hand to bring your app ideas to life. Call 603.881.9200 to learn more about how we can develop cutting-edge apps for your business.